What's the Best Tarantino Movie?

Quentin Tarantino is an oddity. He has yet to release a film that has disappointed me, and this despite now having a long enough career to make disappointment likely. It’s not a big deal to say that Jordan Peele has not directed a disappointing movie since he has only directed two so far. Likewise, Steven Spielberg has let me down a few times, but the man has made approximately 2.7 billion movies over the course of the last 50 years so it’s kind of expected. 

None if this should mean that all of Tarantino’s movies are perfect. There are obviously flaws, and some of them are better than other. So, without further ado, here is the Couch Thing ranking of Quentin Tarantino movies:

9. The Hateful Eight – Tarantino’s cross genre Western / Locked Room Mystery is one of his bloodiest films. It becomes almost painfully grim and takes a bit too much pleasure in its own nihilism.  The film is saved by its great ensemble cast. Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh are the center of a powerful group of actors that elevate material that otherwise could be crushed under the weight of its dire, dark, ugliness.

8. Reservoir Dogs – Q’s debut is smart, funny, sometimes unnerving, and very unexpected at the time it came out. Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth deliver powerhouse performances at the heart of this heist movie that doesn’t actually feature a heist.  Reservoir Dogs introduced audiences to Tarantino’s signature dialogue style (which everyone if Hollywood would shortly try to copy).

7. Grindhouse: Death Proof – It may be unfair to consider Death Proof all by itself.  Watching Grindhouse is all its sleazy glory on the big screen is a very different experience than watching just Tarantino’s muscle car slasher flick in your living room.  Death Proof is a lot of fun all by itself, but as a section of the larger work that it was meant to anchor, it is an awesome affair.

6. Inglorious Basterds – Tarantino’s war movie slash counterfactual history slash revenge fantasy is marvelous in nearly every way. It is gleeful in its attempts to re-write history and right the worst of wrongs. Tarantino shows his technical mastery in a series of set pieces that only seem better on each subsequent viewing. The opening scene with Christoph Waltz is one of the tensest, most nerve wracking things ever put on film. The cast is nearly perfect. Only Eli Roth seems a little out of his depth, but we never have time to dwell on that as the action is whiplash inducing.

5. Kill Bill – We follow Tarantino’s method here and count Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 as a single film. There is a great argument to be made that they should be considered as two separate movies, but if Q wants us to call them one very long movie we will not argue.  That being said, if we ranked the films individually Vol 1 would rank much higher than Vol2.   That isn’t to denigrate Vol 2. It’s just that Vol 1 moves with such a manic, crazy speed that it would be impossible to match it in the second half. Kill Bill is a Samurai, Western, Yakuza, Noir, Kung Fu, Slapstick, Revenge Fable, Exploitation, Action film. It is Tarantino’s pastiche of everything that he has ever loved in cinema. It’s a love letter to movies.

4. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood – Tarantino’s latest is an elegy for the end of the studio era, which lined up with the end of the 60s. It continues his trend of revisionism and deconstruction. It’s a weird movie. Largely plotless; meandering; soft in the middle. It exists mostly as a chance to hang out with its two main characters and see what Hollywood looked like in one particular moment. It’s truly lovely.

3. Django Unchained – Q’s “Southern” is part exploitation flick, part spaghetti western, and all Quentin Tarantino. Fast, furious, loud, and didactic. Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a slave who becomes a bounty hunter then goes on a quest to free his wife from slavery.  Tarantino gives us a front on view of the horrors of slavery.  And then softens the blow by killing the slavers in very nasty ways. It’s entertainment as catharsis in the extreme.

2. Jackie Brown – Tarantino making an Elmore Leonard novel his own.  A lot was made of this being his “grown up” movie. That’s true, but it’s also unfair. It’s his quietest movie, but there was no way to know that at the time that it came out.  It’s a contemplative film that’s as much about middle age and reassessing one’s life, accomplishments and goals as much as it’s about the crime story that is at the center of the plot.  Pam Grier and Robert Forster give complex, subtle performances that ground the material in the real world in ways that maybe Tarantino’s other films are not.

1. Pulp Fiction – Q’s second film stands as a monument to filmmaking. It is the movie that, more than any other, shaped movies for the next twenty-five years. For a time, it was that Beatles of movies. That is, everything that got made after Pulp Fiction was either an attempt to be like PF or a reaction to PF.  This movie altered how screenwriters approached dialogue. It changed the way the act structure was presented. It made everyone want to have a non-linear story filled with a big ensemble of brash characters and explosions us over-the-top violence.  Everyone wanted a piece of Pulp Fiction. Everyone but The Academy. They awarded the Oscar for Best Picture to Forest Gump, somehow.  Anyway, this remains Tarantino’s best film. 

How do you think we did? Did we get the ranking right? Are we idiots? Do you hate Tarantino? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Previous coverage here