Quentin Tarantino really needs no introduction. But, considering this is an article about the man's directorial output and we're about to heap a whole lot of praise upon him. We're going to give him one anyway.
Tarantino is one of the few genuine celebrity directors that has plied his trade in Hollywood in the last few decades. His style is so unique and so unmistakably 'him', that most film fans would be able to identify they were watching a Tarantino film almost instantly. His encyclopedic knowledge of film history and film genres of all kinds is unparalleled, and he wears his influences on his sleeve. He is constantly homaging and paying tribute to his favorite movies in his own films and yet somehow his stuff feels original and vital.
As well as working as a director, Tarantino has written the scripts for all 9 of his films (and cameoed in some as an actor). He has also written scripts for modern classic movies he didn't direct, like True Romance, Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Till Dawn. So, all in all, the dude is pretty darn talented. But that doesn't mean he hasn't stumbled every now and again.
Here are Quentin Tarantino's movies, ranked worst to best!
9. Death Proof (2007)
For any fans of Death Proof out there (and we're sure there must be some), we're sorry. But placing it at the bottom of this list was an easy decision to make. The movie is widely seen as Tarantino's weakest and it struggled critically and commercially.
Released in the USA as one-half of a double feature entitled Grindhouse, the movie is an exploitation action-horror starring Kurt Russell and Rosario Dawson. Truthfully, it is not a bad film, as such. In fact, it's easily the better half of Grindhouse, as Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror was abysmal. This was just...sub-par, especially for someone as talented as Tarantino. Even the man himself agrees!
In a Director's Roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, Tarantino said it was his worst film. He then added that he didn't want to make any more films like it in his later career. Well, his exact words were that 'one of those out-of-touch, old, limp, flaccid-dick movies costs you three good movies as far as your rating is concerned.' He's an eloquent man, that Tarantino...and clearly concerned with his legacy.
8. The Hateful Eight (2015)
This was Tarantino's most recent film and, though it was well-received critically and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards, it just didn't grab us the way most of his other work has.
The Hateful Eight is a Western mystery film starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It's the sort of movie that should play to Tarantino's strengths. It features a group of reprehensible but impossibly eloquent outlaws forced together in an enclosed space when a blizzard traps them. This means that most of the movie features people talking to each other in an entertaining manner, while the plot leaps around in time, with Tarantino picking and choosing when to show us character backstory and events from different perspectives. Then there are the flashes of extreme violence that crop up every now and again.
All in all, it's vintage Tarantino, but...this one just left us cold for the most part. We hesitate to use the word boring when describing the great QT. But this movie veered dangerously close to that territory for us.
7. Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is the only Tarantino movie that he adapted directly from another writer's source material: the 1992 novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard. The film pays homage to 1970's blaxploitation films, especially Coffy and Foxy Brown, which starred Pam Grier...who Tarantino plucked from relative cinemtic obscurity to play the title role in this film. The film's supporting cast is stellar. Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton are joined by journeyman actor Robert Forster, who delivers a performance so good that it earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Jackie Brown is a movie that gets better with hindsight and distance. While it is undoubtedly a good film, when it was released in 1997 it disappointed many fans as it wasn't as amazing as Tarantino's previous films. Perhaps it was too niche, with it's heavy blaxploitation influence? Perhaps modern audience's found it strange that more established stars like De Niro and Jackson were playing second fiddle to Grier and Forster?
Whatever the reasons for it's reception at the time, it's reputation has grown over the years. Noted UK film critic Mark Kermode cites it as his favorite Tarantino movie, and the late Roger Ebert was a big fan too. Even Sam Jackson says it's his personal favorite Tarantino work, and he would know: he's starred in 6 of them!
6. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
Kill Bill was Tarantino's first ode to exploitation/grindhouse cinema. The influence of martial arts films, samurai cinema and spaghetti westerns is keenly felt here. After the release of Jackie Brown in 1997 Tarantino took an extended period of time off from directing. When he returned with Kill Bill, he had so much material that the film was going to clock in at over 4 hours long! Fully expecting a battle with studio head Harvey Weinstein over what material to cut, Tarantino was instead met with the suggestion of splitting the film into 2 parts. This tactic had recently worked well with the Wachowski's Matrix sequels. It worked out just as well here.
The first volume was released in October 2003, with Volume 2 following in April 2004. While not as action-packed as its predecessor, Volume 2 is still a very good movie on its own terms. The dialogue is a sharp as ever, and Tarantino provides a fitting conclusion to the story of The Bride (Uma Thurman) and her campaign of revenge against her former employers in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.
This one is perhaps most remembered for the stomach churning scene in which Michael Madsen's sadistic Budd buries The Bride alive. It's nasty, tense and inventive and a gruesome highlight of the film.
5. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
At the time of its release, Inglourious Basterds became Tarantino's most commercially successful film. It made over $321 million worldwide, and also received 8 Academy Award nominations. The film is uniquely, unmistakably Tarantino. All the hallmarks are there. It's heavily inspired by an old, obscure film (the 1978 Italian film Inglorious Bastards). It tells Tarantino's version of history, a skewed alternate history story of two plots to assassinate Nazi Germany's political leadership. The film features long scenes of character's spouting some of the most delicious dialogue ever put on-screen, punctuated by bursts of violence. There is also a rich vein of black comedy, something that has also always been present in Tarantino's work.
