Love him or hate him, the American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor has created some of the most iconic and memorable movie moments since he burst into the scene in 1992 with the Sundance hit Reservoir Dogs. Site contributor Tressa Eckermann and Editor-in-Chief Ricky D have decided to put together a list of his greatest moments as both a screenwriter and director.
1: True Romance: Drexel Spivey meets Clarence Worley
True Romance is cluttered with a who’s who of Hollywood celebs: Supporting actor Brad Pitt plays a comically disconnected stoner – a barely glimpsed Val Kilmer appears as an imaginary Elvis mentor, a conscience, schizophrenic hallucination to Christian Slater’s Clarence – and Samuel L. Jackson turns up for a remarkable cameo as a drug dealer whose foul mouth gets in the way of his judgment. But of all the supporting players it is Gary Oldman who steals every scene as Drexel Spivey, a slimy, vicious white pimp who thinks he’s black.
– Ricky D
2: True Romance: Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken standoff
I remember the first time I saw True Romance and being so startled by this scene. Up until this point True Romance was a killer sexy road trip movie and with the exception of the brutal murder of Gary Oldman’s vicious pimp Drexel, the violence is relatively contained. Where the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs is all about unrestrained brutality this is so restrained it’s almost unbearable. You know something really bad is coming but watching these two masters go up against each other, expertly spouting off Tarantino whiplash dialogue, is stunning.
The movie’s best scene, bar none; the un-PC scene in which Clarence’s dad (Dennis Hopper) faces off against Vincent Coccotti (Christopher Walken), the right hand man of Blue Lou Boyle. Walken has never been more menacing and never have racial slurs been used so well. This critic would argue that this is Tarantino’s second best monologue (the first heard in the opening of Inglourious Basterds), and Scott’s most skilled direction.
– Ricky D
3: True Romance – Motel brawl
As a romance, True Romance is sick and twisted; as an action flick it’s stylish and exciting and as a road movie it’s constantly in motion. And yet through the colourful dialogue, dry and cynical humour and Mexican stand-offs, True Romance features some genuinely touching moments – most notably James Gandolfini’s bloody, protracted motel-room assault on Patricia Arquette’s Alabama (a scene originally trimmed for theatrical release, and later restored for video). Sadly, I cannot find a clip online so I’ve embedded the trailer below.
4: Reservoir Dogs: Opening credit sequence
Twenty years later, perhaps the most famous image in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs is the slow-mo Wild Bunch credit sequence. The song, the walk, the skinny ties and black and white suits and the ensemble of great actors makes this truly classic.
5: Reservoir Dogs: The torture scene
Tarantino once called this scene, particularly the fading music as Blonde leaves and then re-enters the warehouse, as one of his proudest moments as a filmmaker. It might be one of the most recognizable scenes in film history today but it still manages to be an undeniably effective scene. As a viewer you have to take a step back and look at the genius that Tarantino had to not show us the most horrifying moment of the entire scene. In the years since, most movies have taken the opinion that the more gore the better, but Tarantino (and Michael Madsen, for that matter) prove that less is always more.
6: Pulp Fiction: Honey Bunny and Pumpkin, the opening sequence
In a movie like Pulp Fiction it’s near impossible to pick just one great scene. I could pick whole segments that make the movie. “The Bonnie Situation”, is still my favorite part of the entire film. But the opener is one of the best. Tarantino’s good at a lot of things but no one introduces a character like him. In that one simple opener he mange’s to make Pumpkin and Honey Bunny so- normal. There funny and witty, like one of those couples in high school that was just to cool. In that one scene Tarantino manages to set the tone for the entire film, brutal, shocking, and funny.
7: Pulp Fiction: Breakfast Scene
By the time Vincent Vega and Julies Winnfield walk into the run down apartment at the beginning of Pulp Fiction your pretty sure these aren’t the nicest guys in the world. Julies might be a “righteous man” but by the time Samuel L. Jackson delivers his fiery, now legendary speech your initial impression of these two men is proven correct. Your pretty sure Vic and Julies are cool and cold and this scene shows you exactly why.
