The Tarantino List: Ranking Of The Director’s Greatest Films
If you know Tarantino. You know he often takes the concept of what makes a good movie (or even a movie in general) and turns it on its head. Well, we’re going to try ranking Tarantino films.
Overwhelmingly, his films are cinematic masterpieces. They’re well-crafted works of art that grip the viewer for hours and leave them wanting more. Some of them may be more rambling but still compelling pieces of cinema.
But, whatever your opinions, there’s no doubt that Tarantino can bring it when it comes to making movies. Whether as a screenwriter, director, or producer.
So what better way to honour them than with a subjective, but still fact-based approach to ranking all 16 of Tarantino’s films?
You may not agree with everything I put here in my rankings. I imagine my #1 choice might be rather controversial. But, I hope you at least understand my method. Especially as someone who studied film extensively in college (and almost ended up going to film school). And what’s better than a little spirited debate?
So, without further ado, here’s our ranking of Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
16. Four Rooms
More of a short piece of a puzzle than anything else. But it still shows the same Tarantino flair that many of his other, more classic movies. Longer dialogue, fun conversations that suddenly turn randomly violent and hostile (“Who drank out of this bottle last?”). Plus, long tracking shots that follow characters and conversations. There’s plenty of cursing that seems gratuitous but somehow also works perfectly in the flow of dialogue.
It all screams “Tarantino” but doesn’t scream it long enough. It would rank higher but, unfortunately, there’s not enough to go on here to warrant a higher ranking.
15. Sin City
Sin City is a good movie, maybe even an excellent movie, but is it really…a Tarantino movie?
It certainly has a similar feel to some of his movies. Even though Tarantino’s scene (Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro talking in the car) is quite short. It’s enveloped within the darker, Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez-style universe. His scene stands out for being very Tarantino-esque and fitting in remarkably well within the context of the movie.
You have the ultra-violence (Del Toro’s character’s head is impaled AND his throat is slit!). The back-and-forth, pseudo-philosophical dialogue between two characters. Specifically, two characters sitting and talking in a car. Have you ever noticed how often crazy stuff goes down in cars in Tarantino movies?.
If this were to be extrapolated into a full-length movie in this style, it might rank higher on the list. But then again, if it were a full-length movie it might just be Pulp Fiction with darker lighting. Not that that’s a bad thing but still.
14 & 13. Death Proof (Grindhouse)
Hey, speaking of crazy stuff that goes down in cars…!
These two are kind of/sort of considered different movies. Depending on where you are, but for the most part, they get grouped since they are thematically similar.
But…what are the themes? Yes, there is a lot of examination of female empowerment. Still, it’s grouped with the grindhouse/slasher aesthetic. Where Stuntman Mike does all kind of nastiness to the ladies up front before finally getting his comeuppance in the end.
So while this movie may be fun and a homage to schlock-cinema of the past. Its themes veer off the road (pun intended), and we are left with a confusing sense of incompletion.
Do we just enjoy the gore part early on and revel in carnage? Or do we take it seriously as a pseudo-arthouse flick that examines the role of women in society? Perhaps at least, the ability of women to fight back against violence and oppression? Or are we even supposed to be taking this movie that seriously to begin with, and instead are we just going to enjoy it for the crazy slash fest that it is?
Until those points are settled, it’s hard to rank Death Proof higher than this. Not that it’s bad, but that we don’t know where to go with it.
12. Natural Born Killers
Here’s a hot take: Natural Born Killers is perhaps the most significant missed opportunity in the last thirty years of cinema.
Had Tarantino himself been allowed to direct his script, this could have been one of the most influential, thought-provoking pieces of cinema ever to gain a wide release.
It is, at its heart, a critical analysis/satire and commentary on so many issues that societies of today still struggle with. How the ills of society can affect two (originally) innocent people. Then turn them into heartless murderers and criminals (see: Breaking Bad).
How the voyeuristic nature of society – American or otherwise – has come to fetishise mass violence. How it turns the perpetrator of brutal crimes into celebrities who are worshipped and even copycatted. Just look at all the school shootings of recent years, countless serial killers, even Hunger Games to some degree.
How even the people that have sworn to protect the innocent, are often guilty themselves. Like Detective Scagnetti, who pursues murderers while also being one.
It could have been The Boondock Saints before The Boondock Saints was a thing, except much better written and with a stronger message. But it’s not.
There was a tightrope that needed to be walked by whoever directed this script. Teetering between the nihilistic message and satirical commentary. Then the outright brutal violence that’s layered over the top.
The director chosen to walk this line was Oliver Stone, a man who is known for his ability to be careful and subtle about…nothing.
Instead of being the brilliant satire that it could have been, Natural Born Killers instead lives on as a brutal gorefest much like Death Proof.
