Just saying the name Quentin Tarantino brings to mind suave characters with snappy dialogue, but it also conjures up images of blood-splattered scenery that is almost always accompanied by a dynamite soundtrack. The deaths in Tarantino’s films are often grand spectacles of sudden, shocking violence crafted with an almost artisanal flair. Let’s take a look back and rank eight of the most gory and over-the-top deaths from his filmmaking career while also comparing the differences in style between Tarantino’s earlier films and his more recent works.
Tarantino filmography spoilers ahead.
9) John Ruth, The Hateful Eight
Tarantino never stops reinventing ways to kill people in gory, bloody ways. Here, it’s poisoned coffee that leads to a whole lot of bloody vomit and a desperate, violent tussle that ends in the most familiar way for a Tarantino victim — a bullet.
8) The Cop, Reservoir Dogs
This may still be Tarantino’s most iconic moment as a filmmaker and it still speaks to the general ethos of his work prior to his move away from contemporary settings: perfectly applied familiar but not too familiar pop music, deep dark humor, sadism, and bloodshed.
7) The Crazy 88, Kill Bill, Vol. 1
Before The Bride (Uma Thurman) is able to meet her adversary (O-Ren Ishii, as played by Luc Liu) she’s forced to contend with O-Ren’s personal army, The Crazy 88. What follows is ten minutes of blood-splattered mayhem, orchestrated by veteran fight choreographer Gordon Liu (who also plays the gang’s leader), resulting in a sequence that was so outlandishly violent that the director was forced to desaturate the color partway through in order to maintain the film’s R-rating.
Literal geysers of blood are uncapped as The Bride’s sword severs heads. This scene marked Tarantino’s first large-scale action sequence as a director and it’s really the first time that he embraced a more over-the-top form of onscreen violence.
6) Adolph Hitler, Inglourious Basterds
The director’s first non-contemporary film follows a group of Jewish soldiers that are led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) as they covertly hunt down and kill Nazi soldiers across Europe. This is not a historical document, of course, but a cinematic answer to comics of the World War II era that featured Captain America slugging the fuhrer. Though, in Tarantino’s hands, Cap is Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), and a well-placed punch has been replaced by a machine gun that fills Hitler’s body with bullets amidst the fire and smoke of a theater that has been turned into a hellscape. In that moment, any issues with the film’s wildly inaccurate portrayal of history are undone by this cathartic spectacle.
5) Marvin, Pulp Fiction
Poor Marvin (Phil LaMarr). This has to be the most surprising death on this list and it’s certainly the only one where the practical consequences of gore are dealt with in full. That may sound inconsequential, but it’s another way that the violence in Pulp Fiction and some of Tarantino’s earlier films aimed to portray a more grounded kind of gore. Also, poor Phil LaMarr, his brain matter got more screentime than he did. And not by a little.
4) Mr. Orange, Reservoir Dogs
Taking a bullet in the gut during the movie’s unseen jewelry store robbery, Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) spends much of the film laying in the corner of a warehouse, slowly bleeding out (almost all the way out, by the look of it) while waiting for a doctor. Roth’s pale and squirmy final moments stand out almost as much as the confrontation that occurs as the criminals debate his fate and the possibility that he is a rat.
In hindsight, you have to wonder if Tarantino would make some of the same choices withReservoir‘s conclusion were he to make the film now. Specifically, Mr. Orange’s practically off-screen death and what is assumed was the sound of Mr. Pink getting gunned down by the cops. Is it better this way, though? The sense of slight ambiguity?
3) The Mansion Shootout, Django Unchained
A big damn action sequence featuring Django (Jamie Foxx) against an army of Candie-Land henchmen following a blown deal and the death of both Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio) and King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), this one evolves stylistically throughout.
First, all we hear is the sound of gunshots and screams before everything slows down slightly and bullets start to sound like missiles exploding against the earth. Then, somewhat inexplicably, 2Pac’s voice is heard as “Unchained (The Payback/Untouchable)” starts to play, giving the shootout’s conclusion a bit more swagger and Foxx’s character a chance to demonstrate the discovery of a second wind amidst the onslaught. Why does that matter? If you think about it, that moment first allows you to start to see Django as a mythical figure, which sets up his final act of revenge later.
This is, of course, all going on as a blood mist hangs in the air, colluding with the occasional eruption to paint the walls of Candie-Land red. When you combine all of it, it may be one of Tarantino’s most intricate and laudable sequences. It’s a gruesome ballet, really.
2) O-Ren’s Parents, Kill Bill, Vol. 1
Tarantino makes a bold shift from his (and most other live-action director’s) stylistic norm here, filling in the visuals of O-Ren’s origin story with a lush animated sequence that was produced by renowned Production I.G.
The whole thing is beautiful and tragic as we see the contrast between the slow drip of blood onto O-Ren’s face as she hides under the bed where her mother has just been impaled and the explosion of blood that comes when the young girl gets her revenge some time later. O-Ren’s whisper of the word, “Mommy” as her parents are being massacred also demonstrates an uncharacteristic show of sentiment for Tarantino, who reveals a character’s vulnerability in a moment of genuine, devastating heartbreak.
1) The Car Crash, Death Proof
Probably Tarantino’s most underappreciated film,Death Proof was the more sedate half of the Grindhouse double feature alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. In the film, Kurt Russell plays a tough-guy stuntman/killer of women with a car that is “100 percent death proof,” so long as you’re the one driving. A detail that is made disturbingly clear when Rose McGowan is victimized while in the passenger seat by Mike as he heads for his real prey — the four women he had been talking up at a bar a few moments earlier.
While McGowan’s assault is hard to watch, the car crash that Tarantino stages veers into “Scared Straight” public service announcement territory thanks to the unflinching look at the carnage caused by colliding metal and the choice to show said carnage from every conceivable angle with a close-up of each girl’s demise. Shanna (Jordan Ladd) is thrown from the car, Jungle Julia’s (Sydney Poitier) leg is severed and sent flying until it makes a disconcerting plop on the black top, and Arlene’s (Vanessa Ferlito) face is decimated by Russell’s tire as his Dodge Charger cuts through the girls’ car. It’s a disturbing turn of events, almost too hard to watch, and probably the closest thing that Tarantino has done to horror, but it is positively Tarantino thanks to the charging beat of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich’s “Hold Tight,” another unearthed jewel that is perfectly matched to a moment.
The scene is disturbing and almost too hard to watch. It’s also probably the closest thing that Tarantino has done to horror, but it is positively Tarantino thanks to the charging beat of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich’s “Hold Tight,” another unearthed jewel that is perfectly matched to a moment. You want a bridge between the stylized cool of Tarantino’s earlier on-screen violence and the over-the-top splatter of his new? Here you go.
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran on December 26, 2015.