Film

Ranking the Greats: The 10 Films of Quentin Tarantino

Genius or joker? Legitimate film icon or byproduct of the video age? Whatever the case, Quentin Tarantino has made some terrific films.

On 27 March, 49 years ago, a filmmaker was born who, initially, showed little promise in his soon to be celebrated career. He originally wanted to be an actor and, when industry offers were less than forthcoming, he started creating his own projects. Famously, he worked in a video store, absorbing every ounce of knowledge he could from the myriad of movies on the retail racks. Along with friends like Roger Avary, he would obsess over form and formula, reworking old school Hollywood (and foreign film) tropes into terrific new experiences. After getting recognized for his work, he managed to make his own movie - a little something called Reservoir Dogs - and the rest is new cinema history. Indeed, along with such celebrated auteurs as David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Terrence Malick, Quentin Tarantino is an often misunderstood genius. Critics like to complain about the very things that make his efforts so long lasting and memorable.

With his birthday in mind and ten titles to choose from, it's time to rank Tarantino's best. Granted, we are cheating a bit. He's only directed six actual releases (the lost My Best Friend's Birthday doesn't count) and produced countless others. So we've decided to focus on the films where he either wrote or wrote and directed the final product. This allows us to include the scripts he sold hot on the heels of Dogs success without only sticking solely to the ones where he was behind the lens. As usual, final position reflects more opinion than consensus, but in the world of Quentin Tarantino that's not unusual. Few can argue his influence and importance. Many can nitpick his sometimes self-absorbed approach, but in the end, his work will live on a lot longer than the mediocre muck clogging up your local Cineplex. Let's begin with what is arguably his worst work in the creative chair:

#10: Four Rooms
Okay...okay. We know this really isn't fair. After all, QT was only one forth of this awful anthology and his part was a pseudo-slick reinterpretation of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents piece. Still, everything here smacks of ego and arrogance. Bringing together players from this classic Pulp Fiction, Tarantino obviously believed he could get away with something smarmy and self-absorbed. All he really managed was the least memorable work of his entire career. Not everything about "The Man from Hollywood" is terrible...just most of it.

#9: From Dusk Till Dawn
With his mythology firmly established, Tarantino dug deep into his former video store clerk roots to come up with a weird combination of exploitation crime thriller and gory grindhouse horror. Offering cinematic buddy Robert Rodriguez the directing duties and hiring an up and coming George Clooney as a co-star, the maverick managed an awkward is still enjoyable genre exercise. Today, it's memorable for its mind-boggling F/X jokes, as well as its strippers as vampires designs. A slight if still interesting scare fest.

#8: Natural Born Killers
Leave it to Oliver Stone to take an already self-contained project and purposely retrofit it toward his own demented desires. He did it with Eric Bogosian's one man media mantra Talk Radio, and when Tarantino's script about star-crossed serial killers came onto the market, he found yet another outlet for his critical social conspiracy theory rants. Taking on the news and its felons as fame whores mentality, he fashioned a crackerjack critique. Unfortunately, whatever message QT was aiming for got lost in the cinematic shuffle.

#7: True Romance
In another case of something he should have directed being helmed by a proposed Hollywood heavyweight, Tarantino's terrific crime love story got sunny and soft focused by Tony Scott, draining some of its substance and none of its chutzpah. This remains the greatest Tarantino movie the filmmaker never made, a whirlwind collection of pop culture beats and celluloid references that survive the perfume commercial gloss of the man behind the lens. In addition, the terrific performances and insularity of its ideas turn it into a legitimate Tarantino turn - sort of.

#6: Death Proof from Grindhouse
As his contribution to the crazy callback to the drive-in delights of the '70s, QT decided to channel Vanishing Point and other car chase classics from the era to turn Kurt Russell into a psycho stuntman with a killer vehicle - literally. For the moment when our villain vivisects four young girls in a horrific highway crash, all set to the tune of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich's terrific "Hold Tight," he deserves some sort of cinematic special dispensation. Everything else is just road rage gravy.

Next Page

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image