Still, instead of shining a light on society’s ills it instead spawned a whole wave of copycat violence and helped usher in an era. Where violence is glorified and people will do anything. No matter how vile, to get attention. Which, if you think of it, pretty much entirely misses the freaking point of the movie.
What could have been eh?
11. The Hateful Eight
This might seem like a low ranking for a movie that grossed over $150 million worldwide. It featured a great ensemble cast, and finally earned Ennio Morricone an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Morricone only winning one Oscar during his massively influential career is a crime if you ask me.
But the thing about The Hateful Eight is that it’s… okay? Like it’s certainly not bad. But…you put Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern (that’s 5 Oscar nominations among them, just to name a few actors).
Plus a slew of other Tarantino Repertory Theatre favourites in there and…it’s fine? You take all those great actors, and you have them spend most of the time in a cabin killing each other?
And in the end, the critical consensus (and certain viewer opinions) are that, “Yeah, that was OK. But maybe it was a bit too slow and long and a bit too over the top for my taste.”
The biggest issue with The Hateful Eight is, really, that by this point in his career, Tarantino was starting to go through the motions a bit. He’d rely on all of his old tips and tricks, rather than do anything new and daring as he did in the past. Or at least get weird and original like he was at this best (he would get that mojo back in subsequent years, though…stay tuned).
The Hateful Eight was one of the movies where people started questions whether Tarantino had “it” anymore. Or if he was become less director and more Radio DJ, playing his Number One Hits over and over and hoping people didn’t notice.
It’s not a bad movie by any measure, it’s just…not his best work.
10. From Dusk Till Dawn
It might raise an eyebrow to rank From Dusk Till Dawn this high. Still, the reason I slotted it right above The Hateful Eight is that, while it might not have been as technically sound as some of Tarantino’s better screenplays. It was certainly an original concept and got everyone’s attention.
While The Hateful Eight was “fine, but not too fun,” FDTD is really fun and original, which made up for some of its technical flaws.
Even though Tarantino himself did not direct the movie, that went to his frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez. It certainly smacks of Tarantino at his early peak. Everyone knew he could get weird, but it wasn’t until FDTD that people started to realise just how weird he could get.
All of the Tarantino trademarks are there. The winding, seemingly boring conversations that somehow end with people getting suddenly and brutally murdered. Plus, a fun and different acting turn from George Clooney.
There’s a clever twist that seemed to come out of nowhere if you weren’t paying attention along the way. Watch the scene where Clooney’s character confronts Tarantino’s about killing the hostage. Tell me you don’t see the demonic twists coming…it’s all there.
Even after the technical mastery of his early work. It was here where Tarantino started to show what he could do to keep your attention and have a blast doing it.
Really, that’s why this movie is ranked as high as it is: it’s just fun. It’s not perfect, it’s weird as anything, but it’s fun and you enjoy the ride. And isn’t that what Tarantino – or any filmmaker – wants?
9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The most recent addition into the Tarantino canon. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood relies on Tarantino’s more recent love for changing history to better suit his narrative. While also proving that he had gotten his mojo back after seemingly losing some interest in movies like The Hateful Eight.
It’s hard to place this movie in the rankings of Tarantino’s work because it is so new. So it is hard to determine how well it will hold up over time. But critical acclaim accrued upon its arrival. Especially since it was a quality effort from the beloved Tarantino, and his first movie in almost four years. Plus, its elegant homages to old Hollywood and, among other things, a haunting meditation on getting older. And not being quite the man you used to be, makes this movie impossible to drop below #9 on the rankings.
While Brad Pitt finally earned his elusive Oscar for this movie. It’s possible to argue that DiCaprio was equally deserving of an Oscar for his portrayal of Rick Dalton. The former superstar who just can’t quite come to grips with not being number one anymore. Whether he deserved it more than Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of The Joker is…a matter for another article.
Instead, Pitt – who, interestingly, also embodies the star who doesn’t shine as brightly as he used to – got his win. We got another great Tarantino movie, and history gets rewritten so that Sharon Tate doesn’t die and everyone goes home happy.
8. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 7. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
It’s hard to separate these two movies, and they come so close to each other in terms of rankings that I’m going to talk about both of them at the same time.
Both movies are a return to original form for Tarantino. Plus, kind of mirroring Once Upon a Time, they signalled a return to theatres for the director after a multi-year break.
Both are a fun and bloody romp featuring a strong female lead (not always Tarantino’s strong suit) in which she exacts revenge on those who wronged her. Volume 2 is a little more talk-heavy and plot-oriented, and explains The Bride’s backstory and motivations.
While Volume 1 is more action-based and more of a thrill ride. It fits into Tarantino’s more trademarked “Let’s throw all these genres of film together and blend them and make it amazing!” style that we’ve come to know and love.
