15 Great Movies That Influenced Quentin Tarantino

It is very common for filmmakers to reference films they admire. Quentin Tarantino is one filmmaker who has never been secretive about his influences. He grew up adoring cinema and gained a vast knowledge of movies from around the world when he worked at Video Archives in the 1980s.

Quentin Tarantino has been very open about the fact that he borrows elements of films he admires and uses them in his own film. Whether he is paying homage or ripping them off is up to interpretation.

In a 1994 interview, in regards to accusations that Reservoir Dogs completely copied the 1987 Hong Kong film City on Fire, Tarantino said, “I steal from every movie ever made… Great artists steal; they don’t do homages.” In any case, his admiration for older films and their techniques is very clear.

Many of the films that inspired Tarantino to be a filmmaker were made between the 1950s and 1970s, and upon reading what movies he lists as influential, there are many movies that you would not expect to see. This just goes to show that although Tarantino’s movies tend to be very violent, that does not necessarily mean all of his influences are violent as well.

15. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)


Kiss Me Deadly is a pulp fiction story typical of 1950s film noir, full of tough guys, damsels in distress, and the ensuing violence. This was a popular film upon its release, and was a huge influence on the feel of Pulp Fiction, a film whose title even comes from the popular cheap and sleazy novels.

In fact, Kiss Me Deadly was based on a novel by Mickey Spillane, one of the most well-known pulp fiction novelists of the time. The main character’s name is Mike Hammer, a tough-sounding name you could imagine hearing in a Tarantino film.

Mike Hammer was played by Ralph Meeker, and his performance in this film was the inspiration for Bruce Willis’ character Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction in that he is also a tough looking guy who has been around the block and knows how to take care of himself when people are after him.

14. The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 1967)


The Dirty Dozen is another film directed by Robert Aldrich that inspired Quentin Tarantino, but in a completely different way. This film was a huge influence on Tarantino’s World War II action bonanza Inglourious Basterds, which Tarantino called “my Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone kind of thing” about a group of men on a mission.

Audiences have seen many war films about gung-ho American troops who go out of their way to cause carnage while fighting the evil Nazis, but not with a Tarantino spin on it. There is a lot of Tarantino-esque dialogue on the Nazis’ propaganda films in Inglourious Basterds, namely “Pride of the Nation,” but once the violence starts, it is pure warfare.

13. Lady Snowblood (Toshiya Fujita, 1973)


Lady Snowblood is a Japanese action film that tells the tale of a scorned woman seeking revenge against those who harmed her family. It will come as no surprise that this was a huge inspiration for the Kill Bill movies, as the plots are basically identical.

This is especially obvious in Kill Bill: Volume I during the fight between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and O-Ren (Lucy Liu) in the snowy garden above the House of Blue Leaves. O-Ren is wearing a very similar white outfit to what the protagonist in Lady Snowblood wore, and the fighting choreography is as majestic and brutal as it is in Lady Snowblood. Even a song from the Lady Snowblood soundtrack, “The Flower of Carnage,” plays after The Bride defeats O-Ren in combat.

In the anime sequence, O-Ren is twisting her sword into a Yukuza boss’s body and says, “Does my face look familiar to you?” Kaji’s character in Lady Snowblood asks her mother’s rapist, “Does this face not remind you of a woman that you raped?” before killing him.

12. Game of Death (Robert Clouse, 1978)


The infamous martial arts film star Bruce Lee was in the process of filming Game of Death when he died. This film became notorious for using body doubles in Lee’s place to complete the film five years after his death.

Tarantino performed a great homage to Bruce Lee in Kill Bill: Volume I. Bruce Lee wore a yellow and black jumpsuit, and The Bride wears a female version of this outfit. There are many similar camera shots were used during the fight scenes of each film, mainly close ups of The Bride and her opponents during the showdown at the House of Blue Leaves.

11. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)


The Searchers is one of the great Hollywood Westerns made when the genre was at its peak in the 1950s. Many have said that Kill Bill: Volume II is more like a Western than a martial arts film, and its homage to The Searchers really makes that point.

During The Bride’s wedding rehearsal, she walks to in front of the chapel, and the shot shows her walking towards a door showing with an empty desert in the background, exactly like a shot of John Wayne’s character in The Searchers. This same shot was used again in Inglourious Basterds when you see Shosana running away in the field from the door in the house.

In the scenes in both of these films, there is a slow-burning tension building up in each of them and the protagonist heads out into the great unknown and the uncertainly of what is out there.

10. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)


While Tarantino has never made a science fiction or a horror film, the influence of John Carpenter’s alien horror classic The Thing is obvious in The Hateful Eight, a mystery western. While the two films couldn’t be any more different genre-wise, the quiet, brooding tension in each film keeps their audience guessing who will die next.

Both films use the sounds of fierce wind and snow, and the quietness and isolation of the films’ locations to great effect to create a great sense of tension. None of the characters are to be trusted, and people die one by one. It cannot be a coincidence that Kurt Russell stars in both films.

9. Foxy Brown (Jack Hill, 1974)


Tarantino has always had a soft spot for the blaxpoitation cinema of the 1970s. Actress Pam Grier is known for her acting in these films, and her reputation is used to great effect in Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s homage to the genre.

