Having dabbled in a variety of genres, with his love of movies and moviemaking always on display, Quentin Tarantino is one of the more popular and instantly recognisable directors out there today, his films having made a huge impact on popular culture. Having made an impressive mark on the film industry with his 1992 cult classic Reservoir Dogs, he has gone on to establish his own unique style over the years, becoming known for his naturalistic dialogue, colourful language, scenes of bold violence, bloodshed and crazy shootouts, non-linear storytelling, well chosen soundtracks, recurring cast members and such favourite techniques as Mexican standoffs, rhyming sentences, “up from the trunk” shots, long takes, and maybe even a barefoot shot or two. See Death Proof for his foot fetish on overdrive.
So with his highly anticipated movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood due to hit cinemas very soon, a group of fine film loving folk and myself have teamed up to give our thoughts on each Tarantino film and to give them each one a mark out of ten, our combined scores letting us know just which Tarantino film is the very best.
So let’s talk QT!
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
“You ever listen to K-Billy’s “Super Sounds of the Seventies” weekend?”
Markus says: “Crackling with energy, Reservoir Dogs is an explosive debut that laid the foundation for Tarantino’s future, filled with colorful performances, amazing music and feiry dialogue” (10/10)
Martin says: “As first feature films go, not a bad way to introduce yourself to the world. A simple but gritty and violent tale of a heist gone very badly wrong. The audience never actually sees said heist, but when the dialogue is this well-written and the characters are so well fleshed out, they really don’t need to.” (8/10)
Ripley says: “Despite the fact that there’s very little heist in Reservoir Dogs, it’s perhaps one of the best heist movies ever made. With great performances from Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and a brilliantly simple set up, the tension never stops. This was my first experience with a Quentin Tarantino movie, and at an age where I probably shouldn’t have been watching anything this violent but it stuck with me ever since. The combination of “Stuck in the Middle with You” and Michael Madsen’s sadistic Mr Blonde made Reservoir Dogs all the more shocking. If you can only watch one Tarantino film in your life then let it be Reservoir Dogs.” (10/10)
Maddy says: “An outstanding debut. Tarantino lands on the filmmaking scene with what is now his signature style: sharp wit, brilliantly written characters & violence. The performances are sensational round the board (particularly from Michael Madsen) and it’s unsurprising that he went far based on this.” (8.5/10)
Nathan says: “As someone who naturally gravitates towards female-led movies, this was a non-starter. Unable to juggle so many characters, or provide the depth to their dynamic, Tarantino’s debut isn’t the dogs but is far less memorable than his follow-up work, for better or for worse.” (5/10)
I say: “Tarantino’s first film sure is a memorable debut that has endured over the years and, while only being his first film, has embedded itself into pop culture quite brilliantly – few debut features today could manage it. It ripped up the rulebook of filmmaking by giving us a heist movie without even showing the heist and intrigued audiences with its non-linear storytelling, colourful characters, unabashed violence and Tarantino’s own brand of naturalistic dialogue – having its characters talk about everyday things like the meaning of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” or the ethics of tipping. It may not have the same impact today but Reservoir Dogs is a worthwhile crime film with a great cast and it’s a landmark in filmmaking.
And “Stuck in the Middle with You” will forever be associated with THAT scene. Iconic.” (8.75/10)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
“You read the Bible, Brett?”
Martin says: “Seen by many as QT’s magnum opus, and it’s easy to see why. Everything about this film is outstandingly brilliant. Flawlessly written, with so many pieces of quotable dialogue. The acting from everyone is pitch perfect, and a strong contender for one of the best monologues in cinematic history as Sam Jackson’s Jules Winfield delivers his “Ezekiel 25:17” speech. Glorious.
What is really special about this is the narrative structure of the film, telling the story in individual chapters, that are not in chronological order, that over-arc into one narrative, is bold but he pulls it off. It’s something that was to later become a Tarantino trademark” (10/10)
Ripley says: “Is there a more iconic Quentin Tarantino film than Pulp Fiction? Great casting with several stories all intertwined that will no doubt keep you on the edge of your seat. Wonderfully entertaining, incredibly unpredictable and with random moments of hilarity what’s not to love? It’s Tarantino at his best and it has given us one of cinema’s most famous movie duos, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta.” (10/10)
Maddy says: “While there’s a lot I do genuinely like about Pulp Fiction, from the characters to some truly brilliant scenes; I think I was actually a bit let down by it. I was very thrown by the Bruce Willis storyline, and still don’t think it added enough to the film on it’s own to justify it being so loosely connected to the other storylines. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are fantastic though, and Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace is infamous for good reason.” (7.5/10)
Nathan says: “Gaudy characters, brash production design and an overwhelming, unshakeable sense of arrogance exuding from the man behind the camera who wouldn’t know restraint if it was served with a Royale With Cheese, Pulp Fiction remains the film with which my opinion is most at odds with the general consensus.” (4.5/10)
I say: “Making an even bigger impact on pop culture than its predecessor, Pulp Fiction is a highly quotable and incredibly entertaining film that shows Tarantino at the peak of his powers – utilising his non-linear storytelling structure perfectly and treating us to an incredibly sharp and witty script that few today could compete with. The stories are entertaining, the direction is excellent, the acting is superb all around (even Tarantino himself!), the characters are memorable, and the film has one of the best soundtracks EVER.
