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Feb 14, 2011

Fletch's Favored Five: Quentin Tarantino Scenes

Quentin Tarantino has a gift for creating memorable scenes. The only problem is that this creates a paradox of sorts. He creates so many terrific scenes that, when called to narrow them down to a list of five, there's too much to choose from, leading me to think like The Incredibles' Dash: "If they're all special, then none of them are special."

But we know that's not the case. How can they be narrowed down, though? Pulp Fiction alone has about 30 scenes that might make this list; conversely, I love Jackie Brown and think it's solid from front-to-back, yet can't think of too many scenes in it that stand apart from their brethren. And though I've seen all of his films (and True Romance will be counted for the purpose of this list), there are some I have much more experience with than others, and I don't want to shut them out based solely on that.

5. Stuntman Mike's first act of destruction (Death Proof)

It's no wonder I couldn't find any pictures of this scene, since a) it happens quickly and b) it's pretty gruesome. But Death Proof is a slow burn, and this moment occurs at just about the midway point, and boy is it an OMG! moment if ever there was one, shocking the movie with a million gigawatts of electricity.

4. The Basement scene (Inglourious Basterds)

Of all of Tarantino's scenes, this most famous one from his more recent work seems to be the one that's the true test of whether or not someone really digs what Quentin is serving. A long, funny, tense setup...you know it's gonna end badly (much like the initial farmhouse scene), but you have no idea in hell when that's gonna happen.

3. "English, motherf#%^er, do you speak it?!?!" (Pulp Fiction)

I'll tell you right now, there are two Pulp Fiction scenes on here. I'm leaving off some of his most beloved films altogether. Of course, as I stated above, though, that's not the problem; the problem is all of the scenes in Pulp that could make the list that aren't going to. This, however, is probably amongst the most beloved and oft-quoted that their is...but not enough to top my list.

2. "You're a cantaloupe!" (True Romance)

Two acting heavyweights, going toe-to-toe with life on the line. Notice that theme popping up again? We all knew how this scene was going to end, but Tarantino took us to places surprising and hilarious first.

1. Jack Rabbit Slims (Pulp Fiction)

You might be saying "What?!?!" It's true, compared to the adrenaline scene or perhaps the finale in the diner or Bruce and Marsellus' trip to the L.A. underground, this is a subdued scene that really does little to move the plot forward. But this was the moment in the film that took it to another level in terms of pop culture, imbibing it with a timelessness and kitsch factor that set it apart from every other mobster movie out there. If I had to pinpoint the moment that I fell head over heels in love with Pulp, this was it.

23 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Quentin Tarantino Scenes"

The Film Cynics said...

A righteous list, sir! I wrote a University paper on the "Commode Story" scene from Pulp Fiction, so I've got a soft spot for it - especially the cops telling their own story inside the story.

M. Hufstader said...

Yes! I was waiting for the "you're a cantaloupe!" scene to make the list! I sympathize with your predicament, it is really impossible to pick out only five Tarantino scenes out of a career of brilliant work. But this is a great list, and you've got a couple gems there.

Andy the Time Lord said...

Great list! I'm actually surprised a DEATH PROOF scene made it on someones list, cos from the sounds of it, most mates don't exactly put it in high regard compared to his other work. But now I really, really need to see TRUE ROMANCE. Bollocks. Yea, that BASTERDS basement scene...amazing material.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's hard to pick a moment from Jackie Brown that is extremely memorable, even though it's one of my top 3 QT films.

I kinda agree with your #1. That was the point at which I knew I was watching something great. Plus, the little dance number is awesome.

That being said, The Bride getting buried in Kill Bill Vol. 2 scares the hell out of me every time I see it, so it might be his most effective sequence (at least for me).

Fitz said...

Haven't seen True Romance yet - trying to get a hold of it for this scene alone. Both Pulp Fiction scenes are classics.

Fletch said...

