Tarantino can do no wrong. Until he can. While all of his films have been interesting to say the very least, some have been less interesting than others. Here’s a list of his best and worst films, all ranked. What are your favorite Quentin Tarantino movies?
8. Death Proof
The second film in the epic Grindhouse double feature (the first being Planet Terror by Robert Rodriquez), Death Proof is a slow grind with an amazing payoff.
Meant to be an homage to '70s slasher flicks, Tarantino went a bit too far with the dialogue in this one. It comes off as being even more annoying than it needs to be, which was sort of the point, but it's kind of lost here. I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of this flick, as Tarantino himself said it was his worst movie. Even with that amazing chase scene at the end, it still didn't make much of an impact.
7. Kill Bill
Kill Bill is, I think, a great demarcation of Tarantino’s career. Prior to this movie, Tarantino made loving homages to his favorite genre pictures, but they played like genuine cinema. Kill Bill is probably the first real Tarantino movie, in which his personal style overshadowed the story and he started making his kind of movies.
Yes, the violence set to catchy music was there before, but the striking visuals and more playful nature that was only hinted at in Pulp Fiction take full effect in Kill Bill. This is most noticeable in Vol. 1, which is more style over substance. In the end, what felt fresh upon the first viewing, felt a little stale upon its second and third viewings, and outright kitschy by the fourth and fifth. Vol. 2 is much better than Vol. 1, but as a whole it’s a very lopsided picture and one that doesn’t hold up.
6. Django Unchained
Django (or, Djangoooooo!) is a movie that should have ended a half an hour earlier than it did. Unlike Inglourious Basterds — which I’ll get to in a second — the style is consistent here. It’s an ultra-violent, silly movie throughout, with Jamie Foxx looking cool, and Christoph Waltz playing the perfect, Obi-Wan mentor character. It’s a really fun film, and Leonardo DiCaprio stands out as a cocky plantation owner, but overall, it doesn’t feel entirely complete.
It’s an issue where less would have actually been more, if that makes any sense (after the gunfight in the mansion, I think it should have ended). It’s… an okay picture. And it’s also his most successful movie. But when pitted against his superior films, it’s a little mediocre.
5. Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds is a movie that is inconsistently glorious. There are moments in this film, like the tense Christoph Waltz conversation about Jews beneath the floorboards, or the bar scene, that are probably the best work Tarantino has ever done.
But then, there are moments where people put explosives on their fists and punch with them that really take away from the grandness of it all. The climax is phenomenal, but the journey there could have used more polishing. This is what I meant by the whole Kill Bill demarcation. If this was made pre-Kill Bill, it probably would have eliminated all the silly moments.
4. Reservoir Dogs
Within the first ten minutes of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino cemented himself as a fresh new voice that would forever change cinema. But Reservoir Dogs is not just a movie of scene-stealing moments, though it certainly has those. Beneath that fantastic soundtrack and that icky ear lopping scene, there is a fully-realized, well-paced movie.
It's little wonder that it improves with repeated viewings. It’s slower than most of his later work, but it’s satisfying to the very end, even when you know who the rat is. This movie still holds up today!
3. The Hateful Eight
I know it’s a bit premature to put a film I just saw a couple of days ago so high on this list, but man, I just can’t stop thinking about The Hateful Eight. From the sparseness of the scenery to the authentic dialogue, to the gritty characters to the pacing, to the impeccable score to that ending, everything in The Hateful Eight just works for me. It really feels like a Tarantino movie that was more interested in telling a story than what he had been doing for the past few years. In other words, the old Tarantino was back.
For that reason, I put it so high up on this list. Now, I might watch it again some other time and wonder, what the hell was I thinking? (I really loved Kill Bill when it first came out, too). I might also not be as invested now that I know how the mystery unfolds, but who knows? Maybe it will hold up like Reservoir Dogs. Only time will tell.
2. Jackie Brown
A lot of people complain that Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino’s worst movie (have they not SEEN Death Proof?). But here’s the thing: they’re wrong. If Jackie Brown had come out post-Kill Bill, there’s little doubt that it would have pushed its blaxploitation to the fullest, but this was a calmer Tarantino, a more reserved one. In that way, he created a masterpiece that touched on the spirit of blaxploitation, but felt more like a crime thriller, which is what it was.
What I love the most about Jackie Brown is that it isn’t a loud movie, unlike his later films. Instead, it’s more about loud moments, which have the tendency to startle you, which is fantastic. It all unravels to a satisfying conclusion. Jackie Brown is, in every way, Tarantino's hidden masterpiece.
1. Pulp Fiction
Is Pulp Fiction the easy pick for Tarantino’s best movie? Yes. Is it the correct pick? Also, yes. Unfortunately for Tarantino, he will never make a movie better than Pulp Fiction — and it was only his second film! There are just too many moments that have infiltrated pop culture and have shaped the medium as a whole, that none of his later films can touch. It’s the movie that made him a household name.
But it’s not just the relevance that sells it. It’s the whirling story in itself which pulls a great deal from the classic Japanese film Rashomon, what with its various intertwining stories. Each chapter is captivating to the very end, and it’s most certainly his most audacious and awe-inspiring movie. For that reason, it will always be his best.