With Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood released in cinemas last month, I decided to rank his entire filmography. In the months leading up to its release, I’ve been re-watching the movies from him I haven’t seen more than once to make sure about how I felt about them, and for the most part I appreciated them a lot more after the more recent viewings.
Tarantino’s filmography in general has been absolutely fantastic, and I must emphasise this before I get into my ranking, as some movies may be placed differently compared to most other people. I consider all but one of his movies great. So I’ll just start with that previously mentioned one movie that doesn’t really work that well for me.
10. Death Proof
Death Proof sticks out like a sore thumb amongst Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. While I’m fully aware of the fact that Death Proof is supposed to be a tribute to exploitation movies, it doesn’t succeed in that fully. It tries to be dialogue driven, and that just doesn’t really work with the exploitation genre. Even if it is possible for it to work, the dialogue here while not bad, is on such a lower level compared to his other movies, and isn’t enough to make you genuinely interested in the characters or what is going on. So, when it is following these two groups of characters as they are talking about random things (like Tarantino does), you might be mildly interested but it really just feels like a grind for the most part.
That’s not to say that the movie is without merit. Kurt Russell is great as the serial killer Stuntman Mike, and the rest of the cast are honestly decent for the most part, even though they really didn’t have much to work with. Also, a lot of the aesthetics seen in exploitation movies are captured very well here, from the sleazy side to the freeze frames and the scratchy visual effects. The scenes involving cars, whether that be the murders in the first half, and the chase scenes in the second half are generally thrilling too. Watching it again more recently, I definitely disliked it less than when I saw it, but I still take a lot of issues with it. Placing it at the bottom of this wasn’t exactly a difficult decision to make.
9. Kill Bill Vol. 1
I know some people would put both parts of Kill Bill as one movie, and Tarantino himself has called them one movie, but the tones and approaches to the story are so different that it can easily be split into two parts, and they are released years apart, so I will treat them as separate movies. I know that it must be pretty outrageous to some putting Kill Bill (any of the parts) close to the bottom of the list. However, I do think it’s really good, and I think I’ll like it even more the more I watch it.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is one of the most stylistic movies ever made, and I love a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s style and direction throughout. This is the more Eastern style revenge movie, with some really over the top elements, but Tarantino’s blend of different styles and genres work so well together to culminate in a really entertaining movie. I mean he even inserted an anime segment for a character in a lengthy backstory and it actually worked seamlessly with the rest of the movie. The over the top gory action and violence is still memorable, with it remaining Tarantino’s bloodiest movie (which is saying a lot). The cast all work well, with Uma Thurman cementing herself as an icon here as The Bride. With all that said, I’d be lying if I said that it was hard placing this movie towards the lower end of the list. When I think back to the movie, I tend to remember how stylish, bloody and entertaining it is, but that’s it. The dialogue I guess is reasonably good but none of it stuck with me like his other movies. The story itself was pretty simple and didn’t have a lot to it (and you can probably already guess why I prefer the second volume over the first), even though it does its job fine enough and easily gets you on board with Thurman’s character. I’m not complaining that there’s not much ‘substance’, I don’t have a problem with movies having ‘style over substance’ (whatever that even means at this point), but I just personally got a lot more out of his other movies outside of the entertainment. Although I may not quite love Kill Bill Vol. 1 as much as other people, it nonetheless remains and iconic classic and definitely deserves all the acclaim.
8. Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown is often widely known as one of Tarantino’s weaker movies, I myself thought it was just alright when I first saw it but not on the level of most of his other movies. As you can tell by my placement of it on my list, it’s not one of my favourites, but I definitely liked it a lot more when I saw it again.
Jackie Brown is a slow burn for sure, but it’s also Tarantino at his most restrained (along with his latest movie). He really takes his time with the plot progression and although it takes a while to get use to the pacing, it’s very rewarding to stick through it all the way to the end. The cast were good, with some of the characters among the best written from Tarantino, with the highlights being Pam Grier, Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson. Although I don’t think it’s one of his best movies, it’s still great, and I get the feeling that I’ll appreciate it more and more I watch it.
7. Kill Bill Vol. 2
Kill Bill Vol 1 used to be my favourite of the 2 parts, with Vol. 2 feeling rather weak in comparison to me. It felt more drawn out, less flashy, and I was even a little bored at certain points. However looking at it again more recently, Vol. 2 really stuck with me more, especially with it being a lot more story driven.
Whereas the first volume was more of an Eastern style revenge, Volume 2 is a Western style revenge, though that’s not necessarily why I prefer it more. As I said, it’s a much more story driven movie, and it really takes its time with its pacing. Save for a few moments, a lot of the more over the top and outrageous parts from the first volume has been significantly toned down here. It gave me a little more to care about what is going on outside of the obvious revenge aspect. The acting also stood out more in this movie. Uma Thurman was already great in the first volume, but she’s even better in Volume 2. And in his small screentime, David Carradine as the titular character of Bill remains one of the highlights of the movie. Volume 2 does have its issues, like the odd random monologue which comes out of nowhere and just feels unneeded. Also I should mention that generally the Kill Bill movies just don’t really stick with me, as I know for many other people they’re much higher on other peoples’ lists. But if I had to pick a favourite of the two parts, I’d definitely take the second over the first.
6. Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino made one of the best directorial debuts ever with Reservoir Dogs. It’s a real standout in the crime heist genre, showing only the aftermath of the heist. While Tarantino was still finding and discovering his style at this point in time, he already showed some impressive talent here and would only build upon it later on.
