Few filmmakers have as distinctive a voice as Quentin Tarantino. Emerging in the ‘90s independent cinema boom, the writer-director shot out of the gates as a vital and vibrant auteur with a knack for creating absorbing multi-layered crime stories boasting incredible style, an evident wealth of movie knowledge, and some of the most quotable dialogue of all time. And from the early days of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, QT has gone on to explore revenge thrillers, kung-fu action, historical tales (that often don’t stick to the history), and Westerns in a career packed with hits.
So when Team Empire came together to rank every Quentin Tarantino movie, it was always going to be a difficult task – quite simply, he hasn’t made a bad film. But across a heated, bloody confrontation in an abandoned warehouse, an ordered list eventually came together, reflecting an astonishing filmography packed with incredible characters, stunning setpieces, and a pure, unabashed love of all things cinema. There are stipulations – the ranking involved every film directed by Tarantino, so Tarantino-screenplay films like From Dusk Till Dawn and True Romance aren’t included here. Neither is Four Rooms (the anthology of which Tarantino directed one section), nor his episodes of CSI or ER. So, strap in, stick on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, and read through Empire’s official ranking.
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Every Quentin Tarantino Movie Ranked
10) Django Unchained (2012)
More recently, Tarantino's films have become lengthy and occasionally unwieldy – and if any of his later outings suffers for it, it's Django Unchained. That's because, for the most part, it's a rip-roaring Southern-as-Western revenge drama that creates a bonafide Black icon in freed slave Django (an excellent Jamie Foxx) and one that, for all its indulgences of revelling in the worst of plantation slavery, also revels in depicting violent vengeance against an array of truly despicable racists. In many ways, all the QT hits are present – anachronistic needle-drops, witty repartee (Christoph Waltz puts in a charmingly genial turn that couldn't be more different to Inglourious Basterds' Hans Landa), and a deep, layered knowledge of genre. It's just… well, too long, with sections that could easily be cut and a bizarre cameo from the director himself with an atrocious Aussie accent. It's arguably more entertaining than a film depicting slavery should be, but its cartoonish climactic shoot-out remains a blood-soaked blast.
9) Death Proof (2007)
It's the only QT film that tends to get a bit of a kicking – but Death Proof is far better than many give it credit for. A rare Tarantino film that clocks in at less than two hours, it finds the filmmaker in intentionally scuzzy B-movie form, cribbing from his favourite car movies and psycho thrillers to create a thrilling psycho-in-a-car movie. If the dialogue isn't quite as zinging as the filmmaker's best work (a monumentally high bar), there's still plenty of fun to be had in following the exploits of two groups of fun-loving fast-talking women (Tracie Thoms should be in more things), each stalked by Kurt Russell's instantly-iconic villain Stuntman Mike. For the most part, it's a zippily entertaining hang-out movie interrupted with bursts of gratuitous violence and Grindhouse gruesomeness – but its final extended car chase is exceptional, delivering spectacular adrenaline-pumping action with jaw-dropping stuntwork from Zoe Bell, capped off with a final moment of pure cathartic triumph. Plus, in a post-Weinstein world, it's notably a film that sees a group of women in the movie industry team up to take down an old white male abuser who's previously targeted a character played by Rose McGowan.
8) Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
The filmmaker himself might argue that both parts of Beatrix Kiddo's rip-roaring rampage of revenge are really one movie – except, they feel like two distinct entities. Where the first instalment is steeped in Eastern iconography, Volume 2 goes Western as the Bride tracks down Budd, Elle Driver, and eventually Bill himself. Slower and less kinetic than the previous film, it nevertheless delivers plenty of bravura sequences – from the eyeball-plucking showdown against Elle, to our hero being buried alive and punching her way back to life, and the extended Pai Mei flashback. And while the final act contains lesser-Tarantino dialogue, it still makes for a curiously small-scale emotional ending to such a sprawling, bloody saga – one that ultimately reveals itself as a grand, mythologised break-up story. Now, can we get that Zendaya-starring Volume 3 at some point please?
7) Jackie Brown (1997)
In some circles, Tarantino's third film is hailed as his undersung masterpiece – the director's most refined and restrained work. Partly that's because it's his only straight-up adaptation (of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch), but it's also undeniably not quite as stylish as Pulp Fiction (what is?) or as surprising as Reservoir Dogs. All that said, it still oozes all of the QT hallmarks – its use of Bobby Womack's 'Across 110th Street' in the opening credits might be the best ever Tarantino needle-drop, there's classic dialogue ("When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitute!"), and a string of great performances. Pam Grier is magnetic as Brown herself and has great chemistry with Robert Forster's bail bondsman Max Cherry, Samuel L. Jackson relishes every syllable of every line, and Robert De Niro is great as schlubby criminal Louis Gara. And yet for all that, it's still, essentially, Tarantino working at a slightly lower register.
6) The Hateful Eight (2015)
As that title suggests, The Hateful Eight finds Tarantino at his meanest – stranding a bunch of deplorables in a cabin in the American west post-Civil War, where they'll plot, scheme, berate and attack each other across one volatile night. In some ways, its three-hour parade of ugliness is a lot to take (especially when the film indulges in unflinching moments of violence, often directed at the face of Jennifer Jason Leigh's admittedly despicable Daisy Domergue), but it's a deliciously dark work, at once a deliberately-paced epic, on the other hand somewhat of a throwback to Reservoir Dogs, swapping whizz-bangery for tense theatrical conversations that constantly threaten to bubble over into confrontation. If anything, The Hateful Eight feels more relevant now than it did five years ago – a portrait of the ugliest, most toxic facets of America all at war with each other. All that, and it has a brilliantly moody Ennio Morricone score and stunning ultra-widescreen photography.
5) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
On the heels of Tarantino's darkest film came one of his sunniest – an ode to the dying days of Hollywood's Golden Age, allowing the filmmaker to recreate the Tinseltown of his youth while pitching two of his own creations into the middle of it all. Thus you have Leonardo DiCaprio's insecure actor Rick Dalton and his easygoing stunt double, Brad Pitt's Cliff Booth, rubbing shoulders with Sharon Tate (an underused Margot Robbie), Steve McQueen, and (controversially) Bruce Lee, in a loving and playfully metatextural blend of fact and fiction. Dalton and Booth are the coolest QT characters in years, and they're a wonderful duo to kick back with over 150-odd minutes – this is the filmmaker at his most laid-back and languorous, and there's a poignancy as Dalton (and perhaps Tarantino himself) ruminates on his former glories and ponders whether more good times will come. When the trademark Tarantino ultra-violence does kick in, it's in service of an oddly sweet rewriting of a brutal tragedy that itself signalled the end of the swinging '60s, one that reveals the truth of the film's title: this is, in reality, a Tarantino fairytale.
4) Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Tarantino's World War II movie ends on a mic-drop line: "I think this might just be my masterpiece." And if it's not quite the filmmaker's very best, it's close – a sprawling and anarchically anachronistic historical tale that sees French cinephiles and vengeful Jewish soldiers destroy the Nazis. If his greatest strength has always been his writing, the Basterds screenplay is top-tier Tarantino – see the gut-wrenchingly tense opening encounter with Christoph Waltz's Colonel Hans Landa (one of QT's best characters), or the ever-ratcheting stakes of the card came in the La Louisiane chapter. The Basterds themselves are a blast to watch too, Brad Pitt chewing up the scenery as Aldo Raine with his gloriously deadpan Italian accent in the final act, while the flaming finale manages to be both a passionate love-letter to the power of cinema and a gleeful dose of pulpy schlock. As for iconic sequences, Mélanie Laurent's Shoshanna donning her femme fatale get-up to the strains of David Bowie's 'Cat People (Putting Out Fire)' is exquisite.
3) Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
The closest thing to an all-out Tarantino blockbuster. After the more restrained Jackie Brown, the filmmaker cranked his sensibilities into overdrive for a vibrant pop-cultural assault on the senses. Presenting a hyperreal world of eye-popping primary colours, fountains of blood, and leagues of comic-booky assassins, Kill Bill Volume 1 is a glorious celebration of maximalism, indulging in extended anime sequences and all-out yakuza showdowns. Uma Thurman is nothing short of iconic as The Bride, seeking out vengeance against the fellow hit-squad who turned on her, utterly convincing as a nigh-on unstoppable one-woman army – and when her showdown with the Crazy 88 arrives, it's a bravura brawl so slicked in claret that the director was forced to switch to black and white to avoid a more restrictive rating. Here, Tarantino uses every tool in his filmmaking arsenal to construct an unreal world that abides by its own rules but never gets carried away with itself – and the result is ultra-cool, ultra-fun, and ultra-QT.
2) Pulp Fiction (1994)
After Reservoir Dogs announced Tarantino as a blistering new voice in American indie cinema, the filmmaker took everything that made his debut great and expanded on it. Across a set of interweaving tales, a host of hitmen, armed robbers, fixers and an ageing boxer find themselves entangled in stories of death, drugs, and lucky escapes in '90s LA – all interspersed with self-aware conversations on pop culture, religion, and the nature of crime itself. It's about everything and nothing at once, an exercise in pure style but with substance to match, and dialogue so memorable that entire chunks have entered the cultural consciousness at large. Pulp Fiction embodies everything that made early '90s independent cinema (and Tarantino himself) so exciting and fresh – playful and unexpected, steeped in genre knowledge, the coolest images set to the coolest soundtrack. And with truly iconic performances from John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis and more, the whole thing is an embarrassment of riches. It's not quite perfect, but over 25 years later it remains timeless.
1) Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Pulp Fiction might be bigger, but Reservoir Dogs is, arguably, just that little bit better. In a world where most of Quentin Tarantino's films stretch well beyond the two-hour mark, its the lean efficiency, the sharpness of Reservoir Dogs that stands out – it's the nucleus of everything that makes him a masterful filmmaker, packed into a 99-minute runtime. Everything is here – the genre twists, the non-chronological storytelling, the mind-blowing music choices, the seemingly-incongruous conversations about cultural minutiae, the (no longer that) shocking violence, and above all, a sense of pure, unalloyed cool. At its core, it's a heist movie where you never actually see the heist – instead witnessing the set-up and the chaotic aftermath, as paranoia bubbles over and the colour-coded criminals – played by the likes of Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Steve Buscemi – turn on one another. It's slick, funny, intelligent, and uber-stylish, an undeniable crime classic. George Baker's 'Little Green Bag' and Madonna's 'Like A Virgin' have never sounded the same since.