8: Pulp Fiction: Jack Rabbit Slim’s Dance
The opening conversation between Amanda Plummer’s slightly dazed Honey Bunny and Tim Roth’s casually racist Pumpkin remains one of the greatest opening scenes to any American film. But later on, Tarantino takes us to Jack Rabbit Slim’s, a faux-1950s- themed diner that serves $5 milkshakes, Douglas Sirk steaks and has the waitresses dress as Marilyn Monroe and the waiter, Buddy Holly. Veteran Los Angeles hit man Vincent Vega (John Travolta) takes Mia (Uma Thurman), the wife of his criminal boss out for dinner. This date spotlights the picture’s biggest set piece, and one of the film’s most unforgettable scenes. Before long, Mia announces that she wants to compete in the Jack Rabbit Slim’s dance contest. As the two begin cutting loose to Chuck Berry’s ”You Never Can Tell,” the dance becomes an extension of their dialogue.
– Ricky D
9: Pulp Fiction: Stab her in the heart
Vincent and Mia’s date ends in disaster when Mia O.D.’s on drugs and Vince fearing for her life rushes her to the home of his hippie drug dealer Lance (Eric Stoltz ). The pair surround the now unconscious Mr.s Wallace, give her an adrenaline injection with the help of a black magic marker, and bring her back to life.
– Ricky D
10: Pulp Fiction: The Gold Watch
In Christopher Walken’s sole scene in Pulp Fiction, he plays a military officer who delivers a lengthy monologue explaining how he happened to come by a prized gold watch. The speech builds carefully to the movies most outrageous punch line.
Captain Koons: “The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy’s birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you”.
– Ricky D
11: Four Rooms: $1000 in a second
In 1994, four of the most celebrated directors in the independent film community pooled their talents for a four-segment anthology film titled Four Rooms. It is one of the worst films ever made. Tarantino’s segment “The Man From Hollywood” is based on an old Alfred Hitchcock TV episode, where a man bets his finger that he can light his zippo ten straight times. “The Man From Hollywood” is the only segment of the four that is somewhat worth your time, if only for whip fast clever punchline in the end.
– Ricky D
12: Jackie Brown: Chris Tucker is a sucker
Jackie Brown is low on action and high on double crosses. Unsurprisingly, the most memorable performance in Jackie Brown is delivered by Samuel L. Jackson a borderline crime figure plotting to take out former associates. Jackson, sporting a long ponytail and stringed soul patch, is superb as the malevolent arms dealer who uses people as pawns in his deadly game. Chris Tucker making a brief cameo appearance as Beaumont Livingston, is the first to fall victim to Ordell’s gunrunning operation. Ordell somehow convinces Beaumont to get into the trunk of his car. As he drives off, Tarantino follows with a beautiful long tracking shot to the other side of the parking lot. Meanwhile the soulful sounds of Motown play on the car radio.
– Ricky D
14: Jackie Brown: Ray’s interrogation
Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s “grown-up” movie, a love letter to blaxplotation films of the 70s and Pam Grier. There are a lot of great moments in the movie but Ray’s (Michael Keaton, in a totally underrated role), interrogation of Jackie is heated and frantic, not unlike Jackie’s situation. When Ray tells her, “I sure hope you didn’t do anything stupid, Jackie”, you cant really tell if he’s angry, genuinely worried about Jackie, or just the state of his job. Whatever it is, it still manages to be a strong scene that stands out in a movie full of them.
15: Jackie Brown: Is that a gun?
Jackie Brown waits about a half hour before Pam Grier gets to strut her stuff. In one early scene, Jackie gets a visit late at night from Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). The lights go off and somehow Jackie grabs hold of a gun and delivers an iconic performance she was once so famous for.
