The Top 5: Quentin Tarantino

The Top 5: Quentin Tarantino

Anyone can spot a Tarantino film when they see one. Cool, laidback dialogue, a kicking soundtrack, and a good deal of blood are typically the telltale signs. Personally, he is one of my favorite directors, and with his ninth and supposedly penultimate film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, coming out a few months down the line in July, I figured I’d put out my top 5 ranking of his films. And yes, I am classifying Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 as a single film, as that is how Tarantino sees them. This list is for Tarantino veterans and newcomers alike, so if you’ve seen Pulp Fiction and you’re wondering which of his movies to watch next, you’ve come to the right place.

#5: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Warehouse showdown | © 1992 Miramax Films

Runtime: 1h 39m

Clocking in at a little over an hour and a half, Tarantino’s directorial debut is a fairly short, yet fast-paced story of a diamond heist gone wrong. The film is so incredibly unique because it never actually shows the heist. Instead, most of the action takes place in a warehouse the crew escapes to after the robbery is ambushed by police. The criminals, all working under pseudonyms and whose identities are unknown to each other, are left to figure out who set them up.

Tarantino really does something special here with his first movie. The characters are all incredibly memorable, especially with their color-themed names. It’s hard to forget a character like Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), after he protests being assigned that name. The opening scene, which shows the crew eating breakfast together at a diner prior to the robbery, does a fantastic job at establishing the personalities of everyone in the film. You will become invested in some of these characters; characters that, in reality, you know nothing about.

Reservoir Dogs will pull you in and leave you guessing. This movie establishes Tarantino’s iconic style, with no shortage of violence and blood. While this is the case, the violence in this film is not as glamorous as his later films and is much grittier and more down-to-earth.

If you’re looking for a quick flick that epitomizes cool, this is the one.

High point: Stuck in the Middle with You

Available to rent/buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu

#4: Jackie Brown (1997)

Target practice | © 1997 Miramax Films

Runtime: 2h 40m

In terms of aesthetic, Jackie Brown is wildly different from Reservoir Dogs. With a bright and vibrant color palette present throughout, Tarantino’s third film centers on Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a middle-aged flight attendant who works for an illegal arms dealer smuggling his money into the country. After she is caught by law enforcement, she makes plans to double-cross her boss and the police with the help of her bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster).

While this movie is probably the most toned-down of Tarantino’s films when compared to the rest of them, it is nevertheless a captivating film from start to finish. In my opinion, Max Cherry and Jackie Brown are two of his greatest characters, and the brilliant performances by Forster and Grier are the main reason I placed this movie at #4 rather than #5. Admittedly though, Robert de Niro’s role in the film is pretty lackluster, but there are a few moments where he really does end up shining through.

Much like Pulp Fiction, Tarantino really nails the dialogue in this film. Any exchange involving Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) is sure to be entertaining. Ordell and Jackie’s relationship, which constantly changes throughout the entirety of the film, results in some of Tarantino’s most memorable interactions.

Jackie Brown is an incredibly fun movie, which is perfect for someone who wants to experience the trademark dialogue and cool characters of Tarantino without the oftentimes over-the-top display of violence.

High point: Money exchange (for real this time)

Available with a Showtime subscription and to rent/buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu

#3: Pulp Fiction (1994)

“This some serious gourmet shit!” | © 1993 Miramax Films

Runtime: 2h 58m

Yes, Pulp Fiction is only in the #3 spot. No, this isn’t a mistake. This is where I believe it belongs.

Easily Tarantino’s most popular film and arguably his greatest, Pulp Fiction is a classic. Full stop. Moments like Jules’ (Samuel L. Jackson) Ezekiel 25:17 speech and the adrenaline shot scene are iconic and truly unforgettable.

So why isn’t it #1?

Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s as good as the next two movies on the list. The reason for this is that I don’t really enjoy Butch’s (Bruce Willis) part of the story. To me, Butch just isn’t that interesting of a character and much of his story gets in the way of more entertaining characters like Jules and Vincent (John Travolta). This doesn’t mean that I don’t love the film.

For those of you who haven’t seen Pulp Fiction, the movie consists of several different and interwoven stories revolving around two LA hitmen: Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega. Like many Tarantino films (but this one especially), the narrative occurs out of chronological order, forcing you to engage with the movie and piece together the plot. Pulp Fiction doesn’t necessarily center on any one character in particular, resulting in numerous stand out performances from otherwise fairly minor characters like Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), The Wolf (Harvey Keitel), and the restaurant couple (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer). The Wolf is without a doubt one of my favorite Tarantino characters, with an absolute treasure trove of immensely memorable lines.

