Quentin Tarantino’s next film, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, is coming out this summer. The trailer for this highly anticipated film dropped a few weeks ago. Film fans are excited to see the next entry in Tarantino’s world class filmography.

The filmmaker has been an active force in the  industry since the early 90’s, so he has quite a body of work. Though trying to watch all of his films may feel intimidating, it is never too late to catch up on great, timeless films.  To help you get started, here are the three must-see Tarantino films.

RESERVOIR DOGS

RESERVOIR DOGS tells the story of the lead up to and the fallout of a botched heist. It is one of my favorite films of all time, and I believe that this is Tarantino’s greatest work. This was his first feature film, with a tiny budget of a little over $1.2 million. The film uses genre and gangster tropes that eventually became synonymous with Tarantino’s style. The dialogue in the film is of Tarantino’s classic witty, slick conversational tone.

Image Courtesy of Miramax Films

One of the largest responsibilities of a director is getting the best possible performances from their actors. This is one of the greatest successes of RESERVOIR DOGS. Harvey Keitel played Mr. White, an experienced career criminal, in one of his careers’ best performances. He has a fascinating and deep relationship with Tim Roth’s character, Mr. Orange. While Tarantino did have the advantage of working with great actors, his raw directing talent radiates off the screen.

Tarantino took a unique approach to the heist genre. The film orbits around the heist, but it never depicts the event. This creates another layer of mystery, as the characters discuss and plan the heist, but the focus of the film is kept on finding out which of the characters is an undercover police officer. Tarantino demonstrated his directorial talent by weaving these two elements to take the audience on a thrilling journey. This is my pick for the Tarantino film to check out before ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.

PULP FICTION

The consensus among the world of film is that PULP FICTION is Tarantino’s masterpiece. While I disagree, it is certainly one of the most highly regarded films of all time. Every frame of this film screams Tarantino; his unique vision is the star of the film.

Image Courtesy of Miramax Films

Other than Tarantino’s eccentric writing style, the most unique aspect of PULP FICTION is its non-linear storytelling. PULP FICTION tells several stories out of chronological order. It is a film about a pair of hitmen, their boss, their boss’ wife, and a boxer. This eclectic cast of characters is a direct reflection of the style Tarantino embeds into the film. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta play the pair of hitmen, and their dynamic is incredible. Tarantino’s dialogue makes the pair of gangsters talking about hamburgers interesting.

RESERVOIR DOGS was a tiny indie film that blew up after the fact. On the contrary, PULP FICTION grossed over $200 million, solidifying Tarantino into Hollywood history. The film was nominated for several Oscars, and won for Best Original Screenplay. I believe this film is the peak of the independent film movement in the 1990’s, and it will be studied for years to come. If you have time to see two Tarantino films before ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, check this one out too. It is a classic.

DJANGO UNCHAINED

DJANGO UNCHAINED is Tarantino’s most financially successful film, grossing over $425 million. It released to rave reviews by critics, but it did not supplant itself into popular culture the way PULP FICTION managed to. This is understandable as there are only a handful of films as celebrated as PULP FICTION. The fact that a film as incredible as DJANGO is not even Tarantino’s second best film speaks to the quality and the volume of his body of work. The film is Tarantino’s first step into the western genre, before THE HATEFUL EIGHT. This film takes place just before the Civil War, following Django, a slave-turned-bounty hunter.

Image Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

DJANGO UNCHAINED is a very different film from Tarantino’s other works. His work has always been inspired by the western genre, but this film lets him dive deep into the genre. The film is cinematically gorgeous, and it features many beautiful frontier landscapes. Tarantino’s take on a gunslinger is grounded in inspirations from Sergio Leone, yet it is saturated in his over-the-top style.

Like all of his films, DJANGO UNCHAINED has some fantastic performances. Jamie Foxx is fantastic as Django, and Christoph Waltz is incredible as the German bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a role in the film unlike many of his other ones. He plays a sadistic and cruel slave owner named Calvin Candie. It is so unsettling and strange seeing a Hollywood heartthrob in such an evil role, but Tarantino managed to stretch DiCaprio outside of his normal range, and it really allows the film to have a unique villain.

Honorable Mention

KILL BILL is one of Tarantino’s earlier works. The film released as KILL BILL: VOLUME 1 and KILL BILL: VOLUME 2, however Tarantino himself views it as a single film. Tarantino shot KILL BILL all at once, with the intention to create a single film. He spliced it in two when crucial parts were being cut by the studio to shorten the length. Tarantino has even screened his single film cut before, titled THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR.

Image Courtesy of Miramax Films

The KILL BILL films feel a bit lopsided when divided, because they really are one film. However, many people love them, and they are a great step into the world of Tarantino films. Tarantino has been open about his influences, and among them are kung-fu movies, samurai films, Japanese cinema, and Akira Kurosawa. The impact of these films are obvious in KILL BILL. The ultra-violent katana fights and the wire-work in the films are an awe-inspiring spectacle.

This Tarantino movie is a great way into his work for fans of anime. Many of the over-the-top fights in the KILL BILL films could come straight out of an anime. The wire-fights in the film have a style that almost seems directly ripped from anime as well. The KILL BILL films are full of the Tarantino-isms that inhabit all his other works, and these films present a good way to try out his style for genre fans.

Happy Viewing!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD releases on July 26th,  and it looks like it will be a fantastic film. Tarantino is yet to release a bad film, and it seems odd that he would start on number nine. When people talk about Tarantino, it can often be pretentious or exclusionary. As fans of film and genre film, there is no need for this negativity. Hopefully these films offer a quick way into the world of Tarantino for all who missed out.

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