With the release of his ninth film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, it’s time to look back over legendary director Quentin Tarantino’s body of work to see where the latest fits in. (Note: we’re excluding Death Proof here).
9. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Kill Bill Vol. 2 is arguably Tarantino’s most disappointing work. It’s not a bad film, but in comparison to the excellent first Kill Bill, it just doesn’t do what we love the director for.
Despite having a couple of nice, violent action sequences, the film is generally pretty slow-paced as we spend over half of the runtime watching The Bride training in China, and not brutally killing all those who she seeks vengeance upon.
Kill Bill was originally written as one film, but at four hours long, it was split in two, and so it’s possible to understand why the action is reduced in the second part, but even so, it’s not an exhilarating watch at all like the best of Tarantino.
8. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Tarantino’s immense passion for all manner of stories, historical settings and most of all movies is what has made him one of cinema’s most memorable and beloved directors. However, he is guilty of indulging himself too much in his passions, and no film showcases that more than Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
There’s no denying its value as a piece of aesthetically impressive nostalgia, and as well as an interesting lookback into the twilight years of Hollywood’s golden age against the rising tide of the counter-culture movement, it’s a film worth watching.
However, its story is heavily impeded by Tarantino’s indulgences as he attempts to recreate everything from classic western TV serials to 60s cigarette commercials – all in the form of jarring asides to the main story that make the film a painfully inconsistent and frustrating watch over the course of its two hour and forty minute runtime, really taking away from what could have been a very sleek, clever and intriguing love letter to classic Hollywood.
7. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Look, I think The Hateful Eight is a great film, but it’s nowhere near the best of the best from Tarantino.
His homage to classic epics of the 50s and 60s may be visually beautiful, and complemented by an excellent score by Ennio Morricone, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s overlong and just too slow. The first hour and forty minutes, before its Intermission, takes so long establishing the characters and the eventual mystery that the story eventually becomes convoluted, and from time to time, boring.
Having said that, the second act, the final hour and ten minutes, is stunning. It returns to the violence-driven, intense and exciting storytelling that we love from Tarantino, and it gives you an absolutely enthralling run to the finish, but it’s just the negative impact of the snail-paced and occasionally pretentious first act that really brings this film down.
6. Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is an excellent film, but it’s easy to see why it’s largely known as Tarantino’s least-acclaimed work.
After the roaring successes of the intense and violent thrillers that were Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown represented a much slower, more intricate story that definitely wasn’t as exhilarating to watch.
Having said that, it’s a brilliantly intriguing film, with strong performances from Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson, and it holds your attention over the course of its two and a half hour runtime. Even if it’s not a no-holes-barred, non-stop gory thriller, it’s pretty unique amongst Tarantino’s violent repertoire.
5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
We’re already getting into the cream of the crop, beginning with 2003’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. It’s Tarantino’s intense homage to Japanese anime, yakuza and samurai films, and it’s a simply exhilarating watch.
Uma Thurman’s performance as The Bride, a woman hell-bent on ultimate vengeance on the team of assassins who terrorised her wedding, is astonishing, but what is most spectacular about the film is its mind-blowing action sequences.
Whether it’s the classic scene where The Bride brutally slaughters 88 Yakuza henchmen that’s both hilarious and thrilling, or the intense animated sequence about the origins of one of cinema’s most brutal villains, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is endlessly entertaining and exciting to watch, and sums up perfectly what we love so much about Quentin Tarantino.
4. Django Unchained (2012)
Quentin Tarantino, a keen fan of the western, finally delved into the genre with his seventh film: 2012’s Django Unchained. Yes, it is three hours long, but it features some excellent action, stunning acting, and a hell of a lot of swearing.
It’s another revenge story, about a freed slave in the Deep South during the 19th Century who, with the assistance of a bounty hunter, sets out to free his wife from a brutal plantation owner. Along the way, we get a fascinating story surrounding the extreme racism that the man faces, as well as hilariously excessive violence with more spurting blood than any other Tarantino flick.
Also, the film stars three fantastic actors in the lead roles. Jamie Foxx is spectacular as the freed slave, Christoph Waltz is as excellent as ever as the bounty hunter, and Leonardo DiCaprio is terrifying in his uncharacteristic role as the villainous plantation owner, but it all comes together to make a truly enthralling watch.
3. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Inglourious Basterds is my personal favourite Tarantino film of all, and even though I recognise it’s not as impressive as the two top picks on this list, every time I watch it, I’m not only enthralled by the story and brilliant acting, but I wet myself laughing.
This is by far Tarantino’s funniest film, and although it’s clear that all the films have a comedic element to them, his take on World War Two trumps them all. Following the story of a group of Jewish US soldiers who attempt to assassinate Hitler, it’s a film that pays no attention whatsoever to history, and just goes its own way with a mad story line.
The action is spectacular, and features one of the tensest scenes in any movie ever, but it’s also a notable film for the mind-blowing performance given by Christoph Waltz as the intimidating Nazi colonel Hans Landa, AKA ‘The Jew Hunter’. From the astonishingly intense first scene onwards, he’s an amazing on screen presence, managing to be simultaneously hilarious and extremely terrifying, and he really stands out in what is arguably the best performance in any Tarantino film.
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Generally regarded as Tarantino’s ultimate masterpiece, there’s no denying the absolute brilliance of Pulp Fiction. With an intricate and enthralling non-linear story, great humour, fantastic acting and the huge amount of pop culture references, the film is a unique and massively impressive piece of work.
Pulp Fiction is a seriously entertaining movie, that combines the genius of Tarantino’s screenwriting with the excellence of its now all-star cast to make an absolute start-to-finish treasure of a movie. Whether it’s the famous Ezekiel 25:17 scene, or when Marvin got shot in the face, you’ll find yourself both compelled by the story and laughing out loud at the humour of it all.
The story is also an absolute masterpiece, taking on a non-linear form that increases the tension and mystery of all the events tenfold, and then gives you a uniquely satisfying round-up as all the separate plot lines manage to converge on one another in the most unpredictable way. It truly is an ingenious film.
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
More often than not, it’s the very first that really shines, and for Quentin Tarantino, it’s no different, because 1992’s Reservoir Dogs is definitely his best film of all.
Arguably not as funny as any of his later films, Reservoir Dogs is still outstanding for its amazing storytelling, using such a confined setting, and in such a short runtime, as well as the amazing performances given by all of the main actors.
It’s the story of a group of criminals pulling off a bank job, but it’s not your typical heist movie. Rather than centring around the events of the robbery, the film actually tells the story of the direct aftermath, when everything begins to go wrong for the criminals. The first display of a non-linear story by Tarantino, there’s a huge amount of mystery and intrigue in this film from start to finish, as well as some terrifying violence to make it all even more intense to watch.
It’s not a long film, at only 99 minutes, but what Tarantino managed to accomplish by telling such a compelling and exhilarating story in that time is truly special, and that’s why it’s his best film of all time.