Most filmmakers love to push the boundaries and take us places we never thought we would go. They do this not only with twists and special effects, but also by introducing surprising content, dialogue, and characters. Sometimes these controversial pictures just flop and other times the thrills and shocks elevate them to cult status with runaway success.
And when it comes to the shocking, the thrilling, and the controversial, there’s one name that will always outshine all the rest and that’s Quentin Tarantino. He’s known for his trademark nonlinear storylines, superb casting, satirical subject matter, unique soundtracks, incredible dialogue and quirky pop culture references. Quentin, a high school drop-out, and former video store clerk rocketed to fame shortly after his debut film Reservoir Dogs screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. The film would go on to be called the “Greatest Independent Film of All Time” by Empire magazine. Since then he achieved great success and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2005.
Today we’re looking at some of the best scenes from his collection of hit movies including Pulp Fiction (of course), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2, Grindhouse: Deathproof, and Jackie Brown. These are the scenes that had his special flavor added to them, which made them simply unforgettable.
15. Oblige Him!
When Colonel Aldo Raines’ elite group of Jewish-American soldiers come across a gang of Nazi soldiers during Inglourious Basterds, you know it’s definitely not going to end well. Part of the reason you know this is because you’ve already heard the Colonel telling his men that they each owe him 100 Nazi scalps adding, “And I want my scalps”.
The Colonel questions the first, a blonde sergeant, as to the whereabouts of a group of Germans further up the road but the sergeant refuses to give up the information. Apparently not fazed at all, Raine yells out to one of his men known as the Bear Jew telling him that they have a German who wishes to die for his country, urging him to “Oblige him!”
Amidst much tension-building baseball-bat tapping, the Bear Jew appears, played by none other than the master of gore himself Eli Roth.
14. Daisy Takes An Elbow
During the first few scenes of The Hateful Eight, we meet John Ruth, a bounty hunter and his prisoner Daisy, a murderer. They come across a fellow bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren, along a heavily snowed-over road and Ruth allows him to board their carriage. The two converse and exchange pleasantries, but then Daisy (who already has a visible black eye) starts to run her mouth and insult Ruth. Without warning, he brutally elbows her in the face, causing her to double over and howl in pain. This wouldn’t be the last time he hit her during the movie either.
This strong violence against an unarmed female prisoner didn’t go unnoticed and there are some fans who felt this level of violence against a woman was over the top, even for Quentin Tarantino. Nevertheless, you can’t help but admit that this scene made you sit up and take notice.
13. Marvin Loses His Head
Have you ever laughed when you shouldn’t have? It’s terrible, isn’t it? This often happens when we watch movies, sometimes a scene just goes in such an unexpected direction that we laugh automatically, more often than not just out of surprise. One can feel pretty guilty when those giggles creep out and your brain chastises you for laughing at the same time.
This is exactly the way I felt the first time I watched the scene in Pulp Fiction where slick gangster Vincent (John Travolta) accidentally shoots young Marvin in the head, basically decapitating him. It’s not funny, I mean not even remotely, but it was the last thing you expected to happen. There were Vincent and his partner, Jules, just driving down the street when Vincent leaned over the back of the passenger seat to ask Marvin a question and, boom, his gun accidentally goes off, leaving the car a bloody mess, and a big problem.
12. Stuck In The Middle With You (AKA The Ear Scene)
While Tarantino’s breakthrough film Reservoir Dogs had loads of memorable and masterful scenes, there is one that stands out for me and that’s the infamous ear scene. If you’re a fan you’ll know straight away what I’m referring to here.
After being overwhelmed by the police following a jewel heist, a few of the thieves manage to make it back to rendezvous at a warehouse. First to arrive are Mr. Orange, Mr. White, and Mr. Pink, followed by Mr. Blonde who arrives with take-aways (just what you need after a shooting spree) and a young policeman who he’s taken hostage. While the others go for help (and Mr. Orange bleeds out on the floor) Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures the cop, tying him to a chair, gruesomely cutting off his ear and dousing him in petrol– all to the background score of the Stealers Wheel singing Stuck In The Middle With You.
