Glorious Tarantino Actors
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Quentin Tarantino and a lot of amazing actors. Many of the best filmmakers have found that one star they love to work with and, as a result, keep going back to. It’s the same for Tarantino, but with an always-growing group of rotating players. For example, in his most recent film, The Hateful Eight, six of the “hateful” eight had previously appeared in at least one of the director’s prior films. And two of those eight have been with Tarantino since the beginning, dating back to his debut with 1992’s classic Reservoir Dogs. With Dogs celebrating its 25th anniversary, there’s no better time to rank the director’s frequent collaborators based on their performances in his films.
10. Brad Pitt (True Romance, Inglorious Basterds)
Admittedly, this is a bit of a cheat, considering that True Romance was only written by Tarantino, but while Eli Roth and Walton Goggins almost stole this tenth slot, no one can argue against Pitt’s small but scene-stealing role in Tony Scott’s 1993 film as the easy-going, pot-loving Floyd. Sixteen years later, with Inglorious Basterds, the actor finally got the chance to be directed by Tarantino, turning in an inspired lead performance.
9. Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction)
How is it that Buscemi has only been in two of Tarantino’s films? Following his role as Mr. Pink, the most comedic character in Reservoir Dogs, and a small cameo in Pulp Fiction, the Golden Globe winner seemed well on his way to becoming a Tarantino regular, yet despite his disappearance from Tarantino’s universe, Buscemi’s delivery of Mr. Pink’s stance on tipping, disappointment in his codename, and escape from the final standoff earns him his spot on the list.
8. Zoë Bell (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight)
If you’re not a Tarantino diehard, then you might be asking, “Who is Zoë Bell?” Well, the stuntwoman/actress has become an integral part of the filmmaker’s world. Her most significant contribution to his films was her demanding and surely-painful job as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the Kill Bill series. Not only has Tarantino continued to use Bell for stunt work, but he’s since cast her in acting roles, including as a version of herself in Death Proof, a movie she memorably ended with a roundhouse kick to Kurt Russell’s head.
7. Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Kill Bill: Volume 2, The Hateful Eight)
It’s tempting to place Madsen at No. 5 as a tip to the most memorable scene in his acting career: Mr. Blonde’s interrogation of the police officer to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You” in Reservoir Dogs. But, as rewatchable as that moment was, it wasn’t enough to overlook what could have been for Madsen. Let’s not forget that Mr. Blonde’s name is Vic Vega. Yes, Vega, as in same last name as Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s career comeback role, which Madsen turned down. What a royale mistake.
6. Kurt Russell (Death Proof, The Hateful Eight)
While Russell is great as John Ruth, a.k.a. “The Hangman,” in The Hateful Eight, he clocks in at No. 6 for his underrated turn in Death Proof. In Tarantino’s least-discussed and worst-reviewed film, Russell goes full psychopath as Stuntman Mike. As Death Proof progresses, he flawlessly transitions from smooth to creepy to crazy, only to finish as a weak, scared man who sure can take a punch (or 20) from a trio of pissed-off, revenge-seeking women.
5. Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds)
If these rankings weren’t just about the actor’s performances, then Keitel might be No. 1. It was his decision to sign on as star and co-producer of Reservoir Dogs that helped Tarantino secure the film’s funding, eventually leading to the masterpieces that have followed. But Keitel has still played a vital onscreen role thanks to his portrayals of Dogs‘ quickly-trusting Mr. White and Pulp Fiction‘s Winston Wolfe, perhaps the coolest character Tarantino has ever written.
4. Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Four Rooms, The Hateful Eight)
Roth recently revealed to EW that Tarantino got him drunk to convince him to audition for Reservoir Dogs — and we should all be grateful that he did. That drunken night gave birth to three different yet equally delicious and unforgettable performances from Roth. Whether he’s bleeding to death for 70 minutes in Dogs, sticking up a diner in Pulp Fiction, or going by the amazing fake name of Oswaldo Mobray in Hateful Eight, you can’t take your eyes off of him.
3. Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained)
How best does a 51-year-old German actor introduce himself to American audiences? If you’re Waltz, it’s with two Oscar-winning performances. From the moment he first appeared onscreen in the opening of Inglorious Basterds, Waltz captivated viewers as Hans Landa, Tarantino’s best-written character, according to the filmmaker. After perfectly channeling the despicable “Jew Hunter,” the actor shined equally as Django Unchained‘s slave-freeing bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz.
2. Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Kill Bill: Volume 2)
It feels like fiction that Thurman, a.k.a. Tarantino’s “muse,” wouldn’t be higher than runner-up. I mean, her dance moves and swordplay alone warrant top spot consideration. But as evidenced by this list, Tarantino’s movies unfortunately don’t boast an impressive number of great female roles (ask Kerry Washington). Thurman has proven to be the exception — between Pulp Fiction‘s Mia Wallace and Kill Bill‘s The Bride, a.k.a. the real Black Mamba (sorry, Kobe), she’s brought to life two Movie Hall of Fame characters.
1. Samuel L. Jackson (True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill: Volume 2, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight)
Was there ever any doubt about who would claim the top spot? If Thurman is Tarantino’s muse, then Jackson is his movie oxygen — he can’t work without him. Jackson has as impressive a resume as anyone in Hollywood, considering he’s on his way to reclaim the title of highest-grossing actor of all time. And while he’s been central to Star Wars and the Marvel cinematic universe, his performances in the Tarantino Cinematic Universe mark the high point of his prolific, four-decade long career. “Say No. 1 again!”