Quentin Tarantino might not be the most consistent filmmaker, but he’s one of the most stylish and inventive. His ability to write characters who appeal to the masses in bohemian ways is second to none.
Throughout his career, audiences have been enthralled by his on-screen sagas. Usually, Tarantino’s true lens is the one he imbues in his leading characters, giving viewers a tactile handle on the more-often-than-not radically absurd situations they find themselves in.
From his first film (where a group of professional thieves rob a bank) to his most recent movie (where he changed the events of history by writing a love letter to classic 60s Hollywood), Tarantino has always found angles that are different from many other filmmakers.
His wildly diverse characters are still well-remembered in pop culture’s lexicon, even becoming memes, GIFs, and comedic punchlines. Here are some of the best characters by Quentin Tarantino!
10. Mr. Blonde (Reservoir Dogs)
Mr. Blonde (AKA Vic Vega, brother to Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega) was one of the most complex and developed characters in Reservoir Dogs. An ex-con recently released from prison, his actions come to define the film’s central plot as he’s responsible for the bank massacre.
The sequence in which he cuts off the Cop’s ear—all set to “Stuck in the Middle With You”—is one of modern cinema’s most memorable. That and the never-ending debate about why a film with him and John Travolta’s Vincent Vega never came together.
9. Vincenzo Coccotti (True Romance)
Although Christopher Walken’s passively vicious mobster was only seen in one sequence of True Romance, he left a mark so brutal that it has made Coccotti unforgettable.
As he interrogates Dennis Hopper’s Clifford Worley, trying to ascertain the whereabouts of his Son, the pair share a detailed conversation about the history of Italian people on the island of Sicily.
It’s a back-and-forth between two acting giants, with Walken’s character becoming the terrifying specter of death for Worley, which is why the scene and all involved sparkle.
8. Rick Dalton (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood)
Rick Dalton, the leading actor who can’t seem to catch his big break in the modern movie industry, is representative of every TV actor who found himself out of fashion during the 1960s and was left to do Spaghetti Westerns to remain relevant.
Wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Dalton is every bit the self-obsessed leading actor who constantly needs validation. However, when he comes under attack by members of the Manson family, he wastes no time killing them with his old flamethrower, which is one of the best sequences in Tarantino’s long career.
7. Drexl Spivey (True Romance)
Gary Oldman’s white Rastafarian drug-dealing pimp is one of the best movie characters we barely got to know. His penchant for violence and his unstable demeanor made Drexl magnetic to watch.
He’s killed so quickly in True Romance that the audience doesn’t get to see much of him, but the imprint left by the character is often ranked among Oldman’s best, showing just how good he was in the role.
6. Cliff Booth (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood)
Rick Dalton’s stuntman and wife killer (which is revealed if you read Tarantino’s novelization of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood), Cliff Booth is one of Quentin’s most fleshed-out characters.
He seems to be impervious to criticism and pain as Dalton’s stuntman, and always remains a loyal friend, too. Booth is played expertly by Brad Pitt, with Booth and Dalton becoming a double team for the ages.
His journey through the movie is a delight to witness, and the ending sequence—in which he and his dog defend Rick’s house from the Manson family—is incredible cinema.
5. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)
The best way to sum up Jules Winnfield would be to show the sequence from Pulp Fiction in which he talks Ringo and Yolanda out of taking the secret case.
He’s is the very definition of a Tarantino character: cool, calm, collected, with a sense of violence if anybody crosses lines with him.
Samuel L. Jackson’s sole Academy Award nomination came from playing Jules, and his loss is still contentious 30 years later. The way Jules holds himself with Vincent and how the pair work their way out of the Bonnie situation is classic Tarantino storytelling at its finest.
4. Calvin J. Candie (Django Unchained)
Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Tarantino character was well worth the wait to see the pair work together for the first time. Calvin J. Candie was the best part of Django Unchained.
His menacingly unhinged personality covered by a thin veneer of hospitable racism showed how fundamentally ruthless Candie was. DiCaprio’s performance is electric, with the audience never quite knowing how far he’ll go to get what he wants.
The entire character is epitomized by the moment he wipes blood over a shocked Broomhilda’s face after cutting his hand—a moment that wasn’t even scripted.
3. Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill)
