Quentin Tarantino’s movies from worst to best

Quentin-Tarantino

Real talk time. Any film buff who does not list Quentin Tarantino as one of the top 5 most influential directors of the past quarter century should probably have their film critic credentials revoked. Love him or hate him, there is no director with a more distinct voice and visual style than Tarantino. He has spent the greater part of two decades creating entertainment that continually pushes the boundaries of filmmaking. And with his 8th full-length directorial effort, The Hateful Eight, hitting theaters this week, let’s take a look back and rank Tarantino’s previous films from best to worst.

Side note for Quentin-philes out there, I’m only including full-length movies he directed, which excludes his morbidly hilarious effort in Four Rooms, and his excellent work on Death Proof.

7. Kill Bill: Volume 2 

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Maybe because it’s essentially the sequel to a superior first film, but somehow, Kill Bill: Volume 2 never resonated with me the same way that most Tarantino films do. And it also didn’t help that it felt like Tarantino shot his full load in Volume 1. Put it this way, remember that awesome fight scene in the snow between Beatrix Kiddo and O-Ren Ishii? Volume 1. How about that amazing set piece where Kiddo fights the Crazy 88 at the House of Blue Leaves? Volume 1. Or what about that great scene where she first meets the legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzo. I think you see where I’m going with this.    

6. Django Unchained

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Uncomfortable to watch at times (even by Tarantino’s violent standards), Django Unchained wraps the usual Tarantino themes of love and revenge in the racially charged era of the antebellum South. Foxx delivers an effective and darkly comedic performance as the titular Django. Christoph Waltz once again steals the film as the German bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz. And Leonardo DiCaprio plays among the most villainous of Tarantino’s villains (a list which include a Nazi, multiple hitmen, and a bank robber that cuts off people’s ears). Like many other Tarantino films, this is one that is focused on acting performances over specific set pieces. And in this case, he hit a trifecta of talent.

5. Jackie Brown

jackie brown

Three years after blowing everyone’s minds with the indelible Pulp Fiction, Tarantino decides to do something entirely different with his next film, an homage to 70’s Blaxploitation films, Jackie Brown. This crime caper stars a magnetic Pam Grier in the titular role as an underestimated flight attendant who tries to scam her weapons dealer client, played by Samuel L. Jackson. But the real star of the film was the Robert Forster’s sad sack bail bondsman, Max Cherry, who gets entangled into Jackie’s scheme (a role that netted Forster an Oscar nom). This film is probably the least “Tarantino-esque” of all his films, in that it lacks much of the visual and directorial flourishes that Tarantino is so adept at. But the dialog is as sharp as ever, and the story is always compelling.

4. Kill Bill: Volume 1

kill bill vol 1

On the flipside, Kill Bill: Volume 1 is pretty much all Tarantino flourishes.  From unforgettable character dialog like the one between Uma Thurman and Sonny Chiba in the sushi restaurant, to impeccably choreographed fight scenes with larger than life characters (remember, Gogo?), Kill Bill: Volume 1 distilled a lot of what makes Tarantino such a visually arresting director, and married it to the unique dialog for which he is even more well known. Kill Bill: Volume 1 stands out as possibly one of the best martial arts films of the past few decades, only with a unique style that is wholly Tarantino’s own.

3. Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs

It’s been 23 years since the release of Reservoir Dogs, and even today, it remains among the most beloved of Tarantino’s films. Sparsely shot on an indie film budget, Reservoir Dogs has to get by almost entirely on the performances of its cast of characters. Fortunately for Tarantino, he has a great cast to work with. From Harvey Keitel’s friend-starved robber, to Tim Roth’s double agent robber, to of course, Michael Madsen’s iconic turn as sociopathic robber, this film is all about the acting. And Tarantino does an outstanding job of getting the most out of all of his actors. Reservoir Dogs remains among the most important films in independent filmmaking, and showcases how Tarantino can do so much with so little. Rewatching Reservoir Dogs just makes me want to see what Tarantino could do today if he were given $2 million and a digital camera.

2. Pulp Fiction

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I went back and forth on this one a lot, but ultimately I gave the runner up prize to Pulp Fiction. There is no doubt that Pulp Fiction is the most influential, quotable, and well known film in Tarantino’s filmography. It resurrected the career of John Travolta. It brought us star making turns from Uma Thurman and Ving Rhames. It’s unconventional plot structure led to some truly innovative storytelling. Throw in Tarantino’s typical ear for dialog, iconic visual set pieces, and dynamic character interactions, and it’s hard not to argue that Pulp Fiction isn’t one of the best films of all time.

1.  Inglourious Basterds

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So given how much I gushed about Pulp Fiction, how could I not give it the top spot on this list? Because, as much as I am a fan of storytelling, I am a total sucker for grand storytelling, coupled with unforgettable scenes. And though Pulp Fiction has more than its fair share of noteworthy scenes, no scene in Tarantino’s filmography comes close to topping the opener of Inglourious Basterds, which has a menacing SS Colonel Hans Landa (played by Tarantino MVP Christoph Waltz) casually chatting over a glass of milk with a French farmer suspected of hiding Jews, all the while knowing that the family he is searching for is right beneath his feet. A close second would be the bar scene where Michael Fassbender has to keep his cool as his team is discussing plans to kill Hitler, while being surrounded by Nazi soldiers. In addition, Inglourious Basterds somehow does something that I truly did not see coming. It made me laugh. A revenge/war film about World War II in Nazi Germany somehow had me laughing out loud multiple times. You could argue that Pulp Fiction is the more impactful film, and I would be hard pressed to disagree. But as far as pure movie-going enjoyment goes, my vote goes to Basterds.

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