Tarantino’s best film and, for me, it’s no contest.” (9.75/10)
Markus says: “Pulp Fiction puts a lot on the line with its ambitious storytelling, and succeeds quite well, even if the long runtime in combination with the fragmented storytelling creates some minor pacing issues. But thanks to a ton of crackerjack performances, a stellar soundtrack, and Tarantino’s fiery dialogue, it’s still a highly watchable movie.” (9/10)
Jackie Brown (1997)
“Is that what I think it is?”
“What do you think it is?”
“I think it’s a gun pressed up against my dick.”
Ripley says: “Stewardess Jackie Brown ain’t just a pretty face, she’s in deep with a gun smuggler and the police hot on her tail. This might just be one of Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated films. Surprisingly non-violent for a Tarantino movie and very much focused on the characters. A great crime story where you never really know what’s going happen next. It may be a little slow paced for some but it’s a thoroughly entertaining crime film and definitely worth your time if you haven’t seen it already.” (7.5/10)
I say: “From my favourite QT film to one of my least favourite, Jackie Brown is Tarantino at his most conventional and least imaginative and as such, this film isn’t particularly interesting or entertaining, the characters are only OK, and the whole thing is quite boring. A shame.” (6/10)
Markus says: “While a bit too overstuffed for its own good, Jackie Brown still serves as another entertaining crime romp from Tarantino, featuring a top notch cast and one of the funkiest soundtracks in cinema.” (8/10)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
“Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with Samurai swords.”
Maddy says: “This one is just a lot of fun. Kill Bill maintains that wild, violent style that Tarantino had nailed long before this film; but does it in a fun, borderline slapstick way that is just so exciting to watch. The best bit about Kill Bill though, has to be the female performances: Uma Thurman as the unnamed Bride on a vengeful quest is a character that will forever be one of the greatest characters in cinema history; and Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii is almost just as iconic. Throw in David Carradine and Daryl Hannah, then add Michael Madsen and Vivica A. Fox to the line up and you’ve got some of the best examples of well-written characters I can think of. Then you’ve got the music, the costumes, the cinematography: I perhaps controversially believe that Kill Bill is more deserving of the the love that Pulp Fiction gets. (8.5/10)
Nathan says: “While I cannot claim to like this nearly as much as most, Vol 1 of Kill Bill is stylish (arguably to a fault) and the action set pieces are well-executed, but it could be suggested that the over-the-top production is to distract from a weaker, less inspired story.” (6/10)
I say: “This is upper/middle tier Tarantino for me – it’s a very effective revenge flick that features a wronged, kick-ass heroine with a list of names and all in all, it’s a stylish and entertaining film with some very impressive fight scenes. The ending bloodbath is particularly memorable.” (8/10)
Markus says: “What Kill Bill: Volume 1 may lack in story, it more than makes up for with stylish, over-the-top action, and terrific work from lead Uma Thurman.” (8/10)
Martin says: “Hell, hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially when you attack her on her wedding day and kill her unborn baby. After 4 years in a coma after 4 years, a character we’re initially introduced to as The Bride, is out for revenge, best served cold.
These films simply would not work if we didn’t empathise with the Bride, and with an actress of Uma Thurman’s immense talents, that’s not a problem. The Bride shows absolutely no fucking mercy whatsoever. There are so many genres all blended together here, and it all works beautifully, most notably, the quite brilliant anime scenes. The highlight though is the climactic final battle is beautiful, bloody carnage, and this is just the half way point” (10/10)
Ripley says: “A wedding party massacred, a bride and her unborn child left for dead, Uma Thurman seeks revenge in the most insanely brutal way imaginable. Scene after scene of glorious comic book style violence, the gore factor ramped up to crazy levels. It has some of the most stylish fight sequences I’ve seen in a movie, it will simply blow you away.” (8/10)
Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
“That girl deserves her revenge and . . . we deserve to die.”
