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Directors Cuts: Ranking Quentin Tarantino’s Movies

Directors Cuts: Ranking Quentin Tarantino’s Movies

So far for this column, I’ve only been doing my top 5 films by a particular director. But, since Quentin Tarantino only has 8 feature films released, and none of his movies are bad, I thought I’d include all of them. Tarantino is a filmmaker who has always had a very distinct and unique voice, which is often replicated by people trying to catch lightning in a bottle themselves. In the ’90s, this manifested in a lot of would-be QTs making films where criminals talk a lot in between flashes of violence. But the man himself has gone beyond his street crime movie roots and has embraced different genre pastiches while never losing his brilliant ear for dialogue, even, as with later films, if that dialogue isn’t in English. I like all of these movies, so the ranking is merely which do I like the most. And now, from 8 to 1, here is how I would personally rank the films of Quentin Tarantino. As always, your mileage may vary.

8) Death Proof (2007)
Now, it’s not the biggest leap to say that Death Proof is Tarantino’s weakest film. Hell, he thinks so himself. But what’s disappointing about the director’s half of the Grindhouse experiment wasn’t that it was bad, it’s that it was mostly pretty good. There are some really excellent things about this movie, from the car stunts, to that horrendous car crash, to the brilliantly sinister/whimpering performance by Kurt Russell as the film’s baddie. But GOOD GOD, the talking. Tarantino prides himself in his ability to write women, and by and large he succeeds, but here, each of the film’s 8 main females seems like they THINK they’re in a Tarantino movie and not just that they’re in one. Visually excellent, but narratively weak, especially once we get to the second set of women.

7) Kill Bill vol. 2 (2004)
This is also a good movie. There are some excellent performances by pretty much everyone involved, especially Uma Thurman and David Carradine, but despite all the good stuff in it, it tends to lack the punch and the excitement of the first volume. They’re two completely different movies, obviously, and this one is much more in line with a western drama than a slice-em-up martial arts film. The body count in this film is a fraction of what it was in the first, which isn’t a slight, it’s just a fact. This movie’s much more melancholy, which works well, it just doesn’t stay with me the way some of his other movies do.

6) Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003)
What are the odds?! Yes, I think volume 1 is better than volume 2, but only just and only insofar as they’re both together not as good as the rest of his canon. Really fun movie, some amazing action, Uma Thurman kicks huge amounts of ass, and there are great weird sequences like the animated origin of O-Ren Ishii and The Bride attempting to wiggle her big toe. There’s a world happening in this movie that is unlike any other, and it’s only because this part is so frenetic and wild that I think it hangs together better than the second half.

5) Reservoir Dogs (1992)
This movie was revelatory for me; as an impressionable 19 year old who was just beginning to be interested in film, watching this as part of the Home Alone Halloween that also had me seeing Evil Dead 2 and Swingers for the first time, I was utterly blown away. I studied this movie over and over again for the next couple years, trying to glean everything I could from it. Watching it again last year for the first time in half a decade probably, I still found it hard-edged, but also found it to be Tarantino’s bleakest film. There’s always a modicum of hope or triumph in even his most violent pictures, but Dogs is about a bunch of doomed guys trying to wait out being doomed. The whole cast is brilliant, and the handheld nature of camerawork makes you feel like you’re watching something that’s really happening, despite the situations. And, like all of QT’s movies, the soundtrack is stellar. I’ve never listened to “Stuck in the Middle with You” the same way again.

4) Jackie Brown (1997)
Now, this is a movie that has grown exponentially in my estimation in the years since seeing it. While I loved Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill immediately, I regarded his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch as merely very good. I wasn’t clamoring to watch that again, nor was I quoting that one time and again to friends. But now, as a grown up person who watches lots and lots of movies, Jackie Brown has become something of a sentimental favorite. It’s certainly not one I’ve watched as often, but every time I do, I enjoy it more and more. It’s a long movie, yes, but it’s also a supremely solid crime story with perfectly-played characters. These are all adults having adult conversations. Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert Forster play so much internally, even Jackson who is easily the most bombastic. Robert De Niro makes me laugh with every line he says, and seems to go from zero to sixty in record time. It’s also the soundtrack I find myself listening to the most. It’s a fantastic movie, and well worth a re-estimation.

3) Django Unchained (2012)
For much of the post-Jackie Brown career of Quentin Tarantino, he’s been toying with the trappings and aesthetic of Spaghetti Westerns without actually doing one, but in 2012, he finally went west, young man. Or, south, more accurately – the Deep South. Taking the title from a Sergio Corbucci western, as well as a Steve Reeves Hercules movie, Tarantino made a raucous and incredibly violent film featuring a slave who becomes a bounty hunter and goes on a quest to free his wife. It’s a long movie, sure, but it’s a mythical tale and our hero has to go further and further into the depths of Hell itself before he can escape victorious. It follows the legend of Siegfried which Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) explains at a certain point in the film, and if you notice that, the movie not exactly following the path you think it will makes perfect sense. Tarantino won his second screenplay Oscar for this film, and it’s very much deserved, and Waltz got his second Supporting Actor Oscar, which is great, but I think it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s frothing plantation-owning villain that really steals the show. Not a movie for the faint of heart, or the sensitive of stomach, but it’s highly rewarding.

