In addition to his storylines, pop culture references, stylized films and brilliant scripts, a huge reason why Quentin Tarantino’s films are adored is because of his characters. He writes intriguing, unhinged, heroic, evil, hilarious and ever so strange characters, and always finds the best actors to play these roles. In celebration of the release The Hateful Eight, today we are counting down his top 10 characters. To whittle down the list, these will be from the eight films he has written and directed: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.
10. Calvin Candie (Django Unchained)
Kicking things off at number 10 is the antagonist from Django Unchained, plantation owner Calvin Candie who is masterfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. Candie does not appear until halfway through the film, but the entire focus and tone shifts as soon as we are introduced to his despicable yet charming character. He forces slaves to fight to the death, sets dogs on them and locks them in boxes in the heat, and Tarantino himself has stated that Calvin Candie is the most unlikeable character that he has ever created. He is, however, completely enthralling and a few scenes are unbearably tense due to this unhinged and evil yet eloquent plantation owner. Although Jamie Foxx is the titular character, it is “Monsieur Candie” (who doesn’t speak French) and Dr. King Schultz (more to come) who steal the show. This was DiCaprio’s first villainous role, and he excelled as the horrifying Calvin Candie.
9. Mr. Blonde (Reservoir Dogs)
Perhaps the most iconic scene of Tarantino’s career occurs in his feature length debut, 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. This scene is where the incredibly unstable Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures and cuts off the ear of a policeman before dousing him in gasoline, all whilst listening (and occasionally singing and dancing) to “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel (a song that cannot be listened to without thinking of this scene). What is so brilliant about Mr. Blonde is that at the start of the film he appears as a cool and charming character, but upon arriving at the warehouse it quickly becomes apparent that he is a complete maniac and there is a very dark side to him. Michael Madsen brilliantly brings out both sides of the character who at one moment is coolly smoking a cigarette, and the next sadistically torturing a policeman he has taken hostage.
8. Daisy Domergue (The Hateful Eight)
As a recent release, it is likely that many of our readers have not yet seen The Hateful Eight (but you absolutely should). Therefore, we will not reveal too much about the film here. Much like Reservoir Dogs, the majority of the action is contained to one area and consequently the character and dialogue must be top notch. There are many great characters from the film, but stealing the show is Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue a.k.a “The Prisoner.” Daisy, a fugitive, has been captured by bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who is escorting her to Red Rock to hang. She is a terrible prisoner to escort and irritates the other characters to no end, and she is consequently responsible for much of the humor in the film. Jennifer Jason Leigh does a fantastic job portraying the character, and has been nominated for several Best Supporting Actress awards.
7. Mr. Pink (Reservoir Dogs)
Dialogue is crucial to all Tarantino films, and in Reservoir Dogs this is powered by Mr. Pink who is perfectly played by Steve Buscemi. This is evident from the very first scene, where he goes on an epic rant about how he doesn’t like to tip waitresses, and then later whines like a kid about being assigned the alias Mr. Pink—“Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. P—y. How ‘bout I’m Mr. Purple? That sounds good to me.” Despite this, upon arrival at the warehouse it is Mr. Pink that is trying to remain professional and believes that they got set up. However, he quickly becomes one of the most entertaining characters as he begins to freak out, and for many he is the most memorable of all the dogs. Although irritating, selfish and violent, you can’t help but like Mr. Pink and this is aided hugely by Buscemi’s performance.
6. Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown)
Jackie Brown is often the forgotten Tarantino film, which is a shame as it is another terrific movie with a stellar cast (Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda and Robert Forster). It is the titular character, however, that is the greatest in this film, and she is played by Pam Grier who starred in blaxploitation films that this movie pays homage to and this role would rejuvenate her career. Jackie Brown is a flight attendant that is struggling to make ends meet and manages to do so by smuggling money from Mexico to the United States. She is then thrust into extraordinary circumstances when the ATF become involved, and she looks for a brighter future by doubling crossing everyone. This makes her an extremely likeable and relatable character and one that you root for from start to finish, and this is furthered by Grier’s excellent portrayal.
5. Dr. King Schultz (Django Unchained)
After a stunning performance in Inglourious Basterds (more on this later), it was not much of a surprise to see that Christoph Waltz had been called up again for 2012’s Django Unchained. This time, however, Waltz was cast as the supporting protagonist as opposed to the primary antagonist. Despite this, there are similarities between the characters in their charisma and even mannerisms. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, who is an English speaking German bounty hunter who poses as a travelling dentist. He buys and promises to free Django, and then trains him and helps him to locate and free his long lost wife. His selflessness, the fact that he hunts despicable characters, his hate for slavery and treating Django as an equal (when no one else will), plus his humor, makes him one of Tarantino’s most likable and respected characters. Waltz once again picked up an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for this role.
4. Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)
For many, the hitman partnership of Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield epitomize everything that is great about Tarantino films. These two are the focal point of the film, and Vincent is integral to the plot and is in many of the best scenes. Tasked with taking out Marsellus Wallace’s wife, they have brilliant dialogue at the diner before the iconic dance scene. Additionally, there is the excruciating scene where he administers an adrenaline shot to her heart, in what is a famous film moment. Michael Madsen was originally going to play the role but chose to appear in Wyatt Earp instead, so Travolta was cast and it saved his career and also earn him an Academy Award nomination. His dialogue with Jules is some of the best, including the McDonald’s conversation, and his charm and humor makes him a very likeable character in Tarantino’s greatest film.
3. The Bride (Kill Bill 1 & 2)
Tarantino has had several fantastic female characters (Mia Wallace narrowly missed the cut), but none as awesome as Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a The Bride (also played by Uma Thurman). Revenge is a common theme in his films, and this is best on display in the Kill Bill movies. Also, as she is the main focus across two films, we also explore this character more than any other. She goes to hell and back throughout the films and is engaged in several stunning battles, in addition to undertaking grueling training with Pai Mei. This is one character you do not want to get on the wrong side of (plucking out Elle’s eye being just one example why not), but we also witness a caring and maternal side to her in the second installment. Vengeful, able to kick butt, heroic and awesome, The Bride is the character that you cheer on the most.
2. SS Colonel Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)
The character, and performance by Waltz, is what makes Inglourious Basterds some of Tarantino’s finest work. Cunning, evil and sadistic yet equally charming, eloquent and even funny, each scene with Hans Landa, or “The Jew Hunter,” is unbearably tense. Most notable is the very first scene where he interrogates a French dairy farmer who he (correctly) believes is hiding a Jewish family, and then three years later when he sits down with the daughter that escaped. In the latter scene, it is unclear if he recognizes her or not and this makes for an excruciating watch. Tarantino believes that Hans Landa is one of his greatest characters, and that casting Waltz “gave me my movie” as he originally feared the part was “unplayable.” For his stirring performance, Waltz picked up an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe for his supporting role which completely steals the show.
1. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)
The truth is that this list could have been very Samuel. L Jackson heavy, but we instead have opted for a healthy mix of performers. His standout character, and many would agree Tarantino’s greatest, is Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. Jules provides many of the greatest quotes, often relating to burgers, but he is equally terrifying and a killer who likes to deliver bible passages before killing just to sound cold-blooded. This also results in major character development, as he gives up on a life of crime after an immensely tense scene in the diner at the end. The script from Pulp Fiction is pure gold, and it is the character of Jules that benefits from this the most and he commands every scene he appears in. Additionally, Jackson’s iconic performance ensures that this is Tarantino’s greatest character and that Jackson would become a regular in all of his films.