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As Quentin Tarantino is one of most intriguing filmmakers/directors of the late 20th century and early 21st century, he has many films where he is a contributing director. The films most popular and most “Tarantino-esque” are his catalog of eight films where he is the head of creative control. Each film has its own aspects that people love, whether it is their comic-like violence, interesting soundtracks, or the cameo performances by Tarantino himself, it is hard to think of a person who could not find enjoyment in his work. Below I have ranked these eight films based on their contribution to the legacy of Quentin Tarantino by being the most Tarantino of the Tarantino films.
8. 'Death Proof' (2007)
Lowest on the list is Death Proof. The least creative and nearly genre-less story stars Kurt Russell as a vicious owner of a “Death Proof” muscle car with a skull and crossbones painted across the hood. The jokes and dialogue itself fall extremely short, there is little to like about the characters and it did not contain nearly enough of the elements necessary for it to even feel remotely like a Tarantino film. The least critically and financially successful of his eight films is the only one to truly be unenjoyable compared to Tarantino’s otherwise incredible legacy.
7. 'Jackie Brown' (1997)
How could you not feel absolute admiration for Samuel L. Jackson’s ponytail wearing character Ordell Robbie? With co-stars Michael Keaton and Robert Deniro, this film is difficult to place at #7, however, big names certainly do not always ensure the success of a film. Nearly all of the bad guys die, and you are left with the feeling that after all of the character development of Mr. Robbie that the film could have included much more about Jackie Brown herself, who ended up defeating the cunning thugs that she was put up against. Almost all Tarantino films deal with criminals or characters that play the part of the bad guy. Naturally, there is a connection and a love for these characters and when nothing works out for the main character in a film, it is nearly always a letdown. However, other films have much more likable characters to support the lead role so that even if the main character is gone there is still that other character that was well developed, this is where this film showed its weakest points. Although the beginning of the film starts out strong, this does not sit well with me as a strong enough contribution to the Tarantino legacy to defeat almost any of his other pieces.
6. 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)
The first film chronologically of his eight films certainly showed audiences that he was a force to be reckoned with. Tim Roth began his career as a stellar addition as a member of Tarantino’s repeat cast with roles following such as Pulp Fiction and The Hateful Eight. With extreme acts of violence, this group of criminals shines on screen both with witty dialogue and aesthetically pleasing cohesiveness within the group. If Pulp Fiction we’re not released just two years after this film, then I truly would consider this to be the classic of Tarantino’s career. It has the thugs, the storyline, and smooth characters necessary to succeed. However, his work continues to grow past the elements present in Reservoir Dogs. This film sits comfortably at six simply due to the fact that it does not reflect the Tarantino legacy as great as many of his later films do.
5. 'The Hateful Eight' (2015)
A play on words in the title that is followed through in his cast as well. Eight main characters and eighth film out of the confirmed ten total films Tarantino will make. Kurt Russell took his Death Proof role and flipped it on its head in this mysterious take on a western alongside a cast of Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, and guess who? Again? That’s right, Samuel L. Jackson. Overall great chemistry within the cast, however, the point that hurt Tarantino the most was his inability to change the setting throughout the film, an aspect that strengthens his creative nature in other pieces by blending the background with what is being portrayed in the foreground. This film sits at a healthy rank of 5.
4. 'Kill Bill Vol. 1' (2003) & 'Vol. 2' (2004)
Who doesn’t like a good martial arts film? Now, when Tarantino takes on a film idea like this, he provides an interesting taste and makes it his own. An aspect that stands out to me with Kill Bill vs. most of his other work is that he utilized a primarily female cast which is a nice change in and provides a necessary break from his typical casts and opens the door for a fresh new look. The main character, portrayed by Uma Thurman, seeks revenge against those who made her wedding day the worst day of her life. In this film, we get many bloody fights and a literal view of what it is like to be six feet under...then escape to survival. This film is one that begins to show the violent style that has become so iconic in his other films and presents a fantastic storyline throughout. Even though Vol. 2 fell short of my expectations, Vol. 1 is still strong enough to carry the pair to number 4.
3. 'Django Unchained' (2012)
Many critics had an issue digesting the brutal and sometimes comedic take on aspects of slavery, however, this is something that only Quentin Tarantino could establish while keeping a serious undertone throughout the film. Jamie Foxx stars beside the always lovable Christoph Waltz as bounty hunters on a journey to find men named the Brittle brothers. Along the journey, they come across Calvin Candie a slaveowner portrayed beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio. The film includes all of the necessary aspects to a great Tarantino film: witty dialogue, historic plot, great actors both main and supporting, and of course, the gore. The ending of the film was certainly one of the more fulfilling endings of a Tarantino film because not only did the main character survive but it gave a slave the chance to fight back and correct the wrongdoings committed against him.
Fun fact: DiCaprio got so into his role that he actually cut his hand on glass and continued the scene where he rubs his actual bloody hand all over the face of a fellow actor who reacts with realistic disgust.
2. 'Pulp Fiction' (1994)
Though many consider Pulp Fiction to be his classic, a classic is something to look back on and enjoy thoroughly. There is room for improvement and in every career, there is a peak, Pulp Fiction was not it. This film was a great rise in the popularity of the director and showcased John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis as the big names. Tarantino utilizes non-linear storytelling to keep the audience confused and on the edges of their seats until the ending where all of the loose ends tie into a beautiful knot and everything is understood. The entire film is broken up into chapters that allow you to take a break from certain aspects of the films to indulge into others. This allows the audience to experience each perspective (sometimes shot in different points of view) to fully develop the characters and plot before the ending is delivered. As a whole, this was the film to fast forward the director's career to the top, however, in regards to one other film, it falls short.
1. 'Inglorious Basterds' (2009)
This film reached #1 for me because this is exactly the point where Tarantino reached the permanence of his legacy. With every viewing, this film exceeds my previous appreciation exponentially. This intense period piece about a group of people destined to destroy all of the “Natzis”, Tarantino found ways to bring his own style of outrageous violence and even aspects of parallel storytelling to the table that makes this very easily digestible to any audience...well any audience 17+. Scalping, gunfights, and a perfectly orchestrated fire that is truly a terrifying sight are all included in this action-packed film that seems to never take a break from the build-up to the ending. It is all sealed up neatly when the group kills many high ranking officials of the Third Reich, including one of the most hated political figures of all time, Adolf Hitler. Combining all of this into a film that still maintains a comedic atmosphere is a surefire way to allow the audience to fall in love with a film no matter how gruesome.
- Tarantino excels in using historic plot lines and using some of his own touches to refresh genres such as western, neo-noir, and Black comedy.
- Actors casted to fit scenes exactly as intended. Awards are plentiful when it comes to actors as a part of any of these eight films.
- Quotable dialogue that will live long past Tarantino himself and his cast members.
- There is a cameo performance by Tarantino himself in each and every one of his eight films.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your list of favorites!!