Watch Pirates

  • PG-13
  • 1986
  • 1 hr 52 min
  • 6.0  (9,376)
  • 32

Pirates is a 1986 high-seas adventure comedy film directed by the Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski. The film is a swashbuckling adventure that plays homage to the classic pirate movies of the past, blending comedy, action, and the romance of piratical life, set against the backdrop of the 17th century Caribbean. Walter Matthau, known for his comedic prowess, stars as the grizzled and cunning Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, a pirate of some infamy. Red is both a treacherous and endearingly roguish character, displaying a keen wit and survival instincts that serve him well in the unpredictable world of piracy. Matthau's performance brings a certain charisma and rough charm to the character, making Captain Red an unforgettable and larger-than-life figure.

Joining him is Cris Campion, playing the role of Jean-Baptiste, affectionately referred to as 'The Frog'. Jean-Baptiste is Red's loyal, though somewhat naïve, French first mate. His ambition and youthful enthusiasm contrast sharply with Red's experience and often disillusioned view of their profession. Campion's portrayal captures the innocent eagerness of a young man caught up in the adventure and romance of the pirate's life.

Damien Thomas takes on the role of Don Alfonso de la Torré, a Spanish nobleman who becomes an important figure in the unfolding story. Don Alfonso is haughty, aristocratic, and embodies the Spanish influence in the Caribbean during the colonial era. Thomas imbues the character with a sense of pride and arrogance befitting a man of his station, creating an antagonist worthy of Red's cunning.

The plot of Pirates follows the misadventures of Captain Red and his mutinous crew as they seek to make their fortune on the high seas. After a string of bad luck and a particularly devastating shipwreck, Captain Red and The Frog find themselves captive aboard a Spanish galleon named the Neptune. Red's desire for vengeance and greed quickly focus on a singular goal — obtaining a golden Aztec throne that is being transported on the galleon.

Amidst the machinations and scheming aboard the Spanish ship, the film presents a rich tapestry of life in the golden age of piracy—a world populated by colorful personalities, ranging from the scoundrel to the noble, and all those in between. The movie revels in the period's details: the fashions, the naval technology of the time, the hierarchical structures aboard a ship, and the cultural elements that define the era.

Pirates also delves into the dynamics of power and treachery among the pirate community, showcasing the unpredictability and fluid alliances that were characteristic of this cutthroat society. Captain Red's antics and sharp mind become the centerpiece of these themes, as he manipulates and maneuvers those around him to his advantage.

The film is filled with set pieces that showcase the art of practical effects and traditional filmmaking of the 1980s. From sword fights on the decks of swaying ships to daring escapes and the rough daily life aboard a galleon, the movie never shies away from delivering action-packed sequences that anchor its comedic elements. The score complements the visual spectacle of high-seas adventure, further amplifying the grandeur and excitement of classical pirate tales.

Pirates is characterized by its humor, which ranges from slapstick to sly wit, from the absurd to the darkly comic. The film's comedy intertwines with its adventure elements to create an engaging, if sometimes irreverent, take on the genre. The characters often find themselves in preposterous and humorous situations that test their mettle and cunning.

Throughout the story, the broad caricatures of the pirate mythos are both played straight and subverted, with Polanski using the setting and scenarios to comment on the romanticization of piracy against the harsh realities of the seafaring life. The film does this with a knowing wink to the audience, never fully abandoning the larger-than-life portrayal that makes pirate stories so enduring and enjoyable.

Despite its rollicking premise and a seasoned cast, Pirates was met with a mixed critical reception upon its release. It's a film that indeed offers an adventurous romp fitting its genre, but whether it captures the viewer's imagination may largely depend on their affinity for the old-school charms and occasionally over-the-top humor inherent in pirate folklore.

Pirates, with its hearty dose of comedy and adventure on the high seas, ultimately serves as an homage to the romanticized era of buccaneers and treasure-laden galleons, an era that still captures the imagination and the spirit of adventure in all who long for the thrill of the wind in the sails and the horizon full of promise.

Pirates doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 52 min
  • IMDB Rating
    6.0  (9,376)
  • Metascore