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 2015’s 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 the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, DiCaprio and Brad Pitt join the recurring team, meaning there’s no better time to rank the director’s frequent collaborators based on their performances in his films.
10. Zoë Bell (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
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.
9. Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Kill Bill: Volume 2, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
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.
8. 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.
7. Kurt Russell (Death Proof, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
While Russell is great as John Ruth, a.k.a. “The Hangman,” in The Hateful Eight, he clocks in at No. 7 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. And Russell has recently become one of Tarantino’s most important players, serving as actor, narrator, and, most importantly, the authenticity on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
6. Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Four Rooms, The Hateful Eight)
Roth previously 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.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio (Djanjo Unchained, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Of this group, DiCaprio is the one most late to the party. Whereas most of these actors have been with Tarantino for 20-plus years, the Oscar-winner, who almost played the Christoph Waltz part in Inglorious Basterds, first joined forces with the filmmaker for 2012’s Django Unchained. And after a career of being the heartthrob and leading man, DiCaprio terrified in the villainous supporting role of the slave owner Calvin Candie. Seven years later, he’s back with Tarantino, now looking his own career mortality in the eye with his pitch-perfect performance as a former star trying to find his place in an ever-changing Hollywood. The pairing feels extra momentous due to the fact that a DiCaprio movie and a Tarantino movie seem to be two of the last remaining traditional film events in the superhero era.
4. Brad Pitt (True Romance, Inglourious Basterds, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
True Romance technically marks Pitt’s first collaboration with Tarantino (who was only acting as writer), and considering the actor’s scene-stealing role in Tony Scott’s 1993 film as the easy-going, pot-loving Floyd, it’s a surprise that it took them 16 years to reunite. And Inglorious Basterds was worth the wait, as Pitt, finally getting the chance to be directed by Tarantino, delivered an inspired lead performance, which he might have somehow found a way to top with his turn in Once Upon a Time as the quiet stuntman-turned-driver for a fading actor.
3. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious 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 Inglourious 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, Inglourious 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 résumé as anyone in Hollywood, considering he’s the 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!”