Top 10: Films Of Quentin Tarantino
Ever since Reservoir Dogs, film-nerd extraordinaire Quentin Tarantino has been taking moviegoers on thrilling cinematic adventures full of dialogue-heavy scenes, eccentric characters, and moments of brutal violence. He made grindhouse cool — well, cooler — blended genres together in new and interesting ways, and spawned a whole wave of imitators with his distinct style.
His voice and presence in cinema is still just as sharp and fresh as it ever was — maybe even more so. Amidst a sea of endless franchise sequels, recycled Disney classics, and superhero blockbusters, Tarantino has always stood among the few filmmakers who champion original stories. For as much as he borrows (usually from older, more obscure films) and indulges, he crafts stories where the journey and its ending are always uncertain. Being a avid fanatic for all things cinema, he keeps his audience in mind at all times, and finds new and exciting ways to surprise and delight us.
His filmography is solid and more consistent than many filmmakers, with really only one bad apple in the bunch (and even that’s not that bad). Since Tarantino pays homage to Hollywood in his latest film, we thought we’d return the favor and look back on his sparkling career as it heads into its supposed sunset!
10: Death Proof
Death Proof is almost unanimously heralded as Tarantino’s worst film — a sentiment Tarantino himself seems to share — and it’s Tarantino at his most exploitative and indulgent. Coupled with Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror as a double feature grindhouse experience in 2007, Death Proof was easily eclipsed by both Rodriguez’ more energetic entry and the rest of Tarantino’s filmography. Though not terrible by any stretch, it does stick out as the least cohesive and engaging of Tarantino’s work. It’s essentially a film in two very contrasting halves; the first sets up a gruesome male predator, and the second turns the tables, morphing into a female empowerment revenge flick. Given the current socio-political climate, Death Proof has certainly aged pretty well and has all the hallmarks of a Tarantino film; it just pales in comparison to the rest of Tarantino’s body of work.
9: The Hateful Eight
A more recent effort, The Hateful Eight is Tarantino channeling Agatha Christie in an icy western-themed whodunit. Tarantino’s approach leans more into the novelistic and is fragmented into his signature chapters and colorful characters, who are backed by a phenomenal ensemble cast of Tarantino regulars. The film is slow to draw you in, but once the stage is set and our characters are locked into their claustrophobic environment things become wickedly gripping. With clear influence drawn from John Carpenter (particularly The Thing) and Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence, and with a truly sinister score from the legendary Ennio Morricone, there’s a whole lot to love with The Hateful Eight.
8: Kill Bill: Vol. 2
The quiet conclusion to Tarantino’s sprawling samurai-revenge epic is loaded with memorable showdowns and scenes of dialogue. A total contrast to the over-the-top action of Volume 1, Volume 2 takes its foot off the gas and lets the story breathe, giving us more backstory on The Bride. Tarantino bends the samurai elements into an overt spaghetti western that climaxes in the expected (yet still surprising) showdown against the titular Bill (played brilliantly by the late David Carradine). Against the breakneck lunacy of Volume 1, Volume 2 is a much slower experience, but its deeper examination of its characters and their motivations make this one satisfying conclusion to this tale of revenge.
7: Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s only adapted work, is based on the novel Rum Punch by crime-fiction novelist Elmore Leonard. The film pays homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, particularly the films Coffy and Foxy Brown, both of which also starred Grier in the title roles. It’s probably Tarantino’s most slow-burning, mature, and sophisticated joint, making it somewhat of the odd duck in the bunch. Though it’s not our favorite QT film, we do recognize that Jackie Brown is filled with his most authentic and lively dialogue and down-to-earth characters. We tend to favor the instant gratification of his more excessive works, Jackie Brown is an undeniably cool experience, and it’s one we turn to every coupe of years.
6: Kill Bill Vol. 1
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a breakneck assault of action, anime, and samurai-revenge cinema that perfectly melds into a gratifying bloodbath. The opening of the film — a pregnant bride, bloodied and barely breathing, begins to speak but is shot in the head — instantly grabs your attention, and as the complexity of the revenge epic become more clear, the more entrenched you become in its story. It’s close to the frenzied style of Natural Born Killers and is probably Tarantino’s biggest bloodletting. Clearly inspired by the mother of all revenge films, Lady Snowblood, Volume 1 sets the foundation for this revenge epic to build off of and serves up a kinetic and action packed thrill ride that you won’t easily forget.
5: Django Unchained
Tarantino’s second alternate history film, Django Unchained, gives slavery the cinematic ass whooping it needs. Set in the Old West and Antebellum South, Django is a highly stylized tribute to Spaghetti Westerns, in particular the 1966 Italian film Django by Sergio Corbucci, whose star Franco Nero has a cameo appearance, the film tells the story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) with the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Filled with one spectacular sequence after another and anchored on the relationship between Foxx and Watlz, Django is a glorious spatter-fest that contains all the hallmarks that make Tarantino so brilliant.
4: Reservoir Dogs
Tarantino’s debut, Reservoir Dogs, is a badass throwback heist-thriller that laid the foundation for the style that he would later perfect. Charmingly rough around the edges, Dogs is filled with some of Tarantino’s most memorable scenes. No one can listen to Stealers Wheel “Stuck in the Middle with You” without thinking about Michael Madsen sawing off a cops ear and dosing him with gasoline. The film’s hard-hitting style turned Tarantino into an overnight sensation and its fresh style quickly took to the mainstream. It’s since been cemented, much like many of Tarantino’s other creations, into the fabric of popular culture, and for good reason.
3: Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
It may be too early to put this one so high up on the list, but we were completely overtaken with the charm of this slow-burning buddy hangout. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood finally unites Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, gives us another slice of revisionist history in that particular Tarantino way, and takes us on a carefree ride. One of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’s many gifts is giving us that version of Tarantino that waxes inwardly in a way that we’ve never really seen from him before; he isn’t just looking back over his shoulder to a pivotal era of American history, the Hollywood industry, and his childhood. The film is loaded with everything you’d expect from a Tarantino film — wonderful dialogue, rich characters, violence, alt. history, and an unpredictable story — but its friendship between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and the film’s overall heartwarming charm make this stand out from the rest. It also has the most cathartic ending ever committed to film.
2: Pulp Fiction
Tarantino’s pulpy breakthrough is still one hell of a firecracker, and Tarantino’s Americanization of the French New Wave (or Goddard in particular) forever changed cinema and popular culture (for better or worse). At its core, it’s a tale of redemption that weaves through a cache of eclectic characters. Its non-linear chronology makes the experience an even more unpredictable and subversive delight. Pulp Fiction is a contemporary classic filled with so much stylish verve and iconic moments that it still feels just as fresh today. Thought, it’s popularity may’ve killed everyone else’s buzz, we still hold this early Tarantino entry in high regard. Oh, to go back in time and experience this for the first time again… That would be such a treat.
1: Inglorious Basterds
Tarantino’s WWII masterpiece is easily our favorite film of his. It’s overflowing with the richest characters, is filled with so many visceral moments of tension, and builds to one helluva cathartic climax — second only to Once Upon a Time. The film is the first time Tarantino altered history, which was something no one had really considered doing. Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt are both phenomenal and Tarantino himself is in sublime form. We love his seamless blending of war and spaghetti western that culminate into one stylish, violent, and vengeful cinematic delight. Basterds enthralls and entertains, thrills and delights, and satisfies on every possible level. We loved it straight away, but it’s been one of those films that gets better and better with each subsequent viewing.
That’s our list! What’s your favorite Tarantino film? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!