Quentin Tarantino makes a strong claim for being the most influential auteur of the last 30 years. He has an uncanny nouse that ables him to tilt popular culture in whatever way he seems fit via the medium of his movies. This, in addition to just how selective he has proven to be with his feature films, has only added to his gigantic mythos.
A man who has had a deep love for cinema since he was a child, Tarantino is a true student of the discipline. His passion for grindhouse cinema, spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation and 20th-century Japanese cinema has bled into his work, creating a surreal, almost dream-like quality. Some would even go as far as to say that his Kill Bill pictures are drenched in an Orientalist account of Japanese culture informed by his very American take on a Japanese artform.
Regardless, he has fused his many disparate cinematic loves together to create a world all of his own, and this is what truly endears him to fans. Some would perhaps argue that he’s slightly overrated, and of course, there are ample criticisms that can be weighed against him, but you cannot deny that he is a brilliant filmmaker, and you cannot doubt his artistic vision.
In a discussion with The Talks, Tarantino noted how he absorbs cultural influences for his writing, commenting: “(My) head is a sponge. I listen to what everyone says, I watch little idiosyncratic behaviour, people tell me a joke and I remember it. People tell me an interesting story in their life and I remember it”.
Known for his ingenious storytelling tactics, pervasive violence as well as profane dialogues, Quentin Tarantino is vocal in his cinematic tastes and has been more than willing to discuss his favourite films in numerous interviews.
A film nerd and a self-styled critic combined in one hulking mass of a man, we have been lucky enough to have been graced with his opinions on all kinds of films over the years. Unsurprisingly, he has also revealed what his favourite flicks of all time are.
Join us, then, as we revisit the three films that made a formative impact on Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
One of the definitive movies in the spaghetti western genre, this Sergio Leone classic had a significant impact on how Tarantino viewed the genre and the concept of film itself. In 2019, he wrote in The Spectator: “There is realism in his presentation of the Civil War in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that was missing from all the Civil War movies that happened before him,” he said, before adding: “Wild and grandiose as it was, there was never a sentimental streak.”
Tarantino then discussed how the spaghetti westerns, and particularly the works of Leone, massively influenced his own now-iconic use of music. He said: “It feels as if Leone is the first guy ever to cut picture to music in that way.”
The director asserted: “Before him, it just happened by accident where somebody thought it would be cool for a little sequence, but didn’t think they should do it for the rest of the movie. But 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.”
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Dark and touching on the worst facets of the human ideation, it comes as little surprise that Tarantino cites one of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver as one of his favourites of all time. Centred around Travis Bickle, a young, mentally ill veteran, we see his mental state gradually decline across the film.
Set amongst a backdrop of a decaying New York City both socially and physically, the film contains some of the worst low-lives and scumbags ever put to cinema. Bickle sets out on a vigilante mission to cleanse New York of its deplorables, and the most interesting part is that he is one of them.
A noir classic, it has coloured many of Tarantino’s best works, ranging from Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill. On a Sky Movies takeover, Tarantino said: “Not only is this unarguably one of the greatest movies ever made, but it is also absolutely unarguably one of the greatest movies of the 1970s, if not the greatest.”
Tarantino simply appended: “It is maybe the greatest first-person character study ever put to film”.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948)
Of course, Tarantino would name a more obscure film in his favourites of all time. Regularly hailed as one of the funniest movies of all time, this horror-comedy features duo, Abbott and Costello on a fantasy romp through Dracula’s castle.
Interestingly, they meet Bela Lugosi‘s Dracula, Glenn Strange’s Frankenstein’s monster and Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man. Due to this, it is hailed as the swan song of Universal’s ‘Big Three’ of horror monsters. In 2012, he told an audience on SiriusXM: “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was probably my favourite movie when I was really, really, really young”.
He continued: “And the thing about why I think it was so influential was that I remember at that time period my two favourite movies in the world were monster movies, the Universal monster movies from the 1930s, and physical comedies. When I watched this movie, it bended my mind that my two favourite genres, even though I didn’t know what genre meant, could be put into one movie.”
Tarantino’s account of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and the way it meshed genres is incredibly significant. It accounts for the way he blends disparate genres in his own films, showing that from an early age he was mesmerised by the fact that the rulebook could be torn up, and in turn make something truly incredible.