2) Pulp Fiction (1994)
Upset! Well, not really. This is a movie that I will always love and will always mean a great deal to me. It’s a movie I showed people for years and their minds were always blown, and with good reason. This film was a game-changer in Hollywood and elsewhere and is the reason pretenders to the throne like 2 Days in the Valley, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, and The Boondock Saints (which is just terrible, people, admit it) were made and got distribution. Crime movies with verbose characters is a result of Quentin Tarantino, but he’s always done it the best and Pulp Fiction is testament to that. Every time you watch it, you see how weak the knockoffs are. With this film, only his second, Tarantino began his trend of treating movies like novels, allowing them the time to breathe and the chance for characters to exist on their own. We feel like we know Jules, Vincent, Mia, Butch, and even Pumpkin and Honey Bunny though they aren’t in it much. We’re in the trenches with them, we see what they’re doing. And they’re likable even if they’re murderers or thieves or what have you. This is a movie I think I know every frame of but always enjoy revisiting.

1) Inglourious Basterds (2009)
When I first saw this movie, on opening night back in ’09 in a crappy theater in North Hollywood because I couldn’t afford a better one, I didn’t really like it. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. I mean, it was zero percent what I thought it was going to be and even watching it, I couldn’t predict what was going on, and that sort of left me confused. A few days later, I felt compelled to see it again. A few days after that, I saw it a third time. Each subsequent viewing, I got more and more into the world of the film, and now, coming up on 6 years since its release, I think it’s the perfect Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s a movie where two of the heroes are a cinema owner and a film critic, where movies are both the catalyst and the resolution, and where legend and what they print in the history books is up for debate. It’s the most perfect Spaghetti Western ever made, and it isn’t one; it’s the least accurate WWII movie ever made, but couldn’t possibly care about that. It’s Tarantino at his most. Less than a third of the movie is actually in English, meaning the trailers could really only feature Brad Pitt’s Jewish Nazi-killers, but the real story is with a young woman who has the opportunity to avenge her slain family, AND take out the entire Nazi high command to do it. Waltz won a very deserved Oscar for his portrayal of a verbose and lingual Nazi who seeks to re-write history. Tension is built in almost every scene, like Hitchcock or Leone, but it’s done not through silences or ticking clocks, but through small talk, pleasantry, and sinister undertones. I could not love this movie more. One day, I’ll write a book about it, I’m sure. Pitt’s final line, the final line of the film, evokes Tarantino’s truth: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.”

Go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong. That’s what the comments section is for!

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  1. Shane says:

    Kill bill 2 had a death count of just 1. Bill. That’s kinda what made it so great was how it is the opposite of the first one. Also death proof was bad

  2. Shane says:

    Kill bill 2 has a death count of just 1. Bill. That’s what kinda makes it great is the way it’s the total opposite of the first movie

  3. Matt says:

    1.) Inglorious Basterds2.) Pulp Fiction3.) Kill Bill Vol. 14.) Reservoir Dogs5.) Death Proof6.) Kill Bill Vol. 27.) Django Unchained8.) Jackie Brown 

  4. Sakajawea says:

    While I was reading, I thought you were wrong, because my list would have be:
    8. Kill Bill vol. 2
    7. Kill Bill vol. 1
    6. Death Proof
    5. Jackie Brown
    4. Reservoir Dogs
    3. Pulp Fiction
    2. Inglorious Basterds
    1. Django
    I really love Tarantino, and I grew up with the old “spaghetti Western” with my dad (I’m italian) so I always felt really proud, cause QT referred a lot to Sergio Leone. BUT, I must say I agree with you, cause you convinced me. But just for n.1 2 and 3. I saw IB here in Italy, where unfortunately we use dubbing, which I hate. And I didn’t like it. But then I saw it in english and I literally fell in love with it! The whole time after the movie, I was thinking: “Could you imagine Mussolini’s face?” 🙂

  5. stardude says:

    Scrolled through the list.  Didn’t see From Dusk Till Dawn.  Then promptly declared the list bullshit, typed this comment and left.

  6. Dbag says:

    You forgot “My Friends Birthday”

  7. Kevo says:

    Jackie Brown would be at the bottom for me, its a solid movie but really.. hard to get through. Basterds and Pulp Fiction are undoubtedly his top films, easily putting the Kill Bills tied for 3rd, and Reservoir Dogs is simply a movie that stands on its own. 

  8. Madison says:

    I’d probably have said
    1) Inglourious Basterds
    2) Jackie Brown
    3) Pulp Fiction
    4) Kill Bill Vol. 2
    5) Kill Bill Vol. 1
    6) Reservoir Dogs
    7) Death Proof
    8) Django Unchained

    Reservoir Dogs was a great movie, especially considering it was his first own creation, but it’s before Tarantino really came into his own. Deathproof I agree is low on the list, but still a fun movie to see, unfortunately overshadowed by its counterpart Planet Terror. Django Unchained felt clumsy, like his heart wasn’t really in it. Also, it didn’t have enough for Christoph Waltz as well as it should have, given his stellar work with Tarantino in IB, and his ability to carry just about anything, and DiCaprio can’t act his way into a paper bag. Into.

