‘Be Cool, Honey Bunny’: The Tarantino List
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, hit theaters recently, which is a love letter to Hollywood in the ‘60s. It is a larger than life place, with larger than life people, doing larger than life things. In honor of OUATIH, here’s the essential Tarantino list that is ranked. Feel free to comment, as this could get divisive.
#1 Pulp Fiction
There isn’t anything hyperbolic about the statement, “Quentin Tarantino is the most important director of this era.” I don’t even know how you would break said eras down, but films like Citizen Kane introduced the world to almost all of the tools of modern filmmaking. The sweeping epics of Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, and the list goes on until Pulp Fiction showed up in 1994—it changed everything. To this day, Pulp Fiction is still confidently carrying its torch as it steps over its predecessors as one of the greatest of all time. Pulp Fiction continues to wow 25 years later as the film that changed modern cinema.
#2 Kill Bill: Volume 2
A top to bottom masterpiece that manages to take all of the expectations you had coming out of the first Kill Bill and flip everything on its head. Uma Thurman is a force, and David Carradine and Michael Madsen shine. This is the Tarantino film in my humble opinion.
#3 Reservoir Dogs
Tarantino’s directorial debut was largely missed by audiences while in theatres, but stunned and shocked cinephiles throughout the ‘90s. Reservoir Dogs is a stunning achievement (shot on a 1.5 million dollar budget) with some of his best dialogue and character work. This film not only holds up, but it gets better with age.
#4 Kill Bill: Volume 1
Audiences had no idea what they would be walking into with Kill Bill: Volume 1. An incredibly violent, blood-splattered homage to Grindhouse, Spaghetti Westerns and Samurai cinema, all elements that would feature heavily over the next decade and a half in Tarantino’s future films. Originally intended to be one film, the studio cut the film into two volumes and released them six months apart. If there ever was a case study as to the full spectrum of Tarantino’s powers as a filmmaker, it’s in these two films—which each are both a unique gem.
#5 Inglourious Basterds
This might be a contested pick, as there are a ton of die hard Inglourious Basterds fans out there—and for good reason. The first time QT features a big name star in one of his films in Brad Pitt, however, before this Tarantino stuck to his formula of casting largely unknowns or actors that had fallen out of commercial favor (Jackson, Travolta, Forester, Thurman). This film is mostly a delight, with the introduction to the fantastic Christoph Waltz and his academy award-winning portrayal of the Jew Hunter. Inglourious Basterds is a remarkable film, with a few choices that keep it from being one of his greatest.
#6 Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
This might be a case of recency bias, but I adored Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. This is the first film in Mr. Tarantino’s long career where he tries something new. The rhythmic dialogue overlaid onto long, drawn-out scenes that quickly devolve into obscene violence are gone. The kinetic energy that served Tarantino so well in past films is replaced with overwhelming nostalgia, and something I never thought I’d say about a Tarantino film: This film has a heart. If QT really is planning on ending his colossal run as Hollywood’s only modern filmmaker that can release a rated R movie in the middle of summer, after his 10th film, so be it. However, I want to see more of this Tarantino on the way out.
#7 Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown is a fun hodgepodge of Tarantino characters doing Tarantino things. Anchored by one of Samuel L. Jackson’s better performances, not to mention Robert De Niro in one of his last roles before he became ‘the guy from Meet The Parents.’ This isn’t one of QT’s best, but it’s a good time.
#8 Django Unchained
At the time of its release, I found Django to be one of Tarantino’s most watchable, entertaining films. Despite the dynamite performance from Christoph Waltz, this film doesn’t age very well. It’s sweaty dialogue and violent shootouts begin to wear into tedium, and not to mention, a tough subject matter to make light of. Not his best, and far from his worst.
#9 The Hateful Eight
I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this film. The script famously leaked ahead of time, and Tarantino chose to rewrite it in spite of the leak and proceed with releasing it. This is basically Reservoir Dogs with a larger budget and set in a cabin. It’s has a great Walton Goggins performance in it, but that’s about it.
#10 Grindhouse: Death Proof
I’ve got nothing here. Not a very watchable film. This was Tarantino flexing at a point in his career where he could. I’m not even sure Tarantino considers this as a feature, and for good reason.
Go see Once Upon a Time In Hollywood...