Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides

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Short takes

Not suitable under 12, PG to 15 (Themes; Violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides
  • a review of Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 May 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to themes, violence and scary scenes
Children 12-14 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, violence and scary scenes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Supernatural themes and violence
Length: 137 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The fourth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series opens with Spanish fishermen finding a very old man entangled in their fishing nets. When the Spanish commander learns that the old-man is a two-hundred year-old survivor from an ill fated expedition to find the legendary Fountain of Youth, the commander gives orders to set sail on the next morning’s tide.

Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is on a one-man mission to rescue a member of his crew but is captured and brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths). He discovers that Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is now a captain in the King’s navy and that they are after Jack’s map for the location of the Fountain of Youth.

 Jack manages to escape from the King’s custody but becomes involved in a duel with a strange man who claims to be Jack himself, but turns out to be an old flame named Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Jack’s romantic interlude is interrupted when he is pursued and knocked unconscious by unknown foes.

When Jack wakes up he finds that he is at sea aboard a ship captained by Blackbeard the pirate, who turns out to be Angelica’s father. Sparrow now has to lead Blackbeard to the Fountain of Youth with Barbarossa and his men, and the Spanish navy also desperately seeking the fabled fountain.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Pirates; the supernatural

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Much of the violence in the film is stylised and at times slapstick. However, the film does contain a few scenes where the violence depicted is of a more brutal nature. Examples include:

  • There is a sword fight between Jack Sparrow and a second person who is impersonating him and who turns out to be Angelica. Jack kicks his impersonator in the chest and then rips open her shirt to reveal her cleavage. Soldiers break into the tavern and an all out fight erupts between the soldiers and tavern patrons. Fist fights and general brawling are depicted along with swordplay and the occasional musket being fired.  It is mostly played for comedy. 
  • During a mutiny on board Blackbeard’s ship we see a more brutal style of fighting. A pirate a sword thrust through his chest but pulls it out as if uninjured. The scene contains hard and rough sword fights, stabbings and punches to the face. Ropes coming to life, entangling the mutineers and hauling them up into the rigging where they dangle upside down.
  • A man in a rowboat rowing away from Blackbeard’s ship is engulfed in flames which shoot out from the ship. 
  • Blackbeard tortures Jack Sparrow using a voodoo doll. Blackbeard sticks a knife into the doll and Jack displays signs of pain and opens his shirt to reveal a bloody symbol cut into the skin of his chest. Blackbeard then places the doll’s head into a flame and we see Jack grabbing hold of his head as if in a great deal of pain until Blackbeard removes the doll from the flame.  
  • Pirates talk about how mermaids pull sailors down into the sea and eat them.
  • During a battle between mermaids and Blackbeard’s crew, mermaids pull the men down into the sea, and jumping over row boats snatching the occupants from the boats and pulling them under the sea. An army of mermaids overrun and capsize an entire ship. During the battle mermaids are impaled through the chest with swords and barrels of oil are exploded. A man stabs a mermaid through the tail, fixing her tail to the ground and then pirates wrap the trapped mermaid in a fishing net. Later we see the same mermaid imprisoned in an aquarium like coffin, unable to breath and gasping for air until the top of the aquarium is removed.
  • Blackbeard forces Jack to play Russian roulette with Angelica.
  • Blackbeard slaps Angelica across her face knocking her to the ground.
  • Blackbeard threatens to cut off Serena the mermaid’s fingers and tear every scale from her body one by one.  
  • In a effort to intimidate Serena, one of Blackbeard’s henchmen appears to strangle Philip the missionary and then slit his throat and roll his body into a ditch. Later we see Philip wake up and pull a dart from his chest
  • In order to intimidate and torture Serena the mermaid, Blackbeard ties her to a pole with her body half out of the water.
  • During the film’s final battle involving Blackbeard, his pirates and Spanish soldiers we see more battle violence chaos and destruction  as depicted throughout film including a missionary being stabbed in the stomach, and Blackbeard being stabbed in the back and then through the stomach.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

The film contains a host of threatening pirates that younger children may find scary.

  • A couple of Blackbeard’s men are referred to as “Zombiefied” men. These men are fierce brutish looking men, who have their faces covered in piercings and are covered in tattoos and symbols. At one point we see a zombie man pull a sword from his chest as if unaffected by the fatal wound.    
  • Younger children may find Blackbeard’s ship scary and disturbing. The ship appears to be controlled by supernatural powers enacted through Blackbeard’s sword.  Barbossa gives a chilling account of how he was forced to cut off his own leg when he was ensnared by one of Blackbeard’s enchanted ropes.
  • The mermaids are depicted both as beautiful women and as scary looking witch-like creatures with vampire-like fangs and supernatural strength and abilities.
  • The front of Blackbeard’s ship is covered in dozens of flaming human skeletons.
  • In a couple of scenes we see images of the ground littered with hundreds of human skeletons. One scene includes images partially decomposed bodies of mermaids tied to stakes half out of the water with most of the bodies reduced to skeletons.
  • One scene depicts Blackbeard’s body being consumed by a water spout leaving a skeleton standing in the water spout with its hand reaching out before it collapses.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned images

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Angelica complains that she was used by Jack when she was a young woman and asks Jack what he was doing in a Spanish convent to which Jack responds, “I mistook it for a brothel”.
  • Sailors taking about mermaids having their way with sailors. We hear one sailor saying that he wants a proper kiss from a mermaid. 
  • Jack says to Philip that he “supports the missionary position”.
  • In one scene involving Jack pointing a sword at Angelica, Angelica responds to Jack’s sword with the comment, “How come we can never meet without you pointing something at me?”
  • Jack Sparrow tells Angelica that if she had a sister and a dog he would chase the dog.
  • Angelica tells Jack that she was with child and that Jack was the father and that he couldn’t remember the event because he was drunk at the time. To which Jack responds, “I’ve never been that drunk”. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Woman in low-cut tops that reveal cleavage. 
  • Jack kisses Angelica on the lips.
  • The mermaids are naked from the waist up but shown from the back or with their long hair covering their naked breasts.
  • A mermaid kisses Philip on the lips and then pulling him into the water.  

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Several scenes depicting taverns full of rowdy pirates drinking.
  • Jack and Gibbs share a hip flask on a couple of occasions.
  • Barbossa pulls a cork from the top of his peg-leg and he and Jack drink from the legg.
  • Darts treated with some type of drug are used in a couple of scene to render people unconscious

Coarse language

There is some low-level coarse language and name calling in this movie, including:

  • hell’s teeth, my God, bloody mermaid, damn you, filthy pig, bastard, blooming cockroaches

In a nutshell

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides is an adventure fantasy film targeting an audience from adolescents upwards. Many scenes are too violent and scary for children under 12  

The main message from this movie is to live life for the moment.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • empathy and self sacrifice as shown by Philip in his concern about  the manner in which the mermaid was being treated and the way in which he sacrificed his own life to save her.

Parents may also wish to discuss the way in which the pirates treated the mermaid and what it showed about their attitude to her.