Twenty years ago, I saw my first Quentin Tarantino film. After waiting in line with hundreds for over an hour, Pulp Fiction blew me away, and still does to this day. Nine films have followed, all of which I’ve been lucky enough to see on the big screen during their opening week. Like many of his fans, I have been QT obsessed for half of my life. Too violent, too exploitative, too twisted, too clever…many criticisms have passed Quentin Tarantino’s way, but one thing is certain: every one of his new films is eagerly awaited.
Some believe he is the most distinctive and explosive writer/director to hit the American film industry in decades. Unlike others, he learned his craft from his days as a video store clerk studying movies showing on in-store monitors, rather than as a traditional film school student. As a result of this unorthodox beginning, he has developed a knack for tapping into exactly the kind of stories people find immensely entertaining. Others describe his style as a fusion of pop culture and independent art house cinema. Despite the queue of critics lining up to dismiss or praise his latest endeavor, QT’s films continue to make their mark on cinema.
In March 2014, Quentin Tarantino turned 51 years old. To mark the occasion, let’s take a look back at the top 8 films he’s produced over the past 20 years:
It’s clear that this is QT’s masterpiece, and many believe he will never be able to top it. The perfect balance of rapid-fire mayhem and the intriguing controlled drama of Pulp Fiction instantly changed cinema. It also made Tarantino a star and Samuel L. Jackson a heavyweight, and resurrected Travolta’s career.
A brutal ride where a freed slave teams up with a bounty hunter to rescue his wife, Django Unchained may be Tarantino’s most mature feature to date. While the film is awash with his stylistic touch and signature characters, it also manages to remind us of a part of America’s history many of us would rather forget.
With its raw, intense nature, Reservoir Dogs serves as our first glimpse at Tarantino. In it he pays homage to the films he loves and those that inspired him. It’s the movie that started it all for QT and it has everything that defines his films: humor, violence, and an amazing cast.
Kill Bill Vol. 1
This martial arts revenge fantasy epic defies categorization, but its music, violence, choreography, and Uma Thurman’s brilliant performance set it apart. It is a distinctly original film as far as some film critics are concerned, even with the blood-drenched finale.
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Continuing a bride’s journey for vengeance, this is the rare sequel that’s just as good as the original. Some disagree with this order, believing the second of the Kill Bill films to be the superior of the two, but many prefer the glossy and more colorful blood splatter of the first.
It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino’s take on a war movie is eccentric, violent, funny, and riveting to watch. From Christoph Waltz’s introduction, to Brad Pitt’s highly stylized Nazi-scalping Aldo Raine, there is so much to love about this remarkable film.
Jackie Brown is probably Tarantino’s most well-rounded effort. Less recognizable as a QT feature, it isn’t as stylized, celebrated, or frantic as some of his other films, but its differences could easily make it the favorite for many.
What’s not to love about hot rods, horrific crashes, a nonstop pace, and Kurt Russell’s greatest performance in decades? Quentin Tarantino has said that if Death Proof is the worst film he ever makes, then he’ll be happy with his career.
“I feel like a conductor and the audience’s feelings are my instruments.”
– Quentin Tarantino
They’re not all as masterful as Pulp Fiction. They’re not all as heart breaking as Jackie Brown. That said, they are all lovingly created by a devotee of cinema who has written and directed all of his films. He has also created characters that are unforgettable. Quentin Tarantino’s films have produced some of the greatest works from modern-day cinema’s talent. Uma Thurman’s performance in Kill Bill is astonishing. Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Pulp Fiction speaks for itself. His latest 2 films (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained) have launched Christoph Waltz’s career into the stratosphere. QT has also reinvigorated the careers of some of Hollywood’s past idols, such as Pam Grier, David Carradine, and Robert Forster—at his career-best as a bail bondsman in Jackie Brown.
When it comes to the wild and wonderful world of QT’s films, they represent a separate, parallel universe all their own—a world where people are obsessed with their vices, thrive on pop culture, smoke Red Apple cigarettes, and eat Big Kahuna cheeseburgers. However discreet or obvious these references may be, unconstrained dialogue, excessive violence, and a killer soundtrack are the key components to any Quentin Tarantino movie. As we wait in line to see his next film, we are confident that the filmmaker has seemingly spent his whole career painstakingly putting together this alternate universe. From Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained, his visual style, use of music, and affection for dialogue are something we look forward to experiencing, whatever it is he may come up with next.
- Anderson J. The theory of Quentin Tarantino’s hidden universe. Sabotage Times website. December 29, 2013. http://sabotagetimes.com/reportage/the-theory-of-quentin-tarantinos-hidden-universe/.
- Campbell W. Where credit is due: the genius of Quentin Tarantino. Fish in a Sub website. January 20, 2013. http://www.fishinasub.com/where-credit-is-due-the-genius-of-quentin-tarantino/.
- Deb S. Quentin Tarantino: a uniquely mad genius. Live Mint website. April 1, 2013. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Jvk7T0r31yBfyjJ4331kAI/Quentin-Tarantino-a-uniquely-mad-genius.html.
- Martinovic P. Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction: 7 secrets of Tarantino moviemaking. Digital Spy website. January 15, 2013. http://m.digitalspy.com/movies/at-the-movies/a450666/django-unchained-pulp-fiction-7-secrets-of-tarantino-moviemaking.html.
- Morrigan C. 25 little-known facts about Quentin Tarantino’s films. Thought Catolog website. January 4, 2013. http://thoughtcatalog.com/charlie-morrigan/2013/01/25-little-known-facts-about-quentin-tarantino/.
- Zuckerman E. Everything Quentin Tarantino really thinks about violence and the movies. The Wire website. http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2013/01/quentin-tarantino-violence-quotes/60900/.