– Ricky D
16: Jackie Brown: The exchange
Jackie Brown is often accused of being slow. The film never speeds up and in fact during the climax, it slows down even more. Borrowing a trick from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, Tarantino presents the same incident involving an exchange of money three times, from three vantage points. Each one reveals key aspects of the carefully planned maneuver and each scene is staged methodically, over-deliberately so we only understand Jackie’s master-plan at the very end of it all.
– Ricky D
17: Kill Bill Vol. 1: Bitch, we gonna have ourselves a knife fight
Tarantino’s highly stylized revenge flick gets off to a kick-ass start, with Uma Thurman’s Bride busting into the Pasadena home of Vernita Green to initiate a prolonged and bloody knife-fight-to-the-death. The duel is broken up by the arrival of Green’s daughter but not before the two women trash the entire living room.
– Ricky D
18: Kill Bill Vol. 1: Twisted Nerve
Watching Kill Bill is like mainlining Tarantino’s favourite cinematic moments but reshaped by his demented mind and adolescent enthusiasm. Tarantino layers bits from ever spaghetti western, chopsocky, yakuza and blaxploitation film he’s ever seen. But he also takes inspiration from Brian DePalma and in one sequence he splits the screen in two while Daryl Hannah walks down the hospital corridors whistling the theme to Twisted Nerve. Bernard Herrmann’s score plays in the background as Black Mamba closes in for the kill.
– Ricky D
19: Kill Bill Vol. 1: Hattori Hanzo
First stop on the Bride’s trip to Japan is Okinawa at the modest sushi bar of Hattori Hanzo (played by’70s martial arts superstar Sonny Chiba). After some upbeat broad comedy that shifts the film’s dialogue primarily to Japanese, Hattori agrees to make a one of a kind samurai sword for the Bride to take with her to Tokyo.
– Ricky D
20: Kill Bill Vol. 1: The Bride vs. The Crazy 88 sequence
Anybody who grew up watching kung-fu movies like I did usually points this scene out as one of their favorites from the entire film. The classic references, poppy soundtrack (including a hip 60s hit), the beautiful black and white cinematography, and the finale silhouette fight might all be homage to classic kung-fu but it still has the unmistakable edge that’s always in Tarantino’s work. Its tongue and cheek, it’s over the top, it’s bloody but it is undeniably Tarantino threw and threw.
21: Kill Bill Vol. 1: Gogo
In the pic’s biggest set piece, which reportedly took eight weeks to shoot, The Bride finds herself locked in a fierce battle with a lethal, demonic schoolgirl named Gogo (played by Battle Royale star Chiaki Kuriyama). Gogo’s weapon of choice is a ball and chain with blades, a weapon inspired by Tarantino’s favourite kung-fu flick Master of the Flying Guillotine. During the sequence we are treated to music from Kinji Fukasaku Battle Without Honor and Humanity as well as the fine fight choreography from the legendary Yeun Woo-ping.
22: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Bill meets Bud
Kill Bill Vol. 2 was originally intended to be the back half of a single movie, and you can tell where Tarantino has stretched the material to fit the new running time. There’s less action, and a lot more talking, but luckily many of these conversations showoff the rhythm to Tarantino’s dialogue we’ve come to love. Some scenes can easily be cut out while others work as a legitimate effort to build the characters. A prime example of the latter, is the scene featuring the meeting between Bud and his bother Bill.
– Ricky D
23: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Bud vs. The Bride
Uma Thurman was great in Kill Bill Vol. 1 as an avenging angel, but she’s better in Kill Bill Vol.2. Whereas Kill Bill Vol. 1 made her Bride seem unstoppable, Kill Bill Vol. 2 raises the stakes by placing her against a worthy foe: Bud gets a jump on The Bride before she even has a chance to enter into his home.
– Ricky D
24: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Duel with Pai Mei
In Kill Bill, Tarantino has fun aping the conventions of ’70s Shaw Brothers kung fu epics, specifically in the flashbacks to the Bride’s martial arts training, under the ancient master Pai Mei. Gordon Liu, a veteran Chinese actor, has a standout role lampooning the traditional kung-fu master with a flowing white beard and long white eyebrows. Working with d.p. Robert Richardson, Tarantino is able to recapture the look and feel of those classic martial arts films. The duel between The Bride and Pai Mei is not only wonderfully choreographed but shot with the same colour schemes and quick zooms of those earlier films.
– Ricky D
25: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Rising from the dead
In a chapter entitled “The Lonely Journey of Paula Schultz,” Budd (Michael Madsen), who lives in a mobile trailer home in the middle of some desert near Barstow, California, manages to turn the tables on the Bride and subject her to a fate worse than death: He buries her alive. To suggest the claustrophobia of being buried, Tarantino compresses the widescreen frame to the classic 4×3 screen ratio before turning the picture to pitch black altogether. Rarely as any Tarantino film been so terrifying than when you’re sitting in a pitch-black theater. The result conveys the terror of Uma Thurman’s Bride who finds herself locked in a tight wooden casket with only the sounds of dirt dumped on top of it.
– Ricky D
26: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Black Mamba
After Elle Driver lets loose a black mamba snake on Bud, she reads from her wikipedia notes, what the snake’s deadly powers are and how the toxin effects the central nervous system.
– Ricky D
27: Kill Bill Vol. 2: Trailer home trash
The scene in which the The Bride and Elle settle their differences is a virtuoso celebration of fight choreography and creative mayhem. The sequence which pretty much leaves the trailer park home completely demolished in the process, is downright dirty, raw and ecstatic.
– Ricky D
28: Death Proof: Stuntman Mike kills the first four girls
Death Proof’s first half is an effortlessly fun and campy send up to drive in car chase flicks. There isn’t much chase but we do get some of the best Tarantino dialogue ever. Stuntman Mike’s brutal vehicular homicide of the four girls (set to the boppy, deceptively fun “Hold Tight”) is the moment that the entire first half of the film is leading up to. The sense of dread is there from the beginning and in one explosive, bone crunching, metal twisting moment everything comes to a head.
29: Death Proof: Car chase scene
The culmination of an entire movie filled with terror. Tarantino’s known for his obsessive detail and knowledge of older films, and this chase scene seems to be the result of all his obsessions. Mind numbingly fast paced and crushingly violent it still manages to hold the wit that had built up over the course of the movie.
30: Inglorious Basterds: Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France
Not since Vic Vega slashed his way into becoming one of the best movie villains of all time has Tarantino introduced such an effectively terrifying and charming character. The scene is really a testament to what happens when you combine brilliant dialogue and a gifted actor like Christoph Waltz.
Debating which scenes from 2009’s Inglourious Basterds are the best is a delicate proposition seeing as, first, there are only so many of them for a movie that runs 2 1/2 hours, and second, nearly all are high in such high esteem for a variety of reasons bu its fans. With that small caveat out of the way, here are some of this movie fan’s favourites:
Tarantino opens Basterds with one of his longest single location dialogue exchanges between two characters, Reservoir Dogs notwithstanding. Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (played by the film’s standout, Christoph Waltz), arrives at monsieur LaPadite’s (Denis Menochet) milk farm in the French countryside to double check the whereabouts of a Jewish family which has gone unaccounted for for some time already. Much of the dialogue is for Waltz rather than his opposite, but there is a very specific reason for that: it presents a clear (enough) picture of who Landa is. He is a charmer, a sophisticated speaker with the mind of a brilliant detective and the predatory instincts of a hungry shark, even though he’d have some believe he thinks like a rat. Waltz inhabits the part with devilish amusement, playing a figure always on top of the matter at hand, but who takes sublime pleasure in talking splendidly to make the catch as amusing as possible.
31: Inglorious Basterds: The Bear Jew’s entrance
“Quiet frankly watching Donny beat Nazi’s to death is the closet we get to going to the movies,” Aldo tells the doomed Nazi. The scene is almost the complete opposite of Landa’s quiet and terrifying introduction, The Bear Jew’s (Eli Roth) intro is loud, over the top, and boisterous, not all that different from the character played by Eli Roth. Everything about Inglorious Basterds is over the top and this scene perfectly captures that attitude.
Lt. Aldo Raine: “Here that? That’s Sgt. Donny Donowitz. But you might know him better by his nickname. The Bear Jew. Now, if you heard of Aldo the Apache, you gotta have heard of the Bear Jew”.
32- Ingourious Basterds: Operation Kino goes down under
It speaks to how much of an impact Christoph Waltz leaves on the film when realizing it is more difficult to highlight ‘best’ scenes which do not include him than those which do, although this scene is a serious contender, wherein two of the German born Basterds (Til Schweiger and Gedeon Burkhard), along with British spy (Michael Fassbender) and a famous German actress (Diane Kruger) working for the Allies make contact in a basement pub filled with German soldiers and one especially perceptive officer (August Diehl). The presence of the Germans is unfortunate and unexpected, complicating to the umpteenth degree. Every time the group of heroes tries to exchange critical information or leave, a German enemy, unaware that there are spies in the midst, gathers with them to chat and laugh drunkenly. The scene is well written and well acted, and above all else augments the tension unforgivably until hell is unleashed once one of the protagonists makes a fatal mistake.
33- Inglourious Basterds: Burning down the house
In one of the final chapters of Inglourious Basterds, “Revenge of the Giant Face”, Tarantino creates his greatest sequence – and one that works on several layers; intensifying his theme that cinema is a force to be reckoned with. In the climax of Basterds, the power of the cinema itself is a force strong enough to bring down the Third Reich; not just in the metaphorical sense, but in the sense that 35 mm film is used as a deadly weapon. Tarantino cuts between images of celluloid being loaded into film canisters to bullets loaded into magazine clips. During the World Premiere of Nations Pride, Tarantino cross-cuts between the endless machine gun fire of the film-within-the film to shots of celluloid running through the projector. There is a larger than life image of Fredrick Zoller projected on the theatre screen of him pointing his machine gun directly at the audience. Marcel, having locked the cinema’s exits, ignites a pile of extremely flammable nitrate film. Just seconds before it erupts in flame, a spliced-in clip of Shosanna is cut into Nation’s Pride, informing the Third Reich that they are about to be killed by a Jew. In Tarantino’s film, the violence is as unforgiving as that of his characters and the distinction between the heroes and the villains is extremely murky. Although the theme of revenge is carried through to the very end, it could be argued that Basterds works as a study of vengeance and a powerful anti-war commentary.
– Ricky D
34- Inglourios Basterds: Hans Landa: WWII hero for the Allies
This is a beat of a cheat because two scenes shall be praised instead of just one. By the film’s climax, when it seems that the Basterds have failed in their plan to destroy Hitler and the high ranking members of the National Socialist party, Landa reveals to Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) his true colours: opportunist. It turns out that he, apparently never really hated the Jews. He is an expert at tracking down wanted people and bringing them to whoever represents justice at a given period in time. His allegiance can change with the wind if need be, and thus he offers to help end the war by killing Hitler in exchange for immunity and many wonderful rewards once he sets foot on American soil. It is quite confusing given that while he may not hold any ethnic prejudice, which is nice, his actions nevertheless brought along the deaths of hundreds. On the flip side, Aldo and his Basterds are far more focused and devoted to a cause, to the point where they cannot let go of their own hatred towards enemies, perfectly demonstrated in the final scene when, after the Nazis are defeated and all is seemingly well, he literally carves his final masterpiece.