Quentin Tarantino Lists the 12 Greatest Films of All Time: From Taxi Driver to The Bad News Bears


Creative Commons image via Wikimedia Commons

Any list of the most respected American filmmakers of the past half-century would have to include Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese. The latter two have kept creating, and prolifically, but that doesn’t delay those heated debates about who will most proudly carry the auteur’s tradition into the next few decades. Much smart money bets on Quentin Tarantino, who, at age 50, has already racked up over twenty years (and if you count My Best Friend’s Birthday, over 25) of demonstrating his distinctive cinematic sensibility.

That sensibility has made him a director of renown, but it comes in large part from his equally formidable stature as a film fan: his beginnings as a highly curatorial video-store clerk, his ownership of the revival theater the New Beverly Cinema (which I myself frequent), his cinephile’s-dream home theater and large collection of prints. Having featured top-movie lists from Kubrick, Allen, and Scorsese, let’s take a look at one from Tarantino:

  • Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
  • The Bad News Bears (Michael Ritchie, 1976)
  • Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976)
  • Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  • The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
  • His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1939)
  • Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
  • Pretty Maids All in a Row (Roger Vadim, 1971)
  • Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 1997)
  • Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977)
  • Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

The director of Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained voted for these pictures in Sight & Sound‘s 2012 poll. Not only does this high-profile auteur select several other high-profile auteurs, he favors ones who show a similar enthusiasm for genre: de Palma, Leone, Hawks, Spielberg, Friedkin. Other selections, like Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver, come from filmmakers associated with the “New Hollywood” movement of the seventies, the last major burst of creative filmmaking in the American mainstream before — you guessed it — the “Indiewood” boom of the late eighties and nineties which launched the career of not only Tarantino himself but also Richard Linklater, whose breakout Slacker you can watch online. You can also catch, free on the internet, one of the classic Hollywood productions Tarantino includes: His Girl Friday. As for the seemingly inexplicable presence of the 1976 kids’ sports comedy The Bad News Bears, I haven’t found it free online yet, but everybody tells me you really do need to see it to truly appreciate it.

Related Content:

Quentin Tarantino Lists His Favorite Films Since 1992

Woody Allen Lists the Greatest Films of All Time: Includes Classics by Bergman, Truffaut & Fellini

Martin Scorsese Reveals His 12 Favorite Movies (and Writes a New Essay on Film Preservation)

Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Created)

Watch His Girl Friday, Howard Hawks’ Classic Screwball Comedy Starring Cary Grant, Free Online

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (31)
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  • Tex Antoine says:

    Meh. True cinephiles know The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is by far the better film.

  • Philippe Jolival says:

    Does he know Orson Welles ?

  • Vincent says:

    Rolling Thunder is from 1977, not 1997..

  • Sam says:

    Wow but a heart touching story thank you for sharing.Taxi

  • David king says:

    You’ve never seen Bad News Bears?! And, honestly, “kids sports comedy” ? Get a clue before you’re aloof and dismissive.

  • CBS says:

    You sound like a real douchenoodle…..The Bad News Bears is classic and awesome

  • Frank Darabont says:

    What about Twister?

  • Johan says:

    His a bit inconsitent with his best films since 92-list. That list was topped by Battle Royale(by far). Yet that film is not on this list but Dazed & Confused is…hm.

  • Tarantino is big, very big, bright direct and I am his big sis admired films are on another level

  • John says:

    I havent seen all of the movies on his list, but if i had a best movie list, at least 4 of his movies would be on it. I know Carrie (1976) was awesome and i hope the new Carrie is almost or as good as the original.

  • I am not a big fan of Quentin’s films (violence is not my thing). However, I respect him as a film historian – the man knows his movies – but I think he looks at films from the perspective of visual storytelling. At any rate, anyone who can give Uma Thurman a stage direction (the Twist dance sequence), based on Zsa Zsa Gabour’s character performance in Disney’s The Aristocats, gets my vote.

