For lovers of Quentin Tarantino, it should come as little surprise to hear that his favourite film is none other than the classic western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from director Sergio Leone. A purveyor of all things related to westerns, including the samurai films on which the genre is built, Tarantino also notes Rio Bravo and Five Fingers of Death among his favourites, often borrowing aspects from such films for use in his own projects.
In conversation with The Spectator, the filmmaker discussed the impact that Sergio Leone and his regular composer Ennio Morricone had on his career as a director, recalling: “I know there are examples that will be contrary to what I am saying, but it feels as if Leone is the first guy ever to cut picture to music in that way”.
Continuing, Quentin Tarantino adds: “The way we cut to music now: you pick some rock song and you cut your scene to that song. That all started with Leone and Morricone, and particularly with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
So inspired by such works, he used the music of Morricone in Pulp Fiction, the director’s second feature film that would go on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1994. As Quentin Tarantino adds: “I started using bits of music Morricone had written for other movies. Then I worked with him as my composer, which I’d never done before with anyone. It went from him not getting it, and then him getting it – him literally seeing my way – and then to me working with him on The Hateful Eight”.
Having used the work of the composer multiple times throughout his career, let’s take a look back at the ten best Ennio Morricone moments in the films of Quentin Tarantino.
Ennio Morricone’s 10 best moments in Quentin Tarantino films:
10. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2004) – ‘A Silhouette Of Doom’
Starting the list is the song that kicked off Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2, scoring the opening titles with a haunting, ominous score that well underlines the imminent violence and terror of the film itself.
Ripped from the 1966 western film Navajo Joe directed by Sergio Corbucci, the song is the perfect accompaniment to Tarantino’s monochrome introduction. The song also plays later in the film once Uma Thurman’s Bride has started her murderous rampage and approaches to fight with Daryl Hannah’s Elle Driver, though its use is only brief once the protagonist makes light work of her foe.
9. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) – ‘The Verdict’
Stripped from the film The Big Gundown, otherwise known as La Resa Dei Conti from director Sergio Sollima, the use of ‘The Verdict’ at the beginning of Inglourious Basterds perfectly sets up the film’s first and greatest scene.
Whilst Mr. LaPadite (Denis Ménochet) is chopping wood on his French farm, in the distance several SS vehicles led by Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa approach the house and Morricone’s western-inspired score kicks in. Tense and unnerving, the tune establishes the tone for the imminent drama between the two characters and makes for an instantly gripping introduction.
8. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) – ‘Sister Sara’s Theme’
There’s much variation and nuance to the fantastic work of composer Ennio Morricone, with ‘Sister Sara’s Theme’ showing a softer, subtler side to the artist whilst still reflecting his signature flourishes.
Appearing in Tarantino’s slave drama Django Unchained when the titular Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) first arrive at the Candyland plantation, the music makes for eerie, ominous listening. The song itself is taken from the low-key western Two Mules For Sister Sara starring Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine whilst being helmed by director Don Siegel.
7. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) – ‘Rabbia E Tarantella’
This one really shows Tarantino’s extensive film knowledge, with the tune taken from the historical drama from 1974 called Allonsanfàn, directed by Vittorio Taviani, Paolo Taviani. It’s an obscure film but a wonderful piece of music.
Scoring the final credits for Tarantino’s fictionalised retelling of WWII, Inglourious Basterds, the song kicks in shortly after Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) brutally carves a swastika into the head of SS officer Hans Landa. ‘Rabbia e Tarantella’ is a triumphant classical tune that rings with the same energy and spirit of the film’s espionage, danger and adventure. It’s a truly masterful choice from Tarantino.
6. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) – ‘L’Incontro Con La Figlia’
Quentin Tarantino must have been going through a time of great appreciation for Ennio Morricone when he made Inglourious Basterds in 2009, with the composer’s music featuring frequently throughout the soundtrack.
Nightmarish and intense, ‘L’Incontro Con La Figlia’ is taken from The Return of Ringo by director Duccio Tessari and features all the panic and dread that comes with the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds. Played shortly after Morricone’s ‘The Verdict’, ‘L’Incontro Con La Figlia’ underlines the horror of the moment when the SS officers shoot through the wooden floorboards in search of the Jewish hideaways.
5. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003) – ‘Death Rides A Horse’
Carrying all the drama and grandeur of the Bride’s standoff with O-Ren Ishii and ‘The Crazy 88’, Ennio Morricone’s ‘Death Rides A Horse’ works to emphasise the epic ordeal the protagonist is close to undertaking.
From the 1967 film, Death Rides a Horse by director Giulio Petroni, the song appears shortly before the climactic fight, when the Bride stares up at O-Ren Ishii from the floor of the grand main room. Crazy and melodramatic, the ‘Death Rides A Horse’ theme is well used by Tarantino who assaults the viewer’s senses with Kill Bill’s final scene, involving a flurry of violence and copious amounts of blood.
4. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) – ‘The Surrender (La Resa)’
The final mention of Inglourious Basterds on this list, you’ll be pleased to hear, the use of Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Surrender’ is arguably the greatest of all the composer’s pieces in the modern WWII classic.
An epic film score, also taken from The Big Gundown (La Resa Dei Conti) just like ‘The Verdict’, Morricone’s ‘The Surrender’ emphasises one of Inglourious Basterds’ most brutal moments, when ‘The Bear Jew’ played by Eli Roth beats a man to death with a baseball bat. It’s a tense scene with an inevitable conclusion, wonderfully put together by Tarantino as tension mounts with every clunk of the bat against the wall.
3. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2004) – ‘Il Mercenario (L’Arena)’
Perhaps not matching the quality of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, the second part of Tarantino’s samurai story is responsible for the best musical moment, featuring the iconic ‘Il Mercenario (L’Arena)’ by Ennio Morricone.
Softly playing during the film’s most memorable scene, when the Bride escapes her coffin underground with the strength of her one-inch punch, Morricone’s score is triumphant, romantic and heroic, providing a truly fist-pumping moment. The score itself is from the spaghetti western The Mercenary from director Sergio Corbucci, starring the likes of Franco Nero, Giovanna Ralli and Jack Palance.
2. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) – ‘The Braying Mule’
The score for Django Unchained is wild, eclectic and among the director’s very best compilations, featuring the likes of John Legend with ‘who did that to you’ along with ‘The Braying Mule’ from Ennio Morricone.
Just like ‘Sister Sara’s Theme’ previously mentioned, ‘The Braying Mule’ was taken from Two Mules For Sister Sara by director Don Siegel. Delicately reflecting the imperfection of the American west with unstable instrumental sounds, Quentin Tarantino reuses the soundtrack throughout Django Unchained to underline the hero’s newfound murderous nature, doing so with a magnificent execution.
1. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2018) – The Complete Soundtrack
It would be unfair to put the complete soundtrack of Ennio Morricone’s The Hateful Eight anywhere else but number one of his greatest collaborations with Quentin Tarantino, with the score picking up an Oscar for its efforts.
Having admired the director for so long, using his soundtracks in a multitude of his films, Quentin Tarantino finally turned to the director in 2018 to score his second western project, The Hateful Eight. Agreeing, Morricone produced one of the director’s greatest complete soundtracks, a cold, claustrophobic and intense score that well reflected the cramped ferocity of the film itself.