9 films written and directed with a supposed 10th film being the last one acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino makes before he retires. Like many, I hope that day never comes when Tarantino retires from directing or think he’s not truthful with that statement. Either way, the body of work spread across 3 decades is impressive to say the least. A wide variety of genres ranging from westerns, to history, crime, and revenge, Tarantino can do it all. His talent precedes him and most importantly his dialogue. Each film in Tarantino’s 9 is foundationally supported by strong dialogue. And subsequently, every character created is interesting enough to sit with them for hours on end just to hear them talk.
It’s clear by the filmography, Tarantino is a perfectionist – filling each frame with detail that most wouldn’t think twice to put in, but he does. Able to transform a set that will instantly transport the viewer into the world he creates, the attention to detail shines brightest during some of the more irrelevant moments in a film. But there aren’t many of those at all. Even in films that have runtimes of near 3 hours long, the pacing is quick and efficient. Before you know it an hour and a half pass in Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained when it felt like only 30 minutes. For however long a particular Tarantino film is, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. Nothing else matters when the film starts until the final frame when the hero saves the day.
While some may be infatuated by the dialogue, it does however spark controversy. Mainly the excessive use of explicit language that a good portion of us should never utter in our lifetimes. The argument made against the criticism revolves around the period in which a film takes place in. Deep south in Django that foul word was used by all during that time, Compton California in Jackie Brown – Tarantino brings an authenticity to it even if he does go a bit overboard. Frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson defends Tarantino’s strong use of a particular word while director Spike Lee in 1997 questioned the integrity to constantly use the word. Leave it to the viewer to separate the auteur from the world their creating as well as the actors from their characters that use this language heavily in the films.
With his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino comes out swinging, establishing his style of directing in the films first 5 minutes. A revolving shot around the colored characters that would soon come to blows in a contained warehouse. Full of blood, violence and deception, Reservoir Dogs is a strong debut film that went on to define Tarantino’s stylistic eye for storytelling. Tarantino than follows up with Pulp Fiction, highly regarded as his best film to date (among many) that further proves the talent is not a fluke or a one hit wonder.
What makes Tarantino stand out as one of the most consistent working directors today is his vision. Said vision is full of feet and transforming the film to a different era. Fully in admiration with film history and the craft of filmmaking Tarantino constructs each film as a technically bulletproof work of art. None of the hundreds of characters created over the course of 3 decades is wasted on the story at hand. And yet with the number of characters, the ones featured throughout the story has their moment to shine. Whether it be a monologue, a dance number, or a look that tells more of the characters emotional state than any line of dialogue could.
The frequent actors Tarantino has worked with over the course of 9 films (Kill Bill is considered 1 film) give the best performances under his direction. Christoph Waltz in back-to-back films, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth – the list goes on, they all bring their A-game and fully invest in the world created and their characters.
What I find most admirable about Tarantino that makes him one of the best working is his ability to tell stories – both linear and non-linear. Each film no matter the story and sub-plots require full attention from the viewer – a line could get missed or an evil action from the villain could. Blink and you’ll miss the person poisoning the coffee in Hateful Eight. Add to that is the foreshadowing Tarantino never shies away from. Sydney Poitier’s Jungle Julia as a passenger with her leg fully out of the window as the car ironically named Death Proof speeds toward them – we all know what is about to happen, the anticipation is outstandingly built and once the carnage comes, no one looks away at the mayhem and gore taking place on screen.
It’s been 3 years since Once Upon a Time released – the anticipation has been building for Tarantino’s 10thfilm though how long we have to wait is still a mystery. There has been this Pandemic we’ve been living in for the past 2 years however, so the delay makes sense. Tarantino is better when he takes his time. Whatever the story may be (definitely not Star Trek) the expectation for another thrill ride like his previous 4 films is at an all time high. Until that time comes and the 10th film releases to the masses with the signature credit roll in front of the film, here is how I rank the 9 feature films (I broke up Kill Bill into two volumes) written and directed by the maestro Quentin Tarantino.