Having recently watched, finally, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I realized it’s my favorite of all Tarantino-directed films. So, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to give the definitive ranking of nine of the ten Tarantino-directed films. Mind you, these are my opinions, but I’m usually right so take it as you will. I did not include Pulp Fiction on this list, as I consider that to be the gold standard. It was a revolutionary piece of cinema, and therefore can be judged only against itself. So here we go.
9. - Kill Bill, Vol. 2: This was the follow-up to Volume 1, obviously, but for the most part I found it disappointing. It was too talky, and not in the usual strong-dialogue Tarantino way. It lacked any of the intensity of Volume 1. While it had its moments, I feel it’s at the bottom of his portfolio.
8. - Django, Unchained: Some people are going to be pissed off at this, but hey - write your own definitive ranking. I don’t know why, but I’m just not completely sold on this. First off, I think he was riding the Jamie Foxx wave. I’ve never been too terribly sold on Jamie, and I don’t think he’s the kind of actor who can carry a Tarantino film. Again, my opinion. Also, I feel the movie tried too hard to seem like what a Tarantino film is, thus messing up what makes a Tarantino film a Tarantino film.
7. - The Hateful Eight: I struggled with the placement of this one. I enjoyed it overall, but it still lacks some of the strengths of the films at the top of this list. One word I would use to describe this film is claustrophobic. This adds to the overall tension of the tone but can be stifling for the viewer.
6. - Grindhouse: Death Proof: I liked this because it’s just sheer insanity. While it’s arguably one of his most, if not absolutely his most, misogynistic films, the over-the-top lunacy harkens back to the days of films at the drive-ins. Stuntman Mike is just a complete fucking maniac. However even his death at the hands of the ladies, it’s not enough to wipe away the misogyny. The movie is not without its warts, but it’s batshit crazy filmmaking.
5. - Jackie Brown: I love this movie just because it’s such a hybrid of genres. It evokes film noir, 70s blaxploitation, true crime, and obviously Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch. In my opinion, what makes this film rank so highly is the combination of Pam Grier and Robert Forster. I remember both from the 70s work they did, and they’d been more or less shelved by Hollywood until this came along. They both have a world-weary gravitas that’s undeniable.
4. - Kill Bill, Vol. 1: This movie is a fucking adrenaline rush from start to finish. It’s high-concept, the leads are cast perfectly, and the action is a quick as the dialogue. Uma Thurman, a frequent Tarantino muse, shines once again, but here she’s backed up by a really stellar cast, each of whom seems suited perfectly to their roles.
3. - Reservoir Dogs: If you haven’t watched this, you need to feel shame. It’s Tarantino’s first as a director and he comes out of the gate swinging. Here he lays the groundwork for all his future films. The punchy dialogue, the pop culture references, the reverence of 70s cinema. The film is cast so perfectly as well. While some of the stuff from the movie gets overplayed in popular media, much akin to the movie Scarface, the film itself is revolutionary. Remember, at the time of its release in 1992, nobody had seen anything quite like this.
2. - Inglourious Basterds: From the opening scene to the holy-shit ending, this movie moves quickly yet deliberately. This could be argued as Tarantino’s most perfectly cast film. Brad Pitt is incredible in it, Christoph Waltz is fucking beautifully cruel, and Eli Roth is enthusiastically insane. I’d list the rest of the cast, but there’s no point. Everyone fits into their roles exactly as they should. It’s as if they are meant for the roles, almost tailor-made. The story is as phenomenal as it is original, and it sets the premise for meddling with historical facts which brings us to...
1. - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: I’ve written previously that the 1970s was the last great decade in cinematic history, but Tarantino moves the needle back just enough to celebrate cinema at the end of the 60s. This film is a paean to everything he grew up loving. I can’t stress just how complete this film is. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue is decade-appropriate, the acting is impeccable, the cinematography is top-notch, the casting is inspired, and the film succeeds with aplomb. Everything about this film resonates with me, and I believe will also resonate with any other cinephile out there. It’s a combination of many things, but overall it’s Quentin Tarantino’s love story to Hollywood. It’s so so so good.
Well, there you have it, the only list that matters. Let me know your arguments in the comments.