The Early Movies of Quentin Tarantino (1992 - 2004)

The First Dozen Years of Quentin Tarantino

At a Comic-Con panel Quentin Tarantino once stated, "If you make a piece of nitro that you throw at an audience's lap, people notice." Well his first film as a writer/director, Reservoir Dogs, was a piece of nitro that people certainly noticed. Since then Tarantino has continued to lob explosive films at audiences to grab attention and win awards. He's also used his status to help get foreign films (Sonatine, Chungking Express) distributed in the United States, and he's formed a creative partnership with fellow maverick Robert Rodriguez that has proven to be successful.

Though fans have praised his most recent work like Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight, it was Tarantino's first dozen years as a writer/director that established him as one of the most exciting and influential filmmakers of his era. Here are the 8 earliest films with the Tarantino touch that are not to be missed.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir Dogs
Miramax

Reservoir Dogs is the film that launched Quentin Tarantino's career and inspired a whole generation of young filmmakers. The film cleverly delivered a heist film in which you never see the actual heist. The ensemble cast (Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney) is flawless, the dialogue crackles, and the action is often brutal. Tarantino took some flack early on for not crediting the Hong Kong film City on Fire as the basis for his film, and while Tarantino made the story all his own he began a tradition of using his films to highlight the best films in cinema history.

True Romance (1993, writer)

True Romance
Warner Bros. Pictures

True Romance was based on a script by Quentin Tarantino but directed by Tony Scott. You can see Tarantino's hand at work in this wildly careening script about a pair of young lovers (Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette) whose stupidity seems to protect them. Brad Pitt is great as a pothead, Dennis Hopper is Slater's dad, Gary Oldman is a dreadlocked drug dealer, and James Gandolfini has a no-holds barred fight with the feisty Arquette.

Natural Born Killers (1994, story by)

Natural Born Killers
Warner Bros. Pictures

When is a Tarantino film not a Tarantino film? When the script is largely rewritten by Oliver Stone, who then directs it himself. Natural Born Killers was a controversial film about two lovers (Woody Harrleson and Juliette Lewis) who become serial killers -- and media sensations. The script was originally by Tarantino, but he later disowned the film when he saw the way Stone rewrote and shot it. Still, there are some bits of Tarantino style in the film that can't be dismissed.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction
Miramax

The tagline for Pulp Fiction is "You won't know the facts until you've seen the fiction." That is the first exposure for audiences to this audacious joy ride of a film. This is Tarantino revved up and firing on all cylinders as he references so much pop culture in this multi-storyline film. The cast is so rich that the film can afford to have Christopher Walken do a single-scene throwaway role. Killer soundtrack, memorable dialogue, and John Travolta dancing in a role that revitalized his career.

Four Rooms (1995)

Four Rooms
Miramax

Filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Alison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell teamed up for this omnibus film in which Tim Roth's hotel clerk was a link tying a quartet of stories together in an old hotel on New Year's Eve. Tarantino's segment, The Man from Hollywood, concerned a man and a wager over whether he can light his lighters 10 times in a row. Tarantino also stars in the lead role.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

From Dusk Till Dawn
Dimension Films

Quentin Tarantino wrote the script and Robert Rodriguez directed this contemporary Western vampire tale. Salma Hayek is an exotic dancer; Harvey Keitel is a "mean motherf--kin' servant of God;" and Tarantino and George Clooney are crooked brothers. This one could have been a Grindhouse feature, and it showed that Tarantino could do horror violence just as good as criminal criminal violence.

Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown
Miramax

Jackie Brown is Tarantino's most mature film. It is not as flashy as most of his works and the structure was somewhat more linear, but there was an emphasis on character development and a restraint that has not been realized in his other films. Plus, it features stellar work from Pam Grier and Robert Forster, two actors that Hollywood too often overlooks. The film was based on Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch (it's Tarantino's first adapted screenplay) and drew on blaxploitation cinema of the 1970s.

Kill Bill Vol. 1
Miramax

This roaring rampage of revenge featured Uma Thurman as a woman with plenty of reasons to want to kill Bill (David Carradine), the man who tried to kill her on her wedding day. This saga was so long it was split into two films. The first volume revealed Tarantino's love for extreme Asian cinema and old Shaw Brothers martial arts films. Volume 2 still had an Asian flavor, but was more inspired by Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns. Both were major hits.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick More »