Quentin Tarantino’s movies are acclaimed for their use of music. Actually, they’re acclaimed for a lot of things, but their use of music is one of them. Tarantino uses many well-worn filmmaking techniques, and often frames his scenes in the way that an iconic director like Francois Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard might frame them, but he rarely uses original musical compositions to play over the scenes.
Instead, he will use a meticulously chosen pop song from his own personal record collection to pair perfectly with the feel of the scene. So, ahead of his latest release, here are All Of Quentin Tarantino’s Movie Soundtracks, Ranked.
9 Kill Bill Vol. 2 Original Soundtrack
RZA composed the soundtrack to both Kill Bill movies. In each volume, he created the score with a combination of old tracks from his record collection and new compositions he had written specifically for certain scenes.
Vol. 2 is clearly the weaker soundtrack of the two – if only because Vol. 1 has the two-part epic’s most recognizable music cues: “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” and a snippet from Quincy Jones’ “Ironside” theme song. Still, Vol. 2 has some great songs, ranging from Johnny Cash to an old Ennio Morricone score. It also has a hidden bonus track by the Wu-Tang Clan, so it’s not all bad.
8 Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s intention with Inglourious Basterds was to make a World War II epic in the style of a spaghetti western. While that style came out a little muddled in the finished piece, what would’ve really helped to sell it is an original score by Ennio Morricone. Unfortunately, Tarantino was unable to get Morricone to do the score and we’re left wondering what could’ve been.
Instead, the director ended up reusing a lot of old Morricone tracks, but they were written for different scenes in different movies. Still, Basterds does have one spectacularly used song: “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” by David Bowie.
7 Death Proof
Death Proof might be Tarantino’s worst movie, but there are some great songs on its soundtrack. As always, there are some tracks by Ennio Morricone, but there are also tracks by T. Rex and Eddie Floyd.
It’s an interesting mix. “Chick Habit” by April March and “Down in Mexico” by the Coasters are the closest indicators at the kind of loose, funky, freewheeling tone that Tarantino was going for with the movie, which ended up being criticized for its aimlessness and long, meandering dialogue scenes. On the whole, it is a pretty good soundtrack for a not very good movie.
6 Django Unchained
The main hook in Django Unchained’s soundtrack is “Unchained,” from the gunfight scene in Calvin Candie’s house, which mixes James Brown’s “The Payback” and 2Pac’s “Untouchable” in a mesmerizing mashup. This is a movie about American slavery, one of the worst chapters of American history, and so it’s appropriate that there are a lot of African-American voices on the soundtrack.
“100 Black Coffins,” the only single to be released from this album, was written and produced during filming by the movie’s lead actor Jamie Foxx and performed by Rick Ross. RZA’s end credits track, “Ode to Django (The D Is Silent),” samples some dialogue from the original English-language dub of the 1966 Franco Nero version of Django. The whole soundtrack has the same homage-y, postmodern feel of the movie itself, and that is the success of the score.
5 Kill Bill Vol. 1 Original Soundtrack
RZA composed the soundtracks for both Kill Bill movies, mixing in both old classics and new pieces, and Vol. 1 is the best of the pair. It’s also the best movie, since it’s the one with the best action sequences and the fastest pace. This is reflected in a score with harder-hitting beats and punchier rhythms.
Plus, it opens with that incredibly chosen opening credits track: Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” The soundtrack also includes the song played in the movie by the 188.8.131.52’s, who played themselves. They’re a Japanese band who do covers of American rock ‘n’ roll songs, which is sort of the opposite of what the movie is – an American rock ‘n’ roll director doing a cover of a Japanese film genre.
4 The Hateful Eight
Audiences may have had unrealistic expectations for The Hateful Eight’s musical score, since it was the first score that the legendary Ennio Morricone had composed for a western in over 30 years.
What Morricone wrote for The Hateful Eight is closer to what he wrote for John Carpenter’s The Thing – another chilly, claustrophobic thriller starring Kurt Russell set in a confined space where people who don’t trust each other are trapped together – than any of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. But in a weird way, that works. And it did go on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
3 Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The soundtrack for Reservoir Dogs is a novel one, because it is embedded into the plot of the movie. Since the entire narrative takes place over the course of a single weekend, Tarantino made his soundtrack revolve around a fictional radio show called “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend,” with deadpan comic Steven Wright playing the DJ.
The actual music featured in the movie is all great, from Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” to Joe Tex’s “I Gotcha.” Also, the George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag” pairs brilliantly with the opening titles and the slow-motion shot of the guys walking. And of course, the movie has that iconic “Stuck in the Middle with You” moment, as Stealers Wheel’s upbeat, pop-oriented sound is juxtaposed against a torture scene.
2 Jackie Brown: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture
Given that Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated movie, it’s no surprise that it also has one of his most underrated soundtracks. On selecting the music for his movies, Tarantino once said, “More or less the way my method works is, you have got to find the opening credit sequence first. That starts it off from me. I find the personality of the piece through the music that is going to be in it.”
In the case of Jackie Brown, that personality was found in the beautiful tones of “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack and Peace, which plays over The Graduate-inspired opening scene as Jackie walks through the airport. This settles us in for a soothing, soulful bunch of songs by the likes of Johnny Cash and Bill Withers. “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson is also used to fantastic effect in the film.
1 Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction
For Pulp Fiction, Tarantino selected a lot of surf music, because he saw this as the rock ‘n’ roll version of Ennio Morricone music and he wanted Pulp Fiction to be the rock ‘n’ roll version of a spaghetti western. Dick Dale’s now-iconic version of “Misirlou” bursts onto the soundtrack when the shot freezes on Amanda Plummer’s Honey Bunny threatening a diner full of people and continues through the opening titles until it’s replaced by “Jungle Fever” by Kool and the Gang in a shuffling of radio stations.
A movie playing around with music this much needs the goods to back it up, and thankfully, Pulp Fiction has it: Chuck Berry, Dusty Springfield, the Centurions. It might be the greatest movie soundtrack of all time.