Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction burst on the cinematic scene in October of 1994, upending a lot of what a generation of filmgoers thought a movie could be. Drawing on its ex-video clerk director’s encyclopedic knowledge of obscure cinema culture, the film combined audacious images, nonlinear and interlocking storytelling, and extreme tonal shifts between comedy and violence to deliver both the most influential and often-imitated film of the 1990s.
Tarantino's second film as director after 1992's Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1994 and was nominated for seven Oscars, with Tarantino and Roger Avary winning for Best Original Screenplay. Its loss of Best Picture that year to Forrest Gump has done nothing to diminish its legacy, as the film that inspired countless young filmmakers and other cineastes.
One of the strongest parts of Pulp Fiction was its eclectic cast, with some drawn from the director’s usual company of actors and others working with the director for the first and only time.
Here’s Where are they now? The cast of Pulp Fiction:
15 Steve Buscemi (Buddy Holly)
A major actor on the indie scene of the last two decades, Buscemi had only a bit part in a single scene of Pulp Fiction, as the Buddy Holly-costumed waiter during Vincent and Mia’s date at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, who asks if they want their shakes "Martin & Lewis or "Amos & Andy" and Vincent's steak "burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell?"
Buscemi had starred in Reservoir Dogs two years earlier and played his iconic part in Fargo two years later; his long list of major credits also includes Miller’s Crossing, Con Air, Ghost World, Big Fish, The Big Lebowski and Trees Lounge, as well as major TV roles in The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. The former firefighter has had long working relationships with everyone from Tarantino, to the Coen Brothers, to Adam Sandler.
Now 58, the Brooklyn native will star later this year in Oppenheimer Strategies, along with Richard Gere, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michael Sheen.
14 Angela Jones (Esmerelda Villalobos)
Jones was discovered by Tarantino after starring in an early '90s short film, called Curdled, about a woman who cleans up after crime scenes. It must have made an impression on the director, as he cast Jones in his film, included a subplot about a different crime scene cleaner, and then went on to produce a remake of Curdled, also starring Jones, in 1996.
Jones played Esmerelda Villalobos, the cab driver who picks up Willis’ Butch Coolidge after his boxing match/double cross and asks him what it’s like to kill a man.
Jones has appeared mostly in obscure shorts and indie films in recent years such as Paranormal Interviews, Worm and Cherry Bomb; she played a hooker in Man on the Moon in 1999, the same year she appeared in an episode of the infamous sitcom Shasta McNasty. Jones is set to appear this year in a film called The Pocketeers.
13 Peter Greene (Zed)
For a very short time in the mid 1990s, Greene was a frequent presence on the big screen. He was the villain in the Jim Carrey film The Mask (1994), was the fence known as Redfoot in 1995’s The Usual Suspects, and played Zed, the pawnshop rapist, in Pulp Fiction. His appearance led to one of the movie's most memorable lines: "Zed's dead, baby, Zed's dead."
The 50-year-old Greene hasn’t had much prominent work since, but made headlines for his real-life 2007 arrest in a drug sting. In 2008 he did appear in the first scene of the very first episode of Justified, as the gangster who Rylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) shoots in a restaurant.
He also appeared this year on an episode of Chicago P.D., and recent movie roles includes such pictures as The Kill Hole, 1,000 Times More Brutal, Caller ID: Entity, Checkmate and Keep Your Enemies Closer.
12 Frank Whaley (Brett)
Whaley is in only one scene of the movie, but it’s a memorable one: Samuel L. Jackson’s famous “What does Marcellus Wallace look like?” monologue is delivered to the character, and ends with his death.
Whaley had a pretty active career for awhile in the late 80s and early 90s. He played the young Archie Graham in Field of Dreams and appeared in three films for Oliver Stone - Born on the Fourth of July, JFK and The Doors, in which he played Robby Krieger. He played the male lead in 1991's Career Opportunities, with Jennifer Connolly, and in 1994’s Hollywood satire Swimming With Sharks, along with Kevin Spacey.
The 54-year-old Whaley has since directed four independent films - Joe the King, The Jimmy Show, New York City Serenade and Like Sunday, Like Rain and appeared in the first season of Ray Donovan on Showtime, on the first season of Gotham on Fox; he has most recently been cast in Netflix's Luke Cage.