Tsk tsk, Steve - the Commode Story from what film? ;)

That and the ear scene were of course the highlights from Dogs. The Madonna monologue is up there, too...

M. - Yeah, I ought to just make a top 10 Pulp scenes, there are so many.

Andy - All in all, Death Proof probably is my least favorite (though I still like it), but when you see that scene (on video, you'll get to rewatch it), you'll know what I mean.

And yes, see True Romance already. And be blown away by the fucking amazing cast, if nothing else.

James - I was going to put the ending mall scene of Jackie on here, but the problem is that it's not remotely one scene. It's more like 15 and lasts 45 minutes (not that I'm complaining). It just felt like a cheat to have it on here. Love the multiple perspectives of it all.

Ditto the Bride burial. It's too spaced out over the course of an extended period of time. Otherwise, the burial/training might've been on here.

Fitz - see above. True Romance was my first exposure to QT and I was smitten. I like to just disregard that Tony Scott directed, even though he did a hell of a job and wasn't 1/8 as annoying as he's become.

The Film Cynics said...

Gah! Caught asleep at the wheel! Burn!

Jack L said...

Great list,
I can't really argue with any of these, although I have yet to see Death Proof.
Glad you included True Romance, that's one of my favourite films of all time and the scene you chose is one of the best of the film...

I'm surprised that you didn't include at least one scene from Kill Bill, one of my favourites is the death of Bill scene, very well done.

Anyway great list!

Ed Howard said...

As Film Cynic says, I can't imagine doing a list like this and leaving off the Commode Story. One of my favorite Tarantino scenes, it's so beautifully layered. Maybe it's a special favorite of mine because I'm such a fan of metafiction: I dig the way Tarantino lovingly watches Tim Roth's character develop his "performance" in different contexts, descending deeper and deeper into the role.

I'm glad to see a scene from the underappreciated Death Proof here, and if you're referring to Stuntman Mike's grisly ride with the Rose McGowan character, you're totally right about how shocking and horrifying it is; the expression in her eyes as she looks at him through the glass is just heartbreaking. Personally, though, I would've gone with the scene where Rosario Dawson's character realizes that she loves the adrenaline rush of the stunt driving: again, it's all about the look in her eyes as she sits in the back of the car, smiling from ear to ear. Until Inglourious Basterds came along, this was actually my favorite Tarantino film.

Aiden R. said...

Man, I need to see Grindhouse again. Been way too long and Stuntman Mike's the best thing that's happened to Russell's career in a good while. Solid list, man. Pretty sure my top 5 would all be from Pulp Fiction though. What can I say, I'm a fan.

Fletch said...

Jack - the two I was considering for Kill Bill (or Vol. 2) were the burial.training (as mentioned above) or the hospital escape. Ooh, though I forgot about the history of O-Ren - that's pretty damn kickass, too...

Ed - fair enough, but even as you mention, the beauty of the Commode Story goes far beyond one scene. It's in all times that we see Roth practicing his lines that it really comes together.

Curious - what was your favorite before Death Proof came along? I'd wager that you're still one of the few that places that and Basterds as their 2 and 1, respectively (or vice-versa, for that matter).

Aiden - I was waiting...and waiting...and waiting for years, armed with the knowledge that eventually, they would be putting out a FULL version of Grindhouse on DVD. Well, I think it's on Blu-Ray, and with no BR player, I won't be getting it all that soon, but it does comfort me, and that is some incentive to get a BR player.

Like I said above, I think I'll just made an addendum top 10 Pulp scenes. It'll be easy to get to 10, but hard to narrow to 10, if you know what I mean.

Ed Howard said...

Yeah, I've got a pretty unconventional Tarantino ranking:

1. Basterds
2. Death Proof
3. Jackie Brown
4. Reservoir Dogs
5. Pulp Fiction
6. Kill Bill

But that may be misleading since I actually like Kill Bill quite a lot, so there's not a huge distance between any of the entries on that list.