Nathan says: “A roaring rampage of revenge, indeed. A successful one? Hmmmm. It’s not my cup of tea. Vol 2 swaps scale for emotional stakes and while Uma Thurman is impressive once again, it’s not nearly as compelling as the first – despite Vol 2’s opening scene exceeding everything across both parts.” (5.5/10)
I say: “I don’t think Volume 2 is quite as good as it’s predacessor because it includes more of a homage to those dodgy, badly dubbed martial arts films some people love and I’m not really a fan of that genre. It’s a slower film with less action, the ending is a bit anti-climactic, and I don’t think it has the same level of intrigue as the first.” (7/10)
Markus says: “Slower and more character-driven than its predecessor, Kill Bill: Volume 2 still gives us some really entertaining action, while managing to develop the characters in really compelling ways.” (8/10)
Martin says: “She might have killed a lot of people at this point, but The Bride still has some work to do, as she closes in on her number 1 target. While Volume 1 had fun spilling blood here, there and everywhere, there’s not so much of that this time around. The stakes are much more personal this time.
Not as strong as its predecessor, but there’s not much in it. Instead of a crazy climatic final battle, we see much more of The Bride’s past, including her training with the cruel, yet hilarious Pai Mei, who definitely possesses the greatest beard in cinematic history. Furthermore, Ennio Morricone’s L’Arena composition from Il Mercenario is one of the best pieces of music ever written” (9/10)
Ripley says: “If there’s anything better than seeing Uma Thurman kick some ass it’s to see her do it again. Kill Bill concludes in spectacular fashion, it’s up there with the great revenge thrillers. I find it hard to break up the Kill Bill movies as they’re really one story broken in two, long before that became a way to milk a franchise. There’s so much to love about Kill Bill: the story, the characters, the endless violence but above all, it’s Uma Thurman.” (9/10)
(Maddy gives Volume 2 an 8/10)
Death Proof (2007)
“It’s better than safe. It’s death proof.”
I say: “This was the film that I specifically watched in preparation for this collaboration because beforehand, I was barely aware it was a Tarantino film. Or that it even existed.
But I think there’s a reason why this one has faded into obscurity somewhat – it’s Tarantino’s weakest film.
True, Kurt Russell is cool and the “damaged effect” – with intentionally bad editing and dated production values – was a nice touch but other than that, Death Proof is just too boring, the dialogue is dull, the protagonists are irresponsible and unsympathetic (you drive a car at full speed with someone on the hood, you get what you deserve), scenes just go nowhere (irrelevant lapdance and numerous shots of a jukebox, anyone?), and QT’s foot fetish is clearly on overdrive.” (5/10)
Markus says: “While it features some hard-hitting action and an electrifying turn from Kurt Russell, Death Proof‘s uneven pacing and uninteresting characters make it Tarantino’s weakest effort by a wide margin.” (5/10)
Ripley says: “Kurt Russell, the scary stuntman with a death proof car spends nearly two hours stalking some pretty girls and I felt absolutely every minute of this torturous endurance test of a film. It’s grotesque, the camera leers over every woman for this entire film its exhausting. The dialogue was horrendous, scene after scene of cringe inducing mess. Ok sure we all know Quentin Tarantino had a bit of a foot fetish but the amount of bare feet in Death Proof is too much for us normal people to take. I couldn’t stand this film it was relief when it finally ended. Death Proof is easily Tarantino’s worst movie and if it were possible to erase a film from my memory Death Proof would be first on the list. (1/10)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
“You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.”
Markus says: “Suspenseful, stunningly shot, incredibly well acted, and hilarious, Inglorious Basterds is another exceptionally entertaining entry in the filmography of Tarantino.” (10/10)
Martin says: “We all know how World War II ended, but leave it to QT to take that period, and shoot up the history book several times, and then scalp it for good measure. As he carves up not one, but two revenge tales in the same film, of two plots to eliminate the Nazis coinciding with one another.
