Quentin Tarantino movies usually feature stellar casts. Jonah Rice is here to look through QT’s filmography and rank his movies in order of greatest casts.
From the Golden Globes to the Oscars, several thespians have been nominated at the world’s most prestigious award ceremonies for acting in a Quentin Tarantino film. Only a few have come out on top, but that isn’t to say there aren’t standout performances to anticipate with each new release by the American auteur.
As a filmmaker, Tarantino is known for his many trademark techniques: the over aestheticization of violence; sprawling scenes of extended dialogue; and iconic soundtracks with songs from the sixties and seventies. Perhaps the most important directorial trope in his arsenal, however, is his aptitude for assembling a star-studded cast.
There are a few exceptions within his filmography in this regard. But for the most part, Tarantino’s films are filled to the brim with talented, recognizable faces from all around the Hollywood block. It might seem a daunting task with many merits to employ, but today, we’re ranking every Quentin Tarantino movie by the caliber of their cast. Let’s get to it.
(Also: films on this list will only be those that Tarantino directed—his scripts made by other directors won’t apply. Sorry, From Dusk Till Dawn).
10. Death Proof (2007)
Sure, this exploitation-horror film may star the cult icon Kurt Russel with supporting roles from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosario Dawson, and there’s also an appearance from Rose McGowan—the actress who played Tatum Riley in the original Scream from 1996. Although, none of the performers of Death Proof (2007) exactly have the most renowned names.
This was however the first instance in which frequent collaborator and stuntwoman Zoe Bell played an actual character, not doubling as The Bride from Kill Bill. She would reprise her job as an actress in subsequent Tarantino movies The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but this is probably her greatest role thereof.
In the end, a couple of those actresses hold decent name value, but let’s be honest: no matter what “Quentin Tarantino List” you find, Death Proof is likely at the bottom. This one is no different.
The arrival of Stuntman Mike in Death Proof
9. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
I envisioned this entry coming in above its Vol. 1 predecessor thanks to David Carradine’s performance as Bill and Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance as, well, a piano player at the wedding with a single line of dialogue, but, okay, yeah. Maybe that’s not as much of a positive as I initially considered.
As the primary character, Uma Thurman of course reprises her role as Beatrix Kiddo, also known as The Bride. Plus, Michael Madsen shows up again as Bill’s brother, Bud. Daryl Hannah also had much more room to shine in this entry than she did in Vol. 1 as the treacherous Elle Driver—we all remember her fight scene with Beatrix (especially the gruesome ending thereof).
Ultimately, though, hardly any of these players are household names, which ultimately lands Vol. 2 (2004) here at number nine in our list of Quentin Tarantino movies.
The trailer fight in Kill Bill Vol. 2
8. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
As mentioned previously, Uma Thurman stars as The Bride, and she arguably provides a better performance in this one thanks to her efforts in the opening act. To add to the desirability, Lucy Liu co-stars as The Bride’s adversary, O-Ren Ishi.
Other cast members of Vol. 1 (2003) include Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah, as I’ve also alluded to already, but where this one shines the most for me is with its other supporting actress (who unfortunately died before the movie’s end).
Vivica A. Fox wasn’t long for the world of Kill Bill as Vernita Green (a.k.a. Copperhead), one of five members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. But despite her untimely death, she provided a great performance. When accounting for the fact that Sonny Chiba—renowned Japanese martial artist and actor—had a much more prominent part in Vol. 1 as Hattori Hanzo, this cast definitely edges out its successor’s.
The ‘Death List’ scene in the film
7. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
In hindsight, three actors from Reservoir Dogs (1992) could be deemed stars of the modern industry: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and, well, Tarantino himself. Many of the director’s frequent collaborators make their first appearance here as well, from Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde to Tim Roth as Mr. Orange. But those aren’t exactly household names.
And really, no one else from this cast holds any kind of name value, if I’m honest. The character of Nice Guy Eddie was played wonderfully by Chris Penn, and Lawrence Tierney showed up in spades as crime boss Joe Cabot, but again—I’d argue that the average filmgoer won’t know those guys.
If anyone wants to declare that the Kill Bill movies have a more impressive cast, I’d definitely hear them out. Still, for me, those three performances by Keitel, Buscemi and Tarantino were enough to warrant their place at number seven.
The intro to the crew, scored by Little Green Bag
6. The Hateful Eight (2015)
This is probably a shocking entry, only coming in at number six. However, aside from Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell in the starring and co-starring roles, there’s not a whole lot to write home about in this regard. Jennifer Jason Leigh was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actress, so the talent is clearly present. The name value just isn’t quite up to par, normally a given in Quentin Tarantino movies.
The same frequent collaborators mentioned in the previous entry, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth, appeared on screen together for the first time since Reservoir Dogs, and their chemistry aged far better than Minnie’s famous pots of secretly-poisoned coffee.
