Total Recall

Which Tarantino Film Do Critics Like the Most?

In this week's Total Recall, we take a look back at the filmography of The Hateful Eight director.

by | December 23, 2015 | Comments

Since making his debut with Reservoir Dogs more than 20 years ago, Quentin Tarantino has enjoyed one of the most consistently critically lauded careers of any director in modern Hollywood, and he’s back this weekend with the grim ‘n’ gritty Western ensemble piece The Hateful Eight. Once again, early reviews are solid — which means now is the perfect time to dedicate a feature to taking a fond look back at his earlier efforts. Cover the kids’ ears and keep an eye on Marvin in the back seat, because this week, we’re serving up Total Recall, Tarantino style!

Four Rooms (1995) 13%


The appeal of anthology films — that audiences can see the work of multiple directors under one narrative umbrella — can also be one of their major drawbacks: The results, as in 1995’s Four Rooms, often strike some viewers as wildly, painfully uneven. As this particular outing proved, success isn’t guaranteed even if you bring together a handful of the industry’s most critically beloved and/or commercially ascendant filmmakers; although Four Rooms united Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell to tell the promise-rich tale of a beleaguered bellhop (Tim Roth) making his way through a series of progressively weirder hotel rooms on New Year’s Eve, only Rodriguez’s segment escaped heaps of withering critical scorn, and the film barely eked out $4 million at the box office. But a 14 percent Tomatometer rating means that a few critics liked it — such as Boxoffice Magazine’s Shlomo Schwartzberg, who shrugged and said, “As a whole, Four Rooms is only diverting, and pretty mindless, but at its best it’s a lot of fun.”

Watch Trailer

Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof (2007) 64%


Forged by the bond of friendship between Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez — as well as their shared love of sloppy, bloody, low-budget exploitation flicks — 2007’s Grindhouse found the two directors splitting a three-hour double bill that took audiences from cheeky zombie terror (Rodriguez’s Planet Terror) to seethingly violent high-octane action (Tarantino’s Death Proof). At 67 percent, Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse got the short end of the Tomatometer stick, but plenty of critics still enjoyed his gleefully depraved look at a homicidal stuntman (Kurt Russell) with a fondness for murdering young ladies. “I’ve rarely seen a filmmaker, in current Hollywood at least, expose his sexual and sadistic kinks on screen with such shameless glee,” observed an admiring Kevin N. Laforest for the Montreal Film Journal.

Watch Trailer

The Hateful Eight (2015) 74%


What if Quentin Tarantino tried his hand at an Agatha Christie mystery? Filmgoers got their answer to that question — sort of — with 2015’s The Hateful Eight, in which a rogue’s gallery of typically Tarantino-esque characters find themselves bound up in lethally close quarters while a murder mystery inexorably tightens its way toward a gleefully violent conclusion. It’s a setup rich with possibilities for the director’s signature style of filmmaking, and in a fair number of respects, critics said Hateful didn’t disappoint: Tarantino assembled a stellar ensemble cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and fed them heaping servings of the sort of pungently knotty dialogue fans have come to expect. Yet while Tarantino’s films have often benefited from an approach to violence that could be charitably described as “enthusiastic,” some scribes admitted to a certain amount of discomfort with the particular brand of bloodshed he unleashed here, identifying a darker, meaner strain that explored racism and misogyny without necessarily offering illumination. “The Hateful Eight is a movie about the worst aspects of human nature, which is why the film can’t be quite described as ‘fun,’ at least in the traditional sense,” wrote the Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez. “But Tarantino isn’t glorifying the ugliness; he’s condemning it.”

