Quentin Tarantino is one of Hollywood’s most recognizable auteurs, busting onto the scene with Reservoir Dogs back in 1992 and capturing our attention ever since with his signature blend of exploitation homage and incredibly cool-sounding dialogue. If you asked a random individual about their favorite directors, there’s a better chance than not that his name would come up in that conversation.
He’s created so many great moments over the years, from Michael Madsen cutting off a cop’s ear to Brad Pitt fighting Bruce Lee. It’s safe to say that he’s an icon in the industry, through and through.
#9: Death Proof (2007)
One part of Grindhouse, Death Proof is unabashedly a car movie, playing into the hardcore thrills of exploitation cinema with endless tips of the cap to the movies with which Tarantino grew up. Although, that’s largely the problem with Death Proof as well; it’s one of the times in his career where his attempt at homage went too far.
There’s still plenty to admire in the film, however. Because the spotlight is always on Tarantino’s ability to craft great dialogue, his chops as a director of action have always been a tad underrated in my estimation. Death Proof has plenty of thrills in that sense. Kurt Russell also gives a solidly crazy performance as the suitably over the top Stuntman Mike as he attempts to kill many beautiful women while driving his car at high speeds.
#8: The Hateful Eight (2015)
Aside from being a clear nod to many spaghetti westerns, The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s most obvious cinematic example of his love for theater. The film plays out a lot like a Sidney Lumet film with an added Hitchcockian twist in its second half, using an isolated location to allow his collection of great actors to flex their acting muscles for almost three hours.
Admittedly, The Hateful Eight is probably Tarantino’s most unevenly paced film to date, but it still holds some undeniably great performances, most notably from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins.
#7: Django Unchained (2012)
Tarantino’s most lucrative film at the box office, Django Unchained is thrillingly unrestrained if a bit stitched together from a narrative perspective. But even at the film’s lowest points, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are nothing short of miraculous as the two leads, developing a wonderful rapport as they mercilessly kill one racist after another in the Deep South.
However, the most iconic piece of Django Unchained comes from Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie who is Tarantino’s most vile character in any of his movies. DiCaprio’s ability to stay in character while smashing his hand has been well-documented, and it’s only one of many unbelievably heinous and mesmerizing moments from the actor.
Django Unchained is mostly pulp and not much else, but still a bloody good time.
#6: Kill Bill (2003-2004)
Tarantino has been adamant that he considers Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 to be one film, so in an attempt to honor him, we’ll do the same.
The Bride is Uma Thurman‘s most iconic role, and rightfully so. She commands the screen on her quest for revenge, leading the Kill Bill saga to some moments of violence that are so bloody and horrific that they become hilarious. The fight between The Bride and The Crazy 88 is suitably iconic.
Like every other one of Tarantino’s movies, Kill Bill is a love letter, this time to samurai films. Just like Django Unchained, it’s wonderfully insane.
#5: Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is Tarantino’s most understated film, and it is as clever as it is engrossing. The stakes of Jackie Brown are far lower than his other films. While Pam Grier finds herself trapped in the clutches of an over-the-top villain played by Samuel L. Jackson (sporting a hairstyle that was aging poorly even before Jackie Brown came to theaters), the film is largely a hangout movie. We get to know all these characters as they lay around and go about their daily schedules, adding a thoughtful human element to the crime elements of the film. One could even assert that it contains the last great performances from both Pam Grier and Robert De Niro.
There’s a certain relaxed feel to Jackie Brown that I’ve always appreciated. Even as Tarantino rewinds the final act to show the bag drop from many perspectives in a virtuosic feat of directing, he always makes sure to take a breath. It was quite the diversion from Pulp Fiction at the time of its release, but has grown in my estimation considerably over time.
#4: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Similar to Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a welcomed change for Tarantino. He uses Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie fascinatingly, opting to use them to contemplate the lifecycles of movie stars rather than to achieve the pulpy heights of his other revisionist history films.
You get moments like Brad Pitt’s character fighting Bruce Lee, DiCaprio’s character shining on the set of an old-time Western, or that WILD third act, but the film is far more concerned with the changing of the times, looking at individuals in Hollywood at different instances in their careers and questioning their mortality and appeal. It’s as if Tarantino senses that his own time as a titan director is slowly coming to close…and his stars are noticing the changes in their careers too.
I suspect that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will become one of Tarantino’s most beloved films with time.
*To read the site’s full review of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, please click here.
#3: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
One of the most iconic films of the ’90s, Reservoir Dogs is one of those films that was simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to Hollywood. It set the stage for new, younger voices to permeate through the industry, but also gave the opportunity for numerous try-hards to fail miserably at replicating Tarantino’s style. Still, it’s tough to not love this film.
Full of memorable scenes, Reservoir Dogs separates itself from the typical crime thriller with great characters and that signature Tarantino dialogue. (Who knew that someone could make a group of people talking about tipping a waitress so compelling!) But most importantly, it doesn’t show the heist itself, which helps Tarantino leave the audience in the dark whenever the plot calls for it.
Reservoir Dogs may be one of the best directorial debuts of all time.
#2: Pulp Fiction (1994)
If Reservoir Dogs was one of the best and worst things to happen to Hollywood, Pulp Fiction is the same thing, amplified ten times over.
Pulp Fiction might be the most rewatchable movie of all time. There’s an iconic moment in each of the interconnected, out-of-order stories, making it nearly impossible to shut the movie off if it happens to come on TV. It’s one of the select few films that have graduated from a classic to a film that is so ubiquitous that it’s nearly impossible to add a new spin to the conversation surrounding it.
It’s one of the most iconic movies ever conceived and marks a watershed moment in the industry that forever changed how movies are made.
#1: Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I would never argue with someone who claims that Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s most iconic film. In fact, I’d agree with them. But Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s best film, containing a little bit of everything that we love about his filmmaking style.
Containing some of the best scenes of the 2000s — and possibly of all time — Inglourious Basterds starts with a bang and never stops. It has the thrills, emotion, and top-notch performances all wrapped into one, incendiary materpiece. Tarantino has never been better as a director; each sequence is note-perfect with camera and musical cues that are nothing short of masterful. It’s gleefully violent, subtle, funny, and harrowing all wrapped up together.
Normally, I would roll my eyes at any director who tried to inject the line “I think this may be my masterpiece” into their film, but in the case of Inglourious Basterds, it’s a more than reasonable claim.
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