With Quentin Tarantino turning 50 today, WOW247 celebrates the career of one of cinema’s groundbreaking auteurs by taking a look back at 50 of his greatest movie moments.
Warning: this article contains major spoilers for Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
1. Like A Virgin
The opening sequence of Tarantino’s first feature film sets a lofty standard from the very off. With Reservoir Dogs‘ assorted criminals grabbing breakfast in an unassuming diner, the filmmaker’s slick ear for everyday dialogue hits home as our main players swap stories, bicker over tips – and listen to Tarantino himself explictly explaining the lyrics of a certain Madonna song.
2. Little Green Bag
Reservoir Dogs’ iconic and oft-parodied title sequence is a defining moment of movie cool; our protagonists striding nonchalantly down the street in slow motion, sporting black suits and shades, offers a hip feel of stylish calm, before the shocking storm is unleashed.
3. Orange Got Tagged
Truly shocking, and typical of the way in which the tone can shift so suddenly in a Tarantino movie, the way in which we hear and cut to a blood-soaked, squealing Mr Orange at the opening proper – terrified and in agony after being shot – is a real masterful face-slap after the slick, laid-back prologue.
4. Stuck In The Middle With You
Reservoir Dogs‘ infamous torture scene is an unforgettable mixture of nauseating sadism and intoxicating style, as psychopathic Mr Blonde gets busy with a razor to the most unlikely of soundtracks. Steeler’s Wheel cheesy hit has never been the same again.
5. The cops in the bathroom story
Tim Roth turns in a career-defining performance as Mr Orange, and in the scene where he narrates an uncomfortable encounter in a bathroom with four LA cops and a German Shepherd, he is acting twice over. But is he convincing everybody?
6. Mexican Stand-Off
At the climax of Tarantino’s debut robbery-gone-wrong outing, the furious, paranoid hoods face each other down at gunpoint as tempers fray and loyalties are questioned. Mr White’s defence of the wounded Orange results in a moment of unbearable tension – before the inevitable slaughter.
7. “I’m a cop”
The aftermath is just as memorable though. Surrounded by a sea of corpses, Orange picks exactly the wrong moment to come clean and admit to White that he is in fact the “rat” they’ve been hunting all along. Keitel’s anguished reaction sticks long in the memory, as does the bleak result.
8. “Why am I Mr Pink?”
A regular feature of Tarantino’s screenwriting is how he creates comedy where mere mortals would just run through a dry, functional plot line. When the band of robbers are being named, Steve Buscemi asks “Why am I Mr Pink?”. After being told in no uncertain terms why he’s Mr Pink, he counters, “Why can’t we pick our own colours?” Farce ensues.
9. “I love you pumpkin. I love you honey bunney”
The opening scene in the diner finds Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) involved in a lengthy discussion of the best robbery techniques. Eventually they decide there’s no time like the present, and after a quick declaration of love, they jump out their seats and point their guns. The last lines are immortalised in the soundtrack before the famous intro riff of Misirlou by Dick Dale & His Del-Tones.
10. Royale With Cheese
One of the greatest exchanges in a movie renowned for its cutting-edge dialogue, John Travolta’s hit man regales his partner-in-crime with tales from Europe, including the mysteries of foreign approach to American fast food.
11. “Oh man – I just shot Marvin in the face”
A sure-fire contender for the most hilariously shocking moment in cinematic history, Pulp Fiction’s incompetent hitmen Jules and Vincent find themselves in a spot of bother when the latter accidentally plugs the duo’s unfortunate backseat passenger – spraying his brains all over their car in busy daytime traffic.
12. Ezekiel 25:17
The sublime, Biblical, “cold-blooded shit” that Samuel L Jackson’s assassin recites before killing his latest target is one of the great movie speeches – delivered with real gusto and rage. From having his breakfast munched on to this, it’s fair to say that Brett was having a bad day.
13. Twist Contest
The highlight of Vincent and Mia’s date at a corny 50s-themed diner, the moment where John Travolta and Uma Thurman strut their stuff on the dancefloor to the tune of Chuck Berry remains sensationally exciting.
14. Christopher Walken’s Watch Speech
As good as the speech is, let’s be honest: no one could have delivered it better than Walken. Making a brief apperarance in a flashback to Butch’s childhood, the acting great steps into the shoes of a Vietnam War vet to relate the eventful wartime saga of a family heirloom.
15. Bring Out The Gimp
A supremely messed-up moment among many events in Pulp Fiction that could only adequately be described as ‘wrong’, Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames’s feuding characters find themselves tied-up, ball-gagged and introduced to their captor’s giggling leather-bound plaything.
16. Choose Your Weapon
After Butch gets free, however, and manages to escape up to the rapists’ hardware store, he has a tough decision to make. And not just about whether to go back to rescue his nemesis. Will it be hammer, baseball bat, or chainsaw? Nope. Katana every time.
