We all have a favorite Quentin Tarantino movie. Maybe your pick leans towards the more violent features. Maybe it’s the one that seems the least like Tarantino’s conventional directing style. Either way, his films have hit everyone a certain way. In honor of his (technically) ninth feature film releasing in theaters, Mxdwn Movies will be ranking the effectiveness of his work over the years. It should be noted that this ranking isn’t to say which of Tarantino’s films are good or bad, just how successful they were in delivering their message. Without further ado, let’s jump in:
#10: Death Proof
A slow-paced urban legend, Death Proof is not technically considered a feature film of Quentin’s, since it was theatrically released as a ‘Grindhouse’ double feature alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. Despite this, ‘Death Proof’ is a Tarantino movie through and through. Long scenes of conversation, a charming but insane Kurt Russel, revenge, and a fair share of blood. It might not be in the official line-up, but it is worthy of standing toe-to-toe with the rest of its’ siblings.
#9: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the latest film to join the roster and it takes a back seat to the normal revenge and crime narratives to weave a slightly different Hollywood in 1969. The biggest change coming in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a television actor who is facing the mortality of his career. Rick is not a figure of history, nor is his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth, portrayed by Brad Pitt. Otherwise, we are introduced to Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski, Bruce Lee, and many familiar faces, companies, and events of 1969. Hollywood is a sandbox story for Tarantino, who enjoys putting his signature dialogue over sun-soaked California in the 60’s that does not resemble many of his other films. An enjoyable film it is, but serves mostly as nostalgia of West Coast entertainment.
#8: Kill Bill: Volume 2
Solely for its shift in focus from Tarantino’s blood-soaked sibling predecessor, ‘Kill Bill Volume 2’ is ranked below ‘Volume 1’. Tarantino redirects ‘Volume 2’ to be more of a western – along with a shift of other genres/filming style – and slow down the violence to complete The Bride’s story of vengeance and death. Whereas ‘Volume 1’ feels personal and raw, it is in ‘Volume 2’ where the playground that Tarantino’s built feels just a little too lived in to rank higher than the original.
#7: Kill Bill: Volume 1
It is easy to realize that this is a director’s first foray into the action genre, because there is just so much violence and an almost joyful celebration of it. ‘Volume 1’ is the better of the ‘Kill Bill’ films, introducing the world of The Bride and what drives her to the titled goal. It is also a brilliant use of Uma Thurman after turning heads as Mia Wallace in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Do you love your action movies with fast cars, bullets, and swords? Tarantino has you covered.
#6: Jackie Brown
Ranking Quentin Tarantino’s film feels like asking if Star Wars is better than Star Trek (a fitting comparison since Tarantino has been attached to a new Star Trek film). However, a ranking is not to say a movie is bad or unworthy of the praise it has received. That said, ‘Jackie Brown’ would be a masterpiece on its own. The action is restrained to build a conflicting story of different opinions. Tarantino makes the viewer question the idea of fact versus recollection, which is interesting, but not nearly the story we have expected thus far from the director of such delightfully violence, revenge films.
#5: Django Unchained
Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Django, a slave recently freed and seeking the release of his love, was one of the most exciting performances in recent years. Foxx was such an unexpected actor for a Tarantino movie, but he delivers all of the pain, laughs, emotion, and anger that Django needs in order to believe his story. Perhaps it’s a testament to the wonderful supporting cast (something Tarantino excels at), but ‘Django Unchained’ has such heart behind its’ violent ends. When the credits roll, the viewer is left with such a sense of relief, as if we had just sought out our own vengeance. Is ‘Django Unchained’ the best of Tarantino’s films? No. Is it the most effective? If not, it’s damn close.
#4: Inglorious Basterds
The idea of seeing a majority of these films in theaters is staggering. ‘Inglorious Basterds’ was one where my mind was in disbelief of what I was seeing. Brad Pitt leans right into the role of Aldo Rayne to hunt down and collect some Nazi scalps, while most of the world is introduced to Christoph Waltz as the eccentric and maniacal Colonel Hans Landa. Tarantino films tend to have a little length to their run-time, yet ‘Inglorious’ never seems to drag, thanks to the inclusion of brilliant writing and a plethora of tension between the characters. It all feels like a build to something big and, boy, does Tarantino deliver that something. ‘Inglorious’ might be the best well-written movie of Tarantino’s career, if it weren’t for the next film.
#3: The Hateful Eight
While it does tend to drift in and out of different story arches, the eighth feature film by Quentin Tarantino delivers such a perfectly tense story of honor, duty, and vengeance in the snow-covered cabin that is Minnie’s Haberdashery. Kurt Russel, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, and Demian Bichir (whew!) give reality to the script, while Ennio Morricone provides a new score that would make John Wayne tear up. ‘The Hateful Eight’ feels like watching David Copperfield juggle bowling pins: Is it new? Maybe not. But it is handled with such grace and talent, it’s hard not to be impressed.
#2: Reservoir Dogs
The breakout of Tarantino’s film career, Reservoir Dogs is an incredible look at a director successfully balancing between a group of characters. Even more impressively, Tarantino sets the majority of the film in one location, forcing the viewer to focus more on the characters involved and listen to their dialogue. This debut feature film not only introducted moviegoers to Tarantino’s directing style, but also his extremely unique scripts. If not just for his distinct voice, Reservoir Dogs certifiably gave Quentin Tarantino thousands of ears to speak to as a filmmaker. Now, it’s just a matter of saying something bigger and louder, which leads us to……
#1: Pulp Fiction
Admittedly, Pulp Fiction is not my personal favorite Tarantino film. But just imagine sitting in a theater in 1994 and watching Pulp Fiction for the first time. “Oh, you loved the straight-forward story and balance of dialogue between a large group of people in the previous film of my career? Here’s a movie told out of order and not involving more than 4 speaking roles in one room at a time.” Pulp Fiction is not the movie you make as a sophomore debut- it’s the movie you seek to end your career on. Regardless, Tarantino made the movie he wanted and just flung it at the studio. It’s a reckless, bold move and rightfully turned Quentin Tarantino into a household name he is today.
How would you rank the films of Quentin Tarantino? Let us know in the comments and go see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in theaters now. Check Mxdwn’s review for the film here.