Tuesday, April 16, 2019

10 best performances in Quentin Tarantino's films

By sati (harlequinade) Tuesday, April 16, 2019 , , , , , , ,

I recently rewatched almost all of Tarantino's films - other than Death Proof because seeing it once was enough - and I decided to finally rank my favorite performances in his films. It wasn't easy and a lot of great ones - like Lucy Liu's O-Ren Ishii - didn't make the cut - but it was also lots of fun to go back and appreciate that amazing work. So here we go:

10. Keith Carradine as Bill in Kill Bill
Bill is an unseen force in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and when we finally meet him in Vol. 2 he doesn't disappoint. Carradine is fantastic in the movie - charming, fascinating and completely unpredictable, like in the chilling moment he shoots Beatrix with a dart and laughs. At the end we are almost sad to see him go. That's the brilliance of this performance.

9. Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds

Pitt excels when he gets to do funny things and his delivery of butchered Italian lines is legendary. He also adds the ridiculous accent and charm to his character, injecting humor in every single scene he has. The fact he is gonna be in Tarantino's next film is the most exciting thing about it.

8. Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds
I know that this performance would probably be on top of many people's lists, but as brilliant as Waltz is here it's far from one of my top favorites in Tarantino's films. That said, he delivers a truly frightening villain who so incredibly entertaining to watch because like with the best antagonists, you have no idea what he will do next. He is calm and collected and when he erupts in rage it's absolutely horrific to witness.

7. Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained

To this day I don't know how Tarantino won so many awards for that script. When DiCaprio and Waltz exit the stage in the third act, the film completely collapses. It is also filled with absolute caricatures (the villains) and the lovers played by Foxx and Washington are unforgivably bland. Thank God for Waltz who single-handedly elevates the movie delivering the only character in this entire film that actually feels like a real person.

6. Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill
Uma Thurman delivers her best work here - in addition to impressive physicality and whimsical humorous moments for the character, the best scenes are those where we see The Bride as something more than a ruthless assassin - the moment when she wakes up in the hospital, realizing her child is gone and then the scene when she sees that her daughter isn't gone at all, she has survived. Thurman's Beatrix is a fantastic protagonist, one that we root for and care about, in spite of her being absolutely ruthless towards her victims.

5. Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction

This is still Willis' best work. It may not give him that much to do, but he still gets to show much more of his acting skills than he usually does. What is missing from Tarantino's recent films is that most of his characters feel like they couldn't exist in real world, but that is not the case with the characters he gave us in his early films. Butch is just a guy who had enough of being pushed around and wants to be the one who is in charge for once. And Willis' performance when Butch decided to go back and save Marcellus is the finest acting moment of his entire career.

4. John Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction

Vincent Vega is without a doubt the coolest character in Tarantino's films. Travolta is hilarious in the film, mostly because of his excellent chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson. Their scenes are far and away the most entertaining part of the movie but there's also tons of heart and genuine charm when he shares the screen with Uma Thurman. It's instant chemistry and that is something that contributes to true movie magic in their iconic dance scene.

3. Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson has been in so many films - huge, memorable, legendary films - but it is doubtful there will ever be a character and performance that has as much of an impact as his work as Jules in Pulp Fiction. In this one Jackson gets to be menacing, compassionate, funny and serious, delivering Tarantino's lines with so much charisma and passion that countless of them became legendary quotes.

2. Pam Grier as Jackie Brown in Jackie Brown

I miss when Tarantino framed his stories around women who felt real. Jackie Brown is a terrific character - she is fierce, driven and quite mysterious. She constantly surprises with how capable and resourceful she is. The film has a very grounded premise - unlike The Bride or Shosanna, Jackie isn't motivated by vengeance but by the difficult circumstances she found herself in, partially due to her own fault. She isn't perfect, she is flawed and human, and those are Tarantino's best characters. There's also such a huge element of girl power in this movie with Jackie being so compassionate towards other women, knowing how hard they fight to survive in men's world. It's such a joy to watch this film and witnessing Jackie outsmart them all.

1. Robert Forster as Max Cherry in Jackie Brown
This is hands down my favorite performance in all of Tarantino's films and one of my all time favorite Oscar nominations. Forster's Max Cherry is so sweet you almost can't believe he exists in Tarantino's world. He is extraordinary by being "ordinary". He is not a brutal gangster, a ruthless villain or a wisecracking criminal. He is a genuinely good guy - and ain't that a miraculous creature, especially in this director's films - and all of that is so beautifully portrayed. The gentle chemistry between him and Jackie, although they are so different, is so endearing to watch and makes that ending so tragically beautiful.

