The top six films on my Tarantino countdown are all stone-cold classics, and I’ve shuffled several of them around a few times before landing on my final ranking.
The truth is, whichever one I’ve seen most recently tends to move up the list, until I see another one and the process starts again. They’re all that damn good.
2003’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, Tarantino’s fourth film, is probably the straight-up coolest movie he’s ever made. This violent pop revenge fantasy is pure eye candy, a neon hot-rod of a movie anchored by a soulful but larger-than-life performance by Uma Thurman.
The character of The Bride is credited as “created by Q & U” and you can tell how much Thurman invested into this portrayal, both physically and emotionally.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is one of the most viscerally satisfying movies ever made. Just hit play on the song below, Tomoyasu Hotei’s instrumental ‘Battle Without Honor Or Humanity,’ and recall the arrival of Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii at the House of Blue Leaves. Or better yet, watch it on YouTube. It’s cinematic crack.
This film’s vignettes also include a brutal fight between The Bride and Vivica A. Fox’s Vernita Green, a knife battle interrupted when Green’s young daughter arrives home on a school bus. Tarantino stages that scene beautifully, and ends it with an uncompromising twist that underscores the film’s theme of cyclical vengeance.
Another sequence switches to gorgeous anime to tell the backstory of O-Ren Ishii, and a quiet episode in the middle of the film explores samurai sword maker Hattori Hanzō, portrayed by the famous martial arts actor Sonny Chiba.
Much of this film (like all of Tarantino’s work) owes a huge debt to a mish-mash of obscure genre movies from decades past, but he synthesizes it all into a unique, exhilarating journey.
What knocks Kill Bill Vol. 1 out of my Tarantino top five is the fact that it is, by definition, only half of a whole story, a story that is resolved in a lesser film.