One performance that does bolster The Hateful Eight (2015) comes from contemporary powerhouse Channing Tatum. While he’s not the most talented of the bunch, his renown helps the Revisionist Western place at number six.
Sheriff Mannix shows up in The Hateful Eight
5. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I don’t think I need to sell anyone on Brad Pitt, but I’ll try nonetheless. In 2009 when Basterds released, he had spent the decade starring in box office darlings such as Troy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and of course the Ocean’s trilogy. These roles substantiated his status as a household name, but Basterds (2009) is his best of the bunch. No surprise, since he was working with Quentin Tarantino for the first time.
But, as you’ll see with another entry on this list, the role to write home about comes from Christoph Waltz. As S.S. Colonel Hans Landa, he was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actor. After winning the golden statue, he became the first person to do so for acting in a Tarantino movie. Pretty impressive.
Other roles include those played by Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, B.J. Novak and Michael Fassbender. While some of those names may be unfamiliar, you’ll likely recognize minor roles from Mike Myers and Samuel L. Jackson. Sure, he never appears on screen—only as the narrator—but it’s no Tarantino film without Sam.
Also: Eli Roth as Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz was a great surprise, given the actor’s penchant for B-movie horror roles at the time. Honestly, though, everyone here showed up in spades.
The Basterds poor attempts at affecting an Italian accent
4. Jackie Brown (1997)
In one of the more shocking leaders of the list, living legend Pam Grier leads an absolutely insane cast here as the titular Jackie Brown (1997).
Although Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t nearly the name he is today back in the mid-to-late 90s, Tarantino always managed to make him shine like the hottest actor on the Hollywood block. This is one of the best performances of his career as Ordell Robbie, garnering him a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor. The thing is, though: he wasn’t even the cast’s biggest takeaway—that’s where Tarantino’s sole collaboration with an esteemed Hollywood mainstay comes into play.
Robert De Niro plays a criminal associate of Ordell, and he appears to be high nearly every second of the film. The humor thereof isn’t overt, though, never resembling a stoner comedy, or anything. De Niro is subtle in delivery and perfect in execution.
And, no, don’t worry everyone—I did not forget Chris Tucker.
Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
With Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt appearing on screen together for the first time, simply seeing the poster for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) brought about shades of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. From 1962, it’s a western that starred John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, side-by-side for the first time. And much like Liberty Valance, Tarantino’s most recent film also has an impressive supporting cast.
As for Margot Robbie: Tarantino received backlash for not giving her as many lines as the other actors and actresses. Nonetheless, Robbie filled the famous shoes of Sharon Tate with a careful attention to historical detail.
Supporting roles include the likes of Al Pacino, Kurt Russell and Timothy Olyphant, and the cast is rounded out perfectly by appearances from Dakota Fanning and Bruce Dern. Really, though, the two lead performances by Pitt and DiCaprio propel this movie to new heights. Those characters just couldn’t have been played by anyone else.
Cliff, Rick, and Randy in the movie
2. Django Unchained (2012)
Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington perform valiantly as the titular Django and his wife Broomhilda (respectively). They provided great moments of on-screen chemistry, but there’s no question who truly shined in this one.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz—these are the three performances that stood above the rest. And although Christoph may not hold the same name value as DiCaprio and Jackson, he’s the most Oscar-lauded actor in the cast, and his role as Dr. King Schultz may be the most amiable human in any Tarantino movie ever.
At this point, I’d understand if you replaced this pick with my prior one, but in the end, the cast of Django (2012) also features appearances from Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, and (yet again) Quentin Tarantino. And while most of these could likely be debated forever, I don’t think anyone can deny the number one spot.
Django meets Stephen
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
If I were to make this same article but instead of ranking the caliber of the casts, I ranked the quality of each film’s soundtrack, Pulp Fiction (1994) would come out on top. Let’s say I decided to take each script, analyze the dialogue, and rank each film accordingly—Pulp Fiction would still reign supreme. Even if I threw any subcategories out the window and ranked each film simply by the quality thereof, there’s no doubt about it from an objective standpoint: Pulp Fiction is the best.
That fact remains with regard to the cast. It stars the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis. We can just stop now, right? Wrap up the list and call it a day? Those four names are massive, but no, the star power by no means ends there.
Throw in supporting performances by Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel. Still not done? When we top everything off with minor roles from Steve Buscemi and the director himself, I’d say this cast will go down as one of the all-time greats in the industry, not just within Tarantino’s filmography.
The Wolf saves the day in Pulp Fiction
Thanks for Reading!
Agree with the list? Quentin Tarantino’s repertory company has provided outstanding work over the years. Some of these casts have resulted in the greatest on-screen chemistry we’ve ever seen, and those will live on history for it. Please share the list on your social media platforms, and let us know your favorite Tarantino cast!
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