Reservoir Dogs demonstrated Quentin Tarantino’s abilities early on, mostly with his real standout writing, with some clever and surprising twists, fantastic (and occasionally meandering) dialogue, and unconventional ways of telling the story. Even when Reservoir Dogs is significantly lower budget, and Tarantino’s direction seems pretty standard compared to all his movies that would follow it, today it still holds up at being very effective. The small but talented cast did a very good job, with Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen particularly standing out. I’m not sure where people generally place Reservoir Dogs amongst his filmography, but I still think for the most part it still holds up reasonably well today.
5. Pulp Fiction
The placing of this film on the list is maybe a little different than most would expect from lists ranking Tarantino’s movies. Pulp Fiction is often labelled as his masterpiece, it’s the film that launched Tarantino onto the map as a director to really watch, and as inspired so many future filmmakers. Make no mistake, it’s an excellent movie, and absolutely deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving ever since its release.
Reservoir Dogs was Quentin finding his style and tone, and with Pulp Fiction, he fully defined it for audiences everywhere. Tarantino’s script was fantastic, doing a great job at making 3 interconnecting stories all worked together seamlessly. It’s generally an entertaining movie, with some great dialogue, and very memorable characters and scenes. The cast also were great, with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman being the highlights, giving some of the best performances of their careers. At this point, you might be wondering why this movie is lower on the list. The movie doesn’t exactly have many problems, but I personally found the Bruce Willis storyline to be a little weaker in comparison to the other two, and it even managed to drag at certain points. Outside of that, I personally just think the next movies on this list just stuck with me a lot more. Nonetheless it’s a classic for a very good reason.
4. Django Unchained
For a while, Django Unchained was my favourite of Tarantino’s movies ever since I first saw it, I actually think it was the first movie I saw from him. It’s over the top, brutal, stylistic, and entertaining from beginning to end, and I had a blast with it.
Tarantino has infused western elements in a number of his movies, but this is his first attempt at making a full on western, and you can tell he absolutely loved doing that with every second of Django Unchained. Jamie Foxx is really good but Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are fantastic here. Django Unchained is a standout among the western genre in recent years, and Tarantino brought to the table some of his best aspects, from the snappy dialogue, the fantastic writing, and the deliberately larger than life and stylish direction. Granted it’s been a little while since I’ve seen it last, but from the past few times I saw it, I loved it.
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s most recent release is also one of his best. His love letter to Hollywood is also his most laid back, optimistic, impressive considering most of his other movies (and especially considering the film he made just beforehand). It may not work for everyone especially how different it is compared to much of his other movies, but I consider it to be amongst his best work.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is quite a long movie at almost 3 hours long and meanders for much of its runtime, but it’s one of the rare cases where I actually loved it despite much of its plotless narrative. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt gave some of the best performances of their career, and there are some good performances from the rest of the cast as well. Tarantino and Margot Robbie also successfully tributed Sharon Tate in a respectful way, showing audiences who Tate is (more than a tragic victim of the Manson murders). The third act is also fantastic and is amongst Tarantino’s best final acts in his filmography. It’s not quite my favourite of his movies however, even though I really do love it. I guess the first act was a little slower, even though the movie really picked up after the second act started. Also I feel like the rest of the cast outside of DiCaprio and Pitt didn’t really get to shine as much, I particularly would’ve liked to seen more of Margot as Sharon, the latter will no doubt be fixed with the longer cut that Tarantino has planned to release. With that said, I get the feeling I’ll like the movie the more I watch it, I already love it and it’s getting better the more I think about it.
These next two movies are interchangeable, I’m still trying to figure out which I like more.
2. Inglourious Basterds
In most lists ranking Tarantino’s movies, Inglourious Basterds is ranked in at least the top 3 of his best movies and for very good reason. Absolutely everything in this movie works at such a high level, from the writing, direction, acting, there’s really no weak spot that this film has that I could really pinpoint.
Inglourious Basterds is probably Tarantino’s most complete movie. From the beginning with the excellent opening with Christoph Waltz, to the fiery and chaotic climax, Inglourious Basterds doesn’t make a single misstep. With his writing, Tarantino has crafted some great characters and dialogue, as well as countless incredibly memorable scenes. The cast all worked very well in their roles, with Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent being the highlights. Entertaining and all round fantastic, Inglourious Basterds really does get better every time you watch it and is one of my all-time favourite movies.
1. The Hateful Eight
Bit of an unconventional pick for Quentin Tarantino’s best perhaps. While The Hateful Eight is generally well received, responses have been split a little. Some loved it, others found it to be disappointing and one of Tarantino’s weakest movies. I really liked The Hateful Eight when I first saw it, however I only loved it when I watched it again in prep for his latest film. I can’t exactly explain why this movie worked so well for me particularly, but there’s something about it that I love over his other movies.
The Hateful Eight nearly 3 hours long (and even longer if you watched the extended cut) but from beginning to end it is completely riveting, even before people start being killed off. It’s a slow burn with the first half, but with the characters and the incredible dialogue, I was on board with it all the way. This is by far Tarantino’s bleakest movie from beginning to end, with his most despicable lineup of characters, and an uncomfortable vibe between many of the characters throughout. Strangely enough though, it still managed to be darkly funny at times, and I just had a really good time watching it. The ensemble cast all around were fantastic, with Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins being the standouts. It may be interesting watching it as your first viewing as detectives trying to figure out what’s going on, but it’s even better rewatching it knowing exactly what’s going on. The Hateful Eight is I guess on the side of the more divisive of his filmography, but I consider it among his best, if not his all-time best.
What is your ranking of Quentin Tarantino’s movies?
EDIT: Upon further thoughts and a rewatch, I’d now move Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to the number 9 position of the ranking, ahead of Death Proof and behind Kill Bill Vol. 1.