ranking tarantino characters mia wallace

15. Mia Wallace

The Movie: Pulp Fiction

The Actor: Uma Thurman

Noteworthy Quote: “I do believe Marsellus Wallace, my husband, your boss, told you to take me out and do whatever I wanted. Now I wanna dance, I wanna win. I want that trophy, so dance good.”

Mia Wallace was the only character on the Pulp Fiction poster for a damn good reason. Marsellus Wallace’s bored wife feels like a big middle finger to the concept of the “manic pixie dream girl” a decade before that was even a thing. Here is the disarmingly sexy, infinitely fascinating wife of the biggest crime boss in Los Angeles. She likes tacky theme restaurants. She’s a pretty good dancer. She mistakes Vincent Vega’s heroin for cocaine and almost dies for her troubles. The “seductive wife of the powerful criminal” was a tired archetype in 1994 and it’s tired today, but the offbeat, trouble-seeking Mia is one of Tarantino’s most fleshed-out characters. You really do want to sit down and share a five-dollar milkshake with her.

ranking tarantino characters butch coolidge

14. Butch Coolidge

The Movie: Pulp Fiction

The Actor: Bruce Willis

Noteworthy Quote: “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.”

Butch Coolidge is a cool. guy. Any by cool, I mean icy. During our time with him in Pulp Fiction, he lies to the face of crime boss, kills one man in the boxing ring, executes one unarmed man with a machine gun, and runs another one through with a samurai sword. After shooting Vincent Vega full of lead, he cheerfully sings along with his radio. Pulp Fiction is a movie where many of the characters are professional murderers, but Bruce Willis is the generally ordinary guy who learns just how easy it is to take a life. And he’s okay with that.

ranking tarantino characters django

13. Django

The Movie: Django Unchained

The Actor: Jamie Foxx

Noteworthy Quote: “Kill white people and get paid for it? What’s not to like?”

Of all the characters in Tarantino’s filmography, Django is the easiest to sum up in a single sentence: “Former slave turned bounty hunter embarks on a mission of vengeance to rescue his wife.” Django is a fairly straightforward character, but that’s necessary because he carries so much additional baggage with him. Django is a furious attempt to strike back at the sins of a past century and a furious vessel for the racial tension that still simmers every single day across the United States. He’s simple because he needs to be. We can’t change the past, but we might as well fill it full of bullets on the movie screen.

ranking tarantino characters stephen

12. Stephen

The Movie: Django Unchained

The Actor: Samuel L. Jackson

Noteworthy Quote: “Your black ass is what all them motherfuckers at the Big House could talk about for the last few hours. Seem like white folk ain’t never had a bright idea in they life was coming up with all kinds of ways to kill your ass.”

Stephen is true villain of Django Unchained and one of the best characters Samuel L. Jackson has ever played. The “house slave” who actually runs the house, Stephen acts like a bumbling buffoon in public, playing into the common white preconception of what a black man is. Behind closed doors, he’s a Machiavellian monster, maintaining his place on the top of the food chain by being smarter and craftier than his white masters… and letting them oh-so-graciously hear his thoughts on matters. To Django, he’s the ultimate symbol of evil: a man who has betrayed his entire race for position in the big house. For us, he’s one of the best villains in recent movie history.

ranking tarantino characters mr. blonde

11. Mr. Blonde

The Movie: Reservoir Dogs

The Actor: Michael Madsen

Noteworthy Quote: “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?”

The most surprising thing about my recent re-watch of Reservoir Dogs was how little Mr. Blonde is actually in it. He looms so large over the movie that we think he has more screen time that he actually does. Tarantino’s first cinematic psychopath makes the most of his screen time – when he’s not calmly defending himself against accusations from Mr. White and Mr. Pink, he’s putting on the ’70s station so he can have a soundtrack while he tortures a cop to death. He’s an unrepentant lunatic, the only truly unforgivable character in a movie filled with murderers. It’s a shame Michael Madsen has yet to find a role this good again.

ranking tarantino characters max cherry

10. Max Cherry

The Movie: Jackie Brown

The Actor: Robert Forster

Noteworthy Quote: “I’m 56 years old. I can’t blame anybody for anything I do.”

