(SPOT.ph) Say what you want about writer-director Quentin Tarantino, but the truth is he very much knows how to write a great part for an actor. These parts range from exemplary, complicated heroes to menacing but unique villains. Throughout his filmography, he has written and directed many one-of-a-kind characters that you won’t see anywhere else but in Tarantino’s wild, complex, genre-disrupting world. Before we watch his newest film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, which stars Tarantino movie regulars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable characters the writer-director has introduced to audiences.
10. Shosanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds
Played by: Mélanie Laurent
In the opening scene of Tarantino’s revisionist history drama, Inglourious Basterds, a menacing Nazi colonel interrogates a man in Nazi-occupied France while Jews hide under his floorboards. It’s a frighteningly tense scene that ends with soldiers destroying the floor and killing all the Jews hiding underneath, except one–Shosanna Dreyfus. Thus begins Shosanna’s incredible journey from survivor to jaded cinema owner-turned-Nazi killer. Played with heartbreaking vulnerability and noirish vengeance by Mélanie Laurent, Shosanna is the heart and hope of Tarantino’s World War II epic, and that image of her giant face projected on a movie screen laughing as her plan comes together will forever be remembered.
9. Stuntman Mike in Death Proof
Played by: Kurt Russell
Death Proof was part of the two-part Grindhouse film, an homage to 1970s B-movie exploitation films that Tarantino did with Robert Rodriguez. Death Proof has one of Tarantino’s classic villains (and he loves a good antagonist), the charming but psychotic Stuntman Mike. Stuntman Mike drives a “death proof” car, a stunt car meant to keep its driver safe and alive. With this car, he stalks and then kills women, up until he meets a group who's willing to fight back along the road. Kind and charismatic before devolving into a sadistic monster, Kurt Russell, set to appear in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, masterfully portrays both sides of one of Tarantino’s greatest villains.
8. Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs
Played by: Steve Buscemi
Among a group of suit-wearing robbers in Tarantino’s debut film, a few stand out (like Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde), but none more than Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink. The motor-mouth of the group opens the movie talking about why he doesn’t tip, showing off his self-absorption. Buscemi is electric as the abrasive Mr. Pink, spitting truth bombs and doing the most to keep himself alive in dangerous situations. We didn’t get to spend as much time with Mr. Pink as we'd like to have, but what we got was an exciting taste of what Tarantino the writer was capable of.
7. O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill Vol. 1
Played by: Lucy Liu
Antagonists in Tarantino films are rarely forgettable as they often have huge personalities and destructive tendencies, but in Kill Bill Vol. 1, before Bill comes into the picture, Lucy Liu’s soft-spoken, stoic, samurai sword-wielding crime boss is the main villain the revenge-seeking Bride has to face. She speaks with a soft tone, until she needs to command her army of swordsmen to fight. She stares her opponents down, takes mental notes, and then chops their head off with no hesitation, before casually making a speech that sends chills down people’s spines. What makes O-Ren even better is her horrifying backstory told in gorgeous Japanese animé style that is unlike anything Tarantino has ever done.
6. Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained
Played by: Christoph Waltz
Inspired by old Westerns, but of course done the Tarantino way, Django Unchained contained some memorable characters, from Django himself, to Samuel L. Jackson’s complicit housekeeper, to a marvelous and frightening performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as plantation owner Calvin Candie. But, it is Christoph Waltz’ bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (also a dentist) that, like Shosanna from Inglourious Basterds, carries the heart of this film. Aiding Django in his quest to find Django’s wife, Schultz is a mentor of sorts to Django, and literally puts his life on the line to help Django get his wife back. He softens as the film goes along, showing a truly selfless nature that just wants to help others, and it’s a beautiful arc for such a violent film.
5. Jackie Brown in Jackie Brown
Played by: Pam Grier
What makes Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown stand out among Tarantino’s characters is how normal she is. She’s a stewardess for a crappy airline who gets caught up in some shady deals. This being an adaptation of someone else’s work helps in making the character feel more nuanced and subtle versus other over-the-top Tarantino characters. Grier also puts her background in blaxpoitation films to good use here with Jackie growing into a more confident woman as the film progresses, ready to stand up for herself, but never going too campy or crazy. That’s the magic of Jackie–she’s not as hip or cool as some of the other people on this list, but she’s fully realized and absolutely wonderful all the same.
4. Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction
Played by: Uma Thurman
When Mia Wallace is introduced in Tarantino’s crime film Pulp Fiction, she seems like she’s going to be your typical mob wife who is used to taking a backseat. Instead, Uma Thurman brings life, intelligence, and wit to the bob-haired beauty. She’s weird and charming, she’s full of mystery but also an open book, she looks for trouble, but also wants to have fun. It’s not hard to see why John Travolta’s Vincent Vega seems enamored with her because we too as an audience are drawn to this enigmatic character. From the beloved dance sequence to that adrenaline-inducing injection scene, Mia stands out in a film full of memorable characters.
3. Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction
Played by: Samuel L. Jackson
Ezekiel 25:17. It’s the Bible quote film lovers can recite verbatim because of Samuel L. Jackson’s absolutely electric Jules Winnfield, who spouts the verse during a magnificent scene in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Jackson is a Tarantino regular, appearing in six of the director’s nine films, and while he’s played many memorable characters throughout the years, it is the cursing force of nature that is Jules that people will remember most. With his big speeches and tough-guy attitude, Jules is easily beloved, but it’s the journey that turns him from a badass dude carrying a wallet inscribed with “Bad Motherfucker” to a man with a second chance at life that really makes him a unique character in Tarantino’s book.
2. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds
Played by: Christoph Waltz
Inglourious Basterds is filled with awesome characters, from Brad Pitt’s Nazi killer, to Diane Kruger’s actress-spy, to Mélanie Laurent’s cinema owner, and more, but the person that really shines in Basterds is the villainous Col. Hans Landa, played to perfection by Christoph Waltz. Speaking in several different languages, but just as menacing and terrifying in all of them, Landa terrorizes several characters throughout the film paired with an off-putting joy in what he’s doing. He loves the hunt, he loves finding those he deems unworthy and hurting them. It’s a frighteningly joyous performance that only works because of Waltz and Tarantino’s magnificent collaboration. He is Tarantino’s best villain, and just one of Tarantino’s most magnificent characters ever.
1. Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2
Played by: Uma Thurman
When you think of Quentin Tarantino, one of the most remarkable images you’ll think of is Uma Thurman in a black and yellow Bruce Lee-inspired jumpsuit holding a sword with lots of dead bodies around her. This is the magnificent Beatrix Kiddo. Seeking vengeance for the attack on her wedding day, Beatrix a.k.a. the Black Mamba a.k.a. The Bride is a revenge-hungry assassin that will stop at nothing to well, kill Bill. Throughout the course of two films (or just one, depending on who you ask), Beatrix slashes, hacks, and goes through opponents like a video game character, but she’s not just some badass action heroine like a Stallone or a Schwarzenegger. She’s vulnerable, broken, complicated, emotional but all of these are used as positives for her character, not negatives. She’s a fighting machine, but she’s also a mother and a heartbroken lover, and all of these things add up to Beatrix as Tarantino’s most glorious hero.