Watch Trailer

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) 84%

Kill Bill 2

Six months after kicking off his Kill Bill revenge saga with Volume 1, Tarantino returned to theaters with its conclusion. Part kung fu brawl, part origin story, Kill Bill: Volume 2 fills in the blanks of its katana-wielding protagonist’s (Uma Thurman) past while she slices and dices her way to whatever passes for redemption. Clocking in at over four hours between the two installments, it’s a pretty hefty cinematic experience for something that boils down to a fairly simple tale, but most critics didn’t mind at all — in fact, Volume 2 performed nearly as well as its predecessor on the Tomatometer. As Jeremy Heilman of MovieMartyr argued, “The massive combination of the first and second Kill Bill movies stands as a testament to both Tarantino’s exceptional skill as a filmmaker and the possibilities of pop cinema.”

Watch Trailer

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) 85%


After a seemingly interminable six-year wait following Jackie Brown, Tarantino re-emerged with a blood-spattered martial arts epic so sprawling it needed to be chopped in half. Enter 2003’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, starring Uma Thurman as an assassin whose plans to leave the fold for a life of wedded bliss hit a snag when her mentor (David Carradine) decides he’d rather have her dead than retired, and sends her fellow killers-for-hire (played by Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, and Michael Madsen) to put a permanent stop to the nuptials. After watching Thurman’s take-no-prisoners performance, the New York Observer’s Andrew Sarris couldn’t help but say, “I would argue that, in a bizarre way, Mr. Tarantino empowers women as no action-genre director before him ever has.”

Watch Trailer

Jackie Brown (1997) 87%


Three years after achieving “young Hollywood genius” status with Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino re-emerged with Jackie Brown, a 154-minute adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch that served as Tarantino’s homage to 1970s blaxploitation while resurrecting the career of one of the genre’s biggest stars: Pam Grier. Hitherto known for playing the title role in 1974’s Foxy Brown, Grier returned to the big screen in pretty good company, including Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Robert De Niro, and Pulp Fiction star Samuel L. Jackson. While it was ultimately a bit of a critical and commercial letdown after the raging success of Pulp Fiction, Jackie still proved a favorite for scribes like Chuck Rudolph of Matinee Magazine, who wrote that it “Achieves the soulful edge lacking from Tarantino’s previous efforts. Forster and Grier’s performances deserve to join the short-list of all-time greats.”

Watch Trailer

Django Unchained (2012) 86%


Having entered the realm of social justice revenge fantasy with Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino basically remained there for Django Unchained, a pre-Civil War Western about a slave (Jamie Foxx) in an unorthodox partnership with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who needs his assistance to apprehend of a trio of outlaws — and is willing to not only grant his freedom in exchange, but help Django find and free his wife (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a sadistic plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s the perfect setup for two hours and change of profane, gleefully violent action, and Tarantino more than delivers with a star-studded excoriation of systematic injustice that manages to treat its subject with something approaching the proper respect without sacrificing an ounce of momentum. The end result, wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, is “Wildly extravagant, ferociously violent, ludicrously lurid and outrageously entertaining, yet also, remarkably, very much about the pernicious lunacy of racism and, yes, slavery’s singular horrors.”

Inglourious Basterds (2009) 89%


Any film fan worth his or her salt has seen plenty of World War II movies, but Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds added a little something special to the mix — an eminently well-cast revenge fantasy, starring a motley crew of solid actors (including Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Michael Fassbender) as soldiers in a parallel reality where the evil of the Third Reich is met full force with an Allied squadron whose members are hungry for Nazi blood (and/or scalps). Boasting a uniquely cathartic flavor of Tarantino-brewed violence to go with its taut drama and dark wit, Basterds proved powerfully compelling for critics like Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek, who had to concede, “Quentin Tarantino seems to be hanging on to a lost world of moviemaking. He may be nuts. But he’s a nut who cares.”

Watch Trailer

Reservoir Dogs (1992) 90%


Debuts don’t come much more auspicious than Reservoir Dogs. Yes, it’s a profane, blood-splattered heist flick — and goodness knows we have more than enough of those — but this one’s noteworthy for a number of things, including its hyper-literate script, its killer soundtrack, and a cast stuffed with tremendously talented character actors (including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen). While it didn’t exactly set the world on fire during its small theatrical run, it did offer cineastes an early look at one of modern filmmaking’s most exciting, fully formed talents — and it definitely drew the notice of critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, who wrote, “It’s unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes.”

