For a while it was very doubtful that Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature film, fittingly titled The Hateful Eight, would grace cinema screens. Following a script leak, Tarantino decided not to make the western anymore, but fortunately that decision didn’t prove to be final. On May 28 the director announced that he was going to make the film anyway and that it would hopefully be released next year. Four days ago the first poster for The Hateful Eight was revealed and in honor of this simple but eye-catching piece of promotional material, here’s a top 5 of the director’s best films.
But first let’s acknowledge that Tarantino, unlike many other directors who have been working for as long as he has, hasn’t put out that many films. As mentioned above The Hateful Eight is going to be his eighth directorial effort over the span of a bit over two decades, which might raise the question: why not wait a while longer with ranking his films, until he has directed a couple more? The answer to that question is simple: because the quality of his movies does warrant a top 5 and because with someone like Tarantino, a director who makes as few movies as he does, we shouldn’t expect that his output will suddenly increase greatly. So, now, without further ado, let’s get to my top 5 Quentin Tarantino films.
5. Django Unchained
Tarantino’s first western was a southern about slave-turned bounty hunter Django who’s trying to find and save his wife Broomhilda. With its contemporary soundtrack, bright color scheme and the typical QT dialogue, this movie oozes style, one of the reasons why it managed to impress moviegoers worldwide. Safe for a third act that goes off the rails and definitely would have benefited from a trimming, 2012’s Django Unchained is a surprisingly topical film with a big heart, despite the stylized bloodshed and its multitude of f- and n-bombs. Its archetypical story inspired by Germanic mythology is one with a lot of heart and big emotions, and Django Unchained‘s stellar ensemble cast delivers the impressive performances to go along with it, including wonderful turns by Leonard DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson.
4. Inglourious Basterds
A twisted World War II caper would be the best description to use for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. It’s one that even twists the outcome of the historical event, all to serve the story Tarantino sets out to tell. Its climax, during which all of the films plot strands come together, is one that’s funny, dramatic and exciting at the same time, perfectly illustrating the director’s knack for utilizing various tones in one film and effortlessly blending those together. Each storyline also holds up on its own and with Hans Landa, devilishly and charmingly portrayed by Christoph Waltz, Tarantino has created a villain you really love to hate. The movie’s heroes, on the other hand, are also easy to root for: Mélanie Laurent is terrific as a young woman and cinema owner out for revenge, and Brad Pitt delivers a performance unlike any other as Lt. Aldo Raine. It all makes for a wonderfully realized and fast-moving adventure that really shows off Tarantino’s craftsmanship as a writer and director.
3. Reservoir Dogs
Tarantino’s motion picture debut from 1992 still holds up to this day. It’s a neatly constructed heist film without an actual heist that switches back and forth between some of its characters, culminating in a tight narrative with some solid thrills and some genuine emotions. It also showed off all the QT staples: the zingy dialogue, the visual flare, the pop songs, the violence and the memorable characters. Unlike his later films it has a stage play-like quality because of the few locations it’s been shot in, which really adds to the tension the story tries to convey and makes Tarantino’s dialogue pop off the screen. Because of the tight budget it is a movie that’s raw and efficient, which is actually one of its distinguishing and compelling qualities. It’s all up to the writing and acting to impress us and neither disappoint; to this day Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange, Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White, Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink and Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde are loved by many a film fan.
2. Jackie Brown
This 1997 Elmore Leonard adaptation was something different for Tarantino: an ode to blaxploitation films but in the meantime his most subdued film to date. In Pam Greer the director found his perfect leading lady for a story about a flight attendant who finds herself in between arms dealers and the police agents who try to track them down. Playing both sides, aided by Robert Forster’s sympathetic bondsman Max Cherry, Jackie tries to come out on top and hopes to steal half a million in the process. Greer and Forster’s chemistry added a sweet energy to film that’s beautifully paced and, through its double-crosses on double-crosses, always kept the tension high. Leonard’s material proved to be a perfect match with Tarantino’s directorial style and it makes his Jackie Brown a film you can watch over and over again.
1. Pulp Fiction
This one was very much a given, wasn’t it? While Reservoir Dogs certainly impressed audiences, with 1994’s Pulp Fiction Tarantino exploded onto the scene as cinema’s new enfant terrible. His intricately crafted crime movie switches back and forth between characters and places in time, and is still QT’s quintessential film. It’s one that, despite all that’s going on, isn’t baggy or overlong because each scene and each character adds something to the overall narrative. In fact: the way the plot swirls around itself is what makes Pulp Fiction Pulp Fiction and, combined with his now signature style, it is still the film you go to when you need your Tarantino fix. Additionally John Travolta’s Vincent Vega, Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace, Bruce Willis’ Butch, Samuel L. Jackson’ Jules Winnfield and all the other characters have become a huge part of pop culture, and the film itself proved to be infinitely quotable. There are no two ways about it: Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece.
But what about you? Do you agree or disagree with these five choices? Do you think Kill Bill is suspiciously absent from this list or would you have put “Death Proof” in your personal top 5? To let me know, please comment below.