Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film has been released (it’s his ninth, not his eighth, shut up), so what better time for a random man on the internet to arbitrarily list his favourite Tarantino films? Here we go.
- Django Unchained
Tarantino’s first of his two Westerns is still the best. The story of a freed slave attempting to save his still captive wife, the film manages to be more than just a mere horse opera. It uses the Norse mythology so loved by white supremacists to mirror its tale of black oppression, and its over the top violence makes it an interesting companion piece to its more sombre contemporary 12 Years a Slave. Throw in a fantastic return to form from Jamie Foxx, another great performance by Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio’s slimy villain, and a really quite disturbing performance from Samuel L. Jackson, and you have Quentin Tarantino’s fifth best film.
- Pulp Fiction
The film that made Quentin Tarantino a household name, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a simple gangland narrative made revolutionary by chopping it up and rearranging the pieces, so that half the fun comes from working out where each vignette fits in the grander scheme. The Bruce Willis section, while good, almost let’s the side down, if only because it doesn’t feature John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, who are the real heart of the film. Still, hearing Christopher Walken say “ass” a bunch of times never gets old.
- Jackie Brown
Tarantino’s love letter to the blaxplotation genre is his straightest film, by which I mean it’s narratively straightforward and eshews the referential meta-ness that characterises much of his work. This is largely because it’s based on Rum Punch, a novel by Elmore Leonard, which provides a solid crime caper story for Tarantino to play with. It’s also the closest Tarantino has come to making a true romance (pun intended), with genuinely down to earth performances from Pam Grier and Robert Forster allowing us to engage with the characters more than in any of his other films. His usual wit and energy are still present in the supporting cast, with an utterly gormless Robert De Niro being a highlight.
- Inglourious Basterds
There’s nothing wrong with Tarantino’s usual referential meta-ness, mind you, and Inglourious Basterds is proof of that. It’s a World War II epic, with the story concerning itself with a plot to eliminate the upper echelons of the Nazi party; but it’s also a spaghetti western, with an opening chapter named “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France” (hello, Leone), and liberal use of Ennio Morricone’s vast oeuvre. Much like Django Unchained, there’s a certain cultural catharsis to be had watching Brad Pitt’s Lt. Raine and his Jewish Bastards carving their way through the Nazi hordes. And their opposed by a frankly terrifying star-making performance from Christoph Waltz has Jew hunter Hans Landa.
- Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino’s first, and to my mind, still his best film. It has everything that makes a Tarantino film a Tarantino film. Fantastic performances from a top-tier selection of character actors (Tarantino is fine director of actors). A script which barrels along with barely contained energy. A non-linear narrative which keeps us guessing as to each character’s loyalty and motivations. Great use of licensed music. And of course, all the swearing. All of this in under two hours. Reservoir Dogs is tight, tense, and terrific.
And the rest…
I’ve never been into martial arts films, so the Kill Bills felt a little esoteric to me. Death Proof started out so well, with its perfect aping of Seventies’ B-movies, but then Tarantino lost his bottle and ended up making a standard homicidal maniac flick. And you can read what I thought of The Hateful Eight here.
Feel free to loudly disagree with me in the comments.