Top 10 Characters from Quentin Tarantino
In talking with fellow film lovers throughout my years, conversations, like a river, tend to flow inevitably into an ocean of Tarantino. With so many brilliant aspects of filmmaking involved with every one of Tarantino’s works, one could spend hours at a time gushing over them. What has always drawn me into the works of QT is his writing style and how, even in the hands of other directors, his voice speaks so clearly throughout (with one exception that will not be named here). This can easily be seen in the care he takes molding his characters into people that the viewer not only gets deeply invested in but also, often times, have many mixed feeling about as they are so highly layered and complex. In this article I will be taking a look at some of my favorite characters spanning all of Tarantino’s works.
10. Captain Koons – Pulp Fiction
Christopher Walken’s role in Pulp Fiction represents something Tarantino has done in almost all his films (sometimes multiple times within a film) and that is give a rather small character a huge plot point in the film to introduce. What Quentin does brilliantly, however, is give this small roll to a fantastic actor and intense monologue thus making it one of the more memorable scenes in the film. Walken delivers the speech about Butch’s father’s watch, which is equal parts touching and hilarious, beautifully. Although I have Captain Koons for this spot, it could have easily been Walken’s role as Vincenzo Coccotti from True Romance for similar reasons.
Favorite Quote: “The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy’s birthright so he hid it, in one place he knew he could hide somethin’, his ass…”
9. Calvin Candie – Django Unchained
Narrowing this list down to 10 is no easy feat and one might say “You have Calvin Candie and left off ________?!” and you may very well be right. While I believe that there are definitely some characters that may be better than Monsieur Candie, some may even be in the same film (looking at you Dr. Schultz), the mere fact that this is the only appearance of Leonardo DiCaprio in the QT collection puts him on my list. Calvin does represents a character archetype Tarantino often uses quite well which is the villain you love to hate. A truly despicable human being and yet I can’t help but smile every time he is on screen.
Favorite Quote: “I spent my whole life here, right here in Candyland, surrounded by black faces. And seeing them every day, day in day out, I only had one question. Why don’t they kill us?
8. Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz – Inglourious Basterds
Not much to be said here as the German born Basterd Hugo Stiglitz only has two real scenes in the film, his introduction and his death. Both scenes, however, are my favorites of the film. Also the number of lines Hugo speaks in the film could probably be counted on one hand yet his final line is quite possibly my favorite thing ever uttered by any Tarantino character, which gets him on my list.
Favorite Quote: “Say Auf Wiedersehen to your Nazi balls.”
7. Stuntman Mike – Death Proof
Tarantino is the king of homage. Some would say, in fact, that he has built his career on appropriating past cinema styles and I would likely agree. However, where Tarantino sets himself apart from the rash of remakes, reboots, and reimagining we see so very often these days is that he understands the subtleties that made the films that he liberally borrows from so special. Death Proof is the perfect example of this. Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike character is the very definition of cinematic horror; much like Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween there is no real reason or explanation why the person is committing horrific acts… they just are. That, in my opinion, is where the real horror lies.
Favorite Quote: “You know how people say, ‘You’re OK in my book!’ or, ‘In my book that’s no good.’ Well I actually have a book.”
6. Earl McGraw – From Dusk Till Dawn/Kill Bill/Death Proof
Like Christopher Walken, Michael Parks has been recruited multiple times to deliver an outstanding piece of work. What’s great about the character of Earl McGraw is that he was written specifically for Michael Parks in his first appearance in From Dusk Till Dawn, and while Quentin is known for his quick back and forth, natural dialogue, the Earl McGraw character slowly drips down the scene with long intense pauses, giving little bits of information and Texas wisdom along the way. Clearly he is one of Tarantino’s preferred characters as he has appeared in three different scripts to date despite having died in his first appearance on screen.
Favorite Quote: “Jesus H. Christ, Pete. When you gonna learn that microwave food’ll kill you faster than a bullet? I mean, them damn burritos ain’t good for nothing but a hippie, when he’s high on weed.”
5. Jackie Brown – Jackie Brown
Much like his stylistic predecessor, Martin Scorsese, Tarantino may be criticized for having largely male-oriented films with a lack of well-developed female characters. Even in the female heavy cast of Kill Bill the characters (while fun to watch) are much more cartoonish than his more memorable male characters. The exception in my eyes, however, is the titular character of Jackie Brown played by Pam Grier. Again, the love for the films he is paying homage to really shines in Jackie Brown. This character really stands out to me as one of the most realistic character’s Quentin has in his catalogue. There are so many moments throughout the film that showcase the fact that although Jackie is trying to play the role of the badass gangster heroine that Pam Greer is infamously known for playing, she is truly terrified of the real threats in her world, Ordell Robbie, the Feds and the possibility of having to begin a new life as a felon. Do keep in mind, however, that Tarantino only had a partial hand in writing the character as the screenplay was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel.
Favorite Quote: “No, no, manager gets fifteen percent. Agent gets ten. I’m gettin fifteen percent, alright.”
4. Clifford Worley – True Romance
In the same vein as Christopher Walken’s appearances, Dennis Hopper’s one and only role in a Tarantino work is a thing of beauty only amplified by the fact that both actors appear in one of the best written and acted scenes in any Tarantino film. This character also features an idea that Tarantino often returns to and that’s the character facing the realization that they are going to die and what they choose to do with their very last moments. In the case of Clifford Worley, it’s his choice of last words that make this scene and this character so high on my list.
Favorite Quote: “Cause you, you’re part eggplant.”
3. Bill – Kill Bill
Bill from Kill Bill, played by David Carradine, is almost the ultimate antagonist from a Tarantino film. I would only put one other big bad over Bill but we’ll get to that in a minute… Bill is such a well written character that although we, the viewer, spend about three hours developing a hatred of the character through the Bride, by the time we actually get to spend time with the character we find that he’s actually quite enjoyable and charming. Personally, as he goes through this account of what happened between himself and the Bride, I start thinking ‘he’s not such a bad guy, maybe she did overreact a bit.’ Carradine’s final appearance in the film pulls together almost of the common themes I’ve discussed with other characters: the show stealing monologue, the character facing certain death, etc.
Favorite Quote: “How do I look?”
2. Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction
Flipping the coin from Bill, let’s look at the best protagonist from the Tarantino-verse. I doubt this is news to anyone but Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino were made for each other, film after film Jackson delivers Tarantino’s dialogue on a level far beyond any other actor or actress in any Tarantino film (including Quentin himself). While every one of Jackson’s roles are phenomenal, it’s hard to put any of them up against Jules from Pulp Fiction. Insanely cool, endlessly quotable, hilariously funny… I don’t even mind saying that Jules is not only Samuel L. Jackson’s best role in a QT film but probably his best role in any film.
Favorite Quote: “Mmmhmmm, that is a tasty burger!”
1. Col. Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds
There should be no surprises here, in fact Quentin himself has stated that Hans Landa is the best character he has ever written and who am I to disagree. Played by Chistoph Waltz, Col. Landa is the best in a long line of diabolical characters. The qualities of this character that make him so endearing are his frighteningly cheery disposition, his smug lingual showmanship and his unwavering confidence in the knowledge that he continuously has the upper hand until his very last moments on screen. My absolute favorite scene involving Landa, however, is his turn in the third act; when presented with the opportunity, he just relishes in the idea of being the hero involved in orchestrating the conclusion to WWII, so much so that he is completely blind as to what is really going on. Every time this character is on screen is absolutely incredible to watch and Waltz’s performance is likely the finest ever seen in a Tarantino film to date and that’s why he make my number one.
Favorite Quote: “That’s a bingo!”