By Cole Parkinson
This year has had a ton of my most anticipated movies released but none may have rivalled one that just came out last week.
As a massive Quentin Tarantino fan, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood was right around the top of my list of movies that I most highly anticipated for 2019.Before seeing it this past weekend, I had the Elton John biopic/fantasy musical Rocketman at the top of my favourite movies of the year and now I think it’s in a tie with Tarantino’s newest flick.
With Tarantino’s 9th (and potential penultimate movie of his directing career if he sticks to his 10 films only promise), it’s time for an update.
And I won’t be diving too deep into the ’Tarantino film universe’ which sees history change and movies become movies within that fictional universe (ie. Kill Bill, From Dawn Till Dusk and Natural Born Killers). It’s all been confirmed by the man himself and the breakdown of how all the movies connect has been broken down already so we’ll skip most of that.
For my list though, the bottom two and top two of my list have stayed pretty consistent for the past seven years but the middle can change depending on the year.
You could ask me my list this time next year and the middle could be completely different but here are my rankings in 2019.
9. Death Proof
Death Proof is the shortest QT film to date but it feels like the longest.
Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike McKay and the basic plot is he tries to lure women into his ‘death proof’ stunt car to set up staged car accidents which ultimately leads to the demise of whoever is sitting in the passenger seat.
But for the large majority of the movie, there isn’t anything going on.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in some Tarantino movies, and we’ll get to those soon, but this one isn’t all that enjoyable at any part except the last third of the running time.
Hell, even Quentin Tarantino names this as his least favourite and its easy to see why.
At only 113 minutes it’s short enough to be tolerable but I even skip it on occasion during Tarantino marathons.
8. Kill Bill
I know, I know Kill Bill is technically two movies but the original plan was it to be one complete movie but it would have been well over four hours so it was split into two parts.
And who only watches one half of a movie?
This one is probably ranked higher on a lot of people’s lists but I never clicked with it nearly as much as the others.
Maybe it’s my lack of interest in samurai/kung fu films or maybe it’s just I like the others so much more.
The most interesting portion of Kill Bill to me isn’t even the movies themselves, it’s that Uma Thurman is playing Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction who is then playing The Bride in Kill Bill.
So it’s a movie within a movie cinematic universe.
I know, it’s complicated.
7. The Hateful Eight
Speaking of movies with tons of dialogue but not a lot going on, that’s The Hateful Eight.
I do really like this movie though, and I like it way better than Death Proof.
The cast is phenomenal with QT regulars Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen.
My favourite performances though come from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins who are fantastic from start to finish.
Originally planned as a novel, The Hateful Eight had a weird development schedule as the screenplay had leaked which lead to Tarantino cancelling the film.
From there, they did a live reading of the original screenplay which lead to Tarantino re-writing portions of the script to be once again developed as a movie.
At 168 minutes, it’s a long movie and it’s all set in one location which doesn’t really lead to a whole lot going on but the characters are so good that I find tons of enjoyment in it.
It won’t be for everyone but it’s basically a stage play that Tarantino decided to make a movie.
6. Jackie Brown
Instead of trying to top Pulp Fiction, Tarantino scaled things back with 1997’s Jackie Brown, which was based on a novel titled Rum Punch.
Starring Pam Grier, Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown is one of those movies I find shuffling on my list quite often.
Tarantino at the time was looked at as a director that could resurrect careers when he did it with John Travolta and he proceeded to do the same with both Grier and Forster, who had not been leads in movies in quite a few years.
The twist and turns of the film make it a wild ride even on multiple viewings and Jackie Brown is a fantastic character.
It may not be the most recognizable film in Tarantino’s slate but it’s enjoyable from start to finish.
5. Inglorious Basterds
I remember when this movie came out in 2009 and all of my friends were talking about how great it was.
And I agreed with them, all the way until Hitler dies.
