Quentin Tarantino has a stellar body of work. How do his movies rank?
There are certain questions that float around among those who are passionate about film. What’s your favorite film? Who’s your favorite actor and actress? But there’s one that’s probably even more common than those: Who’s your favorite filmmaker? To me, this is a great question. It will give a lot of insight into what types of films you enjoy and what qualities you treasure in them.
There are certain ones that almost everyone is familiar with: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, are just some filmmakers known for their stellar body of work. Well, if anyone deserves to have their name along with those men, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is one of the most talented filmmakers Hollywood has ever encountered. Think it’s an accident every single one of his films have been meet with rave reviews and major award attention? Now I will say that I don’t necessarily blame someone for not being a huge fan of his style given how rough it can be, but even if they don’t care for his style, they still gotta admit: he can tell one hell of a story.
Someone that’s new to Tarantino might not know what to expect or what his style is like. Well, they aren’t what you typically see in mainstream films. He has a unique style that has never failed him. I truthfully didn’t think I would enjoy it because I’d heard it was grotesquely violent, but then I actually gave him a chance. The first Tarantino film I saw was Kill Bill Vol. 1: a high octane, violent first chapter in a tale of a woman’s revenge. That was a pretty good introduction to his style, and a really fun film to watch! After that, I saw the sequel, Vol. 2, then came the other classics he’s made. So how do I feel about all of them and the order they come in? Let’s find out…..
1. I struggled with the decision of which Tarantino film to put at number one. I went back and forth, debating between two of his films that I love with a passion, two of the best experiences I’ve ever had with film in general. But after some consideration, I settled on Inglorious Basterds as my number one Quentin Tarantino film. This is a film that truly mesmerized me and had my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. I can honestly say that there wasn’t a single scene where I was bored or uninterested. And that is really saying something, considering the runtime is right at two and half hours. If you’ve kept me hooked for an elongated period of time, then you must be doing something very right. The first thing that must be discussed when it comes to this film is the opening scene, the scene that sets up everything. This is one of the best openings, if not the best, that I’ve ever seen. Christoph Waltz owns this scene completely with his incredible portrayal of an SS officer visiting a French home that is thought to be hiding Jews. After seeing that scene alone, I got that familiar feeling I get when I know I’m in for one hell of a film. Everything that made that first scene so powerful trickles down throughout the rest. Those things I refer to are: solid/on point performances from every cast member, beautiful cinematography, and some of the best writing I’ve ever heard in a film. The only thing I could’ve done without was some of the up close and personal views of the Basterds scalping Nazis. However, I don’t say it was wrong of Tarantino to do that, because you can’t deny that it did convey the brutality in a raw fashion. Without question, one of the best films ever made and one that everyone should see.
2. The Hateful Eight one had me really intrigued, mainly because I didn’t know what the hell it was going to be from watching the trailers. This, like many of his films, contains sketchy characters that are connected to each other in various ways. But unlike many of his other films, they’re all shut in together for the majority of the runtime. The setting is the Old West, during a blizzard. We focus on a stable of people arriving at a haberdashery. We have bounty hunters, a murderer, an old confederate soldier, gang members. All kinds of people with backgrounds that just might intertwine with one another. But if/when they do will it get ugly, and is everyone who they say they are? These questions plagued my thinking as I watched, and I love it when a film makes you question things like that as it makes things interesting. I wanna talk about the acting first off, because oh my god was I blown away by the performances given here, masterful is the word I’d use to describe every one of them. Special shoutout to Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson, who shine the brightest in my opinion. The script is great too, but of course you’ll never see a film by Tarantino that has a weak script. I honestly don’t think this film gets nearly as much credit as it deserves. A truly wonderful watching experience.
3. Django Unchained is another of Tarantino’s more recent entries. Like The Hateful Eight, this film is also set in the Old West, but the focus is on a very different subject. Here, we focus on a bounty hunter who’s just freed a slave, Django, with the purpose of helping him carry out his bounty. But that’s not all. That other part involves the rescuing of Django’s wife. Sound interesting? Well let me assure you that it turns out to be even more interesting than it sounds. There are things in this Western that you don’t normally see because it’s a Tarantino film. I truly don’t think anyone else could have done as great of a job. There’s really two main things that I loved about this film: the plot and how well it was executed, and the incredibly powerful performances. Tarantino can always manage to get the best performances imaginable out of his cast. Jaime Foxx is great as Django, Waltz is also great as Dr. Schultz, but the big stars here are Leonard DiCaprio and Jackson (a Tarantino regular). I was mesmerized by DiCaprio as this evil tyrant; this unbelievably cruel slave owner. I’d never seen him in a role that’s so evil, and I must say that he killed it. And as far as Jackson goes, no one ever expects him to disappoint and he doesn’t here. He’s very much a supporting character, but he still manages to steal almost every scene he’s in. Now, something some people may object to, is the very over the top violence used here. To be honest, I think the serious, slave related violence depicted is unfortunately necessary, because it’s just being historically accurate to the time and what went on. Then, there’s the cartoonish fast paced sequences of blowing people away and having blood splatter everywhere. Personally, I think we could’ve done without some of the excessive blood splatter, but I didn’t think it that egregious considering the over the top nature of that type of violence. Some may also think it’s too long, but I was so engaged throughout the whole thing that I never once thought: “when’s this gonna end?” I have thought that about one of Tarantino’s films but it wasn’t this one.
