Quentin Tarantino has given us more films than we can count, often directing and playing minor parts in most of them. He’s also written 23 of those films, and created some of the most widely recognized characters in pop culture today. We all have our favourites, but let’s take a look at the ones who really stood out like a banana in a bunch of carrots, whether earning our approval and support, or scaring us completely witless.
5) Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) – Kill Bill: Volume 1 & 2
A legendary martial arts master and user of the Eagle’s Claw technique, Pai Mei was the mentor of Bill, Beatrix Kiddo (better known as The Bride) and Elle Driver, whose eye he famously ripped out. The reason? She called him a miserable old fool. Despite his appearance of a frail, elderly man with wispy white hair and a highly impressive pair of eyebrows, Pai Mei was an individual who harboured extraordinary power and strength, whose martial arts skills were far beyond normal human capacity. Capable of punching through solid wood from only three inches away and balancing his entire body on the flat of a sword blade, Pai Mei didn’t tolerate any sign of weakness, and despite the brutality of his methods, trained Beatrix Kiddo to become the lethal weapon we saw in the Kill Bill series – not to mention, she was the only one to learn his infamous Five-Point-Palm-Exploding-Heart Technique. So while he was a misogynistic, racist old man, he knew real skill when he saw it.
4) Mr. Blonde(Michael Madsen) – Reservoir Dogs
They say blondes have more fun…well, this guy certainly tries to – through torture and casually shooting people. Vic Vega, known by his alias Mr. Blonde, is a close friend of the Cabot crime family, and a sadistic psychopath to boot. However, rather than walking around the place with a look that says ‘I’m gonna kill you dead if you touch me’, Mr Blonde is cool, calm and collected, a far cry from traditional crazed killers. However, this only makes him all the more dangerous, and the moment when he has Marvin Nash tied to a chair before severing the officer’s ear and dousing him in petrol shocks the audience and makes them open their eyes to Mr. Blonde’s real nature. The transition of smooth-talking gent into a remorseless killer is lightning-fast, and that’s why we love Mr. Blonde – one minute, he’s opening a packet of chocolate digestives for a cuppa tea, and the next, he’s opening your jugular vein. And everyone loves a good nutjob.
3) Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) – Django Unchained
A good story is nothing without a good villain, and ‘good villain’ is an understatement when it comes to the owner of the Candyland cotton plantation. You’d think that anyone with the American term for sweets as a surname would be an all-around nice guy, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. Calvin Candie is a monstrous racist who earns his money by forcing his male black slaves to beat each other to the death in exhibition matches, and running a brothel which he calls the Cleopatra Club. As well as being a pimp and a slavemaster, Candie is also something of a white supremacist who justifies his claims of biological inferiority and the inhumane treatment of his slaves by using phrenology to show the ‘subservient’ area in the skull of a black person. So why do we love him so much? Well, much like Hannibal Lecter, Candie is nothing short of a gentleman, oozing class and charisma and treating his guests like kings, right up until the point where he discovers he’s being conned, and transforms into the aforementioned monster. Just like Mr Blonde, we love Candie for his mix of menace and charm, and DiCaprio’s monologue about how black people are naturally subservient and are meant to be slaves is easily the character’s best moment.
2) Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) – Inglorious Basterds
I loved Inglorious Basterds, and while there were some great characters throughout that film’s story of Allied soldiers taking on Hitler during World War 2, Colonel Hans Landa, nicknamed The Jew Hunter and masterfully portrayed by Christoph Waltz, stole the show completely. Introduced as a Nazi SS Colonel who is an expert at tracking down Jews and exterminating them, Landa is revealed to be an opportunistic sociopath who acts purely out of self-interest. Granted, he works towards the Nazi ideology at the start of them film, Landa quickly switches sides and aids the Basterds in assassinating Adolf Hitler and the highest-ranking members of the Nazi Party in a booby-trapped cinema. It’s easy to see why viewers love his character so much – Waltz’s superb acting aside, Hans Landa is like a combination of Sherlock Holmes and a Bond villain – highly intelligent and calculating, with a disregard for those with an inferior intellect, but oozing with near-British charm and a false good nature that fools the audience into thinking that deep down, he’s a nice guy, but in reality, he’ll gladly murder your whole family in front of you if it means he can have a piece of the profits.
1)Jules Winnfeld (Samuel L. Jackson) – Pulp Fiction
Perhaps the quintessential Tarantino character, Jules Winnfield is the most stand-out character in Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction, for a number of reasons. His close partnership with Vince Vega and recitations of Biblical passage Ezekiel 25:17 to people who opposed him, coupled with that fantastic afro and his can-do, will-do attitude, draw our eyes away from anyone else on screen. He’s very much the boss in his and Vincent’s partnership, keeping his cool at all times (apart when he delivers his now-infamous monologue to Brett right before killing him) and always exuding a businessman’s attitude, right up until the end, when he decides to leave his life of violence behind him so that he can pursue the path of a “shepherd”, as opposed to seeing himself as the “tyranny of evil men”. Jules represents the constant struggle within all of us, the struggle to follow the path of the righteous or succumb to our darker instincts, and its something that all of us can identify with to some degree. And the fact that every word is spoken in Samuel L. Jackson’s icy-cool voice is just an added bonus to Tarantino’s greatest character.
Who do you think should have made the list? Is Winston Wolff a better man than Mr. Blonde for this list? Let us know in the comments!