Volume 1 ranks higher than Volume 2. While Volume 2 is better at explaining the backstory and showing the Bride’s, progression:
1) we’d already seen the action piece in the first movie, so going backward kind of slowed the whole thing down, and
2) my goodness was that ending a letdown. Yes, the Five-Point Exploding Heart Technique was deadly. A homage to old martial arts movies of yesteryear. And was expertly foreshadowed a la Chekhov’s Gun but we expected a bigger pop.
I mean, the entire plot of both movies, over four hours of cinema, ended with a guy getting poked in the chest. Then having a nice little conversation, and then walking away and dying? Not with a bang, but with a whimper indeed.
That, combined with the thrill ride that was Volume 1 (and the fact that, hey, Tarantino was back!) makes Volume 1 the winner in this showdown.
Honestly, I thought about dropping Volume 2 to #9, but Volume 2 has stood the test of time in a way that Once Upon a Time hasn’t had the chance to quite yet.
6. Jackie Brown
I kept going back and forth with this one as far as where to put it. But ultimately I settled with #6 on the list because it’s one of the best written and acted entries in the Tarantino canon. But it doesn’t quite match the same level of excitement and adrenaline high that the movies ranked higher do.
Yes, it paid homage to movies and genres of the past. Specifically the blaxploitation genre, and in so doing, reinvigorated Pam Grier’s career and kept fanning the flames on the career of Samuel L. Jackson. One could argue that Tarantino is almost responsible for Jackson becoming the megastar he did.
It was slower and more deliberately paced than most of his other movies, being that it was more a character-driven love story (!!) than most of his other films. And it was well-received critically, so much so that it could be argued this movie should be ranked higher.
But here’s the thing about Jackie Brown and why it’s at #6 on this list. This might spark some controversy. When you think about Quentin Tarantino movies, and if I were to ask you to name your top three Tarantino films, I bet you’re not thinking Jackie Brown. It’s a great film that is well-written and well-acted…but when you think “Tarantino,” I bet your mind is going somewhere else.
It’s a great movie but it doesn’t stand out among his work, and that has to count for something.
5. True Romance
One of Tarantino’s earliest efforts and again, not one that he directed, that honour went to Tony Scott.
True Romance gets the slight nod over Jackie Brown. It is a similarly well-acted, well-written story that combines quality with just a little more oomph than Jackie Brown.
It’s essentially the script that, after Reservoir Dogs, put Tarantino on the map as one of the next great filmmakers. An honour he more than earned in the years that followed.
It also established that “Tarantino style”. Where goofy things happen, violence happens, you laugh more than you expect but there’s also a more significant theme that makes you think.
While True Romance did not achieve the same kind of financial success as Tarantino’s other movies on this list. It’s hard to imagine that at that time someone of Quentin Tarantino’s reputation would be a super-bankable name.
Don’t forget, Reservoir Dogs which is still to come on this list is the least financially successful movie that Tarantino made. Yet it is one of the mostly fondly remembered and copied films among critics and filmmakers over the last 30 years.
True Romance may not have been that monetarily successful compared to other films, but it laid the groundwork for what was to come later on. And when you look to the genesis of one of the great directors of our time, you have to look at where he started in order to give credit for where he ended up.
4. Django Unchained
When a movie earns widespread critical acclaim. Then earns more money than any other movie you’ve ever made. Then wins two of the four Academy Awards you’ve even won for you movies, that movie needs to be up high on the list.
That is why, despite the film being almost three hours long – and there’s plenty that could be cut to trim it down. And it’s a little more uneven than some of Tarantino’s other works. Not to mention the disconcerting number of times that the N-word is used by white characters. There’s no way Django Unchained can fall lower than #4 on this list.
Here we have Tarantino hitting all of his high notes. Great acting, including yet another scenery-chewing star turn by Leonardo DiCaprio. Somewhat gratuitous yet incredibly fun amount of gory violence. Historical revisionism at its best (well, maybe save for one movie…we’ll get there). And a strong message about the ridiculousness of white supremacy (best illustrated by the darkly hilarious “bag scene”). And the heinous nature of slavery.
It’s all there, it’s all fun, and it made money. Plus it is still the most Oscar honoured movie in Tarantino’s canon. Which is a little crazy to think about…only four Oscars won by one of our greatest living directors?
3. Reservoir Dogs
The OG. Reservoir Dogs put Tarantino on the map. Tarantino showed us that a brilliant artist was on the rise. Someone who was going to take everything we knew about filmmaking and shake it up, make it better, and guide us in a weird, fun, violent new direction.
In other words, with Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino showed us that he, indeed, was not just going to bark all day; he was going to bite.
From the first scene, we got a preview of the insane, hilarious, pseudo-philosophical discussions that Tarantino would be serving up for years to come (plus, does this guy like criminals hanging out in diners or what?).
