“When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films’.” – Quentin Tarantino
Possibly the most influential director of the 21st century, Quentin Tarantino has the extraordinary ability to tilt popular culture in the direction of his liking, making each of his films an event in the cinematic calendar.
A self-confessed student of cinema, Tarantino often borrows from the history of film, lovingly taking creative licence from Japanese cinema in particular, such as in Toshiya Fujita’s Lady Snowblood which heavily influenced 2003s Kill Bill. In discussion with The Talks, he notes how he absorbs cultural influences to use in 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, often discussing his favourite films in various interviews throughout modern journalism. With an infectious effect on 1990s culture, here, we take a look back at the iconic director’s favourite films of the pre-millennium decade, a matter he discussed with Sky Movies during the press tour for Inglourious Basterds.
Quentin Tarantino’s 10 favourite films of the 90s:
Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike is familiar with the explicitly traumatic, renowned for his frank and blunt approach to sex and violence, though 1999s Audition takes his disturbing world to new cinematic heights.
In this strange tale of a widower auditioning local women to be his new wife, Miike crafts a slow burner that patiently culminates into a gripping drama. Though, behind the curtain something far more sinister is brewing, delivering one of cinema’s most surprising and most uncomfortable tonal deviations. It was likely this same violent, twisted tone that attracted purveyor of ferocity Quentin Tarantino, who would call Miike’s film a, “True masterpiece if ever there was one”.
The Blade (Tsui Hark, 1995)
Described as a “Martial arts extravaganza” by Tarantino, Tsui Hark’s The Blade elicits an unusual style of melodramatic close-ups, exaggerated colours and frenetic cinematography to tell its gripping tale.
Starring Wenzhuo Zhao in the lead role, The Blade is an ultra-violent action film following an unpopular worker at a sabre factory who takes the role of ‘master’ and embarks on a quest to kill the evil kung-fu master who killed his father. It’s a bombastic, wild plot that will have no doubt had an effect on 2003s Kill Bill, sharing the same fantastical sense of action and willingness to embrace comic savagery.
Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
Arguably Paul Thomas Anderson’s very best film, Boogie Nights is a powerful evaluation of the hedonistic excess of the ‘70s, taking us to the trashy world of the emerging pornographic industry of Southern California.
A staggering work of early brilliance, Boogie Nights is a passionate and painfully honest depiction of the American soul by a precocious filmmaker, similar to a punk band’s first records — pure fiery brilliance. Echoing similar snappy energy to the films of Quentin Tarantino, it’s no wonder that the filmmaker found so much joy in Anderson’s film.
Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
Experiencing Dazed and Confused is a liberating exercise in catharsis, as it does not tremble in the apprehension of the responsibilities of the future, rather the worries of the future are sacrificed for the pleasure of the present.
As the director states, “I thought the 1970s sucked. Dazed was supposed to be an anti-nostalgic movie. But it’s like trying to make an anti-war movie – just by depicting it, you make it look fun”. Being a vocal fan of the slacker movie, Dazed and Confused was a film Tarantino found instantly attractive, noting, “One of the things about Dazed and Confused that’s so terrific is that every time you watch it…the characters are like your friends and it’s like your hanging out with them again”.
Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
Together with Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, David Fincher’s Fight Club makes the exclusive list of the most influential films of the 1990s, with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s anarchic punk aesthetic resonating through an adolescent subculture.
A flurry of comedy, violence, action and narrative twists, Fincher’s film is the perfect concoction for Quentin Tarantino’s tastes, particularly as the film elicits an outstanding sense of gritty style. It helps that the film stars Brad Pitt, a frequent collaborator of Tarantino, whose irresistible charm and gruff persona have made him a standout character in both Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood….
Friday (F. Gary Gray, 1995)
From Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray, Friday starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker happens to be a favourite of Quentin Tarantino, swapping out frenetic violence for a fun-loving stoner comedy.
Written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh, Cube felt like recent films that depicted the hood, like Boyz n the Hood did not portray the full picture of life in the community, missing out the more lighthearted elements, stating, “We had fun in the hood. We used to trip off the neighbourhood”. Ice Cube and F. Gary Gray, therefore, set out to make a “hood classic”, and one that could be “watched over and over again”, clearly, according to Tarantino at least, they succeeded.
The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
Michael Mann’s award-winning thriller starring Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer is exactly the kind of dramatic thriller that Mann has now become ubiquitous with, it’s a natural choice for one of Tarantino’s favourites of the decade.
A fictionalised account of a true story, Michael Mann’s The Insider is based on an article titled ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ from an article in Vanity Fair, following Jeffrey Wigand, a whistleblower in the tobacco industry who struggles to defend their testimony against the industry whilst batting away efforts to discredit their claim. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe, the film was praised largely for Mann’s direction.
The Matrix (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, 1999)
The seminal science fiction classic from the Wachowski sisters is influential for a wide variety of reasons, heralding a new era for original genre films and action cinema, whilst even inspiring a new style for sleek black leather.
Redefining the realms of special effect possibilities, The Matrix truly expanded the horizons of blockbusters cinemas’ potential, widening the eyes of audience members and film producers alike. A massive fan of the original film, Tarantino admits, however, “Matrix two and three came out and actually ruined the mythology for me”, adding, “I just can’t think about it [The Matrix] the same way I did before”. With that being said, he also reports that the inferior sequel films “didn’t obliterate it entirely”, with the original still remaining a classic in his eyes.
Supercop (Stanley Tong, 1992)
A superhero that the government establishment couldn’t resist, is the third film in the iconic kung-fu series Police Story, starring the ever-endearing Jackie Chan.
Quentin Tarantino’s fondness of Tong’s classic action film cannot be overstated, noting that its action excellence exceeds that of the great Buster Keaton, with the director stating that Supercop is “A movie that I think actually probably contains the greatest stunts, and that’s even including Buster Keaton”. He even pinpoints his favourite moment in the bombastic action film, exclaiming, “look no further than Michelle Yeoh jumping a motorcycle onto a speeding train”.
Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994)
One of the truly great action thrillers, Jan de Bont’s Speed is a rather ridiculous film at its heart, following a young police officer played by Keanu Reeves who must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a bus that must keep its speed over 50mph.
With a snarling villain in the form of the great Dennis Hopper, Speed is a totally melodramatic thriller that realises the true nature of great action. As Quentin Tarantino notes, his view on the film is tinged with nostalgia, commenting, “it might be easy to take Speed for granted now but if you actually remember when Speed came out what it was like to sit in the movie theatre as that bus was going down the road – there really has been few exhilaration movies quite like it”.