11 Maria de Medeiros (Fabian)
The Portuguese actress played the Bruce Willis character’s girlfriend Fabian- and also received "oral pleasure" - in what’s undoubtedly the slowest-moving part of the film. Willis leaves her side in order to retrieve his family's prized gold watch and later confronts Marcellus and Zed and Maynard- and Butch and Fabian's ride off on Zed's motorcycle is, chronologically, the last moment in the film's timeline.
Prior to Pulp Fiction, de Medeiros was best known for playing Anais Nin in Philip Kaufman’s 1990 Henry Miller biopic Henry & June, alongside future Pulp Fiction costar Uma Thurman.
The now 50-year-old actress has mostly appeared in European films in the years since Pulp Fiction, although she co-starred in Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World back in 2004. Her more recent roles include such films as The Forbidden Room, Seances, The Broken Key and What Spring Does to the Cherry Trees.
10 Eric Stoltz (Lance)
The popular 1980s actor has a short but memorable part in Pulp Fiction as Lance, Vincent Vega’s drug dealer who appears in two scenes. First, he upsells Vincent on some Mexican heroin, and later helps him through Mia’s overdose in one of the film's most exciting sequences.
While Stoltz may have been fired from the lead role of Marty McFly in Back to the Future partway through filming, he was still a household name throughout the 1980s, appearing in several major films in that decade, including Some Kind of Wonderful, The Mask and Say Anything...
More recently, Stoltz has most often worked in television, working as a regular on Caprica in 2009 and 2010. More recently, Stoltz has been a guest star on such series as Grey’s Anatomy, Leverage, Madam Secretary and Maron, and has also directed episodes of Glee. He's currently appearing in the Lifetime series Blue: A Secret Life.
9 Christopher Walken (Captain Koons)
Walken was only in one scene of Pulp Fiction, but it was one of the film’s best: The flashback in which his military officer character explains the significance of a certain gold watch to Bruce Willis’ character as a young boy, leading to one of the great punchlines in the history of movies.
The often-imitated Walken is an icon of multiple decades and generations, appearing in more than 100 films going back to the 1950s. He has appeared in soap operas, in a James Bond film (A View to a Kill), numerous musicals and many crime films. He won acting Oscars for both Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter and Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, and has even established a strong body of work on Saturday Night Live over the years, with iconic roles from "The Continental" to "Cowbell."
8 Ving Rhames (Marcellus Wallace)
While he had appeared in small parts in a few high-profile films, including 1992's Dave, Rhames was a generally unknown TV and stage actor prior to his casting in Pulp Fiction, where he played gangster boss Marcellus Wallace, who projects an air of calm and control until he's double-crossed, and then has much worse done to him.
The actor remained busy in the several years after Pulp Fiction, playing memorable roles in Steven Soderbergh's 1998 Out of Sight, 1996's Mission: Impossible and 1997's Con Air, and winning a Golden Globe for playing the title role in the TV movie Don King: Only in America, an award he famously presented to his mentor Jack Lemmon at the ceremony. Rhames has also had parts on several TV series, including the lead in a remake of Kojak that ran in 2005.
More recently, the now 57-year-old Rhames has appeared in the two latest Mission:Impossible films, 2011’s Ghost Protocol and 2015’s Rogue Nation. He'll appear later this year in a movie called Bastards.
7 Quentin Tarantino (Jimmy)
If you remember the films of the 1990s, you may remember that many different movies drew inspiration from Tarantino's work - and the director himself appeared in a lot of them as an actor, while also regularly taking parts in his own movies.
The director played Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs and Jimmy - the former associate eager to get a car with a corpse in it out of his garage before his wife comes home - in Pulp Fiction, and in the ensuing years he played on-screen part in such films as Sleep With Me, Desperado, From Dusk ’Til Dawn and Curdled.
While Tarantino has continued to write and direct films - most recently The Hateful Eight in 2015 - he’s been doing a lot less acting. However, he has appeared in a couple of his own movies, including parts in both ends of 2007's Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof), in "Nation's Pride," the Nazi film-within-the-film in Inglorious Basterds, and as a doomed mining company employee in Django Unchained.
6 Tim Roth (Pumpkin)
Roth was another Reservoir Dogs alum cast by Tarantino in Pulp Fiction, and again in Four Rooms the following year and The Hateful Eight in 2015. Roth spent much of the ‘80s starring in such independent art films as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Vincent & Theo and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
In Pulp Fiction, Roth played "Pumpkin," one of a pair of robbers (along with Amanda Plummer's "Honey Bunny,") whose attempt to stick up a diner is shown in both the movie's opening and closing scenes; Jules refers to him as "Ringo" due to Roth's accent.
