Quentin Tarantino’s 10 Best Movies

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most respected directors of our time with some of the most iconic movies ever made. But while Tarantino is indeed an incredible director, he is also a master at writing stories and has been well recognized as a screenwriter.

You might even have heard of the time “Tarantinoesque” that describes tough yet beautiful dialogue and extremely well crafted storylines. 

We’ve compiled Tarantino’s top ten movies ranked from favorite to least favorite according to the Rotten Tomatoes score. We’re going to tell you all about these movies, including how Tarantino wrote them.

What’s Rotten Tomatoes?

It’s a website that gathers feedback from professional film critics and gives every movie an overall score. 

Who is Quentin Tarantino?

Quentin Tarantino is originally from Tennessee but he moved to California at the age of three. Tarantino grew up with a single mom, and didn’t have a relationship with his father. 

Quentin Tarantino’s dad is Tony Tarantino, who was an actor raised in Brooklyn, New York. He acted in 10 projects, 9 of them were after Quentin Tarantino already made a name for himself. 

However, it’s been reported that the two never had a relationship and Quentin has said several times that he had never met Tony. 

Tarantino had also revealed in 2021 during a Podcast for the movie Memento that his relationship with his mom was complicated since she wasn’t very supportive of his writing career (because he was writing scripts while in class).

Back in the 80s, Tarantino was working at the Video Archives store in Manhattan Beach which he describes as his film school. That’s where he taught himself movies by watching them daily. What got him the job? His knowledge of movies. He was already then an encyclopedia of film history. 

A fun nugget of information? While Video Archive is long gone (due to the streamers taking over and our way of watching movies changing), Tarantino had a replica of the store built in his house and he purchased the store’s old video tape collection. 

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Score: 92%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino 

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $8 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $108 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $214 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

What Makes It So Special?

Pulp Fiction was the first independent film to make over $200 million at the box office. 

Pulp Fiction was one of those movies that  showed bad characters in a compelling way. The villains truly are three dimensional and all have different compelling character flaws. 

Tarantino decided to use a non-linear technique to introduce these characters which allows us, the audience, to meet these characters through three different points of views. 

One of the things to be noted is that the dialogue is absolutely the most stunning part of the screenplay written by Tarantino. No space is wasted, everything that is being said moves the story forward and many sayings became well known quotes. Take a look for yourself here.

It’s no surprise that Pulp Fiction ended up winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1995. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

Quentin Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction in a one-room apartment in Amsterdam where he had spent three months with no way to be contacted. He wrote the entire screenplay in notepads that he took with him back to Los Angeles where he had his typist type the entire script for him and give him valuable feedback on it. 

According to an article in the Vanity Fair, his typist – Lisa Chen – said that the notepad looked like they were written by “a madman” and that his handwriting was “atrocious.” 

The screenplay ended up being 159 pages long and was produced by Lawrence Bender and TriStar Pictures.

As you can see in the Oscar video above, Roger Avary also received the Oscar with Tarantino. While Tarantino wrote most of the movie, Roger Avary helped him with his rewrites and with developing storylines. It’s been reported that Avary created the Golden Watch storyline for example. 

But it doesn’t seem like they had ever co-written the script, more so that Avery came in to restructure things. But not much has been told on how that process took place.

2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Score: 90%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino 

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $1.2 Million Dollar

US Box Office: $2.8 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $2.9 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: When a simple jewelry heist goes horribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.

What Makes It So Special?

Reservoir Dogs is a movie that was shot on a small budget ($1.2 million) and depicts with gripping reality the world of criminal organizations. The strength of the movie comes from the witty, smart dialogue, the detailed world building and the incredible cast.

The low budget is probably one of the things that makes Reservoir Dogs so special. It’s a great movie to study for newcomers since it wasn’t shot on a big budget, but is written with such details and heart that it is one of the most iconic movies ever made. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

According to Tarantino himself, Reservoir Dogs was inspired by “The Killing” (1956) by Stanley Kubrick. This was Tarantino’s version of the heist movie genre. 

Reservoir Dogs definitely made people talk back in the 90s since it was the movie that gave Tarantino recognition. Its success made a lot of people wonder how Tarantino did it. He wasn’t the name he is today, Reservoir Dogs was an indie movie, shot on a small budget and it became one of the most iconic movies of its time. 

