I don’t know about you but when I think of pirates, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise is what immediately pops into my head.
The franchise’s Captain Jack Sparrow is the epitome of pirates – the fashion, the aesthetics, his intense obsession with rum, tricking everyone at every turn, and his perpetual hunt for glory and treasure.
In both real life and fiction, however, there are a lot of other well-known pirates: Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Captain Hook, Long John Silver, and many others.
Some of these pirates have since served as inspiration for movies and TV shows, and it’s the latter that we’ll be looking at in this article.
We’ve put together a list of the best TV shows about pirates – some you may have heard of before, and others who will be a brand new pirate image to brand into your imagination.
So weigh anchor, and enjoy!
Black Sails, Starz (2014 – 2017)
The plot that unfolds in the Starz original series Black Sails is a prequel to the events in the famed 1883 novel Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
It’s early 18th century, the Golden Age of Piracy, and the West Indies are the battleground for the ongoing war between the fiercest pirate captains in the region, as well as the British Empire.
Black Sails features the infamous Captain Flint as he sets out to hunt for the ultimate treasure on a Spanish shipwreck – a journey that soon leads to a war for control of New Providence.
Here is where we meet Long John Silver as a young recruit on Flint’s crew, as well as other fictionalized historical pirates like Blackbeard, Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny.
Crossbones, NBC (2014)
Crossbones takes place in 1729 on a secret island called Santa Compana – a place described as “part shantytown, part utopia, part marauder’s paradise”.
Edward Teach, who’s better known until now as the fierce and villainous pirate Blackbeard, reigns over the island and all the thieves, pirates, and outlaws follow his rule.
Though the British Empire has majority control over the world and its seas, Blackbeard is in possession of a navigation device that could help them further expand their dominion.
Enter Tom Lowe, a British spy posing as a surgeon who is hired by the Crown to steal the device, uncover Blackbeard’s devious plan, and take him down in the process. The plan goes horribly awry, however, when Lowe himself finds himself taken in by Blackbeard’s charm and conviction.
Blackbeard, Hallmark Channel (2006)
Taken from the title, Blackbeard was a television miniseries that premiered on the Hallmark Channel in a continuous (roughly) 3-hour run.
During the Golden Age of Piracy, Blackbeard had built up a reputation for himself as one of the most feared and ruthless pirates of all time, leveraging his fearsome appearance and the threat of violence to get what he wanted from his enemies.
Hallmark’s Blackbeard tells the story of his exploits in New Providence and across the seas as he searches for Captain Kidd’s treasure – all while Robert Maynard, a lieutenant of the British Royal Navy, is hot on his heels to destroy The Queen Anne’s Revenge and Blackbeard himself.
In the same year, BBC released its own pirate miniseries of the same name, which also tells a fictionalized version of Blackbeard’s exploits.
Treasure Island, Sky1 (2012)
As a very popular piece of work in literature, the Treasure Island adventure novel has since had its fair share of adaptations across various mediums including film, TV, theatre, radio, comics, and even video games. One such TV adaptation was the 2012 two-part miniseries that aired on Sky1 in the UK.
We meet many of the original story’s principal characters here, including the young Jim Hawkins, who is the one who discovers the map to Treasure Island and Captain Flint’s buried treasure.
He jumps aboard the Hispaniola under the rule of Captain Smollett to find said treasure, but the journey is not without obstacles. Long John Silver, the ship’s cook, cooks up another plan to nab the treasure for himself.
Once Upon a Time, ABC (2011 – 2018)
ABC’s Once Upon A Time isn’t entirely about pirates, we’ll admit.
From the title – a line that’s often used to begin our favorite fairy tales – the show revolves around a great many well-known fairy tale characters who are stuck in the human world with no memories of their own, magical world. Throughout the series, they are on a quest to break the curse and restore their memories.
One of those characters is the pirate Captain Hook who, unlike the villainous image we’ve come to know in previous Peter Pan adaptations, is actually one of the good guys and even falls in love – and marries – the main protagonist!
Our Flag Means Death, HBO Max (TBA)
The last show on our list, Our Flag Means Death, has yet to premiere as it was just given a series order by HBO Max this past September 2020.
Oscar-winner Taika Waititi is set to executive produce and direct the pilot for this pirate show, so I’m extremely excited for this series as a big fan of Waititi’s previous works!
Our Flag Means Death is a period comedy and will tell a loosely fictionalized version of the life and adventures of real-life pirate Stede Bonnet.
Bonnet was a Barbadian pirate and is sometimes referred to as “The Gentleman Pirate” because he was born into a wealthy English family but abandoned his privilege in favor of a life of crime on the high seas. Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) was recently announced to play the lead role, adding yet another project with Waititi to his lengthy list.
No news yet on a premiere date, so stay tuned for that!