The dialogue is once again perfect, and boy does QT know how to build tension, with that restaurant Mexican stand-off scene being a brilliant highlight, as well as one of the best lines in cinematic history in “say auf-Wiedersehen to your Nazi balls!”. What’s more, in Hans Landa, you have one of the best villains in cinematic history, portrayed magnificently by Christoph Waltz. He deserved an Oscar for THAT opening scene alone.” (10/10)
Ripley says: “Inglourious Basterds is a WWII movie unlike any other. Funny and highly entertaining with the violence ramped up to the max. Set in Germany occupied France, a group of Nazi hunting US soldiers plan to take out some high ranking Nazi officers. Thankfully Brad Pitt’s abysmal performance didn’t get enough screen time to ruin the whole experience. Honestly he was absolutely awful and putting him next to Christoph Waltz only made him look worse. Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa was exceptional, he really is a terrific actor and his performance in Inglourious Basterds stole the show. I never really thought it was possible to enjoy a WWII movie but if anyone could achieve that, it’s Quentin Tarantino.” (6/10)
Maddy says: “Another ace ensemble cast, in this fun imagining of a plot to kill Hitler. Brad Pitt is truly great here, and Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender are frankly riveting to watch. Christoph Waltz is probably the most impressive (when is he not?) and Tarantino’s discovery and utilisation of him has changed cinema for the better – without exaggeration there. IB marks a new kind of Tarantino film: it treads the fine line of this big, dramatic story without it becoming farcical – it’s rooted in its smart dialogue and breath-holding scenes. I’d say that the film is stronger in its individual scenes than it is a whole and carried wholeheartedly by its tour de force performances. (7.5/10)
Nathan says: “Comfortably Tarantino’s best – for me because it is the least Tarantino film as he finally exercises some restraint – Inglorious Basterds‘ revolutionist tale boasts brilliant cast performances (particularly from an extraordinary Christopher Waltz) and excellent production design in this incendiary tale of hatred and revenge. (8/10)
I say: “Famous for its memorable opening scene and for introducing the world to Christoph Waltz – in the memorable role of Hans Landa that Tarantino was formerly convinced was unplayable – Inglourious is a very different type of war film indeed. The dialogue is witty, the story is strong, the cast and characters are colourful, and it’s an overall entertaining “counterfactual” experience.
Plus, it has Hitler getting repeatedly shot in the face, so that’s just awesome.” (7.75/10)
Django Unchained (2012)
“Gentlemen, you had my curiosity. But now, you have my attention.”
Martin says: “Revenge is something QT definitely likes to explore in his films, it’s with a Western backdrop as a freed slave teams up with a bounty hunter to save his wife from an evil plantation owner. In what might be his funniest film, the KKK scene never fails to make me laugh, and the violence is perhaps the most stylized depicted in a QT film, that shootout in the third act is *chef’s kiss* marvellous.
Jamie Foxx is terrific as Django, as he goes from timid slave to ultimate badass. Though it was a very different role for Christoph Waltz, he pulled it off superbly and bagged himself another Oscar. So often we see Leo DiCaprio as the good guy, so to see him play a truly horrible human being was refreshing. And bold claim coming at you, Sam Jackson’s performance as the sycophantic slave Stephen is, I think, maybe his best ever performance and should have got him his second Oscar nomination. My favourite QT film” (10/10)
Ripley says: “If I can find one other person who didn’t like Django Unchained as much as me I can die happy. No, I didn’t like it so please don’t kill me. If it wasn’t for Christoph Waltz and particularly Leonardo DiCaprio I would have turned it off. It’s rare to see DiCaprio in a villainous role and every scene he was in he had the audience in the palm of his hand. That terrifying performance is the only reason I continued to watch this film to its conclusion. It felt endless, I couldn’t get on board with Jamie Foxx at all and when I saw Tarantino put himself in yet another one of his movies I thought my eyes were going to roll into the back of my head forever, he’s a man who really belongs on the other side of the camera and I wish he would stay that way, his cameos always take me right out of the film. I was very late when it came to seeing Django Unchained, for whatever reason I missed it in the cinemas, I cannot tell you how many people told me to watch it, they all assured me I’d love it, so no one was more surprised than me when I hated it. I could not get invested in the story at all and I felt it was a mess, not what I was expecting at all.” (4/10)
Maddy says: “This is Tarantino, amped up to another level. Believe the hype about this film, because it truly is just fantastic all around: in its storytelling, its script, its performances, its cinematography and all the rest. It’s also a film that tells the harsh truth of slavery in an honest, un-sugar coated way without glamourising it in any sense. It seems like here, Tarantino creates a film that really honours the victims of slavery in a respectful way – and who saw that coming from the guy who purposefully writes the N word into his cameo character’s lines?” (9/10)
Nathan says: “While Tarantino cannot help but indulge in his excessively hedonistic directorial tendencies for the bloated, blood-drenched final act, everything leading up to that point is potent and powerful thanks to particularly fantastic performances from Christopher Waltz and an against type Leonardo DiCaprio. (7/10)
I say: “From putting his own mark on the war genre, Tarantino turns his hand to the western with truly memorable results as Django Unchained is a highly entertaining spectacle with tons of bloody carnage, a unique story, and some really special performances – Christoph Waltz really deserved that second Oscar (even though I didn’t think that on first watch), Leo is truly something to behold, and Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen is pretty darn scary!
