The Criticwire Survey: Tarantino's Best Movie

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by Matt Singer
December 24, 2012 10:05 AM
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"Pulp Fiction."

Gary KramerGay City News:

"I'm not a fan of Tarantino; 'Pulp Fiction' was vastly overrated, and 'Inglourious Basterds' was intolerable for me. So I'd say 'Reservoir Dogs,' though I can also sit through 'Jackie Brown.'"

Dan KoisSlate:

"'Inglourious Basterds' in a walk. And I love all the other ones!"

John Keefer51Deep.com:

"'Pulp Fiction' is his most emblematic film. Everything you can think of when you think of Tarantino is in that movie, codified in that movie, emblazoned onto the celluloid, a document to stand the test of time. It was THE cool of the '90s, delivered at the halfway mark of the decade it would define, and may remain my favorite of his films. There was a time when I would watch it once a day, sometimes twice on weekends. It is, for me, a movie that does everything I want a movie to do and more."

Drew HuntChicago Reader/The Talking Pictures:

"'Pulp Fiction' remains his most accomplished work. To this day, the film bubbles with a kind of energy that's unique to Tarantino. Whether it's his zestful twisting of time and space, his contradictory yet strangely noble sense of moralism, or his ability to make the minuscule seem grandiose, 'Pulp Fiction' (and the rest of his oeuvre, for that matter) seems to me a film that only he could have directed."

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com/ScreenCrush:

"'Reservoir Dogs' beats out 'Inglorious Basterds' on nostalgia points for me. It had the good luck to come out when I was a freshman at Tisch and you can't underestimate how much of a great unifier this film was. It was beloved by both the Hollywood-fed lowbrows as well as the Cahiers du Cinema-quoting snoots. That first Friday night screening at Village 7 was a veritable who's who of future boldfaced personages and if I were a different sort of gent I'd be dropping names all over your nice clean survey. 'Reservoir Dogs' is, also, a helluva picture -- extremely innovative in its language, framing and attitude. Yes, you can have a field day sleuthing out the sources that 'inspired' Tarantino, but it still comes together quite well. The masses maybe didn't get hip to Tarantino 'til 'Pulp Fiction,' but the other filmmakers, the myriad who aped him, got their starting gun with 'Reservoir Dogs.'"

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

"I was one of the rare people who had lost faith in Tarantino after 'Kill Bill' and 'Death Proof.' It seemed he had slipped entirely into a self indulgent quest of cleverness and inside jokes, the films themselves a near afterthought. Then came 'Inglorious Basterds.' Not only Tarantino's best, it's one of the more impressive movies of the last few years. A perfect combination of a damn fine narrative mixed with that, ummm, Tarantino-ness, 'Inglorious Basterds' managed to win this guy over despite walking into the theater with more than a handful of snark. And my snark is not something to be taken lightly. Well done Mr. Tarantino."

Jason GorberTwitch/Filmfest.ca:

"It's become trendy to cite 'Jackie Brown' as QT's best film, but I'm old enough to remember the genuine indifference many felt for it after getting their feet wet with 'Pulp Fiction' (I lived through the same thing when I was going gaga for the at-the-time dismissed 'Lebowski,' after 'Fargo' left me just a wee bit cold). I think that film is still his most heartfelt and genuine, and contains a stunningly effective love story told in a mature, delightful way. The fact that De Niro gives one of his best performances and that's not even the most memorable part of the film illustrates the effectiveness of the flick. And, oh those delicious tracking shots. Plus, while I now know 'Reservoir Dogs' as a mildly flawed yet charming homage to a number of other films I hadn't heard of at the time, seeing that in a theatre helped changed my entire outlook of how I could respond to cinema. I have vivid memories of leaving the screening and immediately seeking out the soundtrack at a local music store (remember those?) -- it had to be special ordered to Canada, as local distributors didn't think this little arthouse flick warranted distribution of the tunes up here. Oooka chakaa, indeed."

Kenji FujishimaThe House Next Door:

"I think this might just be my masterpiece," Lt. Aldo Raine says to a fellow Jewish U.S. soldier at the very end of 'Inglourious Basterds.' Quentin Tarantino may have intended that as a brutal cold-joke punchline, but I seriously think this epic about violent World War II epics is Tarantino's finest hour. Other films of his -- I'm thinking especially of 'Jackie Brown' and 'Kill Bill Vol. 2' -- may carry a warmer emotional charge, but 'Basterds' is his boldest (and still is, even in light of 'Django Unchained') deconstruction of the kind of disreputable genre movies he loves, one that also breaks down easy distinctions of 'good' and 'evil' in order to stage a subversive dialectic about the ethics of revenge in wartime. The apocalyptic movie-theater conflagration that marks its climax is Tarantino's most awe-inspiring expression yet of the immortalizing and annihilating qualities of cinema."

James FrazierCritic Speak:

"'Pulp Fiction.' It's one of those rare works where the medium can be measured by what came before and after it. I'm not certain that there has been a more influential film in my lifetime."

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

"I know better than to say 'No one else will pick this,' since you always get a wide variety of answers here, but I'm sure I'll be in the minority by picking 'Death Proof.' It's the one movie where I feel like his periodic pacing problems are justified (he's paying homage to grindhouse movies), and I think the dialogue between both sets of female friends really crackles in an interesting way. And Zoe Bell playing Ship's Mast with crazy Kurt Russell in hot pursuit? One of the greatest car chase sequences ever made."

Edward DouglasComing Soon:

"'Pulp Fiction,' obviously. How can anyone say otherwise?"

Billy DonnellyAin't It Cool News:

"This might be the toughest Criticwire Survey question I've had to answer to date, and that's because asking a Tarantino fan to pick their favorite of his films is like asking a parent to tell you which of their children they love the most (which is a bit messed up). But after some serious going back and forth and with the proverbial gun to my head, I've got to give the nod to 'Pulp Fiction.' First off, it's not just one great film, but three great films rolled into one package. Each of those stories being told is filled with fully realized characters who themselves could easily branch off into their own side stories and it's hard to look at any second of the finished film and say, 'This part didn't work for me' or 'That character didn't intrigue me a great deal.' From the easily quotable and brilliant script to its bizarre yet engaging set of tales, 'Pulp Fiction' grabs your attention from the moment two guys are just talking about fast food in a car on their way to job and doesn't let it go until they walk out of a diner having shared another similar conversation. Their lives have changed by the end of the film, and with 'Pulp Fiction' being your introduction to all things Tarantino, so has yours. Tarantino has come close to matching the greatness of 'Pulp Fiction' on a couple of occasions, but I have to pick the one that set such a high bar for excellence in the first place as his very best."

John DeCarliFilmCapsule:

"I haven't seen 'Django Unchained' yet, but I'd still say 'Pulp Fiction.' His formal style continues to evolve, but 'Pulp Fiction' to this day reads like a manifesto for his combination of quotation, homage and brazenly original virtuosity."

Michael DaltonMovie Parliament:

"'Inglourious Basterds' has to be my favorite, with 'Reservoir Dogs' a close second. 'Inglourious Basterds' was the first and currently only Tarantino film that I have seen in the cinema, apt given that the film is very much a celebration of its powers. Seeing this film for the second time remains one the most memorable and enjoyable cinema going experiences of my life. The genius of this film lies in the extended scenes of dialogue, where tension is expertly constructed and then defused in short, bloody, bursts of violence. Tarantino's bravest and craziest, this is a film that perfectly symbolizes his strengths as a writer, director, and storyteller. In the shape of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, it may also contain the best performance within a Tarantino film. The film closes with the line, 'This might just be my masterpiece...' something I completely agree with Mr. Tarantino."

Jake ColeNot Just Movies:

"'Jackie Brown' and 'Death Proof' show off the more critical side to Tarantino's loving genre homages, but 'Inglourious Basterds' stands as his best work to date. Honing his diversionary, long-winded dialogue into artfully suspenseful battles of wits, QT makes scenes that should demolish narrative momentum into crucial, gripping plot advancements. And for a film that delights in indulging the fantasy of killing Hitler, Tarantino demonstrates remarkable restraint in his violence, mostly conserving it to short, nightmarish bursts before going all out in the climax. By ending one holocaust with his own, however, Tarantino deftly puts his own giddy sense of vengeance under the microscope. Apropos of its Nazi focus, 'Basterds' does not so much close the book on the exhausted subject of WWII as burn it, and its depiction of the 'good guys' becoming mass murderers and suicide bombers in a quest for justice tips its hat to more contemporary American conflicts."

Marc CiafardiniGoSeeTalk.com:

"Even though his films are so different they're nearly incomparable, Tarantino's best work to date (yes, including 'Django') is without a doubt 'Inglourious Basterds.' Like all QT films the writing speaks for itself, but here it simply sings. It's razor sharp, almost hypnotic and just commands your attention yet there's usually a playful undertone that keeps it from feeling pretentious. Not only was his screenplay whip-smart but through some cosmic alchemy was able to assemble the incredibly talented eclectic ensemble of Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender etc. to pull off his supremely well-crafted writing. Additionally he pulled one helluva performance out of Brad Pitt and that's got to count for something. While there's immense joy and beauty in revisiting any QT film again and again, nothing hits the high notes on repeat viewings like this period piece/revisionist history lesson better know as the good old 'Ingluorious Basterds.'" 

Sean ChavelFlick Minute:

"Quentin Tarantino's best film is the obvious one. I am simply shocked that anyone would say anything but 'Pulp Fiction' which I regard as one of the top 25 films of all-time. On any given day, my recall has vivid flashbacks to any number of scenes. It breathes within me. I'm more street smart because of it."

Daniel CarlsonPajiba:

"I'll probably catch some heat for this, but bring it on: Tarantino's best movie is 'Jackie Brown.' It's packed with Tarantino hallmarks -- colorful characters, shocking violence, Sam Jackson with amazing hair -- but it never bogs down or feels like an experiment in scene-setting or alternate histories. Chalk it up to the source material, but this is one of the few times Tarantino's had an actual story to work with and not just a collection of ideas or set pieces. The cast is killer, too, anchored by a powerful Pam Grier and the wonderful Robert Forster."

Fico CangianoCineXpress:

"I really love 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Reservoir Dogs,' but I'd have to go with 'Django Unchained.' It has everything you want or need from a Tarantino film. It has plenty of violence, humor, sex, and social/historic commentary. Fun, fun, fun."

Christopher CampbellDocBlog

"'Inglourious Basterds.'"

Patrick BromleyF This Movie:

"Tarantino is one of the few filmmakers whose every movie (save maybe for 'Death Proof' -- and I LOVE 'Death Proof') is his best movie -- at least while I'm watching it. I'm inclined to say 'Inglourious Basterds,' but then I remember how much I love 'Jackie Brown.' And every time I watch both volumes of 'Kill Bill' consecutively, I become convinced that that is his best movie, and the one that feels the most like the sum total of all his influences and obsessions (taken separately, I don't think either volume is in the running for best). Plenty of people can't stand Tarantino. I get it, even though I totally do not get it. He's a filmmaker whose every choice just works for me. I can't possibly pick a 'best.'"

Danny BowesYahoo! Movies:

"While 'Pulp Fiction' is certainly his most impactful, now that I'm the same age Tarantino was when it was released, I think 'Jackie Brown' is not only his best movie but a kind of miracle. It's assembled masterfully, with pacing that hits a perfect grace note on the border between deliberate and slow, and down to the last extra beautifully acted. I'm amazed and frankly a bit pissed that someone my age made a movie this great, but if Jackie Brown has taught me anything it's that in 20+ years I have a chance to be as cool as Max Cherry, so there's that at least."

Nicholas BellIONCINEMA:

"'Inglourious Basterds.'"

Adam BattyHope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second:

"'Inglourious Basterds' is the perfect fusion of the pop culture riffing that Tarantino is known for and 'legitimate' drama, for want of a better term. While 'Django Unchained' is yet to reach these shores, I get the feeling that Tarantino's latest follows suit. I'm very fond of Mr. Tarantino's work, and it's been interesting to view it thoroughly as a complete oeuvre and retrospective entity thanks to the recent 'Tarantino XX' Blu-ray collection."

Edwin ArnaudinAshvegas:

"Just as Nas will probably never make a better album than 'Illmatic,' Tarantino is unlikely to top the perfect storm that is 'Pulp Fiction.' Though it took me a while to appreciate the former, my initial viewing of the latter remains a watershed moment in my movie-watching history. Tarantino showed an impressionable 15-year-old what films were capable of in terms of language and narrative structure, and the masterpiece continues to wow me today."

Ali ArikanDipnot TV:

"'Jackie Brown,' with 'Inglourious Basterds' a quirky second."

Michael J. AndersonTativille:

"Though it took me a lot longer than most to arrive at the consensus opinion -- I used to take the Tarantino-hater position that 'Jackie Brown' represented his best work --  I now agree with nearly everyone else that his best is in fact 'Pulp Fiction.' Boring, I know. More interesting, perhaps, is the question of the director's second best, and for that I would nominate 'Kill Bill: Volume 2.'"

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on December 24, 2012:

The Most Popular Response: "Zero Dark Thirty," "Amour" (tie)
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: "Killing Them Softly," "Holy Motors," "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Lincoln," "The Master."

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More: Criticwire Survey, Quentin Tarantino, Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

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