11. The Eye Pluck
Stories of revenge don’t come much colder than that of the Bride in Kill Bill. In this two-part film offering from Tarantino, an ex-mercenary is massacred along with her wedding party after becoming pregnant and deciding to leave her killing days behind. She miraculously survives and wakes up four years later– hungry for vengeance.
The scene that surely made your mouth hang open happened in the second movie (Kill Bill: Vol. 2) when the Bride sets off to kill her ex-lover, Bill’s, brother, Budd. While she lies in wait another one of her enemies– the one-eyed Elle Driver— arrives at Budd’s trailer under the guise of buying a sword from him. Instead, Budd is killed by a snake she secreted in a case of money. The Bride spots her chance and goes to battle Elle, and the two end up wrecking Budd’s trailer. Just when it seems like Elle may get the better of her, the Bride unexpectedly plucks out Elle’s other eye and squishes it under her toe– an ending only Quentin Tarantino could have dreamed up.
10. Basement Bar Shooting
If your strange accent doesn’t give you away, then the way you gesture for three glasses certainly will.
Colonel Raine’s Basterds (Inglourious Basterds) find themselves in a compromising position when they attempt to rendezvous with their undercover agent, Bridget von Hammersmark, in a basement pub in Paris. Together with von Hammersmark and Lieutenant Hicox, one of the Basterds, the disturbed Hugo Stiglitz, finds himself at a table with a Gestapo Major, who quickly realizes by his hand gestures that Hicox is not who he appears to be.
When the Major confronts Hicox and points his gun at him under the table he gets two pointed back at him, by both Hicox and Stiglitz. Their stalemate ends when Stiglitz fires multiple times into the Major’s crotch which leads to a classic Tarantino shoot-out. And which of his movies would be complete without a good old shoot-out?
9. The Overdose
There’s one scene in Pulp Fiction that will remain iconic for most fans, and that’s the infamous overdose scene in the “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” segment of the movie.
In this sequence, Mia, Marsellus Wallace’s new bride, and Vincent Vega, one of Wallace’s enforcers, return from dinner and dancing at Jack Rabbit Slims and Mia invites Vincent in for a drink. He retreats to the bathroom to give himself a pep talk and while he’s in there Mia finds his heroin which she mistakes for cocaine. In no time at all she’s taken a big greedy snort and passed out, foaming at the mouth and nose.
Vincent rushes her to his drug dealer’s home and it’s here where Vincent ends up injecting her in the heart with a cringe-inducing huge hypodermic needle filled with adrenaline. The scene shocked audiences so much that there were even reports of fainting!
8. Melanie’s Death
Just when we think we know what is going to happen next, Quentin Tarantino always has another surprise for us up his sleeve. No one can say that the first time they watched Jackie Brown they knew how Melanie would meet her demise. It was so unexpected that you’re left wondering if it really just happened.
After picking up a bag of money from a drop-off at the local mall, Melanie and nervous criminal Louis make their way across the parking lot looking for their car. Melanie mocks Louis, and already frustrated, he quickly grows angry, eventually warning her not to say one more word. She should have listened but instead quipped “Ok, Louis”, at which points he pulls out his gun, shoots her twice and keeps walking.
7. Boss Matsumoto
Tarantino is a master at inciting push-pull feelings from his audiences and a perfect example of this is the way that he introduces O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. In her back-story, a scene played out completely in anime, we learn that she witnessed her parents’ gruesome death at the hands of underworld crime boss, Boss Matsumoto, at a very young age.
The young O-Ren vowed revenge and a few years later she manages to kill Matsumoto. The way she does this is as surprising as ever. She takes advantage of his pedophilia and manages to get into his bed at age 11. Sitting on top of him she stabs him in the chest resulting in a fountain of blood. This scene made us almost feel sorry for O-Ren Ishii, one of the Bride’s sworn enemies. Almost, but not quite.