Watch Trailer

Pulp Fiction (1994) 92%


Some careers take a while to get going — and then there’s Quentin Tarantino, who drew almost universal critical praise for Reservoir Dogs before skyrocketing into the Hollywood stratosphere with his second film, 1994’s Pulp Fiction. A $214 million box office smash and seven-time Academy Award nominee (as well as Best Original Screenplay winner), Fiction offered a blend of pop culture smarts, laugh-out-loud humor, and shocking violence so potent (and massively influential) that it even managed to revitalize John Travolta’s long-moribund acting career — and left Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” blasting out of countless college dorm rooms along the way. It was also, as Janet Maslin of the New York Times noted, “A triumphant, cleverly disorienting journey through a demimonde that springs entirely from Mr. Tarantino’s ripe imagination, a landscape of danger, shock, hilarity and vibrant local color.”

Tag Cloud

sag awards Opinion Endgame Best Picture kids Dark Horse Comics Comedy Central romantic comedy satire aliens TV Land jurassic park Ghostbusters mob richard e. Grant king kong nfl Food Network transformers zombie ID franchise Valentine's Day ABC Box Office Rocky Apple CMT BBC hist batman foreign Family australia Winter TV Red Carpet Disney Plus screenings Extras NBC 21st Century Fox Rocketman Vudu YouTube space Western Universal Pictures Super Bowl 71st Emmy Awards renewed TV shows Black Mirror Pride Month Funimation movie Lifetime Kids & Family Sci-Fi docuseries Showtime Baby Yoda Warner Bros. documentaries SXSW 2022 Esquire TLC Best Actress thriller IFC Binge Guide cartoon Mary Tyler Moore book adaptation TCA Awards PlayStation french young adult HBO Spectrum Originals Alien Quiz Disney+ Disney Plus wonder woman genre boxing IFC Films travel talk show free movies Amazon BBC America ABC Signature IMDb TV social media Marvel Studios films Sony OWN adenture interviews aapi canceled dc Crackle period drama Nominations prank worst Fall TV vs. 45 elevated horror Tags: Comedy TIFF die hard stoner RT21 broadcast sequels Comics on TV Avengers Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt justice league crossover Tokyo Olympics remakes Native women Animation APB 90s Fantasy sequel President rotten golden globe awards Discovery Channel streaming Spike dragons Columbia Pictures summer preview cancelled Podcast BBC One Hear Us Out Pirates comics cinemax nature ESPN legend A24 comiccon Star Trek E3 revenge The Walking Dead Apple TV+ blockbusters teaser rt labs critics edition Image Comics WGN stand-up comedy Disney streaming service Arrowverse Captain marvel Logo debate theme song Freeform comic books independent binge X-Men Sneak Peek First Reviews nbcuniversal CW Seed basketball fast and furious versus Hallmark cancelled TV shows gangster 2021 Video Games Anna Paquin festival crime drama Holidays 20th Century Fox Walt Disney Pictures Geeked Week Nickelodeon Photos Academy Awards documentary Fox Searchlight VOD HBO Max new zealand Emmys movies Countdown dreamworks Peacock TBS marvel cinematic universe robots Election MGM Cartoon Network RT History zombies mcc fresh The Academy Wes Anderson politics concert blaxploitation Cosplay Pacific Islander FOX Oscar festivals archives Pixar scorecard unscripted indiana jones Britbox Television Critics Association LGBTQ DirecTV new york Star Wars Celebration reviews superman toronto toy story video on demand Calendar cops AMC book Lionsgate Comedy mockumentary royal family The Arrangement CNN CBS All Access streaming movies TV renewals Spring TV cats Sundance target scene in color animated Turner 4/20 disaster Infographic Trophy Talk FXX facebook 1990s screen actors guild Turner Classic Movies japan Travel Channel south america TruTV crime thriller heist movie GoT Teen all-time Action cults Grammys mission: impossible rom-coms Musicals SDCC pirates of the caribbean TCM Martial