Before writing Reservoir Dog, Tarantino worked as an actor on smaller gigs and worked on the production side of things. His first industry job was as an assistant on a Dolph Lundgren production – nothing glamorous. He had many different jobs over a six-year period in Los Angeles, where it seems like nothing was getting him anywhere.

Before writing Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino was working in a video store  – The Video Archive – in L.A.  (I wish we still had those). Every week, he would rearrange the shelves to create a theme. One week it would be thrillers, another it would be specific to a director. Ultimately, one week, he made the shelf specific to heist movies and took one movie with him every night to watch at home.

By watching these movies he thought that the heist genre would be great to re-explore and remake. So he came up with an idea for one. 

His movie would fix one thing he hated about all heist movies: the characters always put together such an elaborate robbery, but one small stupid detail later on prevents them from walking away free. He didn’t want that. He wanted his characters to be savvy enough to walk free from their crime. 

Once he knew he was going to write his heist movie, he bought a bunch of notepads and pens and got to work. It took him about three weeks to write a screenplay for Reservoir Dogs. He brought the idea to Lawrence Bender that he knew through his acting gigs and Lawrence joined as a producer. 

The plan was to get his friends to act in the movie (super low budget), but eventually, Harvey Keitel heard of the indie movie through Lawrence Bender’s acting coach. He read the script and wanted in – which was amazing for Tarantino since Harvey was his favorite actor – and it allowed them to raise more money for it (it still is considered a low budget movie).

Many of the actors who played in Reservoir Dogs were impressed with Tarantino’s script. It was different from anything they had read before. Tarantino used “Chapters” as if the script was a novel and it would use a non-linear storyline as if time wasn’t a real thing. It was different, it felt unique and it felt like something they wanted to be a part of. 

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3. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Score: 89%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino 

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $70 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $120.5 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $321.5 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner’s vengeful plans for the same.

What Makes It So Special?

Many see Inglourious Basterds as Tarantino’s best work. 

The reason why they think it is, it’s because it keeps everything that makes a movie “Tarantinoesque” but in a more polished way. Almost as if Tarantino entered a new era of hiw filmmaking life and voice with this movie. 

The screenplay is filled with humor, although treating with the themes of war and the story has many substories that are all perfectly crafted. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

Tarantino wrote the script for Inglourious Basterds long before it was made into a movie – in 1998 (the movie was made in 2009). One of the parts he was struggling with the most was the ending. So, instead of pushing against the currents he put the script aside and worked on several of his other screenplays (such as Kill Bill). Ultimately, after learning from these movies he went back to Inglourious Basterds and re-worked it from a new angle. 

Inglourious Basterds ended up being pages and pages long, so long and so heavy that the thought of making it a miniseries did occur but when filmmaker Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) made him realize that Tarantino was a box office, movie theater genius and deserved his movies on the big screen not the small one, Tarantino ended up crafting it into a feature script again.

4. Django Unchained (2012)

Score: 87%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino 

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $100 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $162.8 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $426 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: With the help of a German bounty-hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation-owner in Mississippi.

What Makes It So Special?

Django Unchained is still seen as one of the best action movies ever made. It most likely was one of the first times that different genres were mixed in a movie the way Tarantino has mixed them. It had a western flair in an action movie that’s deeply sensitive since it talks about slavery. 

Thematically, Tarantino took the challenge of writing a non fictional dark period of American History and turned it into an accurate truly impressive fictional story. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

The idea of making a movie where a character goes from being victim of slavery to becoming a bounty hunter was in Tarantino’s mind for a while. The title of the movie was even in his mind long before he wrote the script.

Tarantino came up with the movie idea for Django Unchained in a hotel room in Japan while doing a press tour for Inglourious Basterds. 

He had bought a DVD soundtrack of westerns he found in a Japanese store and played it in his hotel room and that’s where he started seeing scenes of the movie in his mind and starts writing the opening scene on the hotel’s notepad – as soon as the opening scene was on paper and the characters were interacting with each other, Tarantino knew he had to write the rest of the movie. 

5. Jackie Brown (1997)

Score: 87% 

Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay) / Elmore Leonard (based on novel)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $12 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $39.6 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $39.6 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: A flight attendant with a criminal past gets nabbed by the ATF for smuggling. Under pressure to become an informant against the drug dealer she works for, she must find a way to secure her future without getting killed.

What’s So Special About It?

