With the forthcoming release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (see my video reaction to the film here), I’ve been thinking about all the great music that this series has given us over the years. These scores not only help create the world of the films, but they help imbue it with a whimsy and a poignancy that would otherwise be totally missing — especially the more incoherent films like At World’s End and Dead Man’s Chest. Below are some of my favorite tracks, and a few thoughts on each one.
Note: Geoff Zanelli does the music for the new film, replacing Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. His work is fine, but he mostly re-uses memorable themes from the previous movies (think Don Davis in Jurassic Park III and you have a good idea of what the score is like).
He’s a Pirate – Written by Klaus Badelt for the original Pirates of the Caribbean, this track is oft-imitated, never equaled. It combines modern, bombastic action film sensibilities with a heavy emphasis on strings that make it one of the most memorable themes of all time.
Angelica – For On Stranger Tides, Zimmer collaborated with my favorite band in the world right now, guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. One of the results was this tango that features some beautiful riffs.
Jack Sparrow – The composers of the Jack Sparrow theme found a way to express his personality using a cello solo. It’s beautiful, silly, and grand.
Up Is Down – One thing the Pirates films are great at is crafting inventive visuals. In a memorable scene in At World’s End, Jack Sparrow uses the weight of his crew to flip his entire ship underwater. This fun track captures some of the whimsy and challenge of that task.
I Don’t Think Now Is The Best Time – This track is an extremely intricate one that plays at the end of At World’s End. As the climactic battle is coming to a head and all hell is breaking loose, Elizabeth and Will declare their love for each other. Almost every single theme in the Pirates movies shows up for a moment in this thing, but my favorite aspect of this track is how it manages to combine them, often layering one on top of the other, all while still managing to match the action on screen. It’s probably the track I’ve listened to more than any other.
For more reading, see my review of Hans Zimmer’s live tour.