Ranking the best of Tarantino from 20 years

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 12/27/2012 11:10 am

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

In the last 20 years, Quentin Tarantino has developed into a unique voice in Hollywood. And while there are certainly aspects that have become readily identifiable as a "Tarantino movie," each one has been very different - even two parts to the same movie.

Here are my top five Tarantino projects:

1. "Reservoir Dogs"
This is the one I go back to the most. It's a nasty little crime drama with snappy dialogue, startling violence, and deft direction. His first film hints at the non-linear way of storytelling Tarantino would become famous for, but mostly, I love the simplicity of this film. Most of it is set in one or two rooms with a group of murderous robbers trapped together like rats. The dialogue is rich, funny, and surprising. I also love what the film doesn't show and tell us, which makes it that much more alluring.

2. "Pulp Fiction"
This is his masterpiece, or course, and it changed the way movies would be made and put together forever and always. It's not just the way the story is put together, the choice-cut dialogue, or the risky violence. Watch how Tarantino uses the camera as a character in the film.

3. "Kill Bill v. 2"
It's remarkable how much different the tone of second "Kill Bill" volume is from the first. In the creation of The Bride, Tarantino dedicated himself to departing from the way revenge films had worked previously. This was smart, capable woman he'd created. We get far too few of those in Hollywood. And David Carradine's Bill is a villain for the ages.

4. "Django Unchained"
Tarantino's other epic revenge tale, but this one doesn't have quite the emotional impact of the second "Kill Bill," which is why I don't rank it quite as highly. But it is close. In fact, I think it would be fascinating to consider the similarities between Django and The Bride as unconventional heroes - how their stories differ from, say, John Wayne's Ethan in "The Searchers."

5. "Inglorious Basterds"
As he does with "Django," Tarantino uses the limitlessness of film making to get revenge on history's greatest sins. In "Django," it's slavery. In "Basterds," it's the Third Reich. The individual pieces of this film are excellent, but they do not fit together comfortably. We do owe Tarantino a debt of gratitude for this film because it introduced us to Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender.

While it's not in my top five, I will defend "Jackie Brown" as a well-crafted caper movie. I also liked "Death Proof," but I prefer the extended version to the shortened one that made up half of "Grindhouse." Tarantino recently said "Death Proof" was his worst movie, and by that I think he meant "least excellent."

We could also get into Tarantino's best use of music, best on screen performance, best character, etc. Or for the haters, his worst movie, his most egregious ego stroke in a movie, etc.

Have at him.

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