The cast is superb. Brad Pitt anchors the film brilliantly as Lt. Aldo Raine, whose zeal for scalping Nazi's knows no bounds. Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl and Melanie Laurent are all excellent in their roles, and a young Michael Fassbender first caught many people's attention with his small role here.
But most of the praise was reserved for Christoph Waltz. He won the film's sole Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of SS officer Hans Landa. Waltz was a complete unknown to American audiences before the film, and his performance was a revelation. He is a magnetic screen presence. His polite, charming demeanor that barely conceals a dark, evil nature is a joy to watch.
4. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Most people's abiding memory of Kill Bill: Volume 1 is the bravura action set-piece at The House Of Blue Leaves. Here, Uma Thurman's The Bride takes on the entire Yakuza gang The Crazy 88 and Gogo Yubari, a mace-wielding schoolgirl assassin.
The scene is almost unbelievably violent. Geysers of blood spurt from chopped off limbs. The Bride slices and dices her way through swathes of the 88 with gleeful abandon. However, because Tarantino pitches the tone of the sequence perfectly, the violence is not off-putting. If anything, it's presented as over-the-top gory cartoon violence, which works perfectly for his homage to 70's martial arts cinema.
This movie is a thrill-ride from start to finish. At the time it was a real change of pace for Tarantino, who had made talky crime films beforehand. Yes, the character's in this still talked a lot, and it was extremely entertaining to listen to. But Tarantino wanted to test himself outside of his comfort zone. He wanted to make an action movie in the old-school style that he loved so much, and so he did. Everything is practical; stunts, choreography, in-camera effects. At a time when CGI was making huge advancements, seemingly with every big movie released, Tarantino went against the grain. And it worked amazingly well.
3. Django Unchained (2012)
It only took 3 years for Tarantino to top himself after the massive success of Inglourious Basterds. In 2012, Django Unchained became his biggest commercial hit. It grossed over $425 million worldwide and chalked up 5 Academy Award nominations. The film took home 2 statues: Best Original Screenplay for Tarantino and Best Supporting Actor for the wonderful Christoph Waltz.
It is a dazzlingly entertaining movie. Aside from Waltz delivering another silver-tongued doozy of a performance, Tarantino also coaxed the best work of Jamie Foxx's career in the title role. He gave old pal Sam Jackson his best screen role in years as Stephen, the irascible servant of Leonardo DiCaprio's despicable plantation owner Calvin J. Candie. DiCaprio is, predictably, superb. He is arguably the best actor of his generation, after all. But the joy of listening to him wrap his tongue around Tarantino's trademark dialogue is worth the price of admission alone.
The film did have it's share of controversies following release. This is sometimes par for the course for an incendiary filmmaker like Tarantino. He was criticized for the heavy use of racial slurs and for some historical inaccuracies, as well as for the way some acts of violence in the movie are played for laughs. But none of this seemed to hurt the movie in the long run.
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
There are few films out there that are as beloved as Pulp Fiction. It was a genuine cultural phenomenon when it was released in 1994, a film that announced its young writer/director as one of the most ferociously talented filmmakers to come along in decades.
The film has become iconic in many ways, entering the cultural lexicon for its eclectic dialogue, cinematic homages, tricksy story structure and pop-culture references. The film launched the careers of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, as well as providing a comeback for then out-of-favour John Travolta. The rest of the cast is filled with the likes of Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel. Oh, and it inspired a classic episode of The Simpsons. That's how you know it was a big deal!
It's the sort of film that inspired the generation of filmmakers to come after it, as well as providing the basis for countless film school and university thesis' and essays. It's an endlessly quotable movie, that functions perfectly as an entertainment but also has that subtext that lends itself to critical study.
But with all that said...how is it not number 1?! Read on...
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
This might be seen as a controversial choice. How can we not put Pulp Fiction at number one considering all the superlatives we heaped upon it?!
Well, it's simple. We really, really, really love Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino's first film is still, in our book, his best film. There's a reason it was voted the Greatest Independent Film Of All Time by Empire magazine. It's an original (despite being heavily inspired by Stanley Kubrick's The Killing). It's a heist movie...that doesn't show the heist. Instead, we see the bloody aftermath of a heist gone wrong.
The acting in the movie is of a very high quality, especially for such a low budget film by a first time director. Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth are excellent, providing the pulsating heart and soul of the film. Michael Madsen is the unpredictable wild card, and is simply impossible to take your eyes off. Steve Buscemi is also memorably twitchy and nervous.
Fun fact: the bizarre title comes from an encounter Tarantino had with a customer at Video Archives, the video rental store he worked at before breaking into filmmaking. He recommended Au Revoir Les Enfants to the customer, who misheard it as Reservoir Dogs. The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, did we screw this list up? Pulp Fiction at number 2?! We must be crazy, right? Let us know in the comments below.