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The best Quentin Tarantino movies, ranked – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and more

If you haven't seen these films at least one time, you need to ... and then watch them again and again

Scene from Pulp Fiction, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson
Alamy

Of all the contemporary film auteurs, perhaps no one’s work has permeated pop culture as thoroughly as Quentin Tarantino’s. This director’s hyper-stylized, retro fantasy worlds have come to define cinematic coolness. His clever mashups of genres, exquisite sense of aesthetics, impeccable editing, uproarious suspensefulness, and impossibly quippy dialogue have been endlessly imitated.

Given the current political landscape, Tarantino’s work has undergone a serious critical re-evaluation from Black and feminist critics and scholars who point toward both his allegedly abusive behaviors and the offensive politics and rhetoric of his films. It’s true that in this new light, for many, there may be nothing redeemable about his entire oeuvre. 

However, to discard all Quentin Tarantino movies would discount the impossible talent of his frequent collaborators and stars, such as Sally Menke (who edited all of Tarantino’s movies until her death in 2010), Uma Thurman (who not only played the protagonist of Tarantino’s most iconic movies but was also credited as a co-writer on Kill Bill), Samuel L. Jackson (a frequent Tarantino star), and many more.

With that in mind, here’s our (subjective!) ranking of the greatest directed Quentin Tarantino movies of all time.

9. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

9. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
83%
7.6/10
162m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
By 2019, Tarantino’s works had gone through a critical re-evaluation, with many viewers becoming painfully aware of obvious blind spots in his aesthetic creations. But instead of improving or addressing these critiques, Tarantino doubled down on his shortcomings. Gleefully misogynistic, bizarrely meandering, needlessly disrespectful to history, and in strikingly poor taste overall (without any real sense of irony to carry it over into the realm of satire), Once Upon A Time may have garnered Oscar nominations, but it’s easily the director’s worst work. Yes — Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances are magnificent, but their talent simply can’t save this pointless story.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD - Official Trailer (HD)

8. Django Unchained (2012)

8. Django Unchained
81%
8.4/10
165m
Genre
Drama, Western
Stars
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Hulu
The absolutely stunning acting from Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington is the real selling point of Django Unchained. Although the camerawork, performances, costuming, and storytelling of Django are nothing short of fantastic, it’s hard to look past what New York Times critic A.O. Scott described as the “brazenly irresponsible” and historically incoherent politics of the film. Even amidst praise, scholar Dana Phillips called the movie “downright lurid.” And the extreme violence of the movie is simply unpalatable for most audiences.

7. The Hateful Eight (2015)

7. The Hateful Eight
68%
7.8/10
188m
Genre
Drama, Mystery, Western
Stars
Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Netflix
Samuel L. Jackson is the protagonist for this cold, Western nightmare — and his acting once again provides salvation for an often uncomfortably violent movie. Presented in select theaters with a full intermission — and the extended version available on Netflix as a four-part series — the movie is one long buildup to an ultra-violent crescendo, demonstrating Tarantino’s unparalleled talent for creating suspense. But it’s understandable that many simply didn’t have the patience for the payoff.

6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

6. Inglourious Basterds
69%
8.3/10
153m
Genre
Drama, Thriller, War
Stars
Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
The first of Tarantino’s historically revisionist fantasies, Inglourious Basterds treads politically uncomfortable waters throughout its 2-hour and 33-minute run. Nonetheless, Tarantino advances his thesis about the potency of revenge through a complex and labyrinthine tale of Jewish fury. Although praise was heaped on Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz for their excellent acting, Mélanie Laurent steals the show with ease. The sweeping cinematography of certain scenes is breathtaking — if also terribly disturbing. This film was even good enough to land a place on our list of the best war movies of all time.

5. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

5. Reservoir Dogs
79%
8.3/10
99m
Genre
Crime, Thriller
Stars
Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
A tightly wound suspense story of an assassination gone wrong, Reservoir Dogs’ unfortunately all-white and all-male cast make this movie much less tolerable than the director’s more colorful films — but the plot itself is absurdly compelling, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner. It’s not the most emotionally complex movie ever made, but it’s definitely one of the most entertaining.

4. Death Proof (2007)

4. Death Proof
7/10
113m
Genre
Action, Thriller
Stars
Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Apple TV+
Although Tarantino is an avowed horror fan, his movies rarely venture into that genre — with the exception of Death Proof. A slasher film at its heart (but replacing a machete with a racecar), Tarantino is on the record saying Death Proof is the worst work he’s ever released. It’s hard to understand why: The cast of cool women and their relatable debauched dialogue is even more lovable than the hyper-macho assassins he summons in other films. Kurt Russell as a psychopathic stuntman is creepily charming, and few emotional moments in Hollywood history compare to the triumph felt during the movie’s lengthy concluding chase sequence and the post-credit skull-crushing.[/dt_media]

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

3. Pulp Fiction
94%
8.9/10
154m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
Stars
John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
The narrative complexity and imminent quotability of Pulp Fiction make this movie impossible to avoid or ignore. With outstanding acting across the board and the perhaps most iconic soundtrack in cinema history, it’s no surprise Pulp Fiction was nominated for several Oscars. The very conceit of philosophically inclined hitmen on an existential and magically real journey has left an entire neo-noir subgenre of films in its wake. Although the rapport between characters is usually quite endearing, there are unfortunate segments of the script that simply don’t hold up to today’s standards of decency in ways that are patently unforgivable.

2. Jackie Brown (1997)

2. Jackie Brown
64%
7.5/10
154m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
Jackie Brown is as much a crime film as it is a love letter to its star, Pam Grier — without whom this movie amounts to very little. Luckily, Grier’s inimitable presence is enough to skyrocket Jackie Brown to the higher reaches of this list. Dryly funny and emotionally complex, the eponymous criminal heroine’s quest for freedom is both harrowing and entertaining. Samuel L. Jackson is a perfect foil for Grier’s grace, and the movie’s music has left a mark on cinema culture forever.

1. Kill Bill: Volumes 1 + 2 (2003--2004)

1. Kill Bill: Volumes 1 + 2
69%
8.1/10
r
111m
Genre
Action, Crime, Drama
Stars
Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Amazon
Although the two films were released a year apart, this post-modern “roaring rampage of revenge” is one continuous narrative arc such that each movie is simply incomplete without the other — that’s why they’re only taking up one space on this list. Although the cartoonish violence of this anachronistic samurai fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea, the gorgeous art design, beautiful fight choreography, and melancholic tale of a mother’s love is quite obviously the pinnacle of Tarantino’s work. Even the most ardent Tarantino haters must admit that the strength and resilience of Uma Thurman, who both starred in and co-authored The Bride’s bloody journey, saves these movies from complete excoriation.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 | Official Green Band Trailer (HD) - Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu | MIRAMAX

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Eric Shorey
Eric Shorey is a freelance pop culture blogger whose work has appeared in Nylon, Vice, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and MTV. He…
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