Following the lead of the LCB boys, here’s my list of Quentin Tarantino’s Top 5. If a movie isn’t on this list, it’s not because I don’t like but I just like these 5 best. Also, Tarantino recently stated that KILL BILL (Volumes I & II) should be considered “the 4th film by QT” and that DEATH PROOF is the 5th.
5. KILL BILL. I’m glad he says this is one movie now because I wasn’t sure how I was going to split up I and II for this list. This is QT’s ode to
Uma Thurman’s feet the kung fu movies of his cinema-obsessed youth as well as the exploitation flicks of the ’70s and its almost comical violence. Uma Thurman plays the revenge-minded Bride, who is seeking to avenge the attempted murder of herself and her gestating baby ON HER WEDDING DAY. Her payback tour starts in the hospital just after she awakens from a coma and takes her all over the globe battling all manner of enemy (is that…a kid?) using various weapons (poisonous snakes!) to off her enemies before her One Final Showdown with Bill. Thurman turns in outstanding work in a physically demanding role. Her battle vs. the Crazy 88 is one of the greatest fight scenes ever put to film thanks to its technical brilliance. Still a blast to watch.
4. JACKIE BROWN. The only movie in Tarantino’s oeuvre that isn’t an original story by the director, JACKIE BROWN was adapted from Elmore Leonard’s novel, “Rum Punch”. It tells the story of the titular middle-aged stewardess (Pam Grier) who smuggles cash for Sam Jackson’s psychopath black-market gun merchandiser on the side until the feds arrest her and try to turn her. This sets into motion the intricate plot where people are killed, double-crossed, set up, trust is scarce, and Bridget Fonda smokes a bunch of pot (seriously, we miss you, Bridget). Robert Forster turns in stellar work as a bondsman who bails out then gets the hots for Brown (he earned an Oscar nom for his work). And I’m not sure Sam Jackson has never been scarier.
3. ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD. After being somewhat disappointed with THE HATEFUL EIGHT, I was curious to see which way Tarantino would go; was the Most Famous Video Store Employee Ever running out of gas or did he just have a hiccup? Thankfully, the answer was the latter as the director bounced back with this excellent effort about of pair of buddies in 1969 who are staring down their career expiration dates in an industry about to undergo seismic changes. Like DJANGO and INGLOURIOUS, Tarantino takes a real world setting and places a fictional tale within it. But despite what you might’ve read, this isn’t a Charles Manson movie or even a Sharon Tate movie. It’s a Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth movie and Leo and Brad turn in some of the best work of their long and stellar careers as, respectively, an aging actor whose career prospects grow dimmer by the day and his loyal-as-a-puppy stunt double/wingman/driver/go-fer who is “more than a best friend but less than a wife”. The movie tags along with these two starting in February of ’69 as they meet with big-wigs, work on movie sets, have hilarious flashbacks (and, this being QT, flashbacks within flashbacks), take trips to creepy former movie sets, and various other adventures. The flick also checks in occasionally with handful of dirty hippie chicks before jumping ahead six months to August—when Manson’s so-called family murdered innocents at his command. But this being Tarantino, the events play out according to his whims. He also brilliantly peppers the cast with both familiar and obscure faces (the little girl from HALLOWEEN IV and V?!?) to round out his fairy tale. This is definitely a movie that will #Shawshank me when it hits TV in a few months.
2. RESERVOIR DOGS. Very few people actually saw this heist flick in the theater when it dropped in 1992. But word of mouth and home video made DOGS a cult flick almost overnight. Tarantino’s debut about a diamond robbery crew that has been infiltrated by a mole introduced us to his patented timeline-jumping and rat-a-tat pop culture-saturated dialogue. With a perfect cast (personified by Lawrence Tierney’s salty Joe Cabot), a ’70s-drenched soundtrack, and an incredible final act, RESERVOIR DOGS was a huge hit and the quirky director’s first movie ensured that you would be waiting with bated breath for his sophomore effort.
1. PULP FICTION. Yeah, I know it’s kind of a cliché to pick PULP for the #1 QT flick but that’s because it is. His 1994 wholly original masterpiece about an accidental smack OD, a watch teeming with fecal matter, and cleaning up brains before a wife gets home absolutely throttled the motion picture industry out of the blue. Equally hilarious and horrifying, its combo of non-linear storytelling, a fire soundtrack, and career-enhancing performances would be, for better or (mostly) worse, aped by every young director trying to be the next flavor of the week for the next decade. PULP also rejuvenated John Travolta’s dormant career and made Samuel L. Jackson an A-list star (actually, it was Sam’s performance that made him am A-list star). It was the last movie to leave me legit slack-jawed in the theater at its conclusion, declaring that I needed to see it again ASAP. Seemingly non-stop edited airings on cable can’t reduce the impact that PULP FICTION had 25 years ago.