Thaddeus said...

I like your list, though I've yet to see Death Proof (or Basterds). You made exactly the right choice about Pulp Fiction. I'm afraid to review it for my site, because I like it too much.

Only two scenes really establish a "Pulp Fiction" place for the audience: Quentin's house, and Jack Rabbit Slims. It's perfect: the parking lot "square" moment, ordering in the diner, talking before and after Uma's coke rush, and then the dance. I love it.

I agree with your feelings about True Romance. Whether Quentin was angry or not about the script changes, he pulled off a rare (now) thing: he created a wild, credible love that supported the rest of the picture.

He's a pain, but I want QT to make more pictures, & at a faster pace.

Sammy V said...

Great article, and brilliant list.

Jason said...

Awesome list, Dylan! You knew I had to comment on this.

I think I would've ended up doing five scenes from "Pulp Fiction" if I tried a list like this. I think "ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER" would be my number 1. Mainly cause of my awesome Samuel L. Jackson impression.

Jason Soto said...

And that previous comment was really from me. Stupid blogger wouldn't let me change accounts.

Fletch said...

Ed - I can understand that; the separation between my top and bottom QT list is narrow as well. I enjoy them all immensely.

Thaddeus - Thanks for commenting. Death Proof is certainly not only his least seen but least loved, but those that enjoy his slow burn style are bound to enjoy it. Just be prepared for a lot of talking (and then some more talking).

What do you mean by "establishing a place" in regards to Pulp? Certainly, those two scenes you mentioned stand out, but if I'm understanding you, I'd think the first scene between Travolta and Stolz fits in there, as well as the cab ride (though that scene's always bothered me).

"He's a pain, but I want QT to make more pictures, & at a faster pace."

Amen - this every three years crap (if that) is killing me. Then again, he has yet to really disappoint, so maybe we shouldn't complain.

Sammy - Thanks!

Jason - I hear ya, and I knew that would be your number one as well.

Kaiderman said...

Great list, Fletcher. I believe that "English Muther Effer should be #1 hands down and I think I would put the Basement scene at #2. That scene stood out even in Basterds which was a solid flick. I could watch that over and over again.

Fletch said...

Kai - Thanks! Though I kinda feel bad for leaving the opening farmhouse scene off. It was pretty badass, too!

Thaddeus said...

Fletch, you're right about the cab ride and Stoltz, yet... It's a little embarrassing, but for (maybe) 30 minutes, I couldn't tell if "Pulp" was set in the present day. The soundtrack, the hairstyles, the cars - I thought it might be 15+ years before 1994.

Since I've never been to LA and I felt disoriented about the setting, Jack Rabbit Slims and Quentin's house really gave me the strongest feel for the world of the movie. Maybe I'll feel differently next time I watch Pulp. It's been 10 years., at least.

Fletch said...

Thaddeus - I'm not sure I'd be too embarrassed about that - I'm pretty sure that Tarantino is aiming for a certain timelessness in most of his films (save Basterds, natch). Dogs, Jackie, Death Proof, and Pulp could all be set in the 70s and each would need very few changes to appear so. A cell phone here, a newer car there (Ordell's in Jackie springs to mind), and that'd be about all you'd need to change, really.

The soundtrack certainly is never of the present day.

Darren said...

No love for the diner scene in Reservoir Dogs and the tipping conversation?

But I do love that True Romance scene. When I think of Dennis Hopper, I think of that.

Fletch said...

Darren - The diner/tipping/Madonna scene in RD was definitely a contender. Not sure how it couldn't be.

Amen to the Hopper TR scene. I love how you have this fast-paced, drug- and pimp-fueled movie that takes its time for 5 minutes to allow this scene to play out casually before turning nasty. Then again, there are a TON of scenes like that in TR, come to think of it: Clarence and Drexel, Alabama and Gandolfini, the climax at the end, and kind of the early scene with Sam Jackson.