Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” opens this week. In honor of his newest film I have ranked my top five best films he has written and directed. The five films listed is proof why he is one of cinemas most talented American filmmakers at his most masterful. Which films did I rank in the top 5 and which film do I declare his masterpiece?
#5 – The Hateful Eight (2015)
At two hours and 45 minutes, Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is a soap opera of violence and character study that burns slowly. Coming back full circle to his first film “The Hateful Eight” is built on the same structure that of “Reservoir Dogs”. A story of a bunch of hard edged men in one confined space on the verge of taking each other out of the picture.
He expertly mixes the genre of mystery and western, while Tarantino may have paid homage to David Mamet and Sergio Leone in the past, this is his ode to Hitchcock in a sadistic Tarantino way. Tarantino has stacked the deck with characters so wild and dangerously exciting that you feel dirty for cheering for these grimy characters. Led by Tarantino veterans: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth.
Paying respect for the second time around after “Django”, to his favorite filmmaker Sergio Leone. Tarantino even recruits Leone’s long time composer the legendary Ennio Morricone for an extraordinary original score.
“The Hateful Eight” is Tarantino’s most beautiful work to date. His camera shots, the cinematography and the stunning 70mm photography. As with every film he shows how wise he is as an orchestrator of scenarios, characters, and conclusions. Tarantino proved to be on a roll as he gave us the 1-2-3 punch of “Inglourious Basterds”, “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight”.
When Tarantino directs a film it’s an event, not just a movie. When going to his films just sit back and savour the brilliance that is Tarantino. The five films I’ve listed is proof why he is one of cinemas most talented American filmmakers at his most masterful. Onto #4….
#4 – Reservoir Dogs (1992)
After finding success writing his first major screenplay with Christian Slater’s “True Romance”. Tarantino hit the ground running with his directorial debut, that would start his routine ensemble cast of actors.
A brash, brutal crime-caper film, “Reservoir Dogs” has one of the great opening sequences anywhere. It’s the calling card to what a major talent Tarantino is and once “Reservoir Dogs” has come out, he would unleash to the world the power he has as a writer and director.
“Reservoir” is an action movie that entirely uses words as bullets, instead of actual bullets. The performances all around are superb from Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and a never been better Steve Buscemi. Thanks to Tarantino and Michael Madsen, no one can listen to “Stuck In The Middle” the same way ever again.
#3 – Death Proof (2007)
For “Death Proof” to be ranked within Tarantino’s top three is a given. It belongs in his top three. If I could I would have ranked it in my number one or two spots, but then again I have to remember that he also made “Django Unchained” and “Pulp Fiction”.
While “Pulp Fiction” maybe his most overrated, “Death Proof” is his most underrated and under-appreciated. “Death Proof” was the second half of the “GrindHouse” double feature, that was a collaboration of writer and director Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Equipped with fake B-movie trailers, missing film reels, film scratches and burning film effects. The 3 hour film was a throwback theater going experience that was truly special and one we will never encounter again.
Feels much longer than it is, “Death Proof” is superbly made. Tarantino has a blast with his affectionate nod to ’70s exploitation flicks. There’s real tension in watching these beautiful and spirited young women (led by a superb performance from Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito and Sydney Tamiia Poitier, daughter of Sidney Poitier) who get too close to the flame, followed by an enormous relief when the mood completely and satisfyingly changes in the third act.
While Kurt Russell is always a reliable actor, “Death Proof” is hands down one of his greatest screen performances. “Death Proof” is sexy, dangerous, violent, great dialogue and conversation exchanges, with one of the best car crashes ever choreographed on film. This is classic Tarantino.
#2 – Pulp Fiction (1994)
Most overrated Tarantino film? You bet. But as overrated as it may be, it’s one of the most influential films of the 1990s. “Pulp Fiction” is a mix of neo noir thrills, pitch perfect dialogue (the most quotable of his films) and filled with sharp black humor, and a true product of 90’s pop culture.
Given a much bigger budget from his first film “Reservoir Dogs”. This is the work of someone talented, smart and thrilled to be making movies, giving us memorable sequence after sequence that no one else can put on film. It feels like a reinvention in film that comes at you like a blindsided punch in the gut.
John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson lead one of the greatest ensemble casts of all time, including: Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer. Travolta and Jackson are terrific as talkative hit men who have amusing banter between each other and Jackson is given one of the best film monologues (the interrogation scene in the apartment), while Travolta has one of the most iconic movie scenes (stabbing the needle in Uma Thurman’s heart, which features a scene stealing Eric Stolz and Travolta and Uma’s Jack Rabbit dance scene).
This is Tarantino at his best writing that could easily compare to anything David Mamet has written and that includes the ensemble casted “Glengarry Glenross”. He continually for two and half hours prepares us for one thing and then delivers another. Tarantino gives us the familiar but with a twist.
•Winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and the Palme d’ Or for Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival
#1 – Django Unchained (2012)
“Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, no question. His way of storytelling ability is unmatched here, both story and his dialogue is his best writing since “Pulp Fiction”.
“Django Unchained” is everything you want a movie to be: a kick-ass tale of revenge with amazing performances from its leads, smart and trademark Tarantino dialogue punctuated by no holds barred ultra-violent action in a frantic guns-a-blazin spaghetti western spectacle, in homage to one of the great filmmakers and Tarantino’s inspiration Sergio Leone.
Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar (his first Oscar win coming from Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds”) playing Dr. King Schultz and provides “Django” with the true heart and soul of the film. Jamie Foxx hits the right notes as the title character Django, while DiCaprio is a revelation as villain Calvin Candie. DiCaprio is clearly having fun playing way against type. His performance is stuff of legends.
Tarantino orchestrates the bloodiest western since “The Wild Bunch” and the most visually stylish since “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. It’s a powerful, dazzling, bold, beautiful and insanely entertaining masterpiece that is a sheer delight.
•Winner of two Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz)