Hollywood Movies

Every Quentin Tarantino Movie, Ranked by How Stylized It Is

April 21, 202411 Mins Read

No director keeps fans in suspense quite like Quentin Tarantino. He has famously said that he will only direct 10 movies, meaning his next project will be his last. Until recently, it looked like it would be a ’70s cinema-inspired film called The Movie Critic with Brad Pitt attached. However, the latest reports claim that he’s decided not to go ahead with the project, leaving fans scratching their heads as to what QT’s final movie will actually be.

One thing that they can be certain of, however, is that it will be stylish and highly stylized. Tarantino’s mix of creativity, cinephilia, and perfectionism means that all of his movies brim with style, from the costumes and settings to the carefully framed shots and memorable soundtracks. Whether it’s a Western, a war movie, or a dialogue-driven crime film, Tarantino’s work always looks and sounds great. Still, not every Tarantino movie is as stylized, even if his work towers above that of other directors when it comes to sheer flair.

10 ‘Death Proof’ (2007)

Starring: Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito

Mike McKay holding on to the hood of a moving car in Death Proof - 2007
Image via Dimension Films

Death Proof is Tarantino’s tribute to exploitation cinema, which had been a formative influence on his taste. However, rather than simply imitating the grindhouse films he grew up on, he creates a postmodern fusion, interpreting these inspirations through his unique perspective. The problem is he captures the essence of B-movies a little too well. As a result, Death Proof is deliberately rough around the edges, making it QT’s least stylish project.

Indeed, many of its most stylized moments are intended to be “bad,” like the scratches in the film itself, the switching from black-and-white to color, and the opening title card that momentarily glitches and reveals the film is entitled Thunderbolt. Sure, Death Proof still has its moments, like the striking cars and the impressive stunt choreography. The cinematography (courtesy of Tarantino himself) is also solid, if a little bare-bones. Ultimately, however, it’s mightily overshadowed by the rest of his filmography; it just doesn’t have his usual visual flair.

Death Proof Film Poster

Death Proof

Release Date
July 21, 2007

127 minutes

9 ‘The Hateful Eight’ (2015)

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins

John "The Hangman" and "Crazy" Daisy walking into a cabin in The Hateful Eight
Image via The Weinstein Company

Although still a good movie, The Hateful Eight was definitely something of a comedown after the one-two punch of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Where those movies felt brisk and intense, The Hateful Eight meanders, losing momentum in some sections. The visuals and music are also not as memorable, even if there are flashes of its creator’s genius, like the inspired use of The White Strips’ “Apple Blossom.”

There’s also much to praise cinematography-wise. Director of photography Robert Richardson shot it on 65mm film which was projected in 70mm, making everything seem grand and majestic. The most vivid example is the opening shot of a statue of Jesus on the cross, which is revealed to really be a tiny trinket beside the road. He likewise captures the snowy mountains and blizzards in all their glory. Nevertheless, some scenes still come across as overly cartoony, and overall, The Hateful Eight falls short of QT’s masterworks in terms of style. This might be intentional, but the result is that it isn’t quite as lovable as top-tier Tarantino.


The Hateful Eight

Release Date
December 25, 2015

182 minutes

8 ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992)

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi

Two characters pointing guns at each other in Reservoir Dogs
Image via Miramax

Reservoir Dogs is easily one of the most impressive directorial debuts of all time. Tarantino hit the ground running, serving up a lean, mean crime film that contains, in microcosm, all the characteristics that would go on to define his filmography: elaborate dialogue, pop culture references, hard-hitting violence, nonlinear storytelling, an eclectic soundtrack.

The budget of just some $1.2m restricted Tarantino, forcing him to use limited locations and leave much of the action entirely off-screen, including the pivotal robbery gone wrong. It’s a testament to his skills that he still weaves a grand tale of bloodshed and betrayal, packed with moments of humor and emotion. The camera work is confident and economical, the musical selections inspired, and the characters’ suits instantly iconic. The slo-mo title sequence to George Baker‘s “Little Green Bag” still feels like a shot across the bow: an incendiary new filmmaker announcing his arrival.

7 ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997)

Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda

Pam Grier in Jackie Brown looking at someone or something off-camera.
Image via Miramax

Jackie Brown is Tarantino’s most believable movie. Depending on a fan’s given point of view, this is either its fatal flaw or its greatest strength. What’s undeniable is the film’s stylishness: every frame exudes coolness, and not just because they have stars as charismatic as Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, and Samuel L. Jackson in them. In particular, Jackie Brown boasts some of the best camerawork of any Tarantino movie, alongside perhaps his most dynamic soundtrack, ranging from Johnny Cash to The Delfonics.

Tarantino also gets creative with his cinematic references. The title sequence mirrors The Graduate, with Jackie (Grier) passing through LAX against bright tiles and the uplifting sound of Bobby Womack‘s “Across 110th Street”. Likewise, the title font is borrowed from Grier’s blaxploitation flick Foxy Brown. Still, the style is matched with considerable substance. It’s impressive how much heart and maturity there is in this movie, especially in the rich characterization, ranking it among Tarantino’s finest works.

Jackie Brown Poster

Jackie Brown

Release Date
April 10, 1997

154 minutes

6 ‘Kill Bill: Volume 2’ (2004)

Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah

Uma Thurman as The Bride driving a car and smiling softley in Kill Bill Vol. 2 - 2004 (2)
Image via Miramax Films

The Kill Bill saga is Tarantino’s fusion of a Western and a kung fu movie, with a dash of anime and a big helping of grindhouse. Here, he seemingly holds nothing back, throwing together diverse ideas that shouldn’t work and gleefully watching as they ricochet off one another. In this regard, this stellar two-parter arguably represents Tarantino’s runaway creativity at its most unrestrained.

For Kill Bill Vol. 2, Tarantino dials back the violence and focuses more on dialogue, making for a refreshing change of pace and a surprising climax, where the Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carradine) have a showdown with words rather than swords. The style is still very much on display, though, like the wacky opening scene with the Bride breaking the fourth wall and the Bride’s beautiful training sequence with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). There are also some fun and unorthodox shots, like one that focuses on the Bride’s feet (typical Tarantino) as she launches a flying kick at Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah).

Kill Bill Vol. 1 Film Poster

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Release Date
October 10, 2003

111 minutes

5 ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson

Jamie Foxx smoking a cigarette in Django Unchained
Image via The Weinstein Company

Django Unchained is Tarantino’s most straightforward film. There’s no nonlinear trickery, no sprawling cast of characters, no multiple intertwined stories. Instead, it’s a simple tale of one man’s revenge but executed with fearless charm and a ton of rabid heart. All of his prior films have traditional Western elements, but one can almost sense his thrill at finally being able to dive into the genre full-on. It’s like Tarantino had a binder full of Western scenes he’d like to recreate and crams as many of them as he can into the film.

The music is simply phenomenal, too, going a long way to setting the tone and stirring the viewer’s emotions. It actually might be QT’s most effective use of a soundtrack, with songs like “Who Did That To You?” and “Freedom” used to chill-inducing effect. The cinematography is also unbelievably confident, serving up one terrific shot after another. Robert Richardson is especially great with the landscape shots here, really immersing the viewer in the film’s visual world.

4 ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis

Jules aiming a gun at someone off camera in Pulp Fiction
Image via Miramax Films

Tarantino has a near-flawless filmography, but none of his movies loom quite as large as Pulp Fiction, the time-twisting crime epic that catapulted him to the forefront of Hollywood. Its reputation is so formidable and its influence in ’90s cinema so extensive that it can be hard to evaluate it now simply as a movie. But what a movie it is, firing on all cylinders: the dialogue, the intricate story structure, the sunny visuals, the myriad pop culture references, the catchy ‘surf rock’ soundtrack.

Stylistically, it’s bursting with ideas. Most decent movies have one or two great scenes that feel tightly constructed and impactful. Pulp Fiction consists almost entirely of scenes like this, with now-famous shots and lines cropping every few minutes. QT gets playful, too, like with the mysterious glowing briefcase and the dotted lines Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) draws on the screen. The result is the ultimate postmodern movie, simultaneously feeling like it draws on a thousand older movies while remaining original to the core.

3 ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Eli Roth

Aldo and Utivich looking down at something and smiling in Inglourious Basterds
Image via Universal Pictures

Tarantino’s reimagining of World War II could easily have ended up as a mess in poor taste; instead, Inglourious Basterds is surprisingly classy. Here, QT strives for more authenticity in his cinematic world, if not its story. In this way, he has described the film as a “spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography.” The costumes and sets look great, and Robert Richardson’s cinematography is simply beautiful, whether he’s showing a farm in cow country, a Parisian café, or a cinema ablaze.

The style extends to the suave costuming and the oh-so-cool accents, with the characters switching between multiple languages. There are also little flourishes, like the snarl of an electric guitar and the on-screen text that appears when introducing Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger). Then there’s the literary voice-over from Samuel L. Jackson and the fantastic crane shots that follow Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent) through her theater. All this shouldn’t work but somehow does, to the point where Inglourious Basterds might just be QT’s masterpiece.

2 ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’ (2003)

Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Julie Dreyfus

Uma Thurman as The Bride wielding a katana in Kill Bill vol. I
Image via Miramax

Kill Bill Vol. 2 might be more sophisticated, but there’s no topping the boldness of the first one. Kill Bill Vol.1is a grand spectacle the whole way through, from an opening black-and-white prologue to the Bride’s climactic battle with O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) in a snowy garden. The costumes are striking, the camera moves are fluid, and the set pieces are more elaborate than ever before. The massive fight scene in the House of Blue Leaves is the movie’s finest moment, ranking among the greatest in film history.

Vol.1 is essentially a live-action cartoon, with visuals reminiscent of comic books (including a literal anime sequence) and characters that defy the laws of physics. The film’s references are plentiful, and the blood flows liberally. While QT obviously loves gore, he’s also a sucker for a beautiful shot. Here, he delivers gorgeous neon-lit streets, quiet gardens, and sprawling deserts. Kill Bill could have come across as hollow, nothing more than an exercise in style, but Tarantino’s pure love for the medium gives the film a sense of joy that elevates it over even the best and most over-the-top action extravaganzas.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 Film Poster

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Release Date
October 10, 2003

111 minutes

1 ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (2019)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley

Cliff Booth shaking Marvin Schwarz's hand while Rick Dalton looks in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - 2019 (1)
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino once again rewrites history, this time sending a fading movie star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a stuntman (Brad Pitt) to save Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) from the Manson family. It’s his comment on the power of the movies: in his fantasy world, violence and evil are no match for the magic of Hollywood. To emphasize the themes, the movie itself is gorgeous and enchanting, from the costumes to the staging to the impossibly beautiful stars.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is QT’s most mature movie to date, with more of a grounding in reality than any of his films since Jackie Brown. However, everything is still just a little stylized, a little more sparkly than normal. Colors pop, the music is perfect, the production design is grand and immaculate, and cinematographer Robert Richardson shows off his most complex camera moves yet. He gives the whole thing a golden glow, like a dream from the ’60s come to life. Overall, it makes for QT’s most stylish achievement to date. Not for nothing, Richard LinklaternamedOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood as one of the very best films of the 21st century.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Release Date
July 24, 2019


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