Total Recall: Quentin Tarantino's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Django Unchained director.
4. Jackie Brown
Three years after achieving "young Hollywood genius" status with Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino re-emerged with Jackie Brown, a 154-minute adaptation of the Elmore James novel Rum Punch that served as Tarantino's homage to 1970s blaxploitation while resurrecting the career of one of the genre's biggest stars: Pam Grier. Hitherto known for playing the title role in 1974's Foxy Brown, Grier returned to the big screen in pretty good company, including Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Robert De Niro, and Pulp Fiction star Samuel L. Jackson. While it was ultimately a bit of a critical and commercial letdown after the raging success of Pulp Fiction, Jackie still proved a favorite for scribes like Chuck Rudolph of Matinee Magazine, who wrote that it "Achieves the soulful edge lacking from Tarantino's previous efforts. Forster and Grier's performances deserve to join the short-list of all-time greats."
Any film fan worth his or her salt has seen plenty of World War II movies, but Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds added a little something special to the mix -- an eminently well-cast revenge fantasy, starring a motley crew of solid actors (including Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Michael Fassbender) as soldiers in a parallel reality where the evil of the Third Reich is met full force with an Allied squadron whose members are hungry for Nazi blood (and/or scalps). Boasting a uniquely cathartic flavor of Tarantino-brewed violence to go with its taut drama and dark wit, Basterds proved powerfully compelling for critics like Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, who had to concede, "Quentin Tarantino seems to be hanging on to a lost world of moviemaking. He may be nuts. But he's a nut who cares."
2. Pulp Fiction
Some careers take awhile to get going -- and then there's Quentin Tarantino, who drew almost universal critical praise for Reservoir Dogs before skyrocketing into the Hollywood stratosphere with his second film, 1994's Pulp Fiction. A $214 million box office smash and seven-time Academy Award nominee (as well as Best Original Screenplay winner), Fiction offered a blend of pop culture smarts, laugh-out-loud humor, and shocking violence so potent (and massively influential) that it even managed to revitalize John Travolta's long-moribund acting career -- and left Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" blasting out of countless college dorm rooms along the way. It was also, as Janet Maslin of the New York Times noted, "A triumphant, cleverly disorienting journey through a demimonde that springs entirely from Mr. Tarantino's ripe imagination, a landscape of danger, shock, hilarity and vibrant local color."
Debuts don't come much more auspicious than Reservoir Dogs. Yes, it's a profane, blood-splattered heist flick -- and goodness knows we have more than enough of those -- but this one's noteworthy for a number of things, including its hyper-literate script, its killer soundtrack, and a cast stuffed with tremendously talented character actors (including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen). While it didn't exactly set the world on fire during its small theatrical run, it did offer cineastes an early look at one of modern filmmaking's most exciting, fully formed talents -- and it definitely drew the notice of critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, who wrote, "It's unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes."
In case you were wondering, here are Tarantino's top movies according RT users' scores:
1. Pulp Fiction -- 95%
2. Reservoir Dogs -- 93%
3. Kill Bill, Volume 2 -- 87%
4. Inglourious Basterds -- 87%
5. Grindhouse -- 86%
6. Jackie Brown -- 78%
7. Kill Bill: Volume 1 -- 76%
8. Four Rooms -- 70%
Finally, here's footage from Tarantino's unfinished first film, My Best Friend's Birthday (which unsurprisingly contains some NSFW language):