Quentin Tarantino Names His 20 Favorite Movies, Covering Two Decades

Quentin Taran­ti­no’s film­mak­ing career began thir­ty years ago — at least if you place its start­ing point at his first fea­ture Reser­voir Dogs in 1992. But even then he had been work­ing toward auteur­hood for quite some time, a peri­od char­ac­ter­ized by projects like My Best Friend’s Birth­day, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. Through­out the three decades since he hit it big, there can be no doubt that Taran­ti­no has con­sis­tent­ly made just the films he him­self has most want­ed to see. But he’s also remained a suf­fi­cient­ly hon­est cinephile to admit that oth­er direc­tors have made films he would have want­ed to make: Fukasaku Kin­ji, for instance, whose Bat­tle Royale he prais­es in just such per­son­al terms in the video above.

In six min­utes Taran­ti­no runs down the list of his twen­ty favorite movies between 1992, when he became a direc­tor, and 2009. After giv­ing pride of place to Bat­tle Royale — a Japan­ese comedic thriller of high-school ultra­vi­o­lence that set off a wave of trans­gres­sive thrill through a world­wide “cult” audi­ence — he presents his choic­es in alpha­bet­i­cal rather than pref­er­en­tial order. The com­plete list runs as fol­lows:

  • Fukasaku Kin­ji, Bat­tle Royale
  • Woody Allen, Any­thing Else (“the Jason Big­gs one”)
  • Miike Takashi, Audi­tion
  • Tsui Hark, The Blade
  • Paul Thomas Ander­son, Boo­gie Nights
  • Richard Lin­klater, Dazed and Con­fused (“the great­est hang­out movie ever made”)
  • Lars von Tri­er, Dogville
  • David Finch­er, Fight Club
  • F. Gary Gray, Fri­day
  • Bong Joon-ho, The Host
  • Michael Mann, The Insid­er
  • Park Chan-wook, Joint Secu­ri­ty Area
  • Sofia Cop­po­la, Lost in Trans­la­tion
  • The Wachowskis, The Matrix (though its sequels “ruined the mythol­o­gy for me”)
  • Bong Joon-ho, Mem­o­ries of Mur­der
  • Stan­ley Tong, Police Sto­ry 3/Super­cop (con­tains “the great­est stunts ever filmed in any movie”)
  • Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead
  • Jan de Bont, Speed (there have been “few exhil­a­ra­tion movies quite like it”)
  • Trey Park­er and Matt Stone, Team Amer­i­ca: World Police
  • M. Night Shya­malan, Unbreak­able

Taran­ti­no may refer to Shya­malan as “M. Night Shamala­mad­ing­dong,” but he clear­ly has a good deal of respect for the man’s films. And he seems to have even more for Bruce Willis’ work in Unbreak­able, which con­tains his “best per­for­mance on film” — bet­ter, evi­dent­ly, than the not-incon­sid­er­able one he gave in a nine­teen-nineties hit called Pulp Fic­tion.

It comes as no sur­prise that Taran­ti­no names movies by his peers in the “Indiewood” gen­er­a­tion like Ander­son, Lin­klater, and Cop­po­la. But watched thir­teen years lat­er, this video also sug­gests a cer­tain cin­e­mat­ic pre­science on his part. Speed, for exam­ple, once seemed like a brain-dead block­buster but now stands as a clas­sic of Los Ange­les cin­e­ma. And we’d do well to remem­ber how far ahead of his peers Taran­ti­no was in his con­scious­ness of Asian cin­e­ma. That we all watch films from Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea today owes some­thing to Taran­ti­no’s advo­ca­cy. More than a decade before Bong Joon-ho’s Par­a­site dom­i­nat­ed the Acad­e­my Awards, Taran­ti­no gave him alone not one but two entries on this top-twen­ty list — which sure­ly makes up for his obvi­ous­ly hav­ing for­got­ten Bong’s name.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Quentin Taran­ti­no Picks the 12 Best Films of All Time; Watch Two of His Favorites Free Online

Quentin Taran­ti­no Lists His 20 Favorite Spaghet­ti West­erns

Quentin Tarantino’s Hand­writ­ten List of the 11 “Great­est Movies”

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

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

Quentin Taran­ti­no Gives a Tour of Video Archives, the Store Where He Worked Before Becom­ing a Film­mak­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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Comments (4)
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  • Giulyano says:

    Sum­ming up half of his cin­e­matog­ra­phy I think it’s amaz­ing, the oth­er just fun movies at most and the bombs too, there are some that you can’t.

  • Gary B Trujillo says:

    Nos­tal­gia is a hell of a drug and even peo­ple who grew up dur­ing the worst of war­fare and eco­nom­ic depres­sion are capa­ble of com­ing out with at least some odd affec­tion for the times they grew up in. Up to now the defin­i­tive film of 70s nos­tal­gia was almost cer­tain­ly Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Con­fused, a 90s movie about teenagers in sub­ur­ban Texas cir­ca 1976. Beyond that you maybe have Wit Stillman’s The Last Days of Dis­co, Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, and Spike Lee’s Crook­lyn. But few movies are as odd­ly pro-70s as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boo­gie Nights a movie that seems to sug­gest that from a cer­tain per­spec­tive the 70s were actu­al­ly awe­some for all the rea­sons most peo­ple are dis­gust­ed by it (cocaine, dirty sex, dis­co) while the 80s were lame and sti­fling.

  • Gary B Trujillo says:

    One of my exes absolute­ly hat­ed it when we watched Dazed. She com­plained that did­n’t have a plot and was just two bor­ing hours of teenagers drink­ing and get­ting high.

    We dis­agreed about a lot of things, but in ret­ro­spect, that was prob­a­bly one of the dis­agree­ments most emblem­at­ic of our incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty.

  • John Young says:

    Shock­ing­ly unpre­ten­tious for a cinephile. Great picks by Q.T.

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