Written by: Kevin Berger
I’m only going to be ranking the eight definitive movies directed by Quentin Tarantino. There are three other movies written by him but directed by others, they are, of course, also classics. The late, great Tony Scott helmed True Romance turning Tarantino’s writing into a stylish 90s action flick that stands the test of time. While Oliver Stone took over Natural Born Killers making QT’s story into a violent opera with a political message. If I was counting those movies I would think long and hard of putting True Romance in the top two, it’s that good. Alas, they are regulated to honorable mentions.
With the news coming out of Tarantino’s 9th and perhaps second to last movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt I thought it would be fun to take a look at all of his previous films. He’s known to say he only wants to direct 10 films to round out perhaps one of the best careers of all-time. If that holds up (I hope not), nobody knows, but for now let’s appreciate the new work while we can get it. I do want to put a disclaimer that I think every Tarantino movie is amazing and awesome. So really these ratings are arbitrary in every sense except for which ones are my favorite and re-watchable. So here it goes!
8. Death Proof
This movie is in no way bad and it doesn’t deserve to be ranked last, however, for the sake of the ranking, sacrifices must be made, I’m sorry Death Proof. It just so happens that this movie was part two of QT and Robert Rodriguez’s ambitious Grindhouse project. Rodriguez’s film was a much more punchy, classic monster movie which might’ve overshadowed Tarantino’s talky, women’s revenge story. Both movies purposely had “missing” scenes and bad edits to give the feel of real B-movie nostalgia, while that may have turned some people off I thought it was a cool, effective trick. The entire cast of women are placed perfectly in this world while the second group of badass babes get their revenge on Kurt Russell’s serial killer stuntman. Hold up, I need to shout out Kurt Russell for absolutely killing it as a psycho who uses his stunt car to perform his heinous acts. Tarantino has such a long track record of getting the most out of his cast especially the leading men who are usually years past their prime, which I’ll talk about more later.
7. Jackie Brown
The hipster thing to say is Jackie Brown is actually Tarantino’s best film. “it’s his most overlooked and underrated movie.” “I liked Jackie Brown when it came out back in 1997”. All that is bullshit. While Jackie Brown does churn out great parts from Robert Forrester and Pam Grier and has QT’s writing at its most traditional being based off of a book, not much of it leaves a mark with me. Tarantino’s obsession with blacksploitation movies clearly shows here as he introduces a whole new generation to what he thinks is cool. Side note: Samuel L. Jackson is perfect in this, how he didn’t get recognized for his work is annoying. He’s able to make you love and hate his gun-dealing, drug-dealing, pimp character even as he is trying to kill Ms. Brown throughout the entire movie.
6.The Hateful Eight
I have a tough time when I think of this movie. When I first saw it in theaters I really enjoyed it and thought it was his best movie since Basterds. Movies tend to get better with time so I thought I would like it even more as time had passed but that wasn’t the case with this one. After rewatching it I couldn’t get past how long it is with very little going on. This is an example of Tarantino not having his trusted editor by his side giving him much needed advice on what to cut out. Another great performance from Kurt Russell while Samuel L. Jackson absolutely kills it and steals the movie as a retired civil war general turned bounty hunter. The best part of the movie comes at the end with the build up toward the “Lincoln Letter” which was a clever tool used by Tarantino to showcase race relations in America. He gives us a memorable speech with words of wisdom to strive toward even if the entire movie doesn’t really add up to the sums of its parts.
5. Django Unchained
This is probably an unpopular opinion but I’m going to be straight up and just say I don’t enjoy watching this movie. I have a tough time getting through it because of the extreme violence, torture and the bloated length. However, there are great performances from Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio who should’ve been recognized with an award for basically playing the devil and the always great Samuel L. Jackson. Jamie Foxx also carries the weight of the entire movie like only a true leading man can. Back to my gripes though. I really don’t like watching a runaway slave get torn apart by dogs, even with the cathartic revenge toward the end, it just isn’t worth it. It’s important to point out that this was the first of Tarantino’s films not edited by his long-time editor Sally Menke–who died in 2010–and it showed. I don’t think there was an editor on this movie. It felt like Tarantino put on screen anything that popped into his head and nobody told him no.
4. Reservoir Dogs
Tarantino’s first time in the director’s chair and he made it look like easy. That’s what all-time greats do. They either start earlier than everybody else or have so much natural talent they make incredibly hard tasks look like they were born do it. Tarantino was born to make movies. Dogs changed everything when it put Tarantino on the map paving the way for him to have the freedom to make whatever he wants. It’s got all the Tarantino calling cards from violence, strong language, great music and top-notch performances from pretty much all involved. It was but a preview of what Tarantino will offer up throughout the next twenty years. An appetizer to the main course, which would come two years later with Pulp Fiction.
3. Inglourious Basterds
The last line of the movie is Brad Pitt’s character Aldo Raine proclaiming “I think this might be my masterpiece.” And it very well might be Tarantino’s masterpiece. This is QT at his best genre-blending. He takes liberties with history by basically saying ‘fuck the history books I’m just going to kill Hitler my way.’ It was pretty ballsy, cool and unexpected. In a lot of ways this feels like the brother/sister movie to Django based on fictional history revenge tales of persecuted people. I just think Tarantino did it better the first time around here with Basterds.
2. Kill Bill 1 & 2
I love this movie, and yes I’m counting both parts as one. The entire thing is just so fun. It’s the beginning of modern day Tarantino, which means it’s too long, (it had to be split into two movies!!) has cartoonishly bloody violence and is filled with homages of his favorite genres from spaghetti westerns, samurai, kung fu, anime and grindhouse. This is another one of QT’s films I could rewatch over and over. I just find myself getting lost in all the genre-packed, bloody fun. Volume 2 also has one of Michael Madson’s best performances. I know that doesn’t sound very appealing but hear me out, Tarantino has this knack of getting the best out of
washed up actors. Madson is a great example of that as the remorseful yet stupid brother of Bill. In this regard, Tarantino is a lot like Bill Bellichick. Much like Bellichick, Tarantino will pick up old, presumably past their prime guys off the trash heap and put them through his system with championship results.
1. Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is a timeless, all-time cool film. It’s one of my personal favorite movies. The rewatchability is through the roof, I can pick up the movie from almost any point in the story and not miss a beat. The memorable scenes and unforgettable characters are almost too much to list from Uma Thurman’s drug overdose, Christopher Walken’s pocket watch monologue, Samuel L. Jackson as the repenting and retiring hitman Jules. This whole movie is the definition of cool. The soundtrack made oldies tunes cool, even John Travolta is cool in this movie. QT made John Travolta cool again! Just the second movie he directed, this is Tarantino’s best picture and probably the best film of the entire decade.