Top Ten Thursday: Tarantino’s Ten Triumphs

a band apart, production company, logo, quentin tarantino

The writers here at LxL are unabashed fans of the collected works of Quentin Tarantino.  I watched Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction for the first time with Todd in his parent’s basement when we were far too young.  I saw both Kill Bill movies with Wes, one of which I’m certain we snuck into.  In addition, Inglorious Basterds set the bar for the revisionist history genre.

When I started hearing some details on his new project, Django Unchained, I encouraged Todd (who works in the pictures) to at least explore getting a position on the film.  Much to all our excitement, Todd started working on the L.A. production of Django Unchained last week, and can now be considered part of the inner circle of Hollywood elite.  A real Tinseltown treat Todd has become.  In all seriousness, it is effing awesome Todd got on this film, and made us want to revisit some of our favorite moments and Tarantino movies; in particular those that have iconic musical moments.

There are so many great scenes accompanied by great music in Tarantino’s movies, but we think we assembled a pretty good list here.  After Django Unchained is released we expect to have to shift around some of the rankings, but for now enjoy all the good clips and accompanying music.

10.  Reservoir Dogs:  The George Baker Selection – “Little Green Bag”

The iconic scene “Little Green Bag” accompanies features the image Tarantino would end up using as the logo for his production company A Band Apart.  Beyond that, the slow motion walking introduces what may be the greatest ensemble cast of character actors ever assembled onscreen.  This also represents the essential calm before the storm moment between the crew discussing the robbery and immediately after the credits shifting to the terrible aftermath of the same botched robbery.

9.  Pulp Fiction:  Dick Dale – “Misirlou”

One of four opening titles selections in a row, “Misirlou” follows a freeze frame of honey bunny after she maniacally screams “Any of you f**kin pricks move, I’m gonna execute every last mother f**king one of ya” while executing a robbery of a diner.  How is that for an opening?  The adrenaline rush achieved by the opening scene and credits is an unbelievable success, and prepares for the madness to come.

8.  Kill Bill vol. 1:  Nancy Sinatra – “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”

“This is me at my most masochistic” sneers David Carradine’s Bill before putting a bullet in Uma Thurman’s head.  Following, the opening credits roll, accompanied by Nancy Sinatra’s soulful version of “Bang Bang”.  This is one of Tarantino’s choicest opening credit selections, and gives the viewer a sense of relief after the brutality that just took place onscreen.

7. Jackie Brown:  Bobby Womack – “110th Street”

The perfect song for the opening credits to Tarantino’s unabashed blaxploitation flick, no other song could have accompanied Pam Grier’s Jackie strolling along as well as “110th Street”.  Tarantino often finds a way to set the tone in the opening credits, and he doesn’t disappoint here in introducing what has become a long string of strong female characters in his subsequent films.

6.  Death Proof:  Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich – “Hold Tight”

Among the most unexpected of songs to be used as the build up to one of the more gruesome slaughterings a car has ever bestowed upon human flesh in a film. Yet it works perfectly. All four lovely ladies, hot as can be, high as can be, are all just whisked away by this joyful and happy tune moments before their untimely and brutal death-by-car. The massacre is also unique in the fact that it is replayed four times, just to allow the viewer to witness exactly how the car shreds each girl individually. Had Tarantino used some gaudy, stereotypical horror build up rather than this very song, the viewer would not have been nearly as caught off guard. It gives the scene just the extra boost it needs from being sick, to borderline demented.

5.  Kill Bill vol. 1:  Tomoyasu Hotel – “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”

This scene just screams Tarantino cool, and sets up his most Asian-based piece of action in his canon (and not because the majority of the combatants are Asian).  As Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride, speeds off on her motorcycle in her Bruce Lee jumpsuit, O-Ren Ishii and her posse assemble at the House of Blue Leaves to await her.  The intensity of “Battle Without Humanity” sets up one of the more aggressive action sequences in film history, and maybe the most bloody.

