10. Death Proof (2007)
There is a good deal of debate on whether or not Death Proof even officially qualifies as a Tarantino film considering it was part of 2007’s Grindhouse. A homage to the pulpy B-movie double features that dominated drive-ins in the 60s and 70s, Grindhouse is made up of Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof. Regardless of if we consider Death Proof one of Tarantino’s feature films or not it still ranks at the bottom of the list. It’s definitely underrated, fun, and full of clear adoration for the car movies of the 70s anchored by a pretty fun performance from Kurt Russell. It’s also marred by pacing issues and just all around pales to the rest of Tarantino’s filmography.
9. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Kill Bill Vol. 2 suffers from something that is beyond it’s control, which is that originally Kill Bill was supposed to be one complete film as opposed two. As a complete work it’s fantastic, even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing. We even got a peak into this when Tarantino released Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair back in 2011. Yes it’s 4 hours long and it probably needed to be cut into two movies if for no other reason that just mass market appeal, but keeping it as one complete vision keeps a lot of the momentum going in away that breaking it into two films just flat out doesn’t.
8. Jackie Brown (1997)
By far the most mature and un-Trantinoy of all of his films. But that is also whats so engrossing about it too. Coming off of Pulp Fiction in 1994, Tarantino could have done pretty much whatever he wanted. What he gave us was a fantastic homage to the blaxploitation films of the 1970s starring a sensational Pam Greer, the always terrific Robert Forester, an electrifying Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert DeNiro playing a stoner. It’s a ton of fun and a great left turn by Tarantino, but it’s also by far the least-Tarantino movie on this.
7. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is leaps and bounds better than the second film, but again, this was meant to be one complete film and the sum is better than the individual pieces. Uma Thurman is so much fun to watch and theres a lot to love about this movie. It’s extremely rewatchable, the Crazy 88s scene is one of the coolest things Tarantino has ever put on film, it’s way over the top in the best ways possible and his love of the genre is widely apparent throughout the entire movie. It’s a really great and really fun film, even if it’s not the original vision he had for the film.
6. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Inglorious Basterds gave us couple of things that in and of themselves alone would justify ranking this movie a lot higher than 6 on this list. The first is arguably the single greatest opening scene in film history. That’s not me speaking in hyperbole. The opening scene at the LaPadite farm is cruel, terrifying, engrossing, flawless and you’d be hard pressed to show me another opening that comes to close to eliciting the emotion and investment that this one does. If you haven’t seen it already, you absolutely need to watch it. The second, are the performances across the board. Christoph Waltz’s turn as Col. Hans Landa, it’s arguably the greatest performance of the decade and the role rightfully earned him his first career Oscar. Waltz is petrifying as Has Landa. Brad Pitt clearly has the time of his life playing Lt. Aldo Raine, Mélanie Laurent is terrific as Shosanna, and even B.J. Novak, Michael Fassbender, and Eli Roth are all super fun in supporting roles. This is also far and away the Tarantino movie that has grown on me the most, rising from probably my least favorite Tarantino movie to now being among my absolute favorites.
5. Django Unchaied (2012)
Throughout his career Tarantino has generally spared no expense to make his audience as uncomfortable as possible. In 2012 he took that to another level in Django Unchained. Ultimately Tarantino crafted the perfect marriage between the blaxploitation films of the 1970s and the Peckinpah era Westerns that he so clearly adores. Jamie Foxx is amazing and Christoph Waltz follows up the best performance of his career in Inglorious Basterds with the second best performance of his career here in Django Unchained. But it’s ultimately DiCpario and Samuel L. Jackson who steal the show as the completely unhinged villains Calvin Candie and Stephen. Tarantino picked up his second Best Original Screenplay award here and it was more than well deserved.
4. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Tarantino’s use of the wide angled 70mm camera in a film that is largely set in a single room was an absolutely masterful and claustrophobic technique. It’s also what makes Hateful Eight easily his most divisive film (seriously ask 10 people what they think of this movie and 5 will probably tell you that this is boring and the worst thing Tarantino ever made, the other 5, like me, will tell you this is an unabashed masterpiece). Well that, the 2 hour 45 minute + run time. The Hateful Eight is slow, methodical, and meticulous but about halfway through when the film changes it’s tone it stops on a dime and really turns. It’s a slow burn in a way that very few movies are anymore and it’s a fascinating turn from one of Hollywood’s most fascinating writers and directors. It’s tense, unsettling, and has one hell of a Jennifer Jason-Leigh performance. Plus bonus points for the score here which features Ennio Morricone’s triumphant return to scoring westerns.
3. Reservior Dogs (1992)
A heist movie where you never see the actual heist that drives the plot is a risky move, especially for a director’s debut film. It’s also what makes Reservoir Dogs an undisputed classic and one of the great heist films of all time. This is the movie that launched Tarantino’s career and still stands among the greatest heist films ever made, and shockingly still holds up almost 30 years later. The performances he gets from his cast including Harvey Keitel carry the movie off the back of his fantastic script. This is like the perfect punk rock record it’s tight but completely raw in the best way possible.
2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Above all else Quentin Tarantino loves the movies. This comes across loud and clear in every film that he’s ever made, but never more apparent than here in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Everything in this film is executed to perfection. The labor of love that is the production design that recreated 1960s Hollywood to painstaking detail is incredible, the performances from DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are out of this world and it’s just overall fun as hell. I’ve written pretty extensively about this movie recently and would even go so far as to say that this is probably my favorite movie of the past decade. This is shockingly the most restrained Tarantino has ever been, feeling simultaneously as un-Tarantinoy as a film like Jackie Brown, but at the same time still being 100% true to the brand of filmmaking that he’s been known for. There’s a scene right near the climax of the film where a voice comes onto a TV and tells the audience that this is it, what they’ve been waiting for. At this stage of his career Tarantino’s smart enough to know what brings people into the door for his films. It’s the bloody catharsis, witty dialogue, and passion that made him famous. But at this stage of his career he’s also mature enough now to trust himself and know what serves the film and his characthters the best. It’s a brilliant sign of growth and maturation from one of Hollywood’s greatest auteurs. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is Tarantino at the height of his creative prowess and at his most engaged, and the audience is lucky enough to reap the benefits.
1.Pulp Fiction (1994)
This is it. The film that solidified Tarantino’s place in the pantheon of great film directors. A 2 and a half hour epic told of out sequence and filled to the brim with incredible performances, iconic quotes, and some of the most fascinating cast of characters ever put on screen. This is his magnum opus and it’s the film that made Tarantino a cultural icon and pop culture touchstone for generations to come. In this movie alone he resurrected the career of John Travolta, helped solidify Samuel L. Jackson as one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, changed the way people can structure films, crafted several of the most famous scenes in most recent movie history, and gave us one of the most iconic speeches in the history of cinema. He took everything he learned from Reservior Dogs and poured it into a 100% unfiltered and uncut masterpiece where he lets his imagination and excess run wild. This is where the Tarantino brand of film, truly became a genre unto itself. On a personal level, this just might be my favorite movie ever made, and certainly the one I’ve rewatched the most.