THE LAMPIN' BLOG PRESENTS: THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF QUENTIN TARANTINO MOVIES
First of all, we'd like to welcome you to the Lampin' Blog. This has been a long process in the making, and it feels good to finally be on the web. Our inaugural post is dedicated to doing what many have done in the past: rank Quentin Tarantino movies.
As two recent college grads with no film background, you may wonder if we are under-qualified to do so. The short answer--yes. The long answer is get off your damn high horse and take our opinions with a grain of salt. Let's get into it. (Spoilers Ahead)
Here's our final rankings, followed by more in-depth commentary of each movie in chronological order.
9. Death Proof (2007)
8. Hateful Eight (2015)
7. Jackie Brown (1997)
6. Django Unchained (2012)
5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
4. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
3. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
9. Death Proof (2007)
8. Hateful Eight (2015)
7. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
6. Jackie Brown (1997)
5. Django Unchained (2012)
4. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
3. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
2. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Nev's rank: 2 Büsh's rank: 7
There is no better place to start than the movie that put Tarantino on the map. Upon first viewing, it was evident as to why Reservoir Dogs did so. Sharp dialogue, nuanced humor, and a great storyline are the foundations to every great movie. Lawrence Tierney, Tim Roth, and Harvey Keitel are stellar as usual and Steve Buscemi is, well… Steve Buscemi. If the opening scene didn’t make you think twice about why you tip your server at a restaurant, you’re a dirty liar and are not to be trusted. However, I think RD has the least replay value out of all of Tarantino’s movies because it relies too heavily on the dialogue.
Tarantino is known to have movies with plenty of dialogue, but RD in particular has several scenes that drag on due to lengthy conversations. I don’t mind them at all, they are quite enjoyable in doses, but it’s not a movie that I can watch over and over again, which prevents it from being higher on this list. While I love RD and while it is significant in that it is an independent film and Tarantino’s first, I can’t rank it any higher because when it comes down to it, I’d rather watch the films ranked higher on my list. That’s my opinion. Fight me.
Dogs holds a special place in my heart. My whole perception of the concept of tipping waiters/waitresses was shattered the first time I watched it. So now, when accused of being cheap at a restaurant, I just cite Mr. Pink’s very sensible if not a tad heartless argument.
Reservoir Dogs features an all-star cast led by Steve Buscemi and Tarantino regulars Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth. Dogs may have had shit for a budget ($1.2m), but any effects or impressive sets would have just fallen by the wayside in wake of one of the greatest whodunits ever written.
Upon my first viewing, I was a little dismayed that the bank robbery scene was skipped and the audience is immediately dropped into the blood-soaked vehicle with Mr. White (Keitel) and Mr. Orange (Roth) in critical condition speeding towards the warehouse. With the employment of a little imagination though, I painted myself a beautiful mental image, with Blondie waving his gun around carelessly, just begging for an excuse to bust a cap in a hostage’s ass.
The movie is capped off by a Eastwood-esque Mexican standoff, that ends in the death of White, kingpin Joe Cabot, and son Nice Guy Eddie, who turned out to be too slow on the draw….
Nev's rank: 1 Büsh's rank: 1
What else did you expect at the top? This is by far the coolest movie I have ever seen. Something that really bothers me about a movie or TV show is when it tries to be too cool (see: Sons of Anarchy). Trying to be badass, whether it be in the hallways of school or in a script, is always easy to tell and never enjoyable for anyone. Pulp Fiction doesn’t need to try to be cool. Samuel L. and Travolta are an unlikely duo yet work perfectly together. Uma Thurman is stunning as Mia Wallace, and I can never look at Ving Rhames the same again (“Nah man, I’m pretty fuckin’ far from OK.”).
The one aspect of Pulp that stands out the most is the dialogue. I'll mention Tarantino’s ability to create genuine-sounding conversations throughout this entire post, but if there was one critique for all of his movies, it is that the conversations tend to drag on. Sure, they’re sharply written and witty, but it truly gets tiresome having to listen to constant dialogue. However, in Pulp, there isn’t one wasted word. Every single one of Jules and Vincent’s conversations are perfect. Vince and Mia’s conversation at the diner—pristine . I could never understand how Tarantino is able to do it. He’s got to have voices in his head.
If you consider yourself a QT fan in any capacity, it would be off-putting if you didn’t have Pulp in AT LEAST your top 3. It is the quintessential Tarantino film that embodies all of his sick, twisted tendencies into a crime caper with interwoven tales that connect with such simplicity and elegance.
Samuel L. Jackson in particular gave a stirring performance as Jules Winfield. The transition from discussing the sexual nature of foot massages with his partner Vincent to the obliteration of the big-brained Brett and his dumbfounded compatriots is both shocking and hilarious.