It’s different from the others. Very different. Jackie Brown is not an original script. It’s an adaptation of “Rum Punch”, a novel by Elmore Leonard. 

Many see Jackie Brown as a script and movie that is so different from what Tarantino has been known for: the quirks, the jokes, the close ups. But Jackie Brown is a slow burn movie that is quite sensational in its own rights.

How Did Tarantino Write It?

Jackie Brown was loosely based on the book “Rum Punch” that Tarantino had read and liked. He wanted to adapt it, but give it its very own take. 

6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Score: 85%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $90 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $142.5 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $377.6 Million Dollars

Screenplay (dialogue only)

Logline: A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

What’s So Special About It?

FIrst of all, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s latest movie. You might remember recently seeing it in the theater since it came out only three years ago. 

The movie explores the real-murder of Sharon Tate but what is so special about this movie is that it took a well-known gruesome murder and totally changed the outcome of it. 

Tarantino took one true event but one detail happens differently, the murderer acts differently than in real life, changing the course of events as we know it, resulting in Sharon Tate’s life being spared. It’s almost bittersweet. 

Playing with a true event and making the outcome completely different definitely makes this movie iconic in many ways. 

The reason behind Tarantino’s choice was that Sharon Tate has been defined by her terrible fate. The gruesome murder is part of her story when people talk about Sharon Tate. And he wanted to give the audience something else to remember her by, by letting her live.

How Did Tarantino Write It?

Tarantino wrote this movie as a love letter to the old Hollywood. He wrote it wanting to honor the actors he grew up loving and the events he knew. It’s the ultimate Hollywood movie for him. 

While the script was powerful on the page, he was still rewriting and figuring out scenes while shooting the movie. 

It’s important to note that the movie entered pre-production in 2017, which is 10 years after the idea first emerged in Tarantino’s mind. 

The screenplay took him about 5 years to write (on and off). Tarantino approached the writing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as a novel first for a few chapters and some scenes were written as a play.

He wasn’t overthinking the screenplay aspect and the rules of writing a script. He simply wanted to write the story down and eventually, that took the shape of a script over the years and became Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

It’s known that once the script was complete, Tarantino only had three full copies. One for him, one for Brad Pitt and one for Leonardo Di Caprio. Everyone else only had parts of the script. He was afraid information about the movie would leak so he ended up making sure no one knew too much about it. 

When he wanted feedback from older Hollywood professionals on how he depicted Hollywood in the 60s, he would send them parts of the script to see if he got the tone right, but that’s all. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ended up receiving a 90 million dollar budget and Tarantino had final cut privilege on the movie. It’s ultimately his movie that people got to see in the theaters, not the production company’s movie. He got full creative control and that’s quite rare, even for the biggest names in our industry.

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7. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Score: 85%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay) / Uma Thurman (created the character of “The Bride.”)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $30 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $70 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $180.9 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: After awakening from a four-year coma, a former assassin wreaks vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her.

What’s So Special About It?

Hands down the mix of genres. When you watch Kill Bill, you’re not quite sure what you’re watching. It’s an old-school martial art movie, but also an action movie with swords and has a cowboy flair to it. Kill Bill is one of those movies that gets better with every watch. 

The movie isn’t so heavy on the plot, it’s heavy on the fun. It’s simply a great movie because it entertains you from beginning to end, in the most fun way. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

The idea of making a revenge movie was in Tarantino’s mind for a long time. And he was adamant about it being with Uma Thurman. 

Apparently, years before the movie got made, Tarantino had told Uma Thurman while out for the movie Pulp Fiction that he found their next movie together, and it’s called Kill Bill.

Tarantino and Thurman went back and forth that night about the movie, the name she wanted the character to have and the different dynamics the movie would have. Thurman had taken an active role in crafting the character of “The Bride.”

8. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Score:  84%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay) / Uma Thurman (created the character of “The Bride.”)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $30 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $66.2 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $154 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: The Bride continues her quest of vengeance against her former boss and lover Bill, the reclusive bouncer Budd, and the treacherous, one-eyed Elle.

What’s So Special About It?

Everything that’s special about Kill Bill Vol 1 stands for Kill Bill Vol 2. However, many would argue that Kill Bill Vol 2 is overall a better movie, with more detailed characters, better crafted dialogue and most likely Tarantino’s best directing. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

With the success of the first one it was evident Tarantino had to write a second. It’s been reported that Kill Bill Vol 3 is on Tarantino’s list of movies he’d like to write and direct in the near future. Let’s hope so!

9. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Score: 74%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $44 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $54 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $156.4 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

What Makes It So Special? 

At 187 minutes, it’s Tarantino’s longest movie. It’s a slow paced movie that dares to take its time when the audience is known to have a lesser attention span than they used to.

This movie isn’t afraid of lingering and embracing being a long movie. While most movies want to go to the twists quickly, The Hateful Eight takes its time getting to those twists, but they’re definitely worth the wait. 

In the screenplay, when we finally get to the true identity of one of the main characters, Tarantino immediately takes us into an entire “chapter” of that character’s backstory, which is very unusual and most likely breaks the screenwriting rules. When the story is supposed to move forward, it goes backwards into a long sequence of backstory. 

But ultimately, this daring choice is how the entire movie comes together. 

It feels important to note that there’s been a certain amount of controversy surrounding the release of the Hateful Eight. When Taranitno was presenting the movie at the TCL Chinese Theater, a group of online hackers were releasing stolen copies of the movie to the internet at the exact same time. 

This happened after there had already been script leaks to the press that almost made Tarantino give up the entire project – hence why he chose to have barely any complete scripts around for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

It’s been said in the documentary “QT8: The First Eight” that the movie was inspired by Harvey Weinstein’s character. The movie was actually released by The Weinstein Company, two years before the allegations about Harvey came out in the press. But many in Holywood – Tarantino included – were aware of Harvey’s behavior way before it hit the press, and he is what has apparently inspired Tarantino to write this movie and its brutally misogynic character in John Ruth.  

10. Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof (2007)

Score: 65%

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Budget: $30 Million Dollars

US Box Office: $25 Million Dollars

World Box Office: $30.7 Million Dollars

Screenplay

Logline: Two separate sets of voluptuous women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his “death proof” cars to execute his murderous plans.

What’s So Special About It?

Let me first say what I’m sure you’ve noted. This is the only movie in the list that barely made back what it cost. It cost $30 Million Dollars to produce and it made $30.7 Million Dollars at the World Box Office.

In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Tarantino says that Death Proof is the worst movie he’s ever made from a filmography point of view. But, as he points out, it wasn’t such a bad movie, so he could live with that. One of the aspects he hates the most about it is the use of digital – that’s not how you make movies for him. 

Now what truly makes Death Proof special is that the movie is two films in one. Basically, Tarantino wrote “Death Proof” and Robert Rodriguez wrote “Planet Terror” and the movie you go see in the movie theaters ends up being both fully fleshed movies. 

The result? Well, it didn’t work out so great since it only made about $25 million at the US box office, which is a low point for Tarantino (not a bad spot to be in though, if you aren’t Tarantino). 

How Did Tarantino Write It?

Tarantino was out with Sean Penn who’s considered a good friend of his. That night, Tarantino learned from Sean Penn that there was a thing called death-proofing cars. What Death-Proofing car means is the way stuntmen modify a car to make it death-proof in order for the driver to be able to survive horrible accidents that are non-survivable. 

Tarantino became obsessed with the idea of making a slasher movie about a stuntman who uses his death-proof cars to take advantage of women.

So, what is there to learn from how Tarantino wrote his best movies? 

Pulp Fiction teaches us to take time for ourselves when we write, away from the distractions of everyday life and social media.

Reservoir Dogs teaches us to re-invent genres we love and if there’s anything we dislike in our favorite genre (such as the characters always getting caught for a little mistake in heist movies), fix that in our movie.

Inglourious Basterds teaches us to not be afraid to put our scripts aside and take a break, when it becomes impossible to find a way to tell the story the best way possible.

Django Unchained teaches us the power of music and imagining scenes before an entire movie, even writing just the opening of a movie can make us want to explore the entirety of it.

Jackie Brown teaches us to be innovative with books we love and want to adapt into screenplays.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood teaches us to be creative and daring when it comes to history.

Kill Bill and Death Proof both teach us about bouncing off ideas with friends and being surrounded with creative friends too. 

The Hateful Eight teaches us to not be afraid to break the screenwriting rules.

Before I leave you with these iconic movies, I highly encourage you to read the screenplays, watch the movies and obviously, watch Tara Wood’s new documentary “QT8: The First Eight” looking back at Quentin Tarantino’s legacy.

Quentin Tarantino’s 10 Best Movies
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