Pulp Fiction is undoubtedly one of the greatest movies of all time, and its legendary status alone should be enough to convince you that it’s worth your time if you haven’t seen it yet.

High point: The Bonnie Situation

Available with a Netflix subscription and to rent/buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu

#2: Kill Bill (2003-04)

The Bride vs. The Crazy 88 | © 2003 Miramax Films

Vol. 1 runtime: 1h 52m             Vol. 2 runtime: 2h 18m              The Whole Bloody Affair runtime: 4h 7m

The ultimate revenge flick, Kill Bill follows The Bride (Uma Thurman) as she hunts down the members of her former team of assassins several years after they murder her soon-to-be husband and her unborn child. The pinnacle of Tarantino violence and visuals, this is the movie of his I choose to show to people who have never seen his work before. The plot is one of the easiest to comprehend and the action is second to none. What Kill Bill lacks in snappy dialogue it makes up for in its moments of suspense.

There are two ways to watch Kill Bill. You can watch volumes 1 and 2 separately, as they were released in theaters, or you can watch the edit that seamlessly combines the two parts into one movie. The Whole Bloody Affair, as the edit is called, makes a few changes to the film that turn it into the movie Quentin Tarantino intended it to be. As a warning though, this version of Kill Bill ends up running for a little over four hours, and you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find a version of it. If you have time for a marathon, watch The Whole Bloody Affair. If not, watching each volume separately is a perfectly good enough way to watch as well. After watching volume 1, you’re going to end up wanting to see the conclusion.

Every fight scene in this movie is simply unforgettable. Great antagonists like O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Bill (David Carradine) lead to an array of distinct and unique encounters between The Bride and her enemies. Aesthetically, this might be Tarantino’s best. The Bride’s trip to the House of Blue Leaves, for example, is one of the most hypnotic sequences in Tarantino’s career, despite containing no action or dialogue.

Kill Bill is easily one of Quentin Tarantino’s greatest films. If you’re looking for a bloody thrill ride, give it a watch.

High point: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves

Both volumes available with a Netflix subscription and to rent/buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu

#1: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Cristoph Waltz as SS colonel Hans Landa | © 2009 The Weinstein Company

Runtime: 2h 33m

“I think this just might be my masterpiece.” That it is, Quentin. That it is.

I wholeheartedly believe Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s finest work. Set in 1941 during the German occupation of France, the story centers on a team of Jewish soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who commit violent acts against the Germans in order to strike fear into the Nazi party and the leaders of the Third Reich. The narrative also involves Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), a French cinema owner who agrees to host a major Nazi film premiere with the intention of seeking revenge for the murder of her Jewish family by the Germans. Inglourious Basterds contains some of the most suspenseful sequences in film and it serves as one of Tarantino’s most thought-provoking works. The movie completely defies expectations, all while encouraging the audience to think about topics like nationalism, revenge, and cinema as a whole.

Inglourious Basterds also boasts one of Tarantino’s greatest characters and arguably one of the greatest villains in cinema history: SS colonel Hans Landa (Cristoph Waltz). Cristoph Waltz’s legendary performance creates an extremely menacing and memorable antagonist that certainly strikes a degree of fear into the audience itself. It comes as no surprise that Waltz won the Academy Award for best actor in a supporting role for this film.

The opening sequence of this movie alone is an absolute masterclass in tension and suspense. I have seen it now at least a dozen times and to this day it still puts me on the edge of my seat. If you are a first-time viewer of this film, I guarantee you will be roped in very quickly.  

Intense action, a thrilling narrative, interesting characters, masterful dialogue, and nail-biting suspense – Inglourious Basterds has it all. This is the movie in which I believe Quentin Tarantino hits all the marks with blazing accuracy. This is the movie in which he absolutely perfects his craft. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out. You will not regret it.

High point: Once upon a time…in Nazi-occupied France

Available with a Showtime subscription and to rent/buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu

3 thoughts on “The Top 5: Quentin Tarantino

  1. 100% agree with this list, the only thing i must complain about down to the high points except the Inglorious Basterds one where i believe that the high point was the Attendez la crème [Wait for the cream] scene or of course the “danke führer” scene. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list and thoughts. Tarantino’s films are all so brilliant that I can make this type of list every day and the rankings might change daily. Films that you didn’t even mention could conceivably be considered his best (Hateful Eight anyone?). I have always declared Jackie Brown as my favorite, but distilling Tarantino;s films into a top 5 list is about as difficult as doing the same for Beethoven symphonies.

    Liked by 1 person

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