Quentin Tarantino is a master of his craft, and my favorite director working in Hollywood today. Tarantino has created some of the most original, well thought out, wonderfully scripted films in recent memory. He pulls me into his films in a way that no other director can, and he is my screenwriting idol. With each new film from him, I am expecting a flop, simply because I am surprised that he has never let me down. He is the only filmmaker that has impressed me with every single film in his filmography.
Below is my list of Tarantino’s films from worst (yet still enjoyable) to best.
Note: This list is my personal opinion.
Note: spoilers, probably.
7. Death Proof (Grindhouse)
Grindhouse, the exploitation throwback double-feature that toted films from both Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, wasn’t the most well-received of Tarantino’s projects. I think Roger Ebert stated it best when he said:
“‘Grindhouse’ is both impressive and disappointing. From a technical and craft point of view it is first-rate; from its standing in the canon of the two directors, it is minor.”
Death Proof is an exhilarating romp of film, following two groups of woman as they are terrorized by Kurt Russell’s slimy “Stuntman” Mike. The car chase scenes are expertly handled by Tarantino, and Russell’s antagonist is made perfectly nasty. The film’s final sequence is hilariously uplifting, but the buildup to the climax is somewhat slow.
My main problem with the film is the focus on the group of women in the first half. The final two scenes of this segment, with Rose McGowan and Russell’s interaction in his car and the subsequent chase-down of the remaining women’s vehicle, are unrelentingly brutal in a sadistically enjoyable way. However, the bar scenes do drag on (I also agree with Ebert on this one), especially considering the characters therein disappear in the shift to the second half.
Death Proof is a fun film, especially in conjunction with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, but it doesn’t live up to any of the other films in Tarantino’s filmography.
If you want to check out Grindhouse in all of its glory, click the links below:
6. Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown seems to be one of the more-forgotten films in Tarantino’s filmography. It doesn’t have the impact of some of his other films, but that certainly doesn’t make it the worst.
In the crime film, the title character (Pam Grier) gets caught between arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) and the police. Pam Grier puts in a powerhouse performance, as do supporting cast Robert DeNiro, Michael Keaton, and Robert Forster (who was given an Academy Award nomination for his performance).
I enjoy Jackie Brown, but it isn’t the first film that comes to mind when I think of Tarantino. And it isn’t the second film, or the third. It isn’t the most memorable movie, despite its star power. Given Tarantino’s short filmography, the only appropriate place for Jackie Brown is in the bottom half.
If you haven’t seen Jackie Brown, see it. It’s worth it:
5. Django Unchained
One of Tarantino’s more controversial pictures, Django Unchained follows freed slave Django (Jaime Foxx) as he and his emancipator (Christoph Waltz) pick off slave owners and journey to free Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from her merciless owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Getting a lot of flack for its violent depictions of slavery, its use of racial epithets, and its stylizing of 19th century American slave culture as a spaghetti western, Django still gained many accolades, including an Oscar for both Christoph Waltz and Tarantino himself.
Controversy aside, this film has its issues. There are superb performances across the board, and Tarantino does his usual thing, creating a gritty genre pastiche. However, it may be too long for its own good. The climactic shootout is overbearing and unnecessarily extended. Some minor scenes also feel unnecessary, introducing supporting characters that serve little purpose in the overall narrative.
Django is a solid film. It is well-acted and dark. It’s script earned Tarantino his second Best Screenplay Academy Award (although, I would argue that Inglourious Basterds has the superior script). However, it meanders at times, and comes in at a slow 165 minutes.
If you have 165 minutes to spare for an over-the-top explosive western film, click below to find Django Unchained on Amazon:
4. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
I’ll admit, it took me way too long to get to this film. It was the last of Tarantino’s body of work that I saw (other than Django, which wasn’t yet released at the time). What can I say? Long movies intimidate me, and you can’t watch one of these volumes without the other. Hence my keeping them together in this list. Kill Bill is one movie.