It established the Tarantino Repertory Theatre of actors that would keep coming back time and time again for his movies. Think Keitel, Roth, Madsen, Buscemi, plus appearances by Tarantino himself.
It established that sometimes really bad things happen when you’re riding in a car and not prepared (you might get shot!). And that maybe you can’t trust everyone you work with on a job with other criminals.
Of course, the movie had its unsteady moments. And you can tell this was a Director feeling his way around, but the writing was already top-notch, and the twists and turns were there for everyone to see.
This was the movie that started the genesis of Tarantino, and there was no turning back after that.
2. Pulp Fiction
I’m sure that some of you are sitting there right now, seeing Pulp Fiction at #2 on the list of greatest Tarantino movies, and are feeling stunned. Or angry, maybe even as angry as Jules was when he confronted Brett and his associates. But hear me out.
First, there is no doubt that Pulp Fiction is one of the greatest movies of all time. The opening is Tarantino at his best. Foolish buddy talk, some exposition, some more buddy talk, then threats screamed at a high level followed by sudden and gruesome violence.
Then it’s on to the date scene, complete with flirting and dancing and then a horrifying overdose. On and on we go.
The film is immensely quotable. It’s brilliantly acted, it tells a good story (really, a series of stories). Tt features one of the all-time greatest MacGuffins (the briefcase), you name it.
The brilliance of the story was rewarded when it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. And really, one could argue it deserved to win Best Picture over Forrest Gump, but perhaps Hollywood did not see Tarantino as ready yet.
So why does Pulp Fiction not take the #1 spot on this list?
It’s a couple of things, and it was close. The first is that, while the non-linear narrative of the story is well-done and interesting and original…it can be argued that, maybe, it’s not entirely necessary (ducks and hides from angry fans).
I mean, does it really add anything to the story? It doesn’t really take away anything from the movie, but it can be argued that this particular flourish was done for the sake of doing it.
The other reason it’s #2 on this list? Because when I look at the movie that ended up at #1, I just feel like the other movie has no holes.
It hasn’t necessarily been around as long as Pulp Fiction, but in the end I think it’s just…a little more complete.
So you should’ve figured out our number one by now…
1. Inglorious Basterds
There are many reasons why Inglourious Basterds is the greatest Quentin Tarantino movie of all time.
First, even besides the brilliant script. And the kind of dialogue and speaking parts that we’ve become accustomed to and learned to love. Inglorious Basterds is probably Tarantino’s funniest movie in spots. Which considering the subject matter is unexpected.
All the scenes involving Brad Pitt are hilarious, but yet all carry a real sense of danger. In a way, Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine is Tarantino’s greatest hero character. Even though he is still very much an anti-hero. Yes, most people would agree that killing Nazis would have been beneficial to history, but the fact is he was still a murderer.
But he was a relatable antihero. He and his band of Basterds were ones we could laugh at and laugh with. And ultimately – in Tarantino’s greatest act of historical revisionism. Root for when they assisted with the murdering of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi brethren.
Even with all that said, it’s a good chance we might still think of Inglourious Basterds as one of Tarantino’s greatest movies. If maybe not greater than Pulp Fiction. But Basterds takes the top spot for one major reason:
Showcasing Christoph Waltz
If Hans Landa isn’t in a class by himself as the greatest movie villain of all time, then I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to call roll for that class. Maybe Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter matches it?
If so, that’s the only one I can think of that can go toe-to-toe with the character of Hans Landa. Landa is, without a doubt, one of the trickiest characters to accurately portray. Especially in a way that makes him seem like an actual human being and not like an over-the-top cartoon villain, but Waltz pulled it off.
He made Landa into a threatening, charming, funny, educated, sadistic villain who could hit any note at any time. Sometimes in succession. Think of the scene at the beginning where he interrogates the farmer and ends up killing the family in hiding. Wow, that is one of the most excellent, most tense and well-acted scenes in any movie (Tarantino or otherwise).
It could be argued that it’s not even the best scene featuring Landa in the movie. See also: the scene where he eats dinner with Shoshanna, one of the most legitimately terrifying clips I’ve ever seen.
Needless to say, Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for his portrayal of Landa (and won a second Oscar for supporting role n Django).
It was a close competition. But since Inglourious Basterds features one of the single greatest villains in movie history, it edges out Pulp Fiction for #1 on this list.
There you have it, a comprehensive ranking of Quentin Tarantino’s greatest films. We hope that you enjoyed this list, we hope it made you think, re-evaluate your opinions, and hopefully not get too angry.
Do you have a different opinion on these rankings? Do you agree or disagree with our list or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out more of our movie lists HERE.
Read IMDB information about Inglorious Basterds HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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