The Best Movie Ever | Best Quentin Tarantino Movies
This Christmas brings with it the release of The Hateful Eight, the second western and the eighth feature film from Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who burst into the independent movie culture with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. After 20 years, he’s still there. Tarantino is one of cinema’s most celebrated auteurs, and many avid movie lovers anticipate the release of his movies the way casual move lovers wait with bated breath for a new Star Wars.
The Hateful Eight may not be Quentin Tarantino’s best movie, but if that’s the case, what is? Our stalwart stable of film critics – Crave’s William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and Collider’s Brian Formo – seem to have narrowed his many beloved motion pictures down to two viable candidates: a romance and a World War II saga. No Pulp Fiction, no Kill Bill, and no Death Proof (although that last one may not come as a surprise).
Find out what our critics picked as The Best Quentin Tarantino Movies Ever, let us know your favorites, and come back next Wednesday for an all-new, highly debatable installment of Crave’s The Best Movie Ever!
Best Quentin Tarantino Movies List
William Bibbiani’s Pick: Jackie Brown (1997)
If you reduce motion pictures to their lowest common denominators, you would probably find that we live in a world that only a few dozen filmmakers built. I now think it’s fair to say that, alongside well established wunderkinds like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and – screw it, why not? – Akira Kurosawa, you would now find the name of Quentin Tarantino. And to think, in the 1990s, he seemed like an energetic but derivative filmmaker, whose films were so steeped in overt reference to earlier motion pictures that they practically toppled over. Reservoir Dogs is just City on Fire by way of Hamlet, and Pulp Fiction is every crime film from the 1970s jumbled together in a blender.
But time is the only film critic who matters, and Tarantino’s impressively conversational yet pointed dialogue, dramatic use of violence and constant allusion to that which came before became a house style for future filmmakers. Homage transmogrified into reverence, and films became storytelling mix tapes. His films are mostly great, and even when they fail their failure is interesting. (Oh, hello, The Hateful Eight, welcome to the party.)
So it might seem a little perverse to say that Tarantino’s best film is the only one that doesn’t appear, at a glance at any rate, to fit the mold. Jackie Brown is based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, but the author’s famously conversational style is an obviously influence on Tarantino. The story – about a stewardess (Pam Grier, amazing) who gets thrust into a criminal scheme and plays all the players against each other – is surprisingly laid back, and dedicates more time to lazy days and slow romance. And yet. And yet.
And yet Jackie Brown has a genuine sincerity to it that Tarantino’s many references rarely muster. (Although this film does have a killer homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing.) It looks today like Jackie Brown is the reality, the original inspiration on which Tarantino based his future mashups. It feels real where his many other (again, mostly great) motion pictures feel twee. It’s a film made entirely of heart, and only lightly dappled with reference. It’s a pure motion picture, a great motion picture, and easily Tarantino’s best.
Witney Seibold’s Pick: Jackie Brown (1997)
Full disclosure: I currently work for Quentin Tarantino (albeit not directly), so I should make clear that the opinions expressed in this article were garnered from my early days of indie film obsession, and not from any sort of professional obligation. That said, I have always admired Tarantino’s work as a writer, as a director, and as a film buff who is constantly working to keep his favorite types of movies (revenge flicks, kung-fu flicks, crime dramas, spaghetti westerns, and anything on 35mm film) alive.
Tarantino’s obsessions are all right there on the surface, and it can be said of the man that his films are all style and no substance, but the style is so overwhelmingly confident, that it kind of becomes the substance. Few filmmakers are allowed to so freely play in their own imagination – and are actually met with mainstream critical and commercial success 100% of the time – like Tarantino. If you think about it, the man has never been truly challenged or had to face any sort of palpable commercial struggle (his fight to maintain his version of Natural Born Killers, and the relative flop of Grindhouse being the only big humps in his career). As such, he has been allowed to indulge and indulge and indulge. And, frankly, it’s been good for everyone.
In terms of style, I would say that Kill Bill is Tarantino’s most orgiastic celebration, as well as the first time the man was allowed to be truly and fully indulgent (who else would make a 4 ½-hour kung-fu movie?), but in terms of his best, I am more and more coming down on the side of 1997’s Jackie Brown. Jackie Brown is, to date, Tarantino’s most adult film. It’s a slow-moving, talkative, casual film that is ultimately about a sweet, adult romance between two people in their 40s and 50s respectively. Ostensibly, Jackie Brown is meant to evoke ’70s exploitation films, right down to the casting of Pam Grier in the title role. But the film belongs to Academy Award nominee Robert Forster, who plays a practical and emotionally defeated bail bondsman who – when he was least expecting it – learns to breathe again in the presence of a new lady in his life. This is not a film about young passion, but adult love. And there’s something sophisticated and knowledgeable about that. It’s the kind of romance you usually only see from filmmakers in their 60s. Tarantino had the insight to make it in his 30s.
Brian Formo’s Pick: Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino is a magnificent writer who personalized tough characters by giving them a ballet of words that quickly became outbursts of violence. After the mainstream successes of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, the question of whether or not Tarantino was a great director—or just a great writer—began. What was holding Tarantino back from being a great director was that his shot setups hardly ever changed within any scene where pages of dialogue was being exchanged. These criticisms missed the very definition of “pulp” that opened Pulp Fiction “1) a soft, wet, shapeless mass of material 2) popular or sensational writing that is generally regarded as being of poor quality.” Most viewers focus on the second definition as being the most important—that Tarantino’s writing is so good he’s elevating a genre generally regarded as lesser—but “soft, wet, and shapeless” is just as important as it harkens to the B-movies that Tarantino loved so much.
Tarantino took the lack of mis-en-scene criticism seriously. He’s worked with the multiple Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson on all of his 21st century films. With new, fluid camera motions and immense focus on light and landscapes, Tarantino’s visuals were elevated to the quality of his pen. But his films became pulpier. In a way, Tarantino’s desire to become a great filmmaker equal to his great writing made his films become softer, wetter (in blood) and more shapeless—because his worlds became bigger.
Since the melding of both definitions of pulp seems to be the fullest Tarantino, I’m choosing Inglourious Basterds as the best example of his work. It’s soft (Christoph Waltz’s gleeful and verbose performance as a heinous Nazi), wetter (in shattered Nazi skulls and swastika-carved foreheads), shapeless (it’s revisionist history; Adolf Hitler and his cronies met their demise not from suicide, but from allied grunts and cinema-lovers!) and it elevates popular, sensational writing (war movies that elicit excitement) that is often regarded as being of poor quality (lesser than prestige war dramas) by associating it with the great cinematic works of G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box). The Best Tarantino? Now that’s a bingo!
Don’t forget to let us know what you consider to be the best Quentin Tarantino movies ever in the comment section below!