Section One

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Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Depp
Unidentified artist, 2003

“There was no good reason for this film not to suck,” Rolling Stone magazine noted about the 2003 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was based on a Disney theme park ride. When Johnny Depp agreed to join the cast, his agent called him a lunatic. But Depp, who admired the unfettered looniness of the cartoons he watched with his young daughter, thought he could breathe new life into the pirate cliché.

His Captain Jack Sparrow, inspired in part by rocker Keith Richards, was an original and hugely entertaining character. Foppish, outrageous, and fey, festooned with dreadlocks and beaded braids, Depp’s pirate helped spawn a blockbuster hit and two sequels. This stand-up poster advertised the shameless zaniness of the movie, implying that Depp’s imaginative portrayal, more than the costumes, special effects, and byzantine story, underlies the whole Pirates franchise.