Last Updated on July 30, 2020
Quentin Jerome Tarantino is a celebrated American filmmaker and actor. As a filmmaker, Tarantino is known for incorporating various elements in his movies, including nonlinear plots, the aestheticization of violence, prolonged dialogues, nonlinear storylines, and alternate history.
Tarantino’s films also tend to be graced with an ensemble of celebrated actors, which explains why most of his movies are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
The following list unpacks some of the best movies by Quentin Tarantino.
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Before 1992, Tarantino was a small-time screenwriter and actor whose impressive screenwriting skills remained largely obscured. However, all that changed after directing Reservoir Dogs, which is unarguably one of the most influential films of the early 90s.
Reservoir Dogs follows the events that take place before and after a botched robbery at a jewelry store. A gang of unlikely-partnered criminals decides to push their luck robbing a jewelry store.
When the cops arrive, one of the robbers starts to think that the gang is infiltrated by a cop who might have tipped off his colleagues. The movie oscillates before the events before and after (but not necessarily during) the heist.
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Reservoir Dogs might have pulled Quentin Tarantino from obscurity as far as film writing and directing goes. But it’s Pulp Fiction that actually cemented his spot as one of the most promising movie directors of the time. The movie, which was written by Tarantino and Roger Avary, blends three stories that are somewhat unconnected but completely relatable.
It revolves around hitmen played by Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) who engage in philosophical discussions on seemingly trivial topics, including the French names for popular American fast food products.
Each of them believes that he is on top of his game, though they’re constantly proven wrong. Then there is Butch (Bruce Willis), who is mostly portrayed as a mean and self-seeking individual. However, Tarantino uses Butch to save Marcellus (Ving Rhames), ostensibly to advance the notion that even the vilest people can do something heroic once in a while.
3. Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is another movie by Quentin Tarantino that highlights the intrigues of the criminal underworld. The film follows the exploits of a ruthless arms dealer named Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) in his quest to extend his criminal empire. Ordell learns that stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) has been busted while attempting to smuggle money into the country for him.
Though Ordell manages to spring Jackie, some chemistry develops between her and bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). What follows is a series of mistrust between Ordell and his once-loyal partner-in-crime. At some point, Jackie even pits Ordell with the cops, promising to double-cross the cops.
4. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Very few filmmakers can manage to weave in the feel-good effect into a plot that has callous revenge written all over it. Tarantino is proudly one of those few filmmakers. A wedding party goes awfully wrong during a dress rehearsal.
An assassin and his gang assails a pregnant woman known as The Bride (Uma Thurman) and leaves her for dead. But in a sudden twist, The Bride doesn’t die. Instead, she slips into a 4-year coma. When she wakes up from the coma and learns of what befell her, she embarks on one of the most cold-blooded revenge missions of her life.
5. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 was no doubt a great project by Tarantino. But its reasonably suspenseful plot left a few loose ends that only Kill Bill: Volume 2 can tie up.
In Kill Bill: Volume 1, The Bride succeeded in dispatching most of the gang members that attempted to murder her and her unborn baby. However, the film ended on a ‘mission unaccomplished’ note. Thankfully, The Bride has a lot of time to exact her full revenge in Kill Bill: Volume 2. She’ll need to tread carefully though, as she’s facing tougher and more lethal opponents who happen to be her former allies-turned-nemeses.
6. Death Proof (2007)
In Death Proof, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) plays a mysteriously-figured man whose body seems to be ingeniously proofed against the most extreme car collisions.
Most people would probably deploy this unique bestowment on a race track. But Mike has other plans. The charming and deceptively brave Hollywood stuntman kills beautiful women and makes it look like an accident. Like most villains, his plans succeed just long enough before he meets his match.
One of the best things about this Death Proof is how suspenseful the plot is. Tarantino packages most of the victims in a way that it appears as though they’re the superheroes, only for Mike to crash the life out of them. When the real superheroes (or in this case, superheroines) come along, you won’t realize it until they begin to outsmart the psychopathic driver.
7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Until now, Tarantino had not shown any serious interests in making movies inspired by real historical events. Inglourious Basterds is the first movie by Tarantino that attempts to portray a historical event, and it did a pretty good job at that.
The movie is set in World War II. It follows after a Jewish woman, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), who is determined to exact revenge on the Nazi for murdering her family. She manages to pass as a Gentile and her enemies don’t see her until she’s too close for comfort.
Inglourious Basterds takes the theme of revenge to a whole new dimension, literally and figuratively. Even in death, Shosanna’s ghosts still torment his victims, reminding them of how helpless they are.
8. Django Unchained (2012)
Django Unchained raises some deep questions on our perception of civilization and morality. The movie stars Django (Jamie Foxx) as a slave who has had traumatic past experiences with his former masters.
He encounters a German-born bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who is currently pursuing the murderous Brittle brothers. The two team up, with Django’s eyes set on rescuing his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who he lost to slave trade.
Away from the action and tension that flow throughout the movie, Tarantino uses Django Unchained to highlight how elusive the concept of morality can be. In the movie, you’ll learn that even though slave trade was generally considered as a vice, what mattered the most is who was profiteering from it.
9. The Hateful Eight (2015)
This is another Tarantino movie on this list that focuses on bounty hunting. But do not let the title of the movie fool you; The Hateful Eight does not necessarily inspire resentment. It portrays the extent to which people can go in destroying one another, and that trust is easier to foster only where there are shared self-interests.
Hateful Eight tries to dispel the notion that people can be gelled together by feelings of empathy, loyalty, or compassion. Instead, it postulates that life revolves around self-interests and that people will always choose the side that serves their own interests.
10. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in 1969 in Los Angeles. It’s more of a hangout movie, with less high-speed chases, blazing guns, or scheming criminals. It mostly details how deeply we can immerse ourselves in the pursuits of our goals that we remain indifferent to everything else.
The movie follows two individuals: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is a former actor in a TV series and his amiable stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). There’s also Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who epitomizes the future of Hollywood. But as fate would have it, that coveted future remains elusive when Sharon is murdered by the Manson Family.
Quentin Tarantino has treated Hollywood to some of the most intriguing movies ever made. The celebrated filmmaker has always contemplated quitting making movies. Well, before he does, we can only hope that he saved the best for last.