    • Bing says:

      Are you implying that films aren’t meant to exist as visual storytelling?

      • Films are a combination of audio (or lack of audio) and visual storytelling. But that can be broken down. Audio can be soundtrack, sound editing, delivery of dialogue. The thing I have noticed about QT is that he has an appreciation of visual details, even if the film would not be considered Oscar grade. This is a guy whose introduction to Blackploitation films and the like shaped his filmmaking. He understands, as far as I can see, how you can get the effect you want without anything fancy or with a different medium entirely to draw the eye (e.g. animation in Kill Bill).nnBut you are right to call me on this, Bing. Because on reflection, his audio knowledge (see his soundtrack in Jackie Brown) should not be ignored. But again, it is all about the details.

    • Sasha Kozak says:

      Fair enough about not liking violence but for me QT has always grabbed my attention because of his dialogue and writing. The violence always feels like a backseat to the story, dialogue and characters for me.

  • Ray Authur Franks says:

    Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 1977)

  • marcoselmalo says:

    BNB? Walter Matthau paired with Tatum Oneil? Feggedaboutit!

    It’s a great sports movie that just happens to feature children.

  • Jeremy Gilbert says:

    Put at least Clockwork Orange on this list.

  • Richard Sutton says:

    I don’t know if it has been said but Rolling Thunder is from 1977 not 1997

  • Gilbert Guston says:

    “One really must see it to appreciate it.” Not to be a fatuous dick, but how is this different than absolutely every movie on this list?

  • HeppCat says:

    Tarantino has consistently placed “Blow Out” (De Palma) and “Rio Bravo” (Hawks) in his top 5. Both absent from your list.


  • melee says:

    Very surprised by his lack of Asian films on this list.

  • R Russell Last says:

    Curious that he preferred Friedkin’s Sorcerer, a re-make of Clouzot’s “Wages of Fear,” to the original. Perhaps he respects Friedken’s almost purely visual approach to the story: there are long stretches where the story is told w/ visuals, editing, sound effects and… no dialogue. It’s really quite mesmerizing and often overlooked. Clouzot may have been a victim of the shortness of this list.

  • wilBaum says:

    and Fellini, Antonioni, Tarkovski, Bresson, Cronenberg…

  • Voluntarysit Dude says:

    Tarantino’s favorite movie of the past 20 years is “Battle Royale,” a Japanese film which he loves so much that he wishes that he’d made it.

  • David in Atlanta says:

    Interesting that he didn’t mention Lady Snowblood or Bande à part

  • consonetti thierry says:

    good movie

  • Kevin says:

    Tarantino is a lousy filmmaker with lousy taste. The few titles on here that aren’t C-plus quality stuff are what you’d expect to find as the favorite films of a reviewer in ‘TV Guide.’ Tarantino is a vicious and repellant twelve year old who grooves on burning insects with a magnifying glass. And his violent pablum films are dull to look at, too.

  • Dave says:

    Tarentino is the best filmmaker currently going in my opinion. I love all his movies and there are just so much fun!

  • Nick L. says:

    It is all about Blow Out! While his love for Casulties is much publicized it is Blow out that makes Depalma his favorite director. Carlitos Way is not the same without viewing Blow Out. It is Love story the Depalma way. Think Travolta and its Urban Fever with Fiction resurgence yet this his magnus opus remains shamefully overlooked. Blow Out a master craftsmen at his apex gifting us the last great film of an era. Only until the man we speak of here today changes cinema a decade later.

  • Alicia Barboza says:

    Q.T. is by far one of the most, if not the most entertaining film makers of all time. He always hints a brilliant sense of humor that goes along with the violence. His choice of actors for every movie is on point. And he makes you believe that you are in an era from the past with his cinematography with every single film to date. He makes you feel like you are a kid again back in the 70/80’s! I personally love his work! And I know that I am not alone!

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