Arts DC streaming service Broadway docudrama television YouTube Premium scene in color mutant werewolf Mary Poppins Returns deadpool Crunchyroll Reality Competition obituary 007 Creative Arts Emmys Rom-Com dogs TNT Character Guide Prime Video latino zero dark thirty obi wan NBA anthology comic Rock scene in color film series Oscars Ellie Kemper leaderboard live action Instagram Live emmy awards MTV HBO Go Women's History Month news Lifetime Christmas movies Reality Shondaland Trivia See It Skip It Marvel TV movies Year in Review singing competition olympics true crime hispanic heritage month cancelled TV series telelvision Stephen King The Walt Disney Company Drama war golden globes Watching Series target chucky worst movies strong female leads cooking posters harry potter South by Southwest Film Festival dexter BAFTA Schedule ViacomCBS witnail what to watch 79th Golden Globes Awards Comic-Con@Home 2021 lord of the rings Superheroes The Purge razzies medical drama video Mindy Kaling Pop Musical kaiju 99% SXSW Awards Tour 24 frames TCA Winter 2020 History natural history monster movies The CW godzilla name the review The Witch adventure anime quibi Mudbound Awards Masterpiece high school Brie Larson child's play Paramount Network HFPA award winner Song of Ice and Fire spain Paramount Summer Amazon Studios Superheroe christmas movies First Look 2017 spider-man rt archives Universal political drama feel good series Television Academy saw TCA CBS Winners criterion spider-verse dceu 2019 BET Awards Acorn TV based on movie GIFs Tumblr Hollywood Foreign Press Association Syfy classics Tarantino Paramount Plus Comic Book Cannes dramedy asian-american Set visit scary sports directors spanish language Netflix Christmas movies cars TV ghosts critic resources AMC Plus DC Comics cancelled television summer TV preview 2016 Bravo critics MSNBC comic book movie spinoff marvel comics Best Director Fargo suspense vampires Star Wars TCA 2017 Neflix 72 Emmy Awards Epix james bond Film ratings miniseries boxoffice FX on Hulu American Society of Cinematographers Exclusive Video Netflix Indigenous Focus Features Classic Film green book PBS DGA rt labs Shudder Paramount Pictures Amazon Prime rotten movies we love casting Black History Month spy thriller children's TV slashers scene in color series reboot 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards E! hollywood Mystery Nat Geo hidden camera 94th Oscars best canceled TV shows comic book movies halloween Starz Disney Channel serial killer 93rd Oscars streamig Polls and Games Tomatazos italian black comedy Country Pop TV historical drama Lucasfilm diversity popular doctor who 2015 halloween tv Marvel Television science fiction VH1 japanese technology ITV supernatural spanish police drama Marathons Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sopranos dark blockbuster MCU adaptation superhero black composers parents Sony Pictures Best Actor art house slasher trophy OneApp biopic twilight Ovation Mary poppins SundanceTV ABC Family venice a nightmare on elm street Heroines comedies football San Diego Comic-Con Elton John YouTube Red FX know your critic Christmas Emmy Nominations king arthur scary movies hispanic Music VICE USA 2020 Holiday romance YA Premiere Dates kong Chernobyl game show laika psycho crime Amazon Prime Video A&E New York Comic Con jamie lee curtis 73rd Emmy Awards PaleyFest Disney international Apple TV Plus USA Network Toys Interview Sundance Now NYCC 2018 GLAAD trailers discovery Certified Fresh Horror LGBT biography Film Festival game of thrones summer TV live event DC Universe indie Hulu action-comedy tv talk BET Trailer Tubi new star wars movies Pet Sematary breaking bad WarnerMedia stop motion Sundance TV Best and Worst universal monsters joker sitcom Hallmark Christmas movies finale Fox News Biopics Adult Swim psychological thriller Writers Guild of America Legendary TV One National Geographic El Rey Thanksgiving