Quentin Tarantino has made some of the best movies of the last twenty years: movies dense with pop cultural nods, obsure movie references, memorable quotes, dynamite characters and innovative sequences that stick in your memory long after you’ve left the theatre. Yes, the man definitely knows how to give audiences a good time.
The Tennessee-born director – a former video store clerk – is renowned for his homage-clad approach to cinema, but Tarantino knows how to craft an original scene like the best of ‘em. One could probably argue that every one of Tarantino’s scenes are worthy of praise in one way or another. After all, every one of them seems to be crafted with great attention to detail – not a single scene in any one of his movies appears simply thrown in without careful consideration.
With Tarantino’s seventh film on its way (spaghetti western Django Unchained), join us as we take a trip through some of the best scenes from the director’s immensely creative canon. There are so many to choose from, of course, but we’ve tried to shake things up in an attempt to encompass great scenes from across the entirety of his career. If you haven’t seen any of the films in question, beware: spoilers ahead.Next
10. Elle & I - Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
After dispatching two former members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squid, Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) makes her way across the desert towards Budd’s (Michael Madsen) trailer where she hopes to take him down once and for all. But Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), who believes The Bride is dead, has murdered Budd herself using a sneakily-placed Black Mamba hidden in a suitcase full of money. When the Bride arrives, the two go at it in a pulsating sequence that finds the former assassins using whatever they can get their hands on to batter each other mercilessly.
Eventually the fight culminates in a sword duel that leaves Elle Driver completely blind and clambering around the trailer with a Black Mamba on the loose. This is a truly brilliant fight sequence: innovative, quirky and even funny, it ranks up there as one of Tarantino’s best scenes ever. The choreography is excellent, and Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah seem to pull it off effortlessly. Can you name another film in which somebody wields a TV antenna as a weapon? Thought not.Previous Next
9. Bring Out The Bear Jew - Inglourious Basterds (2009)
The first time we meet the Basterds in Tarantino’s war-disguised western, they’ve taken a group of Nazis captive and are attempting to gain information on enemy positions. The group is led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who enlisted his team on the promise that they each grant him 100 Nazi scalps. Fair deal. One member of the Basterds, Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), is renowned for his huge stature and preference for using a baseball bat to dispatch enemies with: he’s even known mythically as The Bear Jew, and is feared by Nazis everywhere.
One of the best moments in the movie deals with the introduction of said character, and it’s a surprisingly poignant scene despite its violence climax. After refusing to disclose the appropriate information, Lt. Raine calls on the Bear Jew to dispatch of uncompromising Nazi Sgt. Werner Rachtman. The Bear Jew’s introduction is appropriately mythic, as he emerges from beneath a bridge to a melancholic Ennio Morricone track, clutching his baseball bat and looking mean as hell. But Tarantino grants Rachtman a moment of dignity: “Did you get that for killing Jews?” Donowitz asks straightly, referring to a medal on Rachtman’s breast. “Bravery,” Rachtman replies calmly. Donowitz takes that in for a second, then proceeds to beat the enemy to death with a dozen hits of his trademark weapon. Ouch.Previous Next
8. Jack Rabbit Slim’s - Pulp Fiction (1994)
If you ever needed a single scene to showcase the genius of Quentin Tarantino as both a writer and a director, there might be but one choice: Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace’s (Uma Thurman) date at Jack Rabbit Slim’s in Pulp Fiction. A fifties diner in the most extravagant sense, Slim’s looks like just about the coolest place in the world, and it’s here that Vega and Wallace engage in some of Tarantino’s best dialogue as they flirt with the use of some nifty pop cultural references.
The cinematography here is superb, especially as Vega takes a casual stroll around the place to Ricky Nelson’s “Waitin’ In School.” But the scene is capped, of course, by the legendary moment when the pair get up to dance to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” – Tarantino wisely lets us indulge in the moment for as long as possible, before cooly fading out on one of cinema’s best ever first dates.Previous Next
7. The Bride vs. The Crazy 88 - Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
Undoubtably the best action sequence Tarantino has ever done, The Bride’s violent melee against a seemingly impossible number of enemies at the House of Blue Leaves will leave you stunned. An obvious homage to the samurai and martial arts movies Tarantino adores (check out Uma Thurman’s Game of Death costume), this innovate battle leaves no heads unrolled as The Bride engages O-Ren Ishii’s entire army in a ten-minute long set-piece. Stand-out moments include the OTT blood spurts, The Bride’s floor-spinning, leg-chopping dance to “Nobody But Me,” and her final scorning of a young child who has somehow found himself working for the Yakuza: “Go home to your mother!”Previous Next
6. Stuck In The Middle With You - Reservoir Dogs (1991)
This is the one scene that nobody has forgotten since they first saw it almost twenty years ago. After throwing a cop named Marvin in the trunk of his car and bringing him back to the warehouse, psychopathic ex-con Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) is left alone with the poor bastard and proceeds to torture him. Just for the sake of it.