Max Cherry is getting old and he’s getting weary and he’s terrified that he’s running out of life to live. When a woman named Jackie Brown ropes him into a scheme to rob her arms dealer employer out of $500,000, a goes along with it. He has a thing for Jackie, but he’s also surely attracted to the excitement of the situation. It’s a chance for this seasoned bail bondsman to feel young again. You can feel the melancholy of actor Robert Forster pumping through Max. Here an actor who has been working for decades, but what does he have to show for it beyond an appreciation from a few serious film nerds? In Tarantino, Forster found a film nerd willing to let him strut his stuff again. In Max Cherry, Forster found the role of a lifetime.

ranking tarantino characters vincent vega

9. Vincent Vega

The Movie: Pulp Fiction

The Actor: John Travolta

Noteworthy Quote: “And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?”

Much has been written about how Pulp Fiction pulled John Travolta about the Hollywood gutter and how the film gave him the second wind that is still continuing to this day. But the specific truth is that Pulp Fiction didn’t save John Travolta – John Travolta saved Travolta, because his performance as Vincent Vega is wonderful. He’s just a bit dim, but charmingly so. He’s an addict, but he doesn’t let it get in the way of his daily life. He’s not nearly as cool as he thinks he is, but that’s why we like him. Vincent Vega is just another guy, a regular dude full of trivia about Europe and opinions about foot massages. So what if he kills people for a living?

ranking tarantino characters stuntman mike

8. Stuntman Mike

The Movie: Death Proof

The Actor: Kurt Russell

Noteworthy Quote: “Hey, Pam, remember when I said this car was death proof? Well, that wasn’t a lie. This car is 100% death proof. Only to get the benefit of it, honey, you really need to be sitting in my seat.”

As far as living portraits of American masculinity go, Kurt Russell probably ranks in top five. That’s why his casting as Stuntman Mike is so crafty – here is one of Hollywood’s great leading men subverting everything we know about him. This character is more than just Kurt Russell playing against type, though. He’s a fantastic psychopath and a unique riff on the horror movie slasher (a character type that’s been running on fumes for years). Russell’s easygoing menace, his Texas charm, his desire to meet his victims before he stages care accidents with them in his “death proof” car, all feel fresh. Death Proof may be the weakest Tarantino movie, but Stuntman Mike is one of his best characters.

ranking tarantino characters bill

7. Bill

The Movie: Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2

The Actor: David Carradine

Noteworthy Quote: “Do you find me sadistic? You know, I bet I could fry an egg on your head right now if I wanted to. You know, Kiddo, I’d like to believe that you’re aware enough even now to know that there’s nothing sadistic in my actions. Well, maybe towards those other… jokers, but not you. No Kiddo, at this moment, this is me at my most masochistic.”

Only Quentin Tarantino would have entrusted B-movie actor extraordinaire David Carradine to pull off a performance like this. Bill is hard to sum up. A loving father and martial arts aficionado. A trained killer and merciless leader of assassins. A guy who can monologue about Superman and murder a room full of people without thinking twice. After hours of build-up, hours of hiding his face and keeping him offscreen, Tarantino reveals that the titular Bill in Kill Bill is a fairly ordinary guy, a laid-back older gentleman who is basking in the rewards of fatherhood. That is so much more impressive than another cackling villain.

ranking tarantino characters shoshanna

6. Shosanna Dreyfys

The Movie: Inglourious Basterds

The Actor: Mélanie Laurent

Noteworthy Quote: “My name is Shosanna Dreyfus and this is the face of Jewish vengeance!”

Shoannah is a Jewish girl who murders a movie palace full of Nazis using the unmatched (and explosive) power of film stock. It is literally impossible to imagine a heroine who better captures what Tarantino is all about.

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