Credit of featured image: Victoria Borodinova/ 5399 on Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/illustrations/tarantino-celebrity-director-people-3180248/
Quentin Tarantino is up there among the most popular living directors in the world. While some have called him the king of dialogue, there’s plenty more things to expect when you sit down to watch a Tarantino film. You know you’ll be entertained with crazy, sensational characters, outlandish but perfect music choices and storylines that jump around in every direction until usually concluding with an outrageous and satisfying finale. Obviously I’m a huge fan of all of Tarantino’s work, but a top 5 is a top 5.
5. Reservoir Dogs
Nothing could have set the tone for Tarantino’s career better than that iconic Little Green Bag title sequence after a conversation about the merits of tipping and Madonna over breakfast. This film introduces us to two aspects of his films which ultimately made Tarantino so famous, dialogue and non-linear storytelling.
While each character offers a different insight into the mind of a professional criminal, giving them a real-life spin with everyday dialogue keeps their circumstances relatable and the stakes high throughout the film. It’s always fun to revisit the one that got the ball rolling. Reservoir Dogs also showed us Tarantino’s genius ability to use music to his advantage right out of the gate. Nearly thirty years later, it’s still hard to listen to Stuck in the middle with you without picturing the infamous scene where Mr. Blonde is alone with the police officer.
4. Django Unchained
With Django Unchained Tarantino delivers a film that manages to bear the full weight of slavery while also packing plenty of humour and sensational action in a way that strips the sick and twisted ideologies of racism and slavery of their power.
The scenes featuring the cruel and disgraceful treatment of slaves are hard to watch as they really drive home the gruesome reality that so many had to face. Meanwhile Tarantino uses his trademark spectacular violence throughout the film against slaveholders and all those who represent ideologies of racism.
The performances of Jaime Foxx and Christoph Waltz completely steal the show but there’s even more outstanding performances in this one. All things considered, Leonardo DiCaprio is probably my favourite actor, and I’ve never hated him as much as when I’m watching this movie. His performance as an absolutely despicable character, “Monsieur” Calvin J. Candie is right out of the top drawer and topped off with a sensational moment of improvisation. For those who don’t know, when Leo tries to break a glass over a dinner table for dramatic effect he actually managed to cut his is hand open so badly that he was left needing a large amount of stitches later. Not only did he not even flinch, he reacted in character and managed to work his bleeding hand into the scene.
3. Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs was the first to feature Tarantino’s non-linear narrative, but it was this film that really made it famous. There aren’t many films that can boast having such an impact on pop-culture and the film industry as a whole. While seeing this one for the first time can be confusing, it’s ultimately a film about redemption. People who have done bad things but then decide to do good things. Due to the non-linear storyline, we see the outcome of this change of heart before we see its origin.
It’s a collection of complex characters that face interesting dilemmas that force them to make choices. One of the reasons why the characters and their dilemmas become relatable to us as the viewer is the classic Tarantino dialogue. The dialogue is incredibly authentic and often seems like any conversation between you and your friends. This leaves us in more and more anticipation of finding out what’s going to happen to each of the characters. For so many people this is an absolute classic and it’s not hard to see why.
2. Inglorious Bastards
World War 2 films are so powerful because of the emotion that they evoke in the viewer. One cannot watch the iconic Saving Private Ryan without a deep sense of guilt and gratitude that we haven’t had to face the horrors that those we’re currently watching on screen are facing.
But with Inglorious Bastards, Tarantino broke the mould to give us a World War 2 movie that’s outrageous and funny. We’re completely free to enjoy every second of its unique story, outstanding performances and crazy but very interesting characters. From Aldo “The Apache” Raine, Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa to Bridget Von Hammersmark and Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz, this one is a constant stream of action and humour that leads to one of Tarantino’s most famous alternate-history finales.
The bar is set high right from the very beginning. An interrogation ensues and tensions rise in an opening scene that can only be described as an absolute masterclass in building suspense. What’s even more impressive is that later on Tarantino delivers the very same with one of my favourite film scenes of all time. The sequence down in the bar will have you hanging on each of the character’s every word as you can’t escape the feeling that at any second, things could turn very ugly.
