Captain Jack Sparrow has been at the heart of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise since the release of the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, in 2003. Played by Johnny Depp, Captain Jack is now sailing the seas once more in the fifth Pirates movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales. This might be a fourteen-year-old franchise, but it’s only in Dead Men Tell No Tales that we actually learn how and why Jack became a pirate captain.
The Curse of the Black Pearl introduces us to a hapless, yet somehow rather skilled, Captain Jack, who arrives in Port Royal hoping to commandeer a ship. He is promptly caught and imprisoned. When the Black Pearl attacks the Port, Captain Barbossa takes Elizabeth hostage. Will Turner frees Jack in order to rescue Elizabeth, and thereby meaning Jack can take back the Black Pearl.
The crew of the Black Pearl all labor under a curse, though; after Barbossa marooned Jack on an island and therefore assumed captaincy, the pirates stole a chest of cursed gold, making them all undead. That curse will only be lifted when each gold piece is returned to the chest along with the blood of its owner. The final piece belonged to Will’s father, and so it is now his blood that must fall.
Jack knows all this, he’s far savvier than he ever lets on; he takes a piece of gold from the chest knowing that it protects him from being harmed. Barbossa stabs him but it has no effect since he is a skeleton. This distraction enables Jack to then shoot Barbossa at the same time as Will drops the coin into the chest, meaning Barbossa dies from his injuries.
Jack has a long history of outstanding debts, and we’ve seen them come back to bite him on more than one occasion. In the second Pirates movie, Dead Mans Chest, Jack encounters the Kracken when he fails to follow through on a promise he made to Davy Jones. Jack is also, at that point, in possession of a compass that, again, will feature throughout the arc of Pirates of the Caribbean. The compass is highly sought after since it points to whatever the owner’s heart most desires.
By the end of Dead Mans Chest, Jack is in the Kracken’s belly, seemingly gone forever. But, for some reason, Jack inspires great loyalty, and none more so than from Joshamee Gibbs; his dedicated first mate. Joshamee inspires others, and they decide to set out to rescue Jack. They are aided in this by Tia Dalma, a voodoo priestess whom originally gave Jack the compass. She now introduces the alive-again Captain Barbossa as the man who will lead them back to Jack.
It’s baffling to see just how Jack does inspire such loyalty when you look at the third Pirates movie, At World’s End. Elizabeth, Will, Barbossa, Gibbs, and crew all risk their lives in order to save Jack from the depths of the ocean. Together, they fight against Davy Jones, who eventually triumphs over Will and binds him to The Flying Dutchman for the next ten years. Elizabeth loses her husband and the father of her unborn child, everyone nearly dies, but Jack sails off into the sunset, alone, in order to seek the fountain of eternal youth.