At this point, I was 15 and while I had seen a good portion of Tarantino movies but I didn’t realize Tarantino doesn’t give a damn about history.
I watched an interview where he said he struggled with what to do with Hitler when he was in the burning theatre at the climax of the film.
While he could have had him get out and stick to a more factual version of history, he decided to completely change history, which also shifted his own fictional universe.
And that absolutely was the right decision.
Casting once again was expertly done as Brad Pitt is incredible as Lt. Aldo Raine but the stand out is Christoph Waltz who puts forth arguably the best villain performance in a Tarantino movie as Hans Landa.
It’s funny, it’s brutal and it’s classic Tarantino.
4. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood
There may be some recency bias with this one and I struggled whether to put it at four or five but I loved this movie.
There isn’t a real driving plot until near the end of the movie when things kick into what most people thought the movie was going to be about, the Sharon Tate murders by the Manson Family.
But in Tarantino fashion, things don’t play out exactly as they did in real life.
Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio are back for their second go-arounds in the Tarantino universe starring as stuntman Cliff Booth and actor Rick Dalton, respectively while Margot Robbie is brilliant as the late Sharon Tate.
All three fire on all cylinders for the entire movie and really carry the movie. The cast beyond that is massive and features plenty of great cameos from actors such as Timothy Olyphant, Al Pacino, Lena Dunham and a whole lot of other recognizable names.
While it isn’t a plot heavy film. it does take you back to 1969 Los Angeles and places you into what Hollywood was like during that time.
And it’s incredibly funny, so funny in fact, that I would argue it’s Tarantino’s best in that department.
Beyond that, I won’t spoil much more.
You’ll just have to go see it for yourself.
3. Reservoir Dogs
Quentin’s first big feature film released in 1992 is about a jewellery store heist that goes terribly wrong.
The interesting part is even though the movie is about this big heist, it’s never shown in the movie.
It’s really all about the fallout of the heist and figuring out what went wrong.
If you’ve never seen it, I won’t spoil anything other than that because it’s a movie that will keep you guessing.
A lot of usual QT suspects are in this one too as Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen all play major parts in the movie.
Tarantino movies all have some sort of shock factor but I have to say Reservoir Dogs probably has the most uneasy scene of them all.
If you’ve seen it, you probably know what I’m talking about but if not, just know I can never hear ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ by Stealers Wheel in the same way again.
2. Django Unchained
One subject that really isn’t touched on much in cinema is slavery.
QT took that subject full-on with the great Django Unchained released in 2012.
In laments terms it is about a former slave who becomes a bounty hunter.
But really it’s about a man trying to find and free his wife from a plantation and it’s unlike any of the other QT movies, this one is a straight-up love story.
It’s probably a broken record at this point but man, the performances in this thing are so good.
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington are all fantastic and it’s incredibly easy to root for them especially since the villains in this movie are downright deplorable.
Whether it’s Walton Goggins as Billy Crash, Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen or Leo DiCaprio’s frightening Calvin J. Candie, the acting is top-notch.
While the subject of slavery is a hard one to make light of, there are quite a few laugh out loud moments in this one and watching Django kill tons of slavers is incredibly satisfying.
This one has everything you’d want in a Tarantino movie — laughs, great characters and tons of bloody violence.
1. Pulp Fiction
Of course, it’s Pulp Fiction.
And what is there to even say about it that hasn’t already been said?
It’s about as close to a masterpiece as you can find in movies, in my book.
Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are fantastic as Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega while the aforementioned Uma Thurman does a great job as Mia Wallace.
The movie is out of chronological order but is easy enough to follow and each piece of the puzzle is incredibly entertaining.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Pulp Fiction but every time I think about it I want to give it a re-watch and if you’ve never seen it, why not?
It’s an absolute must watch.
There’s really no other way to describe the movie, it’s rollercoaster that takes you left when you think it’s going right and up when you think it’s going down.
All I know is, I don’t ever want to know what is going on in the basement of pawnshops across America.