But never for a moment do we question or object to their violent nature, we just sit back and let the goodness unfold. My only possible complaint is against Fabienne, whose forgetfulness leads to Vincent’s regrettable death. Her digression on potbellies was a bit overdone as well. The notion is quite irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, however.
Pulp will forever be the standard to which QT’s movies are held against, and even he would be hard-pressed to outdo his second film.
Nev's rank: 7 Büsh's rank: 6
Jackie Brown, in stark contrast to Reservoir Dogs, it has grown on me after each time I’ve watched it. I originally had JB in my bottom two before writing this, but to be honest, it could now be as high as third on my list. Samuel L. Jackson delivers a world-class performance as Ordell Robbie (mark this down as one of the greatest character names of all time) and the soundtrack is perhaps the best out of all of Tarantino’s films, highlighted by Bobby Womack’s "Across 110th Street" in the opening credits.
For some reason, Jackie Brown feels like the longest out of all the Tarantino films, despite being the fourth from the top at 2 hours and 40 minutes. Tarantino makes a notoriously long movie, but I think the lulls in the action are what do Jackie Brown in. There is no doubt Robert DeNiro is a top 5 actor of this generation, but is the what seems like 20 minute scene between him and Melanie in the moments before they bang for three minutes truly necessary? (Bobby D can do no wrong so I accept this, but I could also do without it.) While we’re on the topic of DeNiro, I really wish his character wasn’t some imbecile who “used to be beautiful.” If you cast him in a movie, you don’t waste him on a character like Louis.
JB is perhaps Tarantino’s most unique work. Without seeing his name in the credits, one would never know that it was a QT work. An adaption of Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Tarantino was trying to follow up the incredible success of Pulp with a film more character-focused rather than plot-driven.
This one earns the title of “most slept on” as many of my friends have either never heard of it or didn’t think it was all that great. Pam Grier is great as Jackie, an extremely capable and intelligent woman who does what she has to in order to get by. She can be a kind and accommodating hostess if you treat her right, but cross her and you’ll get a pistol pointed at your dick just like Ordell.
My sole qualm with Jackie Brown is that everything works out so perfectly for Jackie and her cohort Max Cherry at the culmination of events. I like protagonists to get their way, sure, but there were so many things that had to go just right for Jackie to walk away with the money…that did. This factor contributes to the notable un-Tarantino feel.
The Kill Bill Series
Nev's rank: 5/4 Büsh's rank: 4/3
I’ve gone back and forth as to which Kill Bill should be above the other, and I have several reasons why 2 is over 1, but I’ll get into that later. For now let’s just talk about Vol. 1. Paying homage to old samurai movies, Vol. 1 is ultra-violent, ultra-bloody, and most of all, ultra-entertaining.
The fight scenes are choreographed beautifully and for a change, the movie doesn’t rely too heavily on dialogue. Uma Thurman is as stunning and badass as ever and Lucy Liu, who I really don’t care too much for otherwise, plays a solid O-Ren (although I do wish there was more Vivica A. Fox). Either way, this is one of Tarantino’s best, highlighted by Hattori Hanzo’s (Sonny Chiba) argument with “Bald Guy.”
Additionally, Quentin links up with the gawd himself the RZA to do the soundtrack, which is beautifully done and complements the fight scenes very well.
Now, let's get into why Vol. 2 is superior to Vol. 1
Based on a legendary kung fu master from previous Chinese films, Pai Mei is one of my favorite movie characters of all time. The beard flip, constant belittling, and mystery surrounding his being are alone enough to make him one of Tarantino’s best characters. Gordon Liu’s portrayal of the swagger lord is as perfect, all the way from his diction to his kung fu. The backstory of Pai Mei alone is enough to put Vol. 2 over its predecessor.
The Battle With Elle
There have been very few instances where I have audibly interjected in the middle of a movie, one of them being when Beatrix snatches Elle’s other eye out (this case the interjection being “holy shit.”). Others include this scene from The Fighter (“fuck yeah”) and this scene from The Dark Knight Rises (“fuck no”.) The final battle with O-Ren in Vol.1 was lackluster in comparison to the Elle battle as well.
The Introduction of Bill and Unfolding Backstory
While you could argue that the mystery behind why The Bride was being ambushed in El Paso was something that made Vol. 1 better than Vol. 2, I think the revelation of why the Viper Squad came to kill Beatrix was satisfying. Plus, Bill’s comparison to Beatrix and Superman is phenomenal, as is Bill’s character himself.
Besides those three reasons, the movies are basically even. Seeing as how they were intended to be just one movie, this isn’t too shocking. One thing I did enjoy more about Vol. 1, however, was there was less dialogue-filled scenes and more action.