But QT’s Australian accent nearly ruins it all, though!” (8/10)
Markus says: “Despite its nearly three hour runtime, Django Unchained moves at a cracking pace, thanks to Tarantino’s consistently feiry dialogue, colorful performances from its stellar cast, blood-soaked shootouts, and one of the best soundtracks in recent memory” (10/10)
The Hateful Eight (2015)
“Let’s slow it down. Let’s slow it waaaaay down.”
Ripley says: “If I could describe The Hateful Eight in one word it would be “overkill.” A bounty hunter and his prisoner seek shelter in a cabin full of very questionable characters. Quentin Tarantino has given us over 3 hours of people talking in the snow, people talking in a carriage, people talking in the snow again, and people talking in a cabin. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell were superb casting choices and we also have a few more Tarantino regulars in there, it was nice to see Michael Madsen and Tim Roth make an appearance, I only wish they all weren’t overshadowed by Samuel L. Jackson, who was chewing so much scenery I’m surprised there was anything left. He was completely over the top it was almost comical to watch. A great story but dragged on for far too long. Yet you’ll be entertained, shocked and disgusted all at the same time all with the spectacular composition by Ennio Morricone. It’s not Tarantino’s worst by any means but it sure ain’t up there with Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs.” (5.5/10)
Maddy says: “Tarantino’s eighth film feels like a more experimental one somehow. It’s stripped back to the basics: a singular location with great character work and performances to drive the story. It is the one Tarantino that feels the longest – whereas other films of similar length seem to fly by, the stillness of this film does make it slightly…. tedious, for lack of better word. It’s the most basic storyline, and what’s interesting here is it’s theatrical style – this exact story would have been brilliant on stage; and while that does have its downsides, in this context I admire Tarantino for translating it to the screen.” (7/10)
Nathan says: “If violence and racial slurs a good film makes, The Hateful Eight would deserve all the awards; it’s not though, making this unrestrained and horrendously bloated 188 minute slog not only offensive and dull but offensively dull. (4/10)
I say: “I didn’t think much of it on first watch – proclaiming it to be far too long and “stagey” for it’s own good – but QT’s latest film is a very well written mystery/western/Christmas film (yep, it does take place at Christmas!) and he does well in building up an unpredictable, mysterious and menacing atmosphere with his very engaging characters. True, it is epically long and the pacing can be testing, but the film is brilliantly designed, actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins make a big impact, and Ennio Morricone’s score is phenomenal.” (7.5/10)
Markus says: “Though there’s a few minor mistakes in the editorial department, The Hateful Eight is still a clever, hard-hitting cowboy-thriller that once again shows Tarantino’s growth as a director, while still giving us the quirks we’ve come to expect from him, all elevated by a stellar cast and Ennio Morricone’s score.” (9/10)
Martin says: “Presenting Tarantino’s take on a whodunnit type mystery, once again with the Western backdrop as eight strangers find themselves trapped in a small building in the middle of a ferocious blizzard, slap bang in the middle of an ongoing mystery. Every character here has something nefarious about them, and given that it’s Tarantino, you know some shit is going to go down.
It’s far from his strongest screenplay, but Tarantino once again masterfully builds up tension, and gets great performances from everyone, most notably Jennifer Jason Leigh, and QT veteran Sam Jackson. Though his past scores have been a prevalent part of previous QT soundtracks, Ennio Morricone’s original score was truly special, and it’s one that finally earned the composing legend an Oscar.” (8.5/10)
. . .
So now that we’ve all thrown our two cents into the ring, it’s time to average out those scores and see which Tarantino film we think is the best.
And boy, it’s an incredibly close one. With not much between the top five at all!
9th: Death Proof (3.7/10)
8th: The Hateful Eight (6.9/10)
7th: Jackie Brown (7.2/10)
6th: Kill Bill: Volume 2 (7.8/10)
5th: Django Unchained (8/10)
4th: Kill Bill: Volume 1 (8.1/10)
3rd: Inglourious Basterds (8.2/10)
2nd: Reservoir Dogs (8.4/10)
1st: Pulp Fiction (8.5/10)
. . .
So while QT’s popular sophomore feature enjoys a Big Kahuna burger and a big stack of blueberry pancakes to celebrate its (narrow) victory, all that remains is for me to thank all the super amazing collaborators who helped make this post possible and everyone go out and enjoy Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when it eventually hits cinema screens!