The discourse around Quentin Tarantino has many layers. If you’ve spent any time on Film Twitter™️ lately, this is abundantly clear to you. And since the release of the director’s most recent film Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood a few weeks back, we’ve had a great time discussing, dissecting, explaining, and pondering the work of a filmmaker who has, at the very least, always given us plenty to talk about.
As many have found before us, ranking the films directed by Mr. Tarantino can be a uniquely difficult task. Your first problem is that he’s made a number of very good movies — which means there are a lot of hard choices on the way to getting a definitive ranking. And quite a few preliminary questions. Do you consider Death Proof to be a movie on its own? We do. Are there two Kill Bill movies, or just the one? We say two (as IndieWire critic David Ehrlich recently pointed out on Twitter, we bought two tickets — that’s two movies). Will recency bias work against films such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, both of which felt revelatory at their time of release but don’t seem to be as popular with the youths? That one’s more complicated. So despite the perceived difficulty of the task, we polled our entire team of Tarantino scholars, compiled the data, and came up with the list below. What has become most clear through the process of ranking these films is that no matter which of the ten films you’re talking about, at least one person on our team really loves it.
Without further exposition, here is the One Perfect Shot team’s ranking of the movies of Quentin Tarantino.
10. Death Proof
Death Proof is Quentin Tarantino’s trashiest film, which thereby makes it my personal favorite. The director’s filmography is famously adorned with sex and violence, a decoration merely embellished atop nuance; Death Proof oozes sex and violence at its core. The film’s beating heart is a throbbing hard-on. From the dripping sexuality of its nearly-all-female lead cast, to the fetishistic nature of Stuntman Mike’s (Kurt Russell) desire to cause women to befall horrible deaths, to the equally orgasmic catharsis of the film’s vengeful final scene, Death Proof, from start to finish, is like the cinematic equivalent of being vigorously and consensually fucked.
The film is an homage to the exploitation films of the 1970s, with intentional damage done to the physical film itself to make it appear old and shopped around like many exploitation films of the time. Paired with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, the two films make up a double feature collectively entitled Grindhouse, a recreation of exploitation double features that would, during their heyday, be shown in something called a “grindhouse” theater. Tarantino has called Death Proof the worst movie he’s made, but the film is clearly a loving tribute to a bygone era of filmmaking; a kind of tribute that tends to center most of Tarantino’s other work. But, in the end, Death Proof is just fun, hot, and horny as fuck, and watching a group of women beat a misogynist to a bloody pulp makes me feel thankful to be alive to see it. (Brianna Zigler)
9. Django Unchained
A slave is strapped to a tree and her dress torn from her back. A white man pastes passages of the bible across his chest and belly as he prepares a thick whip to crack. Django storms across the plantation in their direction wearing a bright, beaming blue valet uniform ripped from a Renaissance painting while a flurry of Spaghetti Western strings screams his approach. Django halts and calls out the monster’s name, “John Brittle!” The name turns his head and meets a spirit of vengeance. Before he can utter a word, Django propels a pistol from his sleeve and fires a single bullet into Brittle’s heart and through one of his bible passages. Django turns the racist’s hate-mongering language against him, “I like the way you die, boy.”
Movies are often an arena where justice is served at the end of a bullet, and while many offer cathartic satisfaction, Django Unchained unites rage with heroism. The world remains a dung heap without anger. We need it to elicit change, but so often the emotion is missing in our culture when we need it the most. With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino boils the blood, crafting not just a simple revenge fantasy, but a quest worthy of the round table or Luke Skywalker. The dragons that need slaying are not atop some distant mountain or in a galaxy far, far away, but nestled in our backyard where they concoct their own mythologies to rationalize their hatred. With a bullet, Django kills a beast and his protective shield of stories. He exposes evil as a fragile entity, easily vanquished. More bullets must follow. (Brad Gullickson)
8. The Hateful Eight
This is the thing about The Hateful Eight: it cages us—first, in a carriage, then in a house, and finally, in its characters. It is the most Tarantino—the least edited, sharpened, apologetic, approachable, and the most chatty, stoic, lengthy, and dialectic. If you want to dig to the core of Tarantino’s ever-glowing soul, you’re at the pearly gates. Every extra unnecessary minute that carries it past the runtime of his 10 shorter-but-not-short films will titillate you. You’ll fawn over dense mustaches, long single takes, twisty narrative devices, indulgent cursing, words like “haberdashery,” and tenacious nostalgia. Plus, it comes stacked with a legendary cast of characters, including his three most frequent A-list collaborators—Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth—and masters like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern.
However, if you wish Tarantino’s movies were quicker-paced, a little less violent, and a tad more exciting during the exposition, or you think he’s totally insufferable, you’ll find yourself in the most claustrophobic, irritating, never-ending situation of your life. Five minutes in you’ll be dusting off your divine poetics to pray you’re not stuck in the Roadshow edition. Love it or hate it, it is undeniably on brand. (Luke Hicks)
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