4. Coming in at number four is Jackie Brown. Jackie Brown is a bit different from his usual style as it’s less violent and the writing is different. It’s a caper type film that involves many different, complicated characters that may or may not betray one another for the sake of money. I personally adore films like this, with an intriguing plot where you’re not really sure who can be trusted. I’d say if you’re someone that doesn’t like really graphic violence, and you’re afraid you’re too squeamish for something like Kill Bill, then this would be a good Tarantino pick for you. It’s just an overall great film; fantastic performances, an interesting/engaging plot, and a very well written script. The reason it isn’t higher on the list is due to some of the usual Tarantino style that it unfortunately lacked. Occasional humor is sprinkled in his other films, sometimes dark, but nonetheless it’s always effective and that levity is missing here. Another thing is that it does lag a bit in the middle, and there were a couple times where I did slightly lose interest. It’s still great though and definitely worth a watch, it’s just different from his usual fare.
5. The proud owner of the fifth spot in the ranking is Kill Bill Vol. 1. Graphic is one of the best words to describe the 2003 movie. I just wanna let that be known, in case anyone is hopelessly squeamish. This is one of his most intense fast paced films, and it’s full of crazy over the top action sequences where Uma Thurman is basically mowing down her many opponents, who are former assassins that wronged her years ago. I’d say that this is probably the most “mainstream” of his films. It has a very high octane, often times fun energy about it. Much of that tone comes straight from Thurman, who is the very definition of a bad ass here. This film features what is one of my absolute favorite lead performances, I mean she just flat out goes for it. Of course I never doubted that she wouldn’t do so since her work in previous films, like Pulp Fiction, put her abilities on display. This film is at number 5 because truth be told, it’s not a 10, it’s not a “knock it out of the ballpark” type, but it is a very well made and enjoyable film. It left me feeling satisfied, but not blown away like some of his others.
6. Number six is the only sequel Tarantino has ever made, Kill Bill Vol. 2. To be honest, this almost ties with the first film. Their quality and level of enjoyment is almost exactly the same. What the film did right was basically all the same things in the first film. What I didn’t care for so much, was the lagging a bit towards the middle. There is a section where I lost a bit of interest, but thankfully it picks right back up and gets back on track. You have to admire the fight sequences here, and how well choreographed they are. And the performances given are top notch from everyone involved. They just aren’t as great as the films higher on this list.
7. Who hasn’t at least heard of this film? Or seen that iconic picture of Uma Thurman and John Travolta doing the twist. I think there are some select films that have gained icon status, that are considered classics, that don’t really deserve it. This is NOT one of those films, Pulp Fiction is one of the most unique pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen. The characters involved are connected through different ways. At first, I really wasn’t sure if this was going to be something I liked, but as the film got going, it was clear that serious talent was involved from all departments. The connection between the very beginning and end is one of the interesting aspects about it to me. This is a must see in his filmography. And while I did turn out to really enjoy this film by the end, I can’t have it higher because the films ranked higher mostly had me hooked from beginning to end, where as this one unfortunately did not. It did get me at a certain point and kept my interest, but not nearly to the extent of something like Inglorious Basterds.
8. This is my final spot on this ranking of Quentin Tarantino films. Everyone knows what it is, and a lot will probably disagree with me, but I’m giving last place to Reservoir Dogs. This is a film that I just don’t understand all the undying 100% love for. I will give up certain things like the fact that yes, this film features good performances from every cast member, and yes the plot is interesting in theory. But other than that, nothing else impressed me. This film left me feeling hollow, and not because of how it ended, but because I felt let down. I was expecting a satisfying, engaging film about these thieves and their botched heist but that’s not what I got. Instead, I got a film about thieves featuring long scenes of them going over what happened and who might be a rat amongst them, with occasional flashbacks to explain certain things. I found the writing to be far less impressive when compared to his other work and the characters to be less interesting. And I found the violence to be unnecessarily gratuitous, even for a Tarantino film. At least when the violence has been graphic is the other films, there was a definite reason for it. Basically, what I’m saying is: if you’re going to force me to watch a mans ear get cut off and see the aftermath for an entire scene, this better be one hell of a film. Unfortunately it’s not, at least not in my opinion.
Well that’s my personal ranking of the Quentin Tarantino films. He is one of my favorite filmmakers, a true legend if you ask me. I know my ranking is probably one that some will take issue with, especially since typically people put my final two on top, but I gotta be honest about how I feel they stack up cinematically. I advise anyone who hasn’t seen Tarantino’s films to fix that problem immediately! I’ve had some of the best film experiences ever watching his body of work, and I know you will too.