1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
I’m aware that many might question this as a top pick and that’s perfectly fine, Tarantino’s movies are for each us to enjoy however we want. For me there’s not a single shred of doubt on this one. For such a crazy, wide variety of reasons that I’m about to try and explain, this is the Tarantino film that I’ll always have the most fun watching. I do have to point out however, that in my opinion, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is also his most misunderstood film. This film isn’t about Rick Dalton, it’s not about Cliff Booth, it’s not about Sharon Tate and it’s not about the Manson family. This film is about Hollywood, the time and the place. This is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the golden era of Hollywood and the rise of the Spaghetti-Western genre and I absolutely love it.
It’s also fair to point out that this film takes on a whole other level of viewer experience when you’re aware of the horrific real-life story of actress Sharon Tate. For those who were familiar with her story and as a result, felt confused or even frustrated with the ending, I’ll talk at the end about how the ending of this film isn’t only some of Tarantino’s best work, but also how it offers an explanation to the name, “Once Upon a Time..” because as it turns out, this film is a fairytale. Tarantino’s ending is essentially how he wished things really happened.
While it follows the lives of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, the story this film is really trying to tell is that of the golden era of Hollywood. The set of the latest western, the story of Sharon Tate, the Manson family, Bruce Lee, hippies, LSD, neon lights, diners, the playboy mansion and drive in movies. The film tries to capture all the crazy and outrageous elements that made this time and place so unique. So while Rick and Cliff are fictional characters, they exist in a very real and historically accurate setting. For example, Spawn ranch was really the home of the mansion family, the Manson girls did used to sing “always is always forever” as they walked down Hollywood Boulevard, Denis Wilson and Terry Melcher from the Beach Boys did used to hang out with Charles Manson, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski did move into Melcher’s house after he left. Along with capturing these elements perfectly, the soundtrack doubles down to make this film’s personality burst out of the screen and fill the room.
One of the things we know and about Quentin Tarantino is how completely and utterly obsessed he is with cinema. Which is why he lets one of the greatest (arguably THE greatest) of all time remind us of that old romanticised view of the cinematic experience. When you consider today’s obsession with breaking box office records and streaming rights, it’s refreshing to hear the legendary Al Pacino himself paint such an enjoyable picture of what cinema is really supposed to be.
“I open up a box of Havanas, I light up, I pour myself a cognac and I watch The 14 fists of McCluskey.. what a picture”Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz
Brad Pitt even picked up the academy award for Best Supporting Actor, and it was well deserved. The character of Cliff Booth was insanely cool and Pitt plays him to a tee. But it would be a crime to overlook Leo’s performance. The scene where he absolutely loses it with himself for messing up his lines and bursts into a fit of rage alone in his trailer is as hilarious as it is impressive. From the music, the outfits, the dialogue, to the lights and sounds of Hollywood in 1969, this film completely pulls me in. But it’s all of this combined with the ending that earns it my top spot. The ending is how Tarantino’s fairytale really comes to life.
The Rolling Stone’s Out of Time signals the beginning of the film’s third act. Rick and Cliff along with Rick’s new Italian wife Francesca are back in Hollywood after a successful time in Italy and are happy to finally part ways. Meanwhile, a pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends are out for dinner. This is where everything begins to change. The introduction of Kurt Russel’s narration tells the audience that the fun is over. We begin to feel uncomfortable when we realise we know what happens next. Just as the song suggests, the golden era of Hollywood, Rick and Cliff’s relationship and most importantly, Sharon Tate are all out of time.
..or so we might think. Tarantino’s choice of song here was to let the audience believe that we were about to witness the sick and twisted murder of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson family. However, when Tarantino rewrites history and instead we witness Tate’s intended murderers get absolutely brutalised by Cliff, his dog Brandy and Rick’s flamethrower in one of the most outrageous and satisfying finales ever, we realise that it was actually reality that was out of time. Tarantino’s fairytale has taken over, and what do all fairytales have? A happy ending. When Rick Dalton strolls up the driveway and meets a perfectly fine Sharon Tate, the audience experiences a sense of melancholy as they wonder, why couldn’t it really have ended like this?
Quentin Tarantino is a musical genius when it comes to his films. Check out these playlists.