More recently, Roth played chemically-enhanced villain Emil Blonsky/Abomination in the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk film, and played George Wallace in Selma in 2013. This year, Roth appeared in Hardcore Henry and will star in The Brits Are Coming, along with Uma Thurman. He will also play a part in next year's Twin Peaks revival on Showtime.
5 Harvey Keitel (The Wolf)
Keitel was a towering figure in the cinema of the 1970s, especially in the early work of director Martin Scorsese, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, as well as the films of Paul Schrader (Blue Collar).
Coming off of his acclaimed performances in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs in 1992 and in The Piano in 1993, Keitel played the famed crime scene “cleaner,” The Wolf, in Pulp Fiction’s third and best chapter, as the unflappable, tuxedo-clad expert who directs Vincent and Jules through the cleaning and disposal of the blood-soaked car.
Keitel, now 77, continues to work regularly, including a regular role on the TV series Life on Mars and memorable performances in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and a standout turn in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, last year. He appeared this year on an episode of Inside Amy Schumer and will star in next year's The Comedian.
4 Bruce Willis (Butch Coolidge)
When Pulp Fiction came out, Bruce Willis was an established leading man, gaining acclaim in a supporting role following a series of flops (most notably 1990's Bonfire of the Vanities and the infamous thriller Color of Night, also in 1994.) In Pulp Fiction, he played Butch Coolidge, an aging boxer who double-crosses Marcellus, kills an opposing boxer, and then ends up saving Marcellus himself from an even worse fate, gaining redemption for himself in the process.
After Pulp Fiction, Willis went on a run in the rest of the 90s with Die Hard With a Vengeance, Twelve Monkeys, The Fifth Element, and eventually 1999’s The Sixth Sense.
Willis has been in more than 60 movies and ranks 13th on the all-time box office list. While he’s not quite at his height anymore, Willis is set to appear in four movies this year, including Marauders and Going Under; he’s also reported to be working on a Death Wish remake, with Eli Roth.
3 3. Uma Thurman (Mia Wallace)
At the time of Pulp Fiction, Thurman had drawn praise for her parts in Dangerous Liaisons and Henry & June, as well as 1993’s Mad Dog and Glory. But Pulp Fiction, in which she played gangster moll Mia Wallace, was her breakout and remains her most famous role, along with that of The Bride in the two Kill Bill films, also directed by Tarantino.
Thurman followed her Pulp Fiction role by playing Poison Ivy, one of the villains in Joel Schumacher's infamous Batman & Robin and starred in The Avengers (not Marvel), but rather the adaptation of the 1960s detective show, in 1998.
Thurman continues to appear in movies regularly. Last year she starred in Burnt with Bradley Cooper and is working on the upcoming comedy The Brits are Coming. A popular song by Fall Out Boy that charted in 2015 was called “Uma Thurman,” and referenced the dancing she did in Pulp Fiction.
2 Samuel L. Jackson (Jules Winnfield)
Jackson had taken some acclaimed roles prior to Pulp Fiction, including a part as Wesley Snipes’ crack-addicted brother in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, but his turn as Jules Winnfield, a longtime hitman facing a crisis of faith, was a major career breakout role for the actor. It led to a long series of major roles, in multiple films each for both Tarantino and Lee, as well as his part as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The now-67-year-old Jackson, whose career is in its fifth decade, earned raves for a pair of films last December - Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Lee’s Chi-raq - and also co-starred in the recent The Legend of Tarzan. Jackson is also the #2 box office performer of all time, with $4.69 billion, and is within striking distance of #1, Harrison Ford. He's set to be appear in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage next year and once again as Nick Fury in Avengers: Infinity War - Part I in 2018.
1 John Travolta (Vincent Vega)
Travolta’s turn as drug-addled hitman Vincent Vega, which netted him an Oscar nomination, was the most significant of many comebacks throughout the actor’s long career.
In the 1970s and 80s, Travolta starred in such iconic films as Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Blow Out. After Pulp Fiction, he had a run of starring roles that included Get Shorty, Face/Off, A Civil Action and Primary Colors. His career has continued to have ups downs, including such flops as Battlefield Earth and the unfortunate Get Shorty sequel Be Cool, although his 2010 Taken knockoff, From Paris With Love, is somewhat under appreciated.
Travolta, 62, may not be much of an A-Lister these days, starring in a lot of direct-to-DVD and streaming fare like the recent I Am Wrath, although he did earn enthusiastic reviews earlier this year for his turn as lawyer Robert Shapiro in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Pulp Fiction is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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