The Glorious Ten
Through nine movies (and True Romance, which he wrote but didn’t direct), Quentin Tarantino has created worlds and characters unlike any other. It doesn’t matter if it’s a revenge-seeking assassin, an aging actor facing his Hollywood mortality, or an SS officer known as The Jew Hunter, the filmmaker puts you through the ringer with these people and makes sure you will never forget it. With the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the 10th anniversary of Inglourious Basterds, EW is ranking his 10 most memorable characters. This is not to be confused with our list of his best frequent collaborators or his best characters, considering memorable and best are two very different things.
Honorable Mention: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt)
Not wanting to have any recency bias, let’s set these two aside for now. Personally, I have no doubt that we’ll be talking about Rick and Cliff for years to come, but easy to say when I’ve already seen the movie more times than the number of months it has been out.
10. Pulp Fiction's Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames)
Again, this is not a best list. Because if it was then characters like Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio), Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), or Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) would probably come ahead of Ving Rhames’ silky cool crime boss. But, none of them are namechecked in one of Tarantino’s most memorable — and epic — lines/sequences. “What does Marsellus Wallace look like?!” No. 10 most memorable, that’s what.
9. Jackie Brown's Jackie Brown (Pam Grier)
As you will see throughout this list, it’s definitely a bit of an advantage to be the titular character in a Tarantino film. In Jackie Brown, Pam Grier is surrounded by bigger stars in the moment (Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton), but the veteran actress and her plottlng flight attendant rise above the rest, surely aided by Tarantino’s longtime affection for Grier.
8. Kill Bill's Bill (David Carradine)
The Bride’s final target doesn’t show his face until Kill Bill: Volume 2, but his presence is felt before we ever lay eyes on him. Bill’s voice in Volume 1 alone could have earned him consideration for this list, with the placement secured by the tense, deadly final showdown between Bill and his former lover and assassin protégé.
7. Inglourious Basterds' Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)
Early in his career, Brad Pitt turned in a scene-stealing performance in the Tarantino-penned True Romance, and almost 20 years later, they got to officially pair up as star and director — and it was worth the wait. Whether he’s trying to pull off pretending to be Italian or carving swastikas into Nazi soliders’ heads and declaring it to be his “masterpiece,” Aldo “The Apache” is our kind of hero.
6. Django Unchained's Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx)
The D may be silent, but there’s nothing quiet about Django. From his loud blue suit to his newly discovered swagger, the slave-turned-bounty hunter apprentice is the Django Unchained character that most sticks with you, which is saying something considering Leonardo DiCaprio’s chilling turn as plantation owner Calvin Candie and Christoph Waltz’s Oscar-winning performance as Dr. King Schultz.
5. Inglourious Basterds' Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz)
If Tarantino himself calls you his best written character, then odds are that you were pretty memorable! And that’s the case for Hans Landa, a.k.a. Inglourious Basterds‘ Jew Hunter. One minute, he’s bone-chillingly scary as he interrogates a dairy farmer, only to then make you laugh with his pure delight at saying “bingo,” before putting a smile on your face as he comes to the horrifying realization that he’s being sent to America with a new permanent mark.
4. Pulp Fiction's Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman)
Spoiler alert: The next three spots are held by Pulp Fiction characters, who naturally felt like they should all be together. Contrary to Pitt’s final line in Basterds, Pulp is widely viewed as Tarantino’s masterpiece, hence the film’s popularity on this list. And we start the Pulp run with our dancing queen, Mia Wallace, played by Tarantino’s “muse” Uma Thurman. In addition to Mia’s unforgettable presence in the film, her positioning as the lead of the promotional materials, including the iconic poster, cement her legendary status.
3. Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega (John Travolta)
You can’t convince me that there hasn’t been at least one person who decided to attend UC Santa Cruz solely because of Vincent Vega’s post-Winston Wolfe cleanup outfit. There’s a reason that this marked John Travolta’s movie star comeback, with his possibly best career performance coming courtesy of Tarantino fave Michael Madsen passing (don’t get us wrong, we’re totally ready for The Vega Brothers). One man’s royale mistake is another man’s glowing briefcase.
2. Pulp Fiction's Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)
I double dare you to question Jules Winnfield’s positioning. After Jackson landed the top spot in our frequent Tarantino collaborators list, his most essential character and performance lands at No. 2 here. An actor is lucky enough to have one monologue as good as Jules’ soliloquy when retrieving Marsellus’ briefcase, and Jackson gets two alone in Pulp, bringing the film to as enthralling an end as you can get with two men sitting across from each other at a diner.
1. Kill Bill's Beatrix "The Bride" Kiddo, a.k.a. Black Mamba (Uma Thurman)
Tarantino has called Thurman his “muse,” so it’s no surprise that a character they created together for her would land at No. 1. And as much as having your name in the title is an advantage, technically having two movies sure doesn’t hurt either. While Tarantino movies are typically ensemble pieces, Kill Bill is the exception, giving the spotlight solely to the revenge-seeking Bride — and it was an unforgettable ride. If Tarantino changes his mind about retiring after 10 films, then count us in on Kill Bill: Volume 3, because the Bride and us have unfinished business.