The two were originally supposed to be one movie, but with a running time of over four hours, it just wasn’t feasible. Given that the two are separate movies though, I must say that I enjoy Kill Bill 2 a bit more.
The reason for this being that KB1 left us in the dark as to the outcome of The Bride’s vengeful quest.
KB2 gives us what exactly what Beatrix and the audience wanted: a final showdown with that masochistic, charming bastard Bill. The reason for KB’s success, to me, can be largely attributed to how dope Uma Thurman is. While not classically beautiful, there is something about her face that is just so captivating.
For the record, I think Uma is attractive, just in a different way than any other woman. My ineptitude in describing whatever this factor is just makes her all the more interesting and mysterious. Not to mention she possesses the swordsmanship that would impress even the most scrutinizing Wu Tang member.
It’s highly doubtful that any other big time actress that could’ve pulled off this role with the same swagger and charisma. Seeing her break out of the buried coffin is one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. Uma really is capable of that in real life though….
Nev's rank: 9 Büsh's rank: 9
I’ll be honest, last week was the first time I watched Death Proof. I don’t know why, but I just never got around to watching it. My first impression was very similar to a first reaction to other Tarantino movies and I was incredibly satisfied with the film. However, upon further reflection, it dawned on me that Death Proof, while being very solid, lacked the plot intricacies present in the rest of Tarantino’s movies.
Kurt Russell does a more than convincing job playing Stuntman Mike, a terrifying, blood thirsty sociopath obsessed with killing people with his Chevy Nova. The film plays homage to old-school B-movies often put in double features, as this was originally paired with frequent Tarantino collaborator Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. It does a good job of creating an old-school feel, from the camera angles to the scratched film, despite taking place in present time.
Death Proof just doesn’t have the complete feel present in other Tarantino movies. It just seems rushed. While it is a quality film on its own, it pales in comparison to say, a Jackie Brown or Kill Bill
Quentin Tarantino’s self-proclaimed worst movie. Not trying to use that as a crutch, it really is the worst. As it turns out, his worst is still pretty good. Like Jackie Brown, Proof has a somewhat un-Tarantino feel to it. Death Proof was also a box office failure given Tarantino’s notoriety and popularity in 2007 ($30.7 million).
The film gets off to an immediate bad start as that instantaneous connection with the characters we’ve come to expect just wasn’t there. Out of the first group of girls, Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier) is the only one worth a second thought should an…accident befall them. Arlene, the clique’s cinematic focal point, just wasn’t a character I could dig my teeth into. Not my cup of tea. Pretty good lap dancer though.
Anyways, when Stuntman Mike wiped out the first crew of girls, I was none too saddened. The movie takes a big step up with the introduction of the second, far more captivating group of gals. Led by Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) and Zoe Bell, playing herself, a stuntwoman who was also Uma Thurman’s double from Kill Bill. From the jump, one can tell that this is a much more mature and savvy posse who may just have what it takes to overpower Stuntman Mike. The second half of the movie was awesome, and definitely made the journey worth it.
Nev's rank: 3 Büsh's rank: 2
This was the first Tarantino movie I ever saw. Let it be known that this movie is perfect. I have gone on record saying that I will watch any movie about WWII and this one sits up there with some of the all time greats.
I saw this movie going into my sophomore year in high school with my good pals at the time. I vaguely knew who Quentin Tarantino was, enough to know that this movie was going to be really good, but I had no idea what to expect. I honestly thought it was going to be a comedy, with Brad Pitt’s cartoonish southern accent being the focus of the trailer I saw for it. I was blown away.
Everything from the production value to the storyline exceeded all of my expectations. Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of Hans Landa is one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in any movie ever. Dude is a genius. Oscar well deserved.
As a WWII buff (as much as a 22 y/o can be a “buff” on any subject), Basterds instantly appealed to me. If I was actually a buff, I may have ho-hummed its complete historical inaccuracy, but I love how Tarantino uses WWII as a blank landscape.
When I learned that Brad Pitt was to be the Basterd’s head honcho as Lt. Aldo Raine, a hillbilly moonshiner from Tennessee, I have to admit I had my own reservations as to whether he could fulfill that kind of role. But, to great surprise, he brought to the table his own brand of brash American patriotism, coupled with a hilariously bad Italian accent.
But in all reality, the star of this one is Col. Hans Landa, depicted by the ever-talented Christoph Waltz. The crazy thing about Landa is that he carries out his duties as the Jew Hunter without a shred of loyalty to Hitler or any of the Nazi big wigs. After the allowing the climactic decimation of the Nazi brass in the theatre, we see Landa try to strike a deal with the Americans in cunning fashion, to almost complete success (see: forehead Swastika). For me, this ending was the most satisfying out of Tarantino’s filmography (yes, even Kill Bill 2).