Foxy Brown is Grier’s most well-known film, and Jackie Brown showcases Grier’s ability to play a hardened woman who does not let others push her around, especially the men in either the police force or the criminal world. She conducts a scheme to avoid going to jail and get rich at the same time. The protagonist of each film has the surname Brown, and the title of each film is the full name of the protagonist.

8. The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)


The Killing and Reservoir Dogs are both heist films that launched the majorly successful careers of their respective directors.

The former was a huge influence on the story and style of the latter: both of them are heist films with tough criminals who clash with one another and perform a big score that goes wrong.

7. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Joseph Sargent, 1974)


Although Reservoir Dogs never shows the heist the thieves perform, one of the films many influences, the 1974 action classic The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, certainly shows the heist in all of its failure. The thieves are violent gangsters, some of whom have a reckless attitude towards the hostages, and use various colours as their aliases.

Both films are fast-paced and full of action, and regarded as classic crime films. Coincidentally, the 2009 remake of this film was directed by Tony Scott, who directed the Tarantino-penned True Romance.

6. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

rio bravo

When Tarantino was making Jackie Brown, he wanted to create a film that took its time for the story to unravel so audiences would get to know the characters and care about them. This change of pace is very different from Tarantino’s previous two action packed films, and has a surprising inspiration, the 1959 western Rio Bravo. Tarantino calls this film “the ultimate hangout movie,” a tone Tarantino wanted to achieve with the slow-paced Jackie Brown.

Unlike his first two films, Jackie Brown is less about shocking violence and more about the shenanigans of these losers on the lower end of the criminal world. Tarantino once even said, “When I’m getting serious about a girl, I show her Rio Bravo and she better fucking like it,” although this requires us to take Tarantino’s word that any woman has ever willingly spent more than 20 minutes with him.

5. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)


As well as being the very first of many adaptations of Stephen King novels, Carrie is also one of Quentin Tarantino’s all-time favourite movies. The film blurs the line between serious drama and an all-out gore-fest. The Kill Bill films are probably the most similar to Carrie in that it is about a woman who has been wronged by her peers and ends with bloody results.

As the old saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and both Carrie and Kill Bill show the consequences of assaulting a powerful, but underestimated woman.

4. Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)


More commonly referred to by its French title, Bande à Part, this film had a huge influence on Tarantino’s style of filmmaking. It subverts the clichés of crime films, and Tarantino has said that what Band of Outsiders did for crime films is how he wanted to make all of his films. He came to this conclusion after reading a review of it that said, “It’s as if a French poet took an ordinary banal American crime novel and told it to us in terms of the romance and beauty he read between the lines.”

Tarantino’s films could have easily become clichéd Hollywood action films if they were in lesser hands, but his outside-the-box way of thinking has made these films clichéd Tarantino action films instead.

It was such an influence on Tarantino that his now-closed production company A Band Apart is named after this film. He also stole the “Madison scene” from this film and pasted it into Pulp Fiction when Travolta and Thurman dance in the restaurant.

3. A Better Tomorrow II (John Woo, 1987)


A Better Tomorrow II is often cited as one of the greatest Hong Kong action films ever made, which helped launched its director John Woo internationally. Its violent depiction of gangsters wearing black suits is renowned by action fans.

Tarantino said during an interview with acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert that when he first saw A Better Tomorrow II, he wasn’t expecting the film to have “the biggest shootout in the history of film.” He said it had to end in a big way, otherwise everything that happened before it would have been for nothing.

This ethos led to the standoffs in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight, suggesting that, for Tarantino, a “big” ending in a film automatically means “a big shootout.”

2. City on Fire (Ringo Lam, 1987)


Despite Tarantino have been accused of stealing from many other films, many seem to agree that Reservoir Dogs is pure plagiarism of the 1987 Hong Kong crime film City on Fire. It has a very similar plot to Reservoir Dogs, where an undercover cop works with a group of thieves who rob a jewellery store.

There is a Mexican standoff in the warehouse at the end of the film, where there are individual shots of everyone and this scene is replicated in Reservoir Dogs.

1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)


Of all the many films that have influenced Quentin Tarantino in both his decision to become a filmmaker and how to make films, the classic western The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is right at the top of the list.

Tarantino has said many times during his career that this is his favourite movie, which is no easy feat. Although Tarantino’s earlier films would not remind anyone of this film, the films he made from the Kill Bill saga and onwards certainly would.

The opening shot of Kill Bill: Volume I when Bill is talking to The Bride before he shoots her is very similar to a shot in this film when Clint Eastwood is being held at gunpoint. Despite not being a western, Inglourious Basterds has the feel of a Spaghetti Western, especially in its opening scene.

Tarantino has called this film “Once Upon A Time In Nazi-Occupied France”, a reference to another classic Spaghetti Western directed by Leone, Once Upon A Time in The West.

Visually, this film shows the brown, ugly countryside with the harsh realities of living in the Wild West, something that was not common in the 1950s and 1960s when Westerns usually showed a glamourized depiction of this era. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is full of fast-paced dialogue spouted by violent men who face violence and warfare throughout the film, and it tells its story on an epic scale, much like Tarantino’s later films.

Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Tuesday 22 March 2016

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