Not one to do such things without the accompaniment of good music, he tunes in the radio and finds Stealers Wheel classic “Stuck In The Middle With You” is playing. Creepily jovial about the whole affair, Mr. Blonde dances about for a second before taking out a razor and hacking off Marvin’s ear. We then follow Mr. Blonde outside in one wonderful take as he goes to his car and removes a can of petrol. Back inside, he pours it on Marvin and lights a match. “Have some fire, scarecrow,” he deadpans, but it’s too late… Mr. Orange blasts the son of a bitch dead, leaving Marvin wondering what the hell is going on. Genius.Previous Next
5. The Chase - Death Proof (2007)
Tarantino’s insistence on not using any CGI to generate the car chase sequence for the climax of his grindhouse homage Death Proof paid off in dividends: using real cars and real stunt performers, he crafted arguably the best car chase in 21st century cinema. Pursued by the insane Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), two stunt women and an actress find themselves at the mercy of his reckless driving as he tries to run them off the road. But Stuntman Mike didn’t quite anticipate that these woman might be better drivers than him. Urk.
After almost killing them, the women turn the tables and try to take Mike down themselves. The greatest moment of the chase, however, occurs as Zoe Bell clings to the bonnet of a Dodge Challenger performing “The Mast” – something she really did to achieve the sensational effect. Stuntman Mike is eventually reduced to a snivelling baby and the three characters proceed to beating the shit out of him and crushing his skull with a well-placed drop-kick that inches a shoe inside his head.Previous Next
4. The Basement - Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino is renowned for his love of all things Mexican standoff, so for Inglourious Basterds he devised the ultimate tribute. In an attempt to rack up just about as much tension as an audience might possibly handle, Tarantino puts his Basterds (joined by Archie Hicox this time, a British soldier superbly played by Michael Fassbender) in a basement, dresses them as Nazis and surrounds them with… well, Nazis.
As the Basterds attempt to discuss upcoming plans to assassinate Hitler, they’re antagonized by an officer who suspects them of alterer motives. This, of course, culminates in a shoot-out that leaves ten or more people dead – including a whole host of our favourite characters. “You know, fightin’ in a basement offers a lot of difficulties,” acknowledges Lt. Aldo Raine before the fight. He’s damned right – but what great cinema it offers, too.Previous Next
3. Jackie Says Goodbye To Max - Jackie Brown (1997)
For anyone claiming that Tarantino can’t handle sentimentality, romance or relationships, point them towards Jackie Brown, which also happens to be the director’s most emotionally-binding work and his most underrated movie. There are dozens of great scenes to be cherished in this blaxploitation homage, but the highlight of the film can be glimpsed at the very end, when our two beaten heroes come together to say their farewells.
After all they’ve been through, air stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) and bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) should be together, but deep down they both know that it won’t work and must resign to their separate lives. They do share a kiss, though (and there’s enough chemistry in that shot alone to fuel an 8th grade science class), but are interrupted by a phone call and at Jackie’s request, Max takes it. He signals for Jackie to wait, but she smiles and takes her leave, knowing it’s probably easier that way. But Max ends the phone conversation as she walks out and stares after her, unmistakable pain stuck on his face as Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” eases in. Heartbreaking.Previous Next
2. Breakfast - Reservoir Dogs (1991)
This is the scene that introduced the world to Quentin Tarantino, and it undoubtably stands as one of his best. At first we just hear characters conversing over black titles, but then we cut to a shot that moves cooly around a table as we listen on a group of super-cool characters as they… well, banter over breakfast. The conversation has nothing to do with the actual plot of the movie, but Tarantino wanted us to get to know these guys as if we were just hanging out with them. It works: you feel as if know each of these guys once breakfast is over, and it’s only been ten minutes.
Highlights include Mr. Pink’s (Steve Buscemi) refusal to tip, Joe’s (Lawrence Tierney) mumbling about Toby Wong and Mr. Brown’s (Quentin Tarantino) now infamous “Like A Virgin” speech. It was fresh, bold and brilliant, and confirmed from the very start that Quentin Tarantino had an ear for sensational dialogue and great directorial style.Previous Next
1. Butch’s Redemption - Pulp Fiction (1994)
No scene in Tarantino’s canon offers more joy than that of Butch’s redemption. After screwing over Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and winning a boxing match he agreed to lose, Butch (Bruce Willis) encounters the gangster boss once again and the two eventually find themselves tied up by a hillbilly pervert called Maynard beneath his pawn shop. After Maynard calls his friend Zed and the two take Marcellus Wallace out back to rape him, Butch manages to get himself free and escape.
But he stops on the way out and thinks: Can he really leave Marcellus behind? Nope. So Butch looks around the pawn shop for a weapon to use, and after picking up a few oddities, comes across a samurai sword. He ventures back downstairs and rescues Marcellus, who agrees to let Butch off the hook if he leaves L.A. and never speaks about what the heck just happened. It’s an amazing sequence, perfectly edited, acted and directed, and it’s the kind of scene that gives you a buzz every time you watch it. Hilarious, too, and revealing in its character moments, this is exactly why we go to see Quentin Tarantino‘s movies. Hell, this is why we go to the cinema full-stop.
So, which of your own favorite scenes have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.Previous