Tarantino’s attempt at a martial arts action flick, Kill Bill is an explosive epic. Drawing on samurai and kung fu influences, Tarantino’s film has some beautiful and downright bloody action sequences. It also utilizes music perfectly, as is expected from a Tarantino title.
Kill Bill is clearly a passion project for Tarantino. It is his fan letter to a multitude of filmmakers that have influenced him. This shows, as it is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still intricately put together.
You can find both volumes of Kill Bill through Amazon below:
3. Reservoir Dogs
For the longest time, I would be willing to take my argument for this movie being Tarantino’s #1 to the grave. The first of his films that I was exposed to, this movie opened my eyes into a world of film making that I never knew existed. The opening scene alone elicits enough script envy to make any movie fan’s mouth water. That’s not the only iconic scene in this film, however. Many a scene in Reservoir Dogs is forever ingrained in my mind in spite of my s**t memory. Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth in the car, the anecdote scene, the color discussion in the meeting scene, the ear. The ear!
Speaking of the famous Michael Madsen torture scene, the soundtrack of this film is one of the best I know of. “Stuck in the Middle With You” is used to hauntingly perfect effect. 12 years before Guardians of the Galaxy tapped Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” to be its signature track, Tarantino used it as part of the “Super Sounds of the 70’s” backdrop to his heist thriller.
Tarantino burst onto the scene with this film, proving to everyone that he had something new and provocative to bring to the table. Part of me will always put this film at the top spot on this list, but I have come to concede the top two spots to films that further affirmed Tarantino’s spot as one of Hollywood’s best.
If you haven’t yet seen this film, please please watch it! It is one of my favorite films of all time, and it is simply an amazing heist flick. You can find it through the links below:
2. Inglourious Basterds
Any film that can kill off Hitler without becoming an absurd farce of itself is a success, in my opinion. Tarantino’s re-imagining of World War II is an unprecedented take on war cinema, and it earned Christoph Waltz (above) his first Oscar nod for acting. His performance, as well as those of Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, and Daniel Bruhl, are phenomenal, all thanks to the pen of Tarantino. Col. Hans Landa is one of the coldest (yet darkly humorous) antagonists ever put on film.
This movie was a massive undertaking, the script alone being carefully crafted over the course of a decade. Tarantino held off making the film, and made Kill Bill instead, as he did not have a hold on the perfect Basterds ending. Luckily, he came back to create a WWII epic that is intense, beautiful, and violent. And the wait for that ending was all too worth it.
Inglorious Basterds’ final scene has Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine staring down into the camera and stating matter-of-factly: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” It’s as if Tarantino is speaking right to us, letting us know that he acknowledges exactly what everyone in the theater is thinking.
Like Reservoir Dogs, this is a film that needs to be seen. I love it. You can find it by clicking below:
1. Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is the defining film of Tarantino’s career. It would be an egregious misstep on my part to not reserve the top spot to this one. It is Tarantino’s magnum opus. Amazingly, though, it is not like other magnum opuses, in which the directors try and fail to rise to the same heights in their subsequent films.
Pretty much every scene in this film is iconic (even more so than Reservoir Dogs). The dance contest, the adrenaline shot, the Royale with Cheese, Sam Jackson’s bible quote, Tarantino’s cameo, Christopher Walken’s cameo, Harvey Keitel’s cameo, Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in the pawn shop.
Pulp Fiction has one of the best scripts in the history of film (in my humble opinion). The non-linear structure is crafted with deft perfection. Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, and even Tarantino himself are at the top of their acting game. This film is near perfection.
I can’t imagine you haven’t seen this movie. It is a pop culture staple. You can find it with the links below. It’s a must see:
I can’t wait to see where The Hateful Eight will fall in this list. It comes out (barring any production setbacks) on Nov. 13, 2015.
As always, thanks for reading!
What do you think of this list? Which Tarantino films are your favorite? Excited for The Hateful Eight? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)