The Captain Hall of Fame: Phillips, Kirk, Sparrow and More
2:44 PM PDT 10/16/2013 by Shawn Kotzen, Chris Godley
Whether it be on an ocean-cutting schooner, a galaxy-traveling spaceship, or, most recently, a hijacked merchant vessel, pop culture has always been enamored with these heroic figures. Here's a gallery of brave commanders with wind on their backs and eyes fixed on the next port of call.
Back in April 2009, Richard Phillips was the captain of the Merchant Vessel Maersk Alabama when it was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The ship was boarded by four machine-gun-carrying hijackers, but the crew somehow managed to fight them off, forcing them to leave the ship empty-handed. However, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory, as Captain Phillips was captured by the pirates as they fled and held hostage on a lifeboat. Three days later, Phillips was freed and four years after that his harrowing ordeal was adapted into a thinking person's action film, directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy) and starring Tom Hanks.
James Tiberius Kirk is the captain of the USS Enterprise – a starship in the fictional Starfleet, which exists in Gene Roddenberry'sStar Trek universe. Kirk was born in Iowa in the year 2233 and led the Enterprise and their beloved crew on countless expeditions and adventures -- “boldly going where no one has gone before.” Unforgettably portrayed by William Shatner in the original Star Trek television show, as well as seven Star Trek films and numerous other endeavors, the character was most recently played by Chris Pine in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot, as well as this year’s sequel Star Trek Into Darkness.
This Marvel superhero was created in the World War II era by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and has taken on everyone from Adolf Hitler to the Red Skull to Saddam Hussein. Recently thrust back into the Hollywood limelight, courtesy of a pair of films starring Chris Evans – 2010’s Captain America: The First Avenger and the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Cap can also be seen in 2012’s The Avengers and the upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Captain Han Solo
This vest-wearing, Greedo-blasting, Wookiee-lovin’Corellian rebel is one of the most beloved and well-known science fiction characters, ranked No. 14 on the American Film Institute’s list of “Greatest Film Heroes” and No. 4 on the list of “Greatest Movie Character of All Time” by Empire magazine. Created by George Lucas and brought to life by Harrison Ford, Solo traveled the Star Wars universe in the Millennium Falcon and was also responsible for making the “Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” lest you forget.
The nasty leader of a boat full of dirty pirates, Jim Hook likes to spend his days sailing around the seas of the fictional Neverland, searching for his nemesis Peter Pan and his wily group of Lost Boys. Possessing the prophetic surname of Hook, he saw his greatest fears come to fruition after Peter lopped off his hand and fed it to a crocodile, who has had a taste for Jim and followed him around ever since. This epic literary character has been immortalized by Hollywood in countless adaptations, including Disney’s 1953 animated classic, 1991’s Hook (played by Dustin Hoffman) and, most recently, 2003’s live-action Peter Pan, where he was portrayed by Jason Isaacs.
Captain Jack Sparrow
In a lifetime of memorable cinematic achievements, Captain Jack Sparrow might be Johnny Depp’s most famous film role. Stealing the show in all four movies in the Pirates of the Caribbeantetralogy (soon to return in Part 5), this dreadlock-sporting scurvy dog with a gold tooth and Keith Richards accent managed to get eaten by a mythical sea beast, escape Davy Jones’ Locker and find the Fountain of Youth -- all without spilling a drop of rum. This character and Depp’s likeness will forever be immortalized, as they now bid buccaneers farewell on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney parks.
The title character of a weekday morning children’s show, which aired from 1955 to 1984, the Captain (who was played and conceived by Bob Keeshan) was a pioneer in the creation of kids-themed morning television shows and a certified pop culture icon. He wore a signature red coat with big pockets -- hence the name Captain Kangaroo. After a short hiatus, the show was reformatted in 1985 and ran again until 1993, giving the Captain and company 38 seasons of quality children’s television programming. Keeshan passed away in 2004 at age 76.
