The best part of Dead Men Tell No Tales was the hilarious dry-land bank robbery scene. The runner-up was the failed-execution scene, which was also, notably, a scene on dry land. The CGI was impressive and all, but the ocean consists of entirely too much water, albeit fake water, if you ask me.
This is a tough movie to summarize in that there are five main characters, all with their own goals and conflicts. It’s an easy movie to summarize in that the whole plot is basically just “get control of the magic stick”. (It’s best not to think too hard about how the magic stuff works.)
Keep reading for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
My Beat Sheet for Dead Men Tell No Tales
A young boy named Henry sends himself to the bottom of the sea to find his father, Will Turner, on The Flying Dutchman. Henry vows to free his father from service on the ship; Will tells him it’s impossible.
Ghostly charcoal men spare Henry’s life, because dead men tell no tales; churchmen threaten to execute a woman scientist named Carina for witchcraft; Jack is captain of a beached ship.
Henry meets Carina, whose notebook could help them unlock the secret of her family history and/or the trident that can break the curse on Henry’s father. Jack and his crew try to rob a bank, but wind up with nothing.
When Jack’s crew quits, Jack trades his magic compass for a bottle of rum. The trade triggers the release of Jack’s worst fear: the ghostly charcoal Captain Salazar, who hates all pirates, especially Jack. He starts killing Barbossa’s pirates. Barbossa, who got Jack’s compass from a witch, agrees to find Jack and hand him over to Salazar.
Henry and Jack’s crew save Jack and Carina from execution at the hands of the British. Jack and his crew take Henry and Carina prisoner. Will this awkward coalition be able to follow the map no man can read to find the all-powerful trident of Poseidon?
Break Into Two
Jack demands Carina’s map, which turns out to be a star map. Finally, the pirates agree to let Carina guide the ship.
B Story / Promise of the Premise
Barbossa learns why Salazar hates Jack so much: Jack defeated and mocked him long ago, tricking him into sailing into the Devil’s Triangle and becoming a charcoal ghost.
Jack’s crew send Jack, Henry, and Carina to land in a dinghy when they realize they’re being pursued by ghost soldiers. In spite of ghost sharks, the three manage to reach land, where the ghosts cannot follow them.
Barbossa, betrayed by Captain Salazar, releases the Black Pearl from the glass bottle Jack carries everywhere with him. Jack’s crew, pursued by the British, rejoin him on the Pearl.
Bad Guys Close In
The ghost ship fights with the Pearl.
All is Lost
Salazar captures Henry and possesses his body. Now he can walk on land.
Dark Night of the Soul
Barbossa realizes Carina is his daughter. The compass tells him he loves her more than anything, but he knows she wouldn’t want a pirate for a father.
Break Into Three
Our heroes find a weird unknown island covered with glowing rocks arranged in constellations like the stars in the sky. Carina joins the ruby fragment from her father’s diary to a not-glowing rock chunk. This opens up an ocean rift.
There’s a big fight at the bottom of the ocean over the trident, in which the trident is shattered and thus breaks all curses. Our heroes return to the surface on an anchor lowered from the Pearl; Barbossa sacrifices himself to kill Salazar and ensure Carina’s safety just after she discovers she’s his daughter.
Henry and Carina are a couple; Henry reunites with his father and his father reunites with his mother; Jack and his crew sail into the great blue yonder, like Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings.