Very few directors can claim to have their own distinctive style, stamping their own expressive identity on every film they create but one director able to confidently make this claim is Quentin Tarantino. Characterised by snappy dialogue, memorable characters, sensational performances and copious amounts of violence, Tarantino’s films have carved out their own place within cinema as some of the most thrilling and gripping films of the past 30 years.
So, in preparation for the director’s 11th and final film currently developing in Tarantino’s twisted thoughts, we’ve taken up the tricky task of ranking ever Quentin Tarantino film, to finally answer the question which of his projects is superior.
10. Death Proof
An uncontroversial choice to start off the list, Death Proof is the closest thing that Tarantino has made to a bad film. Following a Hollywood stuntman who uses his near indestructible car as a murder weapon and the group of women who finally fight back against him, the film offers a profound lack of any kind of excitement or engagement usually synonymous with the director’s name. Though his attempt to take on the slasher genre, (one of the most formulaic genres) is admirable Tarantino’s motorised murder movie falls short of the mark in almost every area and all his crack character work and dramatic dialogue cannot save the fundamentally flawed premise.
9. Kill Bill Vol. 2
The first, and at time of writing only, sequel to one of Tarantino’s films, Kill Bill Vol. 2 offers a disappointing end to the story of The Bride and her quest for revenge. Despite offering captivating performances from Uma Thurman and David Carradine and gripping insight into the tumultuous nature of Bill and The Bride’s relationship, Vol. 2 suffers greatly from the change in tone from its predecessor. With much less of the over-the-top action present in Vol.1 (a film we will get onto later) the story’s conclusion is left feeling mediocre and almost dull in comparison, whilst failing to achieve its intended objective of offering a satisfying ending to the story. Hyping up Bill for almost 4 hours only to limit his threatening aura to a 5 second fight scene can leave the audience unhappy with the ultimate outcome.
8. The Hateful Eight
Rather appropriately, The Hateful Eight claims 8th place on the list, offering a plot that is a hotbed of tension that sadly fails to pay off in the end. This claustrophobic western boasts an all-star cast of Tarantino regulars such as Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson, all of whom brilliantly play into the film’s themes of suspicion and paranoia to keep the audience in a state of suspense throughout. This palpable sense of tension carries the film through it first two acts, but it starts to struggle after the tension is lost, choosing to replace it in the third act with the stylised violence that the director is famous for, but such a sudden and coarse transition means that it falls somewhat flat.
7. Jackie Brown
The single most underrated Tarantino film, Jackie Brown is a hyper stylish heist thriller that utilises its slick dialogue and engaging plot to create a brilliant entry for the genre. Jackie Brown is a bit of an exception amongst Tarantino films, choosing to use the trademark violence sporadically throughout the picture to emphasise its effect in the few instances where it is shown, adding a layer of shock to draw in the viewer. Whilst the final act is brilliantly paced and offers a satisfying conclusion, the rest of the film leading up to it’s crescendo is long and drawn out in some places and can feel like it is only there to add context to the film’s final moments.
6. Kill Bill Vol. 1
Tarantino’s original take on the martial arts genre balances a hugely compelling story with engaging characters, with some of the most unforgettable action sequences ever put to film. It is far superior to Vol.2 as it does not make the mistake of promising more than it delivers, showing off fantastically choreographed action scenes you’d expect of a Tarantino martial arts movie. Though its ability to entertain is unparalleled, this quality can work against the more serious of the film’s elements with the almost cartoonish violence distracting from the gritty tale of betrayal and revenge attempting to be conveyed.
5. Inglorious Basterds
Possibly the most unique war film ever created, Inglorious Basterds follows a group of American soldiers dropped behind enemy lines and tasked with killing as many Nazis as possible. The film’s greatest strength is in its casting and performances, with each actor offering pitch-perfect portrayals of their characters. From Mélanie Laurent’s resilient and troubled Shoshanna, to Brad Pitt’s vulgar and aggressive Aldo Raine, no one puts a foot wrong, but head and shoulders above them all… is Christoph Waltz. Waltz’s performance as Hans Landa is nothing short of iconic and is possibly one of the greatest of his career, being able to make his character engaging, sympathetic and repulsive all at the same time. Though the film can sometimes have difficulties properly dealing with the more sensitive source material, Inglorious Basterds mix of strong characters and gory violence makes it a special kind of brilliant that could have only come from the mind of Quentin Tarantino.
4. Django Unchained
The director’s first venture into the western genre remains his most compelling, as Django Unchained offers one of his most emotionally taxing stories with some of his most exciting action scenes. Set in the southern United States during the height of slavery, the story follows freed slave Django as he searches for his wife, takes up bounty hunting and kills a whole load of slave traders. One of the strongest elements of the film is its refusal to shy away from any of the brutality of the time, depicting all the horrors endured by the slaves that can feel uncomfortable at times but never unnecessarily grotesque. Though there have been some criticisms made of the film, specifically how it tries to be a gritty depiction of American slavery and a fast-paced spaghetti western at the same time, its excellent story, realism and cast makes it essential watching for any Tarantino fan.
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Presented as a love letter to the years of classic Hollywood, Tarantino’s latest offering is an incredible feast for the senses. Carried by the incredible pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, offering some of the most grounded and engaging performances of their esteemed careers. Defined by its sensational story and captivating characters, the film is one of the rare cases of Tarantino giving his trademark violent action scenes a back seat, but as opposed to Jackie Brown when it is employed there is no sense of restraint, leading to one of the most bonkers and memorable ending sequences in cinematic history. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is certainly a different flavour of Tarantino film with its uniqueness offering a breath of fresh air to long-time fans of the director’s work.
2. Pulp Fiction
Just missing out on the top spot is this all-time classic from the early part of the director’s career. Certainly Tarantino’s most iconic film, Pulp Fiction presents a story straight off the pages of a comic book and follows a number of slick and interesting characters and the intersections between their stories. Pulp Fiction is the birthplace of many of pop culture’s most memorable figures and scenes; from the sleek and suave Winston Wolf, to the powerful pairing of Jules and Vincent. Even with the plaster on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s head, Pulp Fiction is baked into so much of film society in the modern day. Aside from its iconic reputation, Pulp Fiction claims the runner up position because of its incredible dialogue, creating some of the most well-known and quotable lines in cinematic history and will have you asking everyone you know… do you know what a quarter pounder is called in Europe?
1. Reservoir Dogs
Taking the highest honours is Tarantino’s first and simplest feature film, Reservoir Dogs is a masterclass in creating greatness from minimalism. As Tarantino’s first film the budget was modest compared to his projects since and, as a result, much of the film is set in the same room and the main cast is incredibly limited, but what is amazing is how the film uses these facts to its advantage. The singular location adds to the sense of claustrophobia and paranoia built into the story and the small cast is bolstered by the continued referencing of off-screen characters such as Mr. Brown and Mr. Blue. The way that the film uses its problems to its advantage is not only admirable but incredible, adding hugely to the tone of the film and making the gritty, almost slimy criminal group even more believable. Though Reservoir Dogs is undeniably a sensational film, the main reason for its place at the top of this list is its ability to balance all of Tarantino’s trademark qualities perfectly in one film, from the unforgettable characters, intense action and violence and sharp dialogue, Reservoir Dogs has it all, making it the most quintessential Tarantino film.
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