Nev's rank: 6 Büsh's rank: 5
I want you to think of a scene that is more badass than a 1 vs. 100 shootout scene with a James Brown/Tupac mashup playing in the background. Wrong. It can’t be done. The shootout at the end of Django is so incredibly well done and is definitely in my top 5 Tarantino scenes ever.
Django might be Tarantino’s most thought provoking movie, with scenes of racism that draw parallels to today’s society.
Front to back, Django is plenty entertaining with gruesome scenes and a reminder of how brutal the slave-owning south was. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Calvin Candy to near perfection, a role that Tarantino said is the only character of his that he genuinely loathes.
Up until Django, every hero in every Western movie was white. And along comes Jamie Foxx as Django, a freed slave on a vengeful quest to find his wife, from whom he was separated when they were sold to separate plantations.
In an interview, Tarantino was ecstatic at the prospect of African Americans having this kind of devil-may-care black protagonist who shoots his way through the deep South while remaining justified. Tarantino was keen on opening a dialogue about slavery that had not been on the forefront of the American subconscious for some time. And started that dialogue was, evident from $162 million box office.
Coupled with the once again brilliant Waltz as Dr. Schultz, the German dentist-turned-bounty hunter, the two join forces and form an unlikely partnership. Unchained also contains perhaps the funniest scene in all of Tarantino’s movies, where a mob of Klan members heatedly discuss the fine points of cutting eyeholes into their head coverings (shout out to Jonah Hill).
With a hefty 165 minute running time, the film starts heating up with the appearance of Calvin Candie, portrayed by (finally) Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio. The tension between Django and Schultz and Candie is so tangible for the last hour or so of the movie. It’s stressful to watch, but nonetheless enjoyable. DiCaprio went above and beyond when he actually smashes the glass on the table when he becomes aware of the motives of Django and Schultz.
Nev's rank: 8 Büsh's rank: 8
The most recent film in Tarantino’s repertoire boasts an all-star cast that includes some of his regulars (Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen) along with newcomers (Demian Bichir, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Channing Tatum). I wish I could tell you what being shot in 70mm film meant, but it looked great in theatres and from what I heard was a pain to shoot. The cinematography was the strongest trait of this film. By far the best shot of all Tarantino’s films. Story-wise it was classic Tarantino, and contained the western flair of Django paired with the whodunit suspense of Reservoir Dogs.
The film was split into two parts, and while the first part may be devoid of action, the dialogue and stage setting are enough to keep the viewer interested. The buildup culminates into a bloody climax not unlike any of Tarantino’s other films.
What keeps Hateful from being higher on this list is that we’ve seen similar themes done better in Tarantino’s previous films. In other words, why watch Hateful when you can watch Django or Reservoir Dogs?
The bottom two rankings were by far my hardest choice on this list. I had the pleasure of seeing Tarantino’s latest film in theaters on New Year’s Eve last year and this may factor into why Hateful is not last on my list, as it is for many Tarantino fans. Chalk it up to the majesty of the cinema.
However, there are some apparent flaws that were hard to ignore. Are we really supposed to believe that John Ruth, in the vast state of Wyoming, runs into two familiars in his stagecoach in the span of a few hours? And why doesn’t Jody (Channing Tatum) wait so long to shoot those not in his company of criminals? It’s little distractions like these that make Hateful seem a bit inauthentic. But as I said before, I enjoyed it overall.
While the majority of the movie lacks much action and takes place almost exclusively inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, the audience is given the number one thing we have come to expect from QT: gripping, original, comedic dialogue. The highlights of Hateful for me were Walton Goggins* as Sheriff Chris Mannix and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue. While Tim Roth was very funny in his role as the English hangman/undercover gangster, it seemed a bit too imitative of Waltz’s mannerisms to take seriously. Proportionate to Kurt Russell and John Wayne.
Besides the shortcomings listed previously, one thing I could not get over was Samuel L. talking about forcing General Smithers’ son to perform fellatio on him. Whether it was just a grand lie or not (definitely was), it is so off-putting as a moviegoer and the desired effect for this disgusting anecdote was lost upon most of the audience. The movie is saved by the last half hour, during which Samuel L. and Goggins team up against their remaining adversaries. Critics may tell you that Quentin lost his touch with this one, but there is still plenty to enjoy here.
*Go watch Vice Principals on HBO
And there you have it. While you probably have your qualms about each of our rankings, we are both pretty absolute about our choices. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below and follow both of us on twitter to stay up to date on our next post.