Hollywood Screenwriting Directory

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Screenplay Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Movie Time: 143 minutes

Synopsis:Elizabeth Swann (Keria Knightly) is in love with an orphan named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) since she rescued him on her father’s ship as a child. She is captured by pirates looking for a magic coin to break an ancient curse. Will sets off with the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her from the evil Captain Barabossa. Will and Jack chase her across the sea, and when they finally rescue her, the evil Pirates have set new sights on Will. Once they return him to the original island of the curse, it’s up to Jack to rescue Will and save his own skin.

Sequence Note:Screenplays in the Action/Adventure genre often contain an additional Intro Sequence (preceding the traditional Sequence One) that begins the movie either with the hero at the end of the last adventure or with the villain(s) committing a crime.


ACT I

INTRO SEQUENCE

Introduce Protagonist (Leader): Young Elizabeth Swann rides across the ocean with her father.  She’s a strong-willed woman with a pirate obsession.

Introduce Protagonist (Dreamer): Young Will Turner is adrift as the victim of a pirate attack. He’s a man of many talents, but recognized by no one.

World of the Story: An ocean torn between the law of the Navy and Pirate crews vying for freedom on the sea in the Caribbean archipelago, with a smattering of superstition and magic.

Plant: Will’s magic coin, which Elizabeth steals.


SEQUENCE ONE

Status Quo: Elizabeth is trapped in a high society world destined to marry a Commodore of the Royal Navy. Will is a skilled blacksmith and swordsman, receiving little credit or recognition for his work.

Status Quo Obstacle:Elizabeth and Will cannot be together due to social constructs.

Introduce Supporting Character (Fool): Captain Jack Sparrow, the idiot savant of the pirating world.

Dramatic Premise:Elizabeth leaves her high-society life to be with Will on the high seas.

Introduce Antagonist #1 (cynic): The Commodore, who aims to marry Elizabeth.

  • Inciting Incident (Plot Point #1):When the commodore proposes to Elizabeth, she’s so overcome by her feelings of entrapment that she hyperventilates and falls off a cliff into the ocean, which exposes Will’s coin to the ocean water as well as prompts Captain Jack Sparrow to save her.
  • Pay-off #1: The coin, which is around Elizabeth’s neck, sends out a magic symbol luring the pirates to Elizabeth.

SEQUENCE TWO

Protagonist’s Objective:Elizabeth is concerned about the safety of her family and home. Will is one of her main concerns.

Supporting Character Objective:Jack wants to find his ship: the Black Pearl.

Predicament Obstacle: Jack wants to escape from his shackles and finds a blacksmith shop where Will works.

Predicament Solution:Jack is knocked out by the owner of the shop.

Action Block #1: Jack and Will cross swords in the blacksmith shop, only to discover they are equals.

Predicament Obstacle: Jack is taken to jail.

Action Block #2: The cursed pirates siege the port, searching for the coin and its bearer.

* The Lock-In (Plot Point #2): Elizabeth calls for “parlay” after being discovered and is taken captive to the Pirate Ship.


ACT II

SEQUENCE THREE

Introduce Antagonist #2 (Nemesis): Captain Barabossa, the mutinous captain of the Black Pearl who makes a deal with Elizabeth.

Establish Second Act Tension: Though he agrees to stop attacking the town, Barabossa takes Elizabeth captive. This separates her from Will.

Plant #2: Elizabeth lies about her name, giving it as Elizabeth “Turner.” Around the same time, Jack agrees to help Will when he learns his name is “Turner.”

Raise the Stakes:The Navy will not listen to Will’s pleas to do something drastic to save Elizabeth, so he is forced to free Jack from jail and begin his journey toward piracy.

First Second Act Obstacles:Elizabeth finds the crew and her situation repulsive. She resolves to escape.

Failure/Ramifications:When Barabossa invites her to dinner in his cabin, she is compelled to attend. She tries to stab him, yet he doesn’t die.


SEQUENCE FOUR

Raise the Stakes:Barabossa and his crew are suffering from a curse, which makes them immortal, yet unable to live. The moonlight reveals them as skeletal remains. Barabossa admonishes Elizabeth to start believing in ghost stories, because “You’re in one.”

New Second Act Obstacles: Jack reveals that they are racing Barabossa to a magical island where the curse will be broken, and they will kill Elizabeth there, and they will need a ship and crew.

Action Block #3: Will and Jack capture a naval ship by themselves.

Obstacle Solution: They steal a naval ship, and get a crew at a famous pirate port.

New Subplot Obstacle: Will promises a ship to the crew.

Introduce Subplot: Will learns that Barabossa and Jack had a past. Barabossa lead a mutiny against Jack.

Pay-off #2: Jack reveals that he knew Will’s father, who was a pirate also named “William Turner.”

Failure/Ramifications: Jack and Will do not beat the pirates to the island.

Pay-off #3: The magic coin that Elizabeth stole is needed to break the curse.

  • First Culmination (Plot Point #3): The pirates try to break the curse, but Elizabeth’s blood was not the blood that they needed. In their confusion, Will Saves Elizabeth.

Pay-off #4: The pirates needed Will’s “Turner” blood to break the curse.


SEQUENCE FIVE

Subplot Revival: Jack ends up on the Black Pearl and confronts Barabossa, where we learn more about their mutual past.

Higher Second Act Obstacle: Barabossa learns that Jack knows where to find Turner, and they chase down the couple.

Action Block #4: The pirate ships go into battle with Elizabeth doing much of the strategizing.

Rising Action: Barabossa and his crew capture Jack’s Crew.


SEQUENCE SIX

Highest Second Act Obstacle: Jack gives himself up to get Elizabeth and the crew set free.

Failure/Ramifications:Jack and Elizabeth are left on a desert island and Barabossa has exactly what he wants.

  • Main Culmination (Plot Point #4):Elizabeth tricks Jack into drinking until he passes out so that she can create a smoke signal to signal for a rescue, bringing her father and fiancé (the worst possible saviors) to her, who take Jack into custody, which for a pirate, is an automatic death sentence.

ACT III

SEQUENCE SEVEN

Third Act Tension: With Will captured by pirates and Elizabeth captive on a Naval ship, Elizabeth and Will are forced to consider whether they will be together or not.

Third Act Obstacles:Elizabeth accepts the Commodore's proposal to get him to save Will.

Failure/Ramifications/Character Arc:Jack reveals to Barbossa that the Navy is waiting for him, and that they shouldn’t remove the curse until they’ve won the battle.

Plant #3: Jack palms a coin, taking the curse upon himself.

Action Block #5:The pirates battle the Navy.

Pay-off #5: Barabossa believes he’s killed Jack, until Jack stumbles into the moonlight, revealing he’s also an immortal.

Obligatory Scene:  The battle between Jack and Barabossa reaches new heights, as does the battle between the pirates and Navy.

Pay-off #6: Jack has the coin, which will break the curse.

  • Third Act Twist (Plot Point #5): Jack throws the coin to Will at the opportune moment, so he can break the curse. Jack kills Barabossa and the pirates surrender.

SEQUENCE EIGHT

The Last Obstacle: Jack has been captured and sentenced to death by Elizabeth’s father.

Character Arc:Will and Elizabeth save Jack after professing their love for one another.

Resolution: Will and Elizabeth are finally able to be together and in love.

New Status Quo:Will and Elizabeth are finally able to be together, but choose a life of freedom (piracy) over their original paths. And Jack is reunited with the Black Pearl and sails off into the horizon.