Thanks to the massive success of The Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise model of a “shared movie universe” has taken over Hollywood. Everyone from Warner Bros. (Justice League) to Lucasfilm (Star Wars) to Universal (monsters) are looking to take their properties and expand them beyond a traditional series of films, interconnecting multiple projects to tell a larger narrative.
And while the MCU gets a lion’s share of the credit for blowing these floodgates open, the truth is they were hardly the first ones to introduce the concept to the masses. Well before films like Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger were a fleeting thought in anyone’s mind, writer/director Quentin Tarantino was developing his own cinematic universe, providing small hints scattered throughout his works to illustrate that they’re all part of one big world. Here are Screen Rant’s 10 Clues to Quentin Tarantino’s Shared Movie Universe.
Brothers in Crime
Though we don’t learn everyone’s real name in Reservoir Dogs, it’s revealed that Mr. Blonde is actually Vic Vega. Moviegoers were able to see Tarantino’s love of continuity when his breakout hit Pulp Fiction was released years later, starring John Travolta as Vincent Vega. Tarantino would later confirm the two characters were brothers, and he even planned to film a prequel starring the siblings before their respective films, but due to the actors’ ages, the project never came to be. That would have been fun to see, but this subtle clue is entertaining in its own right.
Son of the Bear
Tarantino’s universe even includes a film that he wrote, but didn’t direct: True Romance. The film features a character by the name of Lee Donowitz, who works as a Hollywood film producer. Fast forward to Tarantino’s own Inglourious Basterds, and viewers are introduced to Sgt. Donny Donowitz, aka The Bear Jew. That last name isn’t a coincidence: the director has stated that Lee is actually Donny’s son. Perhaps the manner in which his father assassinated Hitler – shooting him in a bloody rampage in a movie theater – inspired Lee to forge his career path. Tarantino characters certainly like their pop culture.
Movies Within Movies
Most of the shared film universes around today have all of their installments take place in the same world, but there’s a small wrinkle that separates Tarantino’s from Marvel or DC. Some of his films are movies within the shared movie universe, meaning that someone such as Jules from Pulp Fiction could go to his local theater and see it. The likes of Kill Bill and From Dusk Till Dawn rank among these, which adds even more intrigue to the larger world when you step back and think about it (Fox Force Five, anyone?).
It’s a lot to get your head around, but it’s a fun aspect to include that makes Tarantino’s universe all the more interesting. The projects that are set in “reality” are mostly defined by their copious amounts of violence and bloodshed; if guys like Mr. Pink and Jules just want some escapism and Kill Bill is one of their options, it’s easy to see why so many people would be numb to brutality and incorporate it into their own lives. Now we just need a character in a Tarantino movie to quote a different Tarantino movie to get the full effect.
Big Kahuna Burger
In one of Pulp Fiction‘s many iconic moments, Jules takes a large bite of Brett’s hamburger right before he and Vincent blast him away for double-crossing Marsellus Wallace. Instead of coming from Wendy’s or Jack in the Box, the nutritious breakfast comes courtesy of a fast food chain called Big Kahuna Burger. What seemed like an amusing way around product placement (which Tarantino avoids at all costs) turned out to be a running bit throughout his career. Unknowingly, audiences got their first taste of Big Kahuna in Reservoir Dogs, when Mr. Blonde is first introduced and sipping on a soda. The restaurant was also featured in From Dusk Till Dawn and was even a sponsor for Jungle Julia’s billboards in Death Proof. It’s true that they do make tasty burgers at Big Kahuna, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of Tarantino’s characters are loving it.
Pack of Red Apples
Keeping with our theme of Tarantino’s signature brands, Red Apple cigarettes also make frequent appearances. The most famous is in Pulp Fiction when boxer Butch gets a pack at the bar, but he’s not the only one who uses them. Red Apples are also seen in From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill, with a giant billboard showcased in the latter. It’s interesting to consider that Red Apples are more prominently featured in the “movies within movies” than the “real life movies,” which perhaps is amusing commentary on the prevalence of product placement in Hollywood. Tarantino strays away from it, but the minds behind Kill Bill don’t.
A Nurse Named Bonnie
When Mr. Orange is shot at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, his life relies on immediate medical attention. Needing to avoid the hospital for obvious reasons, he becomes reliant on Nice Guy Eddie to find the right doctor for treatment, who mentions a nurse named Bonnie who might be able to help. It seems like a throwaway comment, but consider this. In Pulp Fiction, the character Jimmy – played by Tarantino himself – has a wife named Bonnie… who also works as a nurse. That could just be a very big coincidence, but with all the crazy connections between the two crime flicks, we wouldn’t bet on it.
The Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz
Winning Christoph Waltz his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar, the character of Dr. King Schultz is one of the most beloved and endearing in the director’s canon. Audiences and critics responded well to his charming and caring personality when he was formally introduced to us in 2012, but eagle-eyed Tarantino fans spotted a clue that hinted at his existence many years before Django blew up the Candieland plantation.
In Kill Bill, The Bride escapes from a grave that was originally intended for the lonely Paula Schultz, who – according to the tombstone – passed away in 1893. It’s never been officially confirmed, but it’s been heavily theorized that this Paula is the wife of Dr. King Schultz, and it makes sense to a certain degree. We didn’t learn much about the dentist turned bounty hunter’s previous life in Django Unchained, so it’s possible he had a wife and family. Also, Tarantino did admit that there’s a very small connection to his other films in Django, so this could be it.
Mr. White & Alabama
When we learn some of Mr. White’s backstory in Reservoir Dogs, Joe Cabot mentions that White once had a partner named Alabama, whom White hasn’t worked with for years. It’s hard to forget such a name, and when True Romance introduced a character named Alabama Whitman-Worely, the connection was obvious. The Alabama of True Romance is supposed to be the same accomplice Mr. White is speaking of. It’s too bad we never got to see a movie of their exploits, because it would have been a highly entertaining one for sure. We’ll just have to let our imaginations do the work for us.
The Brothers Dimmick?
Mr. White’s connections to the shared universe don’t stop with Alabama. We also get to see one of his blood relative featured in Pulp Fiction. It’s none other than Jimmy Dimmick, the character that Tarantino memorably played in the film. Though the evidence is scarce, it’s still there. Mr. White’s real name is Lawrence Dimmick. Some may question if the two really are related, but Tarantino showed us with the Vega siblings he’s not afraid to pull this trick, and Dimmick seems like an oddly specific last name. As for how it’s possible Tarantino and Harvey Keitel have roles in both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, we’ll leave that up to you.
One Tough Sheriff
It’s hard to forget the introduction of Sheriff Earl McGraw in the first Kill Bill – the stoic lawman played by Michael Parks, and accompanied by his son and deputy – also played by Park’s real-life son, James. Die-hard Tarantino fans will remember McGraw from his first appearance in From Dusk Till Dawn, having apparently survived the terror of the infamous Gecko brothers. Sheriff McGraw would return for the director’s Grindhouse movie Death Proof, where his daughter Dakota is also introduced, linking Tarantino’s “movies within movies” with a single family.
As Tarantino continues making new films, it will be interesting to see how they’ll all tie together with what’s come before. Interestingly enough, his last three movies (including this year’s The Hateful Eight) are all set in the past, so one has to wonder if he ever intends to go back to the present and build upon the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Either way, Tarantino’s loyal fan base will be following him every step of the way, analyzing each character to see how they’re related to the other films.
Of course, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your favorite clues in the comments section below. And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more fun videos!