17. The Wolf
Who you gonna call? Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolf that’s who – racing to the rescue with a lightening-paced introduction that is as hilarious as it is thrilling.
18. Adrenaline Shot
Next time you feel a night out went badly, be thankful you didn’t have to bring your bloody, over-dosed date back to life by plunging a massive needle into her heart. Poor old Vincent has to do just that.
19. Fox Force Five
This is really two moments in effect: the first being the set-up as Uma Thurman’s self-assured Mia relates the story of her time on a failed TV project – and the second being the pay-off when she tells Vincent the cheesy joke from the end of the flop pilot episode. Brilliantly written, and oddly poignant.
20. Bye Bye Beaumont
Chris Tucker’s helium-voiced hood falls foul of Samuel Jackson’s crook in the early stages, but it is the exquisite, imaginative way in which we see the execution unfold – through a single elevated, birds-eye tracking shot – that really makes this stick in the memory.
21. “I think it’s a gun pressed up against my dick”
Jackie Brown’s eponymous heroine proves her mettle early on when a murderous Samuel L Jackson comes a-calling – only to find a pistol pointing at his crotch. Funny and smart in equal measure, it’s the perfect way to introduce us to the resourcefulness and resolve of Pam Grier’s fantastic character.
22. Jackie Brown Outsmarts… Everybody
Speaking of which, the key scene in that movie where a money drop-off/Federal sting takes place is beautifully paced and orchestrated, as Jackie succeeds in ripping-off her adversary and setting various competing complications against one another.
23. Bye Bye Melanie
In another terrific piece of cinematic bombshell-dropping, Bridget Fonda’s mouthy Melanie finds herself suddenly gunned down by Robert De Niro’s fed-up gangster while their walking back to the car. Her crime? Going on at him just a little too much.
Kill Bill Vol. 1
24. Anime Backstory
Undoubtedly the creative highlight in a movie packed full of inspired touches, O-Ren Ishii’s backstory in Kill Bill Vol. 1 gets an unexpected quirk thanks to the sudden shift to stylized Japanese animation, showing the young villain witnessing the vicious slaughter of her parents.
25. Boss Tanaka Loses His Head
In one of the most memorable scenes from the blood-soaked movie, Lucy Lui’s villainous O-Ren shows her no-nonsense approach to Japanese mob management by decapitating a rather angry Yakuza dissenter. The ‘fountain’ of gore and cast reactions are priceless.
26. Warm Sake
The highlight of Sonny Chiba’s guest role as a legendary sword-maker sees our man incognito as a bar owner in Okinawa, Japan – where Uma Thurman’s Bride, also undercover as a dumb tourist, tracks him down. Things reach their peak once Chiba’s misanthropic assistant is introduced. Utterly hilarious.
27. The Bride vs. The Crazy 88
An unforgettable fight sequence packed full of severed limbs, swishing samurai swords and elaborate string-work, the vengeful Bride makes a hell of a mess in both black and white and colour, as all-comers find themselves quite literally taken apart.
28. The Bride vs. O-Ren
Even after that high, however, our heroine’s subsequent clash with O-Ren is a real thing to behold: the beautiful snow-garden setting and intense, up-close-and-personal swordplay backed, as always, by the perfect choice of music. Pumping disco for the onset – and pin-dropping silence for the more poigant finale.
Kill Bill Vol. 2
29. Schooled by Pai Mei
Taking us back to the Bride’s brutal training at the hands of a fabled Chinese super-villain, Kill Bill Vol. 2‘s memorable white-haired badass makes an unforgettable impact as he mocks, hovers and insists on perfect dinner-time etiquette.
30. Buried Alive
A genuine moment of heart-stopping horror in a movie more known for its fantastical qualities, the sequence where Uma Thurman’s hero finds herself six-feet under in a dark, cramped coffin is a real nightmarish achievement.
31. Elle’s Eye
The Bride’s epic ‘bitch fight’ with hated enemy Elle is a highlight – and the highlight of that highlight is quite literally an eye-popping climax that is the very definition of poetic justice.
The Bride’s flashback to a bathroom confrontation with an enemy assassin is pure off-the-wall Tarantino gold – especially the bit where the shotgun-wielding adversary attempts to decipher a set of pregnancy test instructions while caught in a gun-on-gun stand-off.
33. Bill’s Superman Speech
The Bride finally finds her man, but before she actually gets to Kill Bill she must first hear him out. David Carradine’s flawless delivery of another great Tarantino soliloquy is a metaphorical moment of comic book genius.
34. The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique
They said Pai Mei taught no-one his ultimate martial arts trick. They lied. In a brilliant pay-off at the end, The Bride finally fulfills her mission by putting it to deadly use.
