This list of Quentin Tarantino movies does not include his segment from Four Rooms, “The Man from Hollywood,” although it’s worth watching. Nor does it include whatever part of Sin City he directed. QT also directed an amateur short film that I’ve never seen (and has, reportedly, been partially lost) titled My Best Friend’s Birthday. Since it was never officially released, we can easily skip that one as well.
The list also does not include any film that Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct, such as True Romance or From Dusk ’til Dawn. I admire his screenplays, no matter who directs them, but this list is about the films he directed. I should add that, while he’s been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award multiple times, he’s won only for Best Screenplay, for Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction (shared with Roger Avary).
I am a Tarantino fan. You can call him sadistic, fetishistic, misogynistic, twisted and violent, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree with you, at least when it comes to what he puts up on the screen. Throw in foul-mouthed, for good measure. But, if you’re going to take the time to use all of those adjectives, don’t leave out brilliant, imaginative and inventive. Tarantino is a cinematic genius. He benefits from directing his own screenplays, of course.
Counting the two volumes of Kill Bill as two separate movies—and I do believe they are two different movies—that leaves ten Tarantino-directed movies. Perfect for a 10-List. Since this is hardly a challenge to compile them, I’ve decided to rank them for you.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
My current least-favorite Tarantino movie is still pretty good. It is a breathtakingly beautiful film, a Western shot in 70 mm, scored by the late Ennio Morricone, known for A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The acting is also top-notch, including performances by Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson.
The buildup to the expected bloodshed in the last act is slow and tortuous, and there is a claustrophobic feel throughout the movie that is intentional but nerve-wracking. Why is this one last on my list? In spite of the over-the-top, bloody violence that capped it off, I didn’t really like the ending.
Django Unchained (2012)
As long as we’re in the mood for a Western, Django Unchained has to fall in the penultimate spot on my list. None of the movies on this list are going to be panned by me. You’ve probably figured that out by now. I liked this one, too. Jamie Foxx, as a former slave, now a gunslinger, is pitch perfect, and I’m beginning to believe that Christoph Waltz may be incapable of a mediocre performance. Leonardo DiCaprio steals the show as the slave-owning Big Bad, of course. The acts of violence committed against the slaves were difficult to watch. The violence committed against the slaveowners was a thing of beauty. I felt complicit afterward, but not during.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Nazis are just about the only reality-based villains we can still kill on screen with gleeful impunity. Well, evil slaveowners are right up there, too. And, we get to slaughter a whole lot of Nazis in this movie, including one big one we didn’t quite get the satisfaction of personally ending in real life.
Two things stand out in this film for me. The first was Christoph Waltz’s quiet performance as Nazi Hans Landa. Waltz managed to be one of scariest on-screen villains ever while being polite, even courteous, and without raising his voice. The opening scene, which seems to stretch out in a tense, agonizing way, as Landa interrogates a French farmer who has hidden a Jewish family away, is probably the best scene in the movie, in my opinion.
The second thing was the ending of the movie, which didn’t care how history recorded events. This was a revenge fantasy, and the ending was the ultimate revenge.
Death Proof (2007)
This was half of the lovingly crafted Grindhouse, the homage to ’70s grindhouse cinema Tarantino created with Robert Rodriguez. This homage to slasher and muscle car movies was a hoot, from beginning to end. Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike is a bad guy. It’s hard not to think about movies such as Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry while watching this one. You’ll come for the slasher movie, but you’ll stay for the car stunts.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Yes, this is the one that has the payoff for the movie title. Volume 2 is part-Western, part-Kung-Fu-movie, complete with a training montage with a brutal master. The ending itself, the comeuppance of David Carradine’s Bill, comes in an unexpected way that just seems perfect afterward. It is almost as if Tarantino was questioning the need for revenge fantasies and extreme violence. He dispelled such notions before making his next film.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)
When I found out that this movie was going to be, in part, about the Manson Family, I was concerned. Tarantino’s penchant for extreme violence suggested that this was going to be something I would need to shut my eyes to watch. Sharon Tate and the other victims of the Manson Family were real people. I wasn’t sure how Tarantino was going to pull this off. But, he did. This movie is primarily about the two characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, an aging actor and his stuntman double. Tarantino deftly builds the suspense, then steals a play from his Inglourious Basterds playbook to end the movie. Pure genius.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
I think I like the first volume of Kill Bill just a little more than the second, although I’ll accept the opinion that each is incomplete without the other. This is the one that has Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo the sword-maker, and that weird bit of anime. It was our film introduction to the Bride, whose name—Beatrix—would be bleeped-out until the second movie. Uma Thurman is believably badass as the woman who rises from a four-year coma to exact her revenge upon the people who put her in it. The kitchen fight with Vivica A. Fox is a thing of choreographed beauty, as is the outrageous final battle scene, on a larger scale.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Tarantino movie that kicked off the entire run. In some ways, this film is as claustrophobic as The Hateful Eight, since the majority of the movie is in a single warehouse setting. In many ways, this one created the template followed by the rest. Talkative characters, bloody violence, and a carefully-chosen soundtrack. This one captured my attention from the beginning and wouldn’t let go. Iconic. Even down to comedian Steven Wright as the radio deejay, K-Billy.
Jackie Brown (1997)
I suspected that Tarantino and late crime novelist Elmore Leonard would make a good pair even before Jackie Brown came out. Both wrote interesting characters, great dialogue, and violent crime with panache. Tarantino based his screenplay for this movie on Leonard’s crime novel Rum Punch. This movie, which stars Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, and Robert De Niro, is not without violence. But, compared to the other movies on this list, it’s nearly a Disney movie. It plays out exactly like an Elmore Leonard novel and is damned near perfect.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
There can be only one. And this one is #1. If Jackie Brown is near-perfect, then Pulp Fiction is perfection itself. This was Tarantino’s breakout movie, the one that every other movie would be compared to. While I love the story itself—inasmuch as this movie has a story—it is the conversations between characters that I love the most. Whether it’s Vincent and Jules, or Vincent and Mia, Butch and Marcellus, or Pumpkin and Honey Bunny—when Tarantino’s characters talk, I listen. Plus, Tarantino monkeyed around with the timeline, so that John Travolta’s Vincent gets to appear again after we see him shot dead by Butch. Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames and—in a memorable flashback—Christopher Walken turn in iconic performances. So does every other actor that I failed to call out.
There’s my 10-List. Not a dud in the bunch, in my opinion. I’d watch The Hateful Eight again without hesitation. In fact, after watching Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, I sort of want to watch them all again.
If you disagree with the order in which I ranked them, let me know.