Though the Pirates of the Caribbean movies mostly focus on the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner actually the franchises real protagonist. Probably the most successful movie franchise to be based on a theme park ride, Pirates of the Caribbean has delivered a handful of iconic movie moments. Led by a collection of Hollywood’s finest stars, the franchise has provided some of the most popular action-adventure movies of all time.

Following the pirate Jack Sparrow and the young Will Turner, Pirates first took blockbusters to the high seas way back in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End rounded out the initial trilogy, but the franchise returned in 2011 with On Stranger Tides. 2017 saw the release of Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth movie in the Pirates universe.

Though the perennial “bad pirate” Jack Sparrow is by far the franchise’s most recognizable character, he isn’t its most important. In actuality, that honor goes to Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner, the fresh-faced young blacksmith who takes to the seas in the name of love. Though he may have only appeared in four of the five films, Will Turner is still the franchise’s main character.

The First Pirates Of The Caribbean Movie Made Will Turner The Most Important Character

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom as Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean

Black Pearl introduces Will Turner as an idealistic blacksmith in love with the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Eventually, it transpires that Will’s long-dead father was a pirate, and that his blood is the key to lifting an ancient curse. Cue various narrative coincidences that brilliantly build towards an exciting action-packed climax. Turner swoops in, saves the girl (and discovers a little roguish charm in the process).

The truth is, Turner influences Black Pearl‘s story more than Jack Sparrow. However, Depp’s now-iconic affected performance as the pirate utterly steals the show, and Turner effectively takes a back seat. The fact that Sparrow proved more popular was an issue, because Turner was actually more important to the story. It may not affect the franchise’s narrative, but it’s a crucial distinction that has been overlooked ever since the first movie.

Will and Elizabeth’s Love Story Has Always Been POTC’s Focus

Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean

Ultimately, the main story of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always been Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann’s. At first, Will admires her from afar, but risks his life to save her. Then, she falls in love with him, and risks her own life for his. The initial trilogy ends on a bittersweet note for the pair, neatly wrapping up their narrative.

Though the characters were absent for On Stranger Tides, Turner returned in Dead Men Tell No Tales. Now acting as the captain of the Flying Dutchman, Will Turner meets the son he never got to know because of his (sort of) state of undeath. Revisiting the tragic end of the pair’s story brought them back to the franchise’s spotlight, ultimately cementing Turner as its most important character.

Pirates Of The Caribbean Didn’t Work Without Will Turner

Orlando Bloom as Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean

Perhaps the most compelling evidence that Pirates of the Caribbean needs Will Turner comes in On Stranger Tides. This is because Will Turner isn’t in the fourth film, and it’s by far the worst of the bunch. Without him, the film is forced to introduce a handful of forgettable new characters to act as foils for Jack Sparrow. Sadly, none of them can match the chemistry of Depp and Bloom, and the film simply doesn’t work.

On a narrative level, On Stranger Tides just doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise. When you consider that Will Turner is essentially the glue that holds Pirates of the Caribbean together, this suddenly becomes clearer. With no focus at all on Will and Elizabeth’s story, the film simply feels lost, and it’s not until Bloom returned for Dead Men Tell No Tales that the franchise got back on track. Jack Sparrow might be considered Pirates of the Caribbean‘s protagonist, but Will Turner is actually its most important character.