35. “You’re going to have to start getting scared…immediately!”
Delivered quite brilliantly by a game Kurt Russell, this sinister punch-line tells Rose McGowan she better get ready for a bumpy ride in the car-as-murder-weapon slasher.
36. Ship’s Mast
Kurt Russell’s evil stunt driver is out for more female blood in the daft exploitation spoof, so when his latest prey decide to play a dangerous game involving one of their number gliding on the bonnet of a moving car using a couple of belt straps, it’s fair to say they picked a bad time.
37. The Jew Hunter vs. The Farmer
In the first of two masterful slow-burning suspense scenes in Inglorious Basterds, Christoph Waltz’s eloquent SS Officer grills a dairy farmer over the whereabouts of his Jewish neighbours in deliciously sinister fashion.
38. “Drei Glaser”
The second scene in question is even better, as Michael Fassbender’s undercover British agent attempts to escape the suspicions of a German officer in an underground bar – only to give himself away in the most face-palming of fashions.
39. The Basterds Murder The Italian Language
Having massacred pretty much everything else during the course of their mission, the Nazi-slaying Basterds add another casualty to the list while attempting to pose as Italian filmmakers. “Gorlahmee!”
40. “That’s a bingo!”
Spouting one of the most memorable lines, dastardly Hans Landa is an absolute marvel of slimey, giddy charm as he reveals his plan to negotiate a deal with the Allied command.
41. “It is a second language”
Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) arrives in a strange, almost fairytale-like fashion, with his horse-drawn dentist carriage with the big, wobbly tooth emerging out of the darkness. His refined speech is in stark contrast to the slave drivers’ stumbling English, and offers a clear distinction between the enlightened and the backward.
42. Tarantino blows himself up
His original ambition to be an actor is well known, but Tarantino knows best that his talents lie behind the camera. That hasn’t stopped him casting himself in most of his films. In Django Unchained he appears near the end with an indecipherable accent (Scottish? Australian?), but, thankfully, he’s not on screen long before he’s blown up in spectacular, shocking fashion.
43. The Mandingo fight
While it’s undoubtedly bombastic, Django Unchained doesn’t flinch from its historical subject matter, and the Mandingo fight is among the movie’s most intense scenes. This no holds barred wrestling match between slaves ends with Calvin Candie (Leonardo di Caprio) handing his fighter a hammer and growling “finish him”. You can almost see the horns on his head in this dark, satanic moment.
44. Django whips up a storm
Catharsis is a powerful cinematic tool, and no-one knows this better than Tarantino. In Django Unchained the protagonist is on a mission of vengeance against his former masters, the Brittle brothers. After killing the first, he finds the second, and lashes him with furious rage.
45. The Django theme
Tarantino soundtracks are always special, and often it’s the director’s ability to source forgotten gems rather than commission new music that gives the scenes their unforgettable impact. Frank Ocean had originally been asked to provide the main theme, but it was Luis Bacalov and Rocky Roberts’ song from the 1966 Sergio Corbucci western of the same name that was too perfect to resist.
46. The Regulators
In his most recent work Tarantino has mastered the art of approaching history’s darkest moments with absurd humour. The Ku Klux Klan-style group of thugs called The Regulators (whose job it is to make the lives of slaves even more miserable) spend more time arguing over the practicalities of wearing white sacks over their heads while riding horses than doing any real damage. Look out for a cameo from Jonah Hill.
47. Stephen reacts to Django
With all the pre-release hype surrounding Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, few predicted that one of the scene stealers would be Tarantino veteran Samuel L. Jackson. He turns in a quite brilliant performance as Stephen, Calvin Candie’s elderly black servant. There is no hint of irony when he utters his shock at seeing Django, a fellow black man, approach the Candie mansion on horseback.
48. “Bye Miss Lara”
In a pistol-quick sequence that encapsulates everything that’s great about Django Unchained, Candie’s sister Lara gets what’s coming to her, but not before a nonchalant Django asks the servants to say, ‘Bye Miss Lara’. He instantly pulls the trigger, and Lara is blown through a doorway in quite shocking fashion.
49. Leonardo DiCaprio bleeds (for real)
In one of the most nerve-shredding scenes, when the finger of suspicion is falling on the protagonist and Dr King Schultz, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) slams his hand down on the dinner table. He unintentionally breaks a glass and starts bleeding from his hand. But, in a testament to his commitment to the role, DiCaprio carries on, even smearing his blood over Broomhilda’s (Kerry Washington) face.
50. The strutting horse
Just in case you were in any doubt about the irreverent tone, the scene at the end, when the hero makes his horse perform the type of pirouette and prancing walk that would sweep up the medals in the equestrian event at the Olympics.
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