  9. Tyler says:

    Oh thank fuck Pulp Fiction isn’t number 1.  I’ve not seen Jackie Brown and only bits and pieces of each Kill Bill, so I can’t speak for them, but Pulp Fiction is my least favorite Tarantino film.  And by least favorite, I mean I really dislike it whereas I LOVE the other four of his movies I’ve seen (though I didn’t enjoy any of what I saw in the Kill Bill movies, either).
    I don’t think it deserves number 2, but it’s not my list.  I’m just glad that there are others out there who will at least admit it’s not his best work.

  10. Brett says:

    1. Pulp Fiction 2. Inglourious Basterds3. Reservoir Dogs4. Kill Bill Vol. 25. Kill Bill Vol. 16. Death Proof7. Jackie Brown8. Django Unchained – the only film of Tarantino’s I don’t just dislike, but despise.

  11. Dmitri Ravinoff says:

    My lord, Inglorious Basterds?! And can’t even watch it all the way thru for a 2nd time because of Pitt’s horrendous accent. East Tennessee? That’s not even a Southern accent. And Death Proof is better than the Kill Bill films.

  12. Brian Campbell says:

    Boondock Saints is Pulp Fiction for Jersey Shore.

  13. Brian says:

    What about 25% of Four Rooms

  14. Yolie Melon says:

    …. I like Boondocks Saints….. THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!! Come on… 

  15. Ian Mersich says:

    True Romance…

  16. Wik says:

    Strangely enough, and even though you won’t list it here because he didn’t direct, I LOVE True Romance. He wrote and it was directed by Tony Scott. Amazing film. I put it up there with Pulp, Django and Basterds. 

  17. Kourtney says:

    This is a terrible list; fuck you.

  18. why the hell isn’t True Romance on this list? QT wrote it and it’s AMAZING.

    • Bean says:

      These are all movies he wrote and directed though. Tarantino wrote ‘True Romance’ but he didn’t direct it. 

    • kevo says:

      Tarantino said he hated the movie, he wrote it but hated what they did with it.

      • wrong wrong wrong wrong…
        True Romance is even in the Tarantino Box that came out 2 years ago and there is a Audio Cammentary by Tarantino on the True Romance DVD (the only one btw)
        What you are thinking about is Natural Born Killers!

  19. Four Rooms…. Clink, Chop, AAAAHHHHH!!! Priceless!

  20. MattyP603 says:

    Four Rooms… Clink, Chop AAAAHHH!!! Priceless

  21. Matty P 603 says:

    Four rooms… Click chop AAAAHHH! Priceless

  22. RG says:

    Hmmm I think I actually enjoy Death Proof most; regardless of discussions of craft, it’s just got the most eye-catchingly out-there approach, bordering on Lynchian.

    1. Death Proof2. Jackie Brown3. Inglourious Basterds4. Pulp Fiction5. Django Unchained6. Reservoir Dogs7. Kill Bill Volume 18. Kill Bill Volume 2

  23. Matty P 603 says:

    Four rooms… Click chop AAAAHHH Priceless 

  24. Eric says:

    I was relieved when QT himself said Death Proof was his worst. I felt I might have betrayed him. I love Pulp Fiction, but Basterds is the better film. PF just set the bar. I would drop Django some. It has its moments, but then it was the first of his movies I found tedious at times.

  25. Ystops says:

    Thank you for saying Boondock Saints is terrible. It’s a joke of a movie and the people that defend it are also the people that love Kid Rock. 

    • sufb says:

      Yeah just because you don’t like something makes it terrible. Does it burn when the sun rises and sets in your Asshole?

    • Kevo says:

      this is just ignorant, none of my friends and people i know like Kid Rock, but easily love Boondock Saints.

    • BlackSamurai says:

      is Boondock Saints terrible?? well yes and no.. a solid maybe. But its STILL an awesome movie and i love it. it doesn’t take itself to seriously but fully commits to the madness at the same time. thats very hard to. it was really was lightening in a bottle. Now the sequel was was just plain exploitation of the first film. 

    • stardude says:

      Kid rock wasn’t bad a decade ago, though I do agree anyone who still loves him is an idiot.  

  26. Bandgeek77 says:

    I actually agree with you!  I really like Pulp Fiction, but I LOVE Inglorious Basterds.  The performances and the dialogue and the tale itself are so superb.  Pulp Fiction is one of the biggest game changers in cinema history, but Inglorious Basterds is where QT really perfected his movie making.

  27. dogmai says:


    1. Pulp Fiction

    2. Reservoir Dogs

    3. Django Unchained

    4. Inglourious Basterds

    5. Kill Bill vol. 1

    6. Kill Bill vol. 2

    7. Jackie Brown

    8. Death Proof

  28. brenthaydock says:

    Death proof is one of his best. Im rarely disappointed with the nerdists list. This one is way off.

  29. Smart says:

    You’re wrong because you purposely put these out of order for shock value, and you won’t believe what happens next.