6. Epic Head-On Collision
Almost every movie we watch nowadays features a crash scene, so it can be pretty difficult for a director to really grab our attention. We feel like we’ve seen it all. But in his 2007 offering, Grindhouse: Deathproof, Quentin once again found a way to surprise us with his particular version of a gruesome head-on collision.
The serial killer villain, Stunt Man Mike, has stalked a group of girls and murdered one already inside his “death proof” car. He accelerates and takes aim and then rams into them, head on, going over the top of the car.
Tarantino epically shows us the scene over and over, each time from a different angle, showing us in detail exactly how each girl perishes. It’s gross— heads rolling, limbs flying off, and the sheer terror in their eyes as he turns his headlights back on (it was night) at the very last second— but still brilliant.
5. Buried Alive
We’ve seen plenty of ‘buried alive’ movie scenes, but none of them can compare to the one in “The Bride AKA Beatrix Kiddo” in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
In this scene, the heroine ends up buried alive by one her enemies, and if you weren’t claustrophobic at the beginning of the scene, you certainly were by the end. Using alternate angles Tarantino made us really feel the suffocating atmosphere; not only of space but also desperation. Then in a flashback, we see how her training, by the great martial arts master, Pai Mei, has prepared her for this moment and she punches her way through the wooden coffin and crawls out of what would have been her grave.
4. Shooting Up
Quentin is no stranger to controversy and he’s experienced plenty of backlash from various groups over the years because of his content. One of the most notable of these came a year after Pulp Fiction was released when Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole lashed at filmmakers for movies like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting, accusing them of glorifying and romanticizing drug use.
The scene he was probably referring to was during Pulp Fiction, when Vincent Vega shoots up with heroin and goes for a drive, looking blissful. Sure, that may seem romantic, but Mr. Dole obviously didn’t see the harrowing scene when Mia overdoses– that would surely put anyone off doing drugs.
3. The Girls Fight Back
So after we see Stunt Man Mike dispatch the first group of girls in Grindhouse: Deathproof, we don’t hold out much hope for the second lot of ladies, do we? I certainly didn’t. But I was happily surprised at the ending of the movie, even though it was much more violent than I anticipated.
When Zoë, Abernathy, and Kim finally catch up with Stunt Man Mike and crash him off the road, you just know he’s going to meet a very sticky end and in a way, it’s satisfying because if any character deserved it, it was definitely him. But the way he screamed as they dragged him out of the car and took turns to beat him was something only Quentin Tarantino could have envisioned— and pulled off.
2. The Brittle Brothers Die
The Brittle Brothers from Django Unchained just had to die. I don’t blame Django one bit for wanting to seek revenge considering the way they treated him. So when he approached the first brother in that unforgettable blue suit, and the violins started to reach a crescendo, everyone knew it was about to get real.
With lots of close-ups and slow motion shots, Tarantino shows us how Django shoots the first brother in the heart, and then belts out a brutal whipping to the second before emptying his gun into him as he lays on the ground. His sidekick rides up just in time to finish off the third one as he tries to flee on horseback through the cotton fields.
Quentin Tarantino can be a bit of a goof and we love how he added a little off-the-wall dialogue to this scene. Just after Django shoots the first brother in the heart he says to him, “I like the way you die, boy”, a sarcastic reminder of a similar remark he once made to Django.
1. Go-Go Has To Go
The Kill Bill movies were not for the faint of heart, it was a story of revenge and it was bloody revenge at that. There are so many noteworthy deaths in movies, but probably one of the best was that of Go-Go, one of O-Ren Ishii’s subordinates, at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
Go-Go comes prancing down the stairs in a school girl outfit carrying a wicked looking meteor hammer and chain. We’ve already seen her in action earlier in the film so we know that she is quite vicious and the fight scene that followed was nail-biting, especially when the bride became disarmed. But of course she was not going to be done-in by a school girl and while she’s being strangled, the Bride grabs a piece of wood with a nasty looking embedded nail and drives it into Go-Go’s little white shoe and then, into her head.