28 comments:

  1. This is a really interesting list. While I'm certainly not a big QT fan he really does provide for some really strong performances. Personally Waltz in Inglourious Basterds is tops on my list. It ranges from kooky to absolutely chilling. Love it.

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    1. Thank you! Waltz was certainly worthy of all those awards he won for that

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  2. This post is so solid. I don't know if I'd put Robert Forster at my #1 spot, but I totally appreciate Pam Grier as #2. Like I've told you before, Jackie Brown holds a special place in my heart. I feel like it's commonly forgotten when people think of Tarantino, and it really shouldn't be!

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    1. Yes! It's such an excellent movie and definitely his most mature

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  3. I'm a huge Tarantino fan. This is a really good list, although I'm not sure, I'd rank the performances the same way. It's extremely difficult to do, as all his films are so impressive and filled with amazing performances.

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    1. Yeah he really gives his actors a lot to do, no wonder he gets so many stars to be in his movies. I just wish the level of character writing in his new movies was as high as in his first ones

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  4. OOOOOOOOOOOH Schultz higher than Landa! I definitely don't agree (Waltz in Basterds would be in my top five), but there's no denying his work in Django is GREAT stuff. That monologue by the fire!

    I haven't watched Pulp Fiction in years, but everyone in it is perfect (Willis's best performance in my book is Fifth Element, though), and I LOVE that Jackie Brown occupies your top two slots. It's crazy to think that that movie was so unheralded when it came out.

    My number one would definitely be Uma Thurman in Kill Bill - the scene where she wakes up in the hospital is far and away the best thing she's ever done, and practically every other line reading is iconic. Not to mention the unbelievable physicality of her performance.

    I'd probably also give a shout-out to Daryl Hannah, who is SOOOOO much fun in Kill Bill, and Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs (SOOOOO CREEPY).

    LOVE this list!

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    1. Thank you! I love Hannah in Kill Bill movies, she is so much fun to watch! She almost made the list!

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  5. Ah, love this list! It's so good to see the ever underrated Jackie Brown take the top ranks. Pam Grier is amazing. For me, Melanie Laurent and Michael Fassbender in Inglourious Basterds would make top 3, right below Grier. Special mention to Tarantino's cameo in Django Unchained. Makes me laugh. 😂

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    1. Yeah they were really good! Fassbender switching the accents so effortlessly was really impressive

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  6. Nice list! Definitely agree on a couple of your choices like Pam, Brad, and Uma. If I made a list of my own, I'd probably have those three plus Melanie from Inglorious Basterds, Leo from Django Unchained, and Jennifer from Hateful Eight on there too.

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    1. Thank you! Leo is a bit too one dimensional in that one for me

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  7. Aww man what an awesome post and list! I'm still woefully behind on Tarantino movies but Jackie Brown is next on my list!

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  8. Great list!!!

    I'm with you on Pitt being good with comedy. I thought he was hilarious in Burn After Reading (A coen film that most people seem to hate and I don't know why).

    This post also reminds me that I really, really need to rewatch his films myself. Its been so long!!!

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    1. Really? I only see lots of love for Burn After Reading :)

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    2. Oh? It must be the few 'top Coen films' that I've seen and no one seemed to like it much. Its up there with my favourites cos its so goddamned hilarious, silly, and John Malkovich is just great

      And like you said, Brad Pitt has amazing comedic timing and should do more of that type of stuff (btw how YOUNG does he look in that Coen film!!)

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  9. GREAT list! Love that Forster gets the top spot. Gotta love Max Cherry. And I totally agree that the Willis scene you mentioned from Pulp is some of the finest acting Willis has ever done. You have to go back.

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    1. YES! I knew you will like my top spot! :D

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    2. Great choices. Totally agree with what you said about The Bride. When she wakes up, her reaction is heartbreaking. And I liked your love for Jackie Brown.

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  10. Fabulous list! Christoph Waltz all the way, he is so good in Inglourious Basterds.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, both of his Oscars wins were so well deserved!

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  11. Great list! I love all these performances but I’m so glad Bruce Willis made it to the list because he’s so good in that movie and people never talk about it!

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    1. YES! I'm actually upset he wasn't even Oscar nominated for this

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  12. I think I would have Pitt higher on the list because I remember his performances the most but then again, I fail myself by not having seen Jackie Brown.

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