Posted on Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 by Jacob Hall
I’ve spent the past few weeks immersing myself in the world of Quentin Tarantino. To prepare for the release of his latest film, The Hateful Eight, I ranked each and every one of his characters. Then I wrote about The Hateful Eight itself, which I saw in its glorious “roadshow” version. Now, it’s time to close the book on this subject for a little while… or until Mr. Tarantino decides to get around to making another movie. It’s time to rank all of his movies. Because this is the internet and ranking things is what we do.
So how do you rank the work of a filmmaker whose worst movie is still an exceptional piece of cinema? With great difficulty. This kind of thing isn’t science. This isn’t definitive by any means. Consider this an opportunity to talk about Tarantino’s work, to debate and discuss his movies. You will most certainly disagree with this ranking and that’s kind of the point.
Now, let’s dive in.
9. Death Proof (2007)
Imagine a career where Death Proof is your worst movie. Quentin Tarantino’s weakest effort is still a totally fascinating experiment, a recreation of trashy “grindhouse” cinema that actually manages to feel like the kind of movies it is recreating. But Death Proof is more than a simple pastiche – it’s a genuinely skillful slasher movie that riffs on the formula while shattering it into a million pieces. Here is a movie that deliberately riffs on the structure of Psycho by killing its heroine at the halfway mark and then has the nerve to transform into a female-empowerment revenge picture where the vicious killer is brutally emasculated and exposed as a whiny coward. Death Proof can be a little uneven, but every scene brings forth wonderful ideas and just about every moment that matters is executed to perfection.
8. Django Unchained (2012)
As the spiritual sequel to Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained can’t help but feel a little familiar. Once again, Tarantino treats history as a fantasy landscape that he can mold to his liking, bending familiar iconography to give a minority hero a shot at bloody revenge. And as an action movie about a former slave turned bounty hunter setting out to rescue his wife, Django Unchained is exceptional. A character like Django may not have existed, but it’s impossible to look at the sins of America and not feel that he needed to exist, that his fictional retribution is a necessary catharsis. The film ranks this low because it takes too long to shift into its strongest gear and lacks the laser focus of Tarantino’s best work, but it’s still an unforgettable, and uncomfortable, epic filled with heroes worthy of your cheers, villains worthy of your scorn, and sequences that leave a lasting mark.
7. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dogs is one of the most astonishing first films from any filmmaker and, 23 years later, it feels like an anomaly in his career. This film sprints through its brisk 99-minute running time, leaving no prisoners and only pausing long enough to let the biggest shocks sink in… because then it’s another sprint to that next big moment. With its tight storytelling and compact cast of characters, Reservoir Dogs wears its smallness as a badge of honor, intentionally leaving so much to the imagination. Although the film still plays like a jolt of cinematic lightning, that first-timer rawness is still evident at all times. The biggest issue facing Reservoir Dogs is that it was immediately followed by films that saw his directorial learning curve smashed to tiny pieces.