The Tuesday List: The Films of Tarantino, Ranked

Hey did you hear Quentin Tarantino has a new movie out, The Hateful Eight? Well, he sure does. So what better time to rank his movies (except that one)? Answer: none. None better time.

Quentin Tarantino’s Films, in Order of Preference (Subjective), Least to Most Favorite (Excluding the Bit From Four Rooms and Sin City but Including Death Proof, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers)

10.) Django Unchained- Maybe I’ve just gotten old, but this one’s a tough sit for me. Too unpleasant for me to enjoy the righteous rush of approved vengeance earned, I nonetheless enjoy the primary performances, especially the duel evil of DiCaprio’s flashy monster Candy and Jackson’s far more insidious and hidden Stephen. I never feel like I’m enjoying the movie as much as I should or as QT clearly does and so the whole things turns my stomach a bit I confess. Maybe I really am just old.

9.) Death Proof- As befitting its place as part of Grindhouse, Death Proof feels a little thin and, I hesitate to say, a little amateurish. That said, Kurt Russell is pretty great and the stunt work is art all on its own.

8.) Natural Born Killers- A not directed by Tarantino movie based on a Tarantino script that is like Tarantino's vision through a fun house mirror. With Oliver Stone's direction, the movie can't help but wear its hatred of subtlety of its sleeve. Loud, sloppy, and overlong, it's compelling but it's also wildly flawed.

7.) Kill Bill Vol 2- After the kick that was Volume 1, Volume 2 suffers. It’s the movie with “all the answers” but, truthfully, Bill isn’t a duology that really begs for mysteries to be revealed. The answers are interesting enough, I guess, but part of the Volume 1’s appeal was the sense of frantic nearly out of control energy and there’s almost none of that here. Carradine’s Superman speech is a doozy (and so wrong, by the way, but perfectly in character for him to think that way about the Man of Steel) but nearly every bit until then just isn’t as compelling as what we got the less coherent but infinitely more fun first installment.

6.) Inglorious Basterds- Christoph Waltz is such a revelation-- you understand this was before we knew all his tricks-- that the movie nearly succeeds on that alone. Add in some of QT's best moments of comedy (Pitt's Raine's Italian accent is a thing of overconfident beauty), a corker of a twist in the timeline and the best woman hero Tarantino has written (sorry, the Bride) and this is a wild delight. It has a weird after taste that lingers, to paraphrase another movie, the juice is worth that squeeze.

5.) Kill Bill Vol 1- Blood drenched and spinning nearly out of control at every turn, Volume 1 is a thrill of beautiful violence that leaves you breathless keeping up. It’s difficult to know what’s going on or why we care, but we do and we cannot look away.

4.) Reservoir Dogs- I am a big fan of chamber pieces that rely on dialogue and performance to tell the story of the action we missed and Tarantino does a great job here of—with the exception of the ear scene—showing almost nothing and yet making us feel like we lived through the heist too. QT’s soundtracks are always great, but this one in particular still sticks out to me, another point in its column.

3.) Jackie Brown- QT's quietest and slowest film is almost the one I've come around the most on. Initially, in the wake of Pulp Fiction, I wrote it off as less interesting and less ambitious, a post-burst on the scene slide. Now? It's great. Smart and thoughtful, a pretty insightful take on growing older in general and especially as someone just holding on to being middle class by their fingernails. And also, you know, a great bit of crime fiction.

2.) True Romance- No, QT did not direct this one, but even via just the script, this is an incredibly Tarantino-y film. Scott's direction is way more stylish and kinetic that Tarantino's still excellent but a bit more straight direction. The flash and cuts adds a strange almost dreamlike quality and never has Tarantino's violence been as scary and bruising as Scott's staging of Alabama's fight with Virgil.

Slater's Clarence being a comic book nerd and Val Kilmer playing his "mentor" is only icing the cake.

1.) Pulp Fiction- It's always a little rough to hold a director's biggest and most well known film as his best, especially when it is so early in his career, but there it is. Fiction is the best of QT (and yes, some of his worst) in a tightly edited package (yes, its long, but it never feels overlong or inappropriately paced). The creative and sometimes cringy dialogue, the violence that is both shocking and funny, the clash of liberalism with the casual use of slurs. It is basically everything that makes Tarantino compelling and worthy of dissection all in one place, with the most creative puzzle box arrangement of his career.