Nemo is the brilliant yet misunderstood villain from Jules Verne’s timeless sci-fi novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He's also the captain of the menacing and monstrous-looking submarine the Nautilus, and the son of an Indian raja who roamed the seas looking for blood and vengeance on the British Empire. But much like Ahab, he found some ornery sea life instead, in the form of a giant squid. Portrayed by a myriad of actors (James Mason, Michael Caine and Ben Cross, just to name a few) in countless remakes of Verne’s classic tale, the character was even immortalized in Alan Moore’s comic book (and the 2003 film adaptation) series The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.
This furry little club-wielding cartoon character from the 1970s and '80s was created by Hanna-Barbera and was originally paired with a trio of crime-solving girls called the Teen Angels. Voiced by the one-of-a-kind Mel Blanc, “Cavey” was known for uttering the nonsensical phrase “ungabunga,” speaking in “caveman talk” and yelling his name at the top of his lungs when he was ready for action. Everybody: “CAPTAIN ... CAAAAVEMAAAAN!!!!”
The crazed seafarer from Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, whose obsession with a big white whale ended up costing him more than his leg in the end. Melville’s tale of revenge and madness has been adapted into countless movies, made-for-TV movies and even a musical over the years, with William Hurt’s portrayal in Encore’s $25 million cable television miniseries in 2011 being the most recent.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Born in France in 2305, Jean-Luc Picard was Captain Kirk’s successor as head of the USS Enterprise. Famously portrayed by English thespian Patrick Stewart in his breakout performance, Picard led the Enterprise and her crew through seven seasons of interstellar adventure (from 1987 to 1994) on Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as four films and an appearance on the pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
“By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!” An eco-friendly superhero who had his own cartoon in the 1990s called Captain Planet and the Planeteers, this blue-skinned, green mullet-sporting ancient champion of justice would travel around modern-day Earth with his five ring-wearing Planeteers, fighting pollution, toxic waste, smog, etc. He lays claim to a heady mix of powers, including shape-shifting, flying (even through space!) and telepathy. In June of this year, Sony Pictures announced that a live-action Captain Planet movie was in the works. The power is yours, moviegoers.
Initially made famous by Groucho Marx in the 1930 film Animal Crackers, where Marx played Captain Jeffery T. Spaulding -- the famous explorer and adventurer. The name was later used by filmmaker Rob Zombie as a character in both 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses and 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, where James Cutter (deliciously played by Sid Haig) is the deranged, psychopathic patriarch of the murderous Firefly family. That is, when he’s not calling himself Captain Spaulding, wearing clown makeup, and slinging fried chicken and tickets to his infamous “Murder Ride.”
Captain Steve Zissou
Created by director Wes Anderson, along with screenwriter Noah Baumbach, and brought to life by a surprisingly melancholy Bill Murray, this oceanographer- documentarian, from 2004's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, is a moody mixture of Captain Ahab, Jacques Cousteau, Captain Nemo, Ernest Hemingway and Quint from Jaws -- with a little bit of Murray's sarcastic wit thrown in. Captain of a research vessel called the Belafonte, Zissou and his eccentric crewmembers encounter everything from pirates, familial issues and the choppy seas of love while on their quest to capture the deadly and enigmatic "jaguar shark."
He was known as "Your Captain” on Aaron Spelling’s ode to the cruise ship crowd -- the hourlong TV comedy The Love Boat. Played by Gavin McLeod, Merrill Stubing served as the ship’s captain for all 10 seasons on ABC, in addition to three made-for-TV movies, from 1976 to 1986. At this exact moment, you’re probably starting the hum that addictive opening theme song. No? Well, you are now. Climb aboard …
The Sea Captain
Yarr! Sporting a peg leg, a corncob pipe and a glass eye (possibly even two!), this recurring character on Fox’s The Simpsons is a stereotypical pirate who owns one of Springfield’s most popular (only?) seafood restaurants, The Frying Dutchman. Despite his nickname, Horatio McCallister is not an official sea captain, but he is an entrepreneur, having started numerous business ventures in the past, including the release of sea shanties box set and establishing a school for pet lobsters. He’s voiced by Hank Azaria, who provides the voice for many of Springfield’s citizens.