By now, you’ve probably found it difficult to avoid reading every self-proclaimed critic’s rankings of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography now that his latest movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, is in theaters. In seeing these numerous articles arise, I felt it was my duty to wade into the deep end that is editorialized writing and give my take on listing his least to greatest films to date.
The difficult aspect of this listing is that it can easily change from day to day (or rewatch) but my Top 3 remain unchanged. Risks were taken, not to incite internet hatred, but more because of the personal impact his films had on me as well as their interpreted subtext and meaning. Feel free to read and seek me out to discuss. If there’s one thing all Tarantino fans can agree on is that no matter what you may think leaving the theater, going to a Tarantino movie is and will always be an experience.
9. Death Proof
Many audiences familiar with Tarantino’s work would naturally place Death Proof last in his filmography. This was easily his least memorable film but that doesn’t mean it was a bad film by any means. In fact, he was able to take many things away from this movie that would influence many of his projects to come. Kurt Russell plays a great killer as Stuntman Mike and Zoe Bell as Zoë Bell, an even better female protagonist that eventually wins the day. It’s a wonderful homage, as many of his films tend to be, to a sub-genre of films that might not have been box office giants in their time but still had a large impact on the masses.
8. The Hateful Eight
There was a small part of me that almost felt guilty for placing The Hateful Eight so far down this list. Almost. The truth is something had to occupy the #8 spot and Tarantino’s claustrophobic drama featuring increasingly mounting tension between cabin inhabitants during a snow storm lacked a certain punch in dialogue and setting that the director’s films had come to become famous for. Its cast was the large support beam the upheld the film to Tarantino’s standards, however, the early script leak before Tarantino even decided whether or not he would make it seemed to remove some of the luster surrounding it. (Full Disclosure: As a fan, you better believe I read the leaked copy. Don’t @ me for it)
7. Reservoir Dogs
Wait, what? How would the very film that put the director on the map and propel him to another stratosphere of filmmaking be so far down the list??? Easy. Because it’s not his best work but that doesn’t mean its impact is diminished. Reservoir Dogs was an intentional statement directed at film-goers (and studios) who had previously been lulled into a movie-going stupor of generic storytelling that almost always fell into a predictable monetized box and failed to push boundaries. Reservoir Dog shattered this ceiling by offering something original and fresh. It’s knock is that while certain elements are still incredible to watch, judged against his other work it doesn’t hold up as strongly. Still, it was the first and will always be remembered as such.
6. Django Unchained
If any film could make a case to be higher, it’s Django Unchained. This was a struggle but it was ultimately placed it in the #6 spot because it served as an example of certain aspects of the director’s storytelling evolving ahead of others which leads to a wonderfully entertaining film, but a not yet fully formed vision, one that would come via his latest work. This change in scale begins with Unchained and features excellent performances from Jamie Foxx as Django, a scene stealing Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen and a downright gruesome villain from Leo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie – not to mention a perfect cameo from Jonah Hill.
5. Jackie Brown
It wasn’t until many years after Jackie Brown‘s release and limited reception, that the public has undergone a period of repentance towards the director because after truly paying attention to the film it offers one of the best written characters speaking some of the best written dialogue in cinema – all supported by an immaculate soundtrack. Jackie Brown deserves more respect than it’s received and as people are still coming around to just how well crafted its story actually is I would be remissed if this wasn’t placed any lower on this list. Even if you disagree, you must at least meet me halfway on how well Robert DeNiro’s facial hair was. Go back and rewatch this gem. You won’t be disappointed.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood can be argued as Tarantino’s most complete work of art. It’s the near perfect culmination of all of his previous storytelling experiences placed within a large studio budget and let to roam free within a historical period of Hollywood’s history. At it’s heart, it is pure entertainment to spend time in a period that features both aging and newly formed movie stars on a collision course of relevance. It’s the directors love and care for historical accuracy all while being able to tell his own story within those confines that help place Once Upon A Time in Hollywood higher on the list than some of Tarantino’s more iconic films.
3. Inglorious Basterds
If Jackie Brown was a lesson in near perfect character writing and dialogue, Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s masterclass. Both heroes and villains are given ample opportunity to launch into monologues that contain the director’s signature flare and cadence, always toeing the line of caricature versus reality. These players mixed with incredible set pieces and tension-filled drama that are well-balanced with bits of humor caused me to place this film in my Top 3. This might be the riskiest placement on this list but not enough can be said on how often I find myself thinking back to certain scenes – how patient they are in slowly bring the audience’s uncertainty from a simmer to a quick boil resulting in a exhilarating thrill ride from start to finish. Who can forget the way Christoph Waltz’, Col. Hans Landa drinks his milk while questioning a Jewish family, Michael Fassbender’s, Lt. Archie Hicox making the number 3 with his fingers or the way Brad Pitt’s, Lt. Aldo Raine doesn’t even attempt a German accent (Bonus: the way he pronounces “Nazi”).
2. Pulp Fiction
If Reservoir Dogs helped provide a fresh and original perspective in storytelling by way of independent filmmaking, Pulp Fiction took those expectations and placed them in a blender managing to deliver a one-of-a-kind theater experience that was filled with twists and turns (and gimps). For me, there were films pre-Pulp Fiction and then those that were post-Pulp Fiction.
1. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
This decision to place Kill Bill at the top spot is slightly comprised of favoritism, however, this is the clearest statement of love and admiration of films, more specifically the films Tarantino grew up watching, out of every single movie he’s made thus far. It’s a sprawling epic that’s infused with everything the director has come to worship in cinema. Kill Bill is fun, campy, exciting, gruesome and downright beautiful and while many could argue it doesn’t feature the strongest dialogue from the 9 films, it is his most complete vision to date. Tarantino’s desire to pay tribute to a genre that played a major role in shaping his vision of what movies should strive to be. It’s his love letter to an industry that raised him and his appreciation permeates through every scene with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood achieving a close second with this very same sentiment.