Ranked: Every Quentin Tarantino film, from worst to best
The highs and lows of a man intimately acquainted with cinema's highs and lows.
by Sebastian Haselbeck
There's no denying the mark Quentin Tarantino has made on modern cinema. His latest film, the highly-anticipated spaghetti western Django Unchained, is out on Christmas, and so we asked Sebastian Haselbeck, the founder and editor of The Quentin Tarantino Archives, to assess QT's canon. Sebastian also started The Spaghetti Western Database, The Grindhouse Cinema Database, and the movie magazine Furious Cinema, if you're interested in browsing lovingly-curated catalogs of Tarantino's influences.
7. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
If I have to pick the Tarantino movie I re-watch the least, it's Reservoir Dogs. The film was a game-changer and caused quite a stir when it came out at Sundance, but some of its scenes are so famous, it's hard to consider the movie as a whole, and when you do, some of it is lacking. Charges of plagiarism (from City On Fire, among others) have hurt Dogs' legacy, but its amazing cast (minus Tim Roth, whom I've never loved as Mr. Orange), smart pacing, and great soundtrack all help make it an incredibly solid debut. To the trained eye, the film's budget shows at times, but Reservoir Dogs started Tarantino's reign and reinvented the heist film without showing the heist.
6. Jackie Brown (1997)
With Jackie Brown, Tarantino made his most "mature" film. Most of the characters are a bit older, and the pace is decelerated. There is something midlife-crisis-ish to the film, personified by Jackie and Max, two characters just trying to catch a break in life. The movie is semi-famous for a pot-smoking Robert de Niro, Sam Jackson's wardrobe, and Bridget Fonda's performance as a grating beach bimbo, and less famous for its quality. Though it's occasionally knocked as more sedate than his other films, I love Jackie Brown's more conventional narrative and its keen eye for detail.
5. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I have a very personal connection to Basterds and followed its production closely. I love the grandeur of the film, the world it opens (a World War II that belongs to pop culture, not the history books), the grittiness of its subject, and the hilarity of having a Jewish theater owner and the Basterds take down Hitler. But though the camera work is stellar and the pacing breathless, in the end, it's not the epic story some thought it would be, with many characters demoted to being essentially extras, and too much sprawl.
4. Death Proof (2007)
Death Proof was an in-between project that was purposely meant to be trashy. It brought back a better time, one where fun and exploitation offered great nights out at the movies, at prices that today didn't break your bank. It might have some weak spots, and its two-part nature slows its momentum, but in the end it's a gratifying experience, with one of the most amazing non-CGI car-chase sequences ever. Tarantino recently said this was his worst film, but in my eyes, it turned out much better than it had any right to be.
3. Django Unchained (2012)
Unlike Tarantino's other stories, and aside from some flashbacks and flash-forwards, the story of Django and Dr. Schultz is told in linear non-episodic fashion, and that's a good thing. Django Unchained is an emotional, epic Western that manages to entertain and shock while still drawing you into its world. It could have used some tightening, and the story doesn't feel as cohesive and fine-tuned as it could, so it's here at number three. But it's still an amazing work, with impeccable craftsmanship and wonderful turns from Sam Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio.
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
I used to watch my VHS of Pulp Fiction every week, reciting parts from the movie with friends. It's the kind of movie you can dive into, a pop-culture nerd's heaven, a gangster film with the oddest gangsters you've ever seen, full of memorable scenes and quotable dialogue. It's transcended its film-buff roots and become a genuine cultural institution; a social movie if there ever was one. Long, sharp as a razor, and endlessly fun, this is the movie that would forever define Quentin and Miramax.
1. Kill Bill (2001)
I will always look at this as one movie. Together, Kill Bill is an epic revenge story, a wild, globe-spanning genre flick, and a love letter to every forgotten film Tarantino ever fixated on. Tarantino pushed his boundaries with Kill Bill, making something new even to him, and in doing so created a stupendous, touching work of cinema. Kill Bill was also an ambitious experiment, and though splitting it in half turned out a good decision, fans are longing for the integrated version, subtitled The Whole Bloody Affair. The story of The Bride still feels like the roundest, most emotionally satisfying piece of storytelling in Tarantino's career, and for that, it's number one.