Quentin Tarantino’s Top 20 Grindhouse/Exploitation Flicks: Night of the Living Dead, Halloween & More

Quentin_Tarantino_Django_3 (1)

Image by Alvin Georges Biard, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Back in ’92, when I was tak­ing a French New Wave class at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty, my pro­fes­sor, Ger­ald Per­ry, brought in an intense, bear­ish look­ing guy in a leather trench coat and announced him as the new Mar­tin Scors­ese. I hadn’t a clue who he was nor had I heard of his movie, Reser­voir Dogs, which was play­ing at the Boston Film Fes­ti­val. The guy, of course, was Quentin Taran­ti­no. As he talked pas­sion­ate­ly about movies, in par­tic­u­lar Jean-Pierre Melville, who’s movie Le Samourai was the inspi­ra­tion for Reser­voir Dogs’s dis­tinct sar­to­r­i­al style, I was struck by just how many f‑bombs he was able to squeeze into a 20-minute spiel.

The com­par­i­son to Scors­ese is apt. Both direc­tors took the inno­va­tions of French New Wave and adapt­ed them for a main­stream Amer­i­can audi­ence in the form of fero­cious, styl­ish crime thrillers. Both film­mak­ers also make reg­u­lar homages to the films of their child­hood. For Scors­ese, it was large­ly films from the ’40s and ‘50s by film­mak­ers like Vin­cent Min­nel­li, Michael Pow­ell, and Alfred Hitch­cock. Tarantino’s inspi­ra­tions, on the oth­er hand, were large­ly 1970s grind­house flicks.

In the 1960s, a com­bi­na­tion of the increas­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of tele­vi­sion and white-flight from urban cen­ters great­ly reduced the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing to sin­gle-screen the­aters. A num­ber of movies hous­es, espe­cial­ly in Times Square in New York and on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard in Los Ange­les, start­ed screen­ing dou­ble and triple bills of cheap­ly made, inde­pen­dent­ly pro­duced exploita­tion movies filled with sex, nudi­ty, graph­ic vio­lence and straight up sadism.

As Tarantino’s career pro­gressed, his movies became more and more trans­par­ent pas­tich­es of the grind­house movies he loved. Kill Bill is, after all, a supreme­ly enter­tain­ing patch­work of homages to Game of Death, Lady Snow­blood, Five Fin­gers of Death and dozens of oth­er Asian exploita­tion flicks. Heck, he even tried to recre­ate the expe­ri­ence of grind­house cin­e­ma by mak­ing a dou­ble-bill movie with Robert Rodriguez called Grind­house.

So when Taran­ti­no was asked to come up with a list of his favorite exploita­tion flicks for the Grind­house Cin­e­ma Data­base, it was not ter­ri­bly sur­pris­ing that he was very par­tic­u­lar about his choic­es. “Some of [the movies] don’t quite work,” said the film­mak­er. “For instance, Female Pris­on­er 701 Scor­pi­on, that was nev­er released any­where out­side Japan… My point being, it has to have been played in a grind­house… The same way like Hal­loween could be on [the list], but Fri­day The 13th…could­n’t, because that was a Para­mount movie.”

The movies that did make the list include hor­ror clas­sics, like The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre, Night of the Liv­ing Dead; the mar­tial arts mas­ter­piece Five Fin­gers of Death; and blax­ploita­tion flicks includ­ing Coffy and The Mack. There’s even one movie, The Lady in Red, which was writ­ten by indie film icon John Sayles. Check out the full list below.

  1. The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre
  2. Dawn of the Dead
  3. Night of the Liv­ing Dead 
  4. Hal­loween
  5. Coffy
  6. Rolling Thun­der
  7. Five Fin­gers of Death
  8. The Mack
  9. The Girl From Star­ship Venus
  10. The Last House On The Left
  11. Mas­ter of the Fly­ing Guil­lo­tine
  12. Wipe­out
  13. The Street Fight­er | Return of The Street Fight­er | The Street Fight­er’s Last Revenge (“You just have to kin­da con­sid­er all three of them togeth­er.” — QT)
  14. The Psy­chic
  15. The Lady in Red
  16. Thriller: A Cru­el Pic­ture
  17. Sus­piria
  18. Ham­mer of the Gods
  19. The Sav­age Sev­en
  20. The Pom Pom Girls

You can find two of the films list­ed above – The Street Fight­er and Night of the Liv­ing Dead — list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

The image above was tak­en by Georges Biard.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

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

Quentin Taran­ti­no Tells You About The Actors & Direc­tors Who Pro­vid­ed the Inspi­ra­tion for “Reser­voir Dogs”

The Pow­er of Food in Quentin Tarantino’s Films

625 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 




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