4.  Pulp Fiction:  Chuck Berry – “You Can Never Tell”

In Travolta’s big-screen comeback, Tarantino couldn’t resist making him dance a little; a nice ode to his Saturday Night Fever fame.  The style of dancing Travolta and Thurman pull off is only made possible by the pounding piano of Chuck Berry and the retro set Tarantino introduces.  This scene is the only thing in the universe that could cause me to ever take dance lessons.

3.  Inglorious Basterds:  David Bowie – “Cat People (Putting Out Fire with Gasoline)”

Excuse me for not finding the full clip of the scene in the movie, but the Youtube video above contains a nice little selection of scenes from the movie.  Anyway, I’m not sure David Bowie ever expected his classic “Cat People” to be used during a montage in a Tarantino movie, consisting of Jewish goddess Shosanna preparing an all-out massacre of the Nazi elite in her theater.  “Cat People” propels along the deep-seeded feeling of revenge and the rush that comes with it.  Oh, and Tarantino does a Rocky-esque montage…weird (and awesome).

2.  Reservoir Dogs:  Stealers Wheel – “Stuck In the Middle With You”

“Was that as good for you as it was for me?” Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blond cooly says after sadistically removing the police officer’s ear with an old-school barber’s blade.  This is a scene demonstrating Tarantino’s perfect pairing of brutal violence with feel-good tune.  The only film that may have ever done it better is American Psycho.

1.  Pulp Fiction:  Urge Overkill – “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”

Ah, my first cinematic drug overdose experience.  I must have been in seventh grade or so when I watched this movie on Laserdisc in Todd’s basement (yes, Todd’s parents succumbed to Laserdisc).  After a long night of drug use, dancing (see entry #4 on our list), and carrying on, John Travolta and Uma Thurman retire to her residence to wrap things up.  Travolta heads to the bathroom to try to convince himself not to have sex with Thurman’s character, while she dances to Urge Overkill’s cover of the classic Neil Diamond song, and then overdoses.  I’m convinced to this day that it shouldn’t be “D.A.R.E, to keep kids off drugs”.  It should be “‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’, to keep kids off drugs”.

For more commentary on the hilarity of this song, check out this post.

Just Missed:


Death Proof:  The Coasters – “Down in Mexico”

Who can deny a killer lap dance?  Todd certainly can’t, and neither can Kurt Russell in Death Proof.  This scene isn’t necessarily essential to the film, and resides in one of Tarantino’s lesser-viewed films.  What the scene may lack in substance, it certainly makes up for in style.  If strip clubs started playing songs as classic as “Down in Mexico” and recreating scenes from Death Proof, us at LxL would be a little more likely to frequent.

Jackie Brown:  Brothers Johnson – “Strawberry Letter 23”

Nothing like Samuel L. Jackson calmly preparing to off somebody to the sweet sounds of Brothers Johnson.  “Strawberry Letter 23” really brings out the inner gangster in Wes, causing his wife Jackie to keep their copy of Jackie Brown in a lockbox, and forbidding the Brothers Johnson completely.

Kill Bill vol. 2:  Ennio Morricone – “L’arena”

I had to give Ennio Morricone some love, taking into account how much Quentin Tarantino uses Morricone’s former film scores to score his own movies.  This triumphant piece of orchestration plays as The Bride is busting out of her coffin and gaining a new lease on life.  The uplifting nature of “L’arena” is needed during the claustrophobic intensity of the coffin scene.
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …

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2 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: Tarantino’s Ten Triumphs”

  1. Great Post!! when i clicked on it, i wasn’t sure what to expect (how can it be Tarantino’s Top 10 movies when he doesn’t even have 10 LOL!!)… but i’m so glad you made the list and i pretty much agree with everything (somehow though, 110th st. was more effective to me in the closing scene, but can understand why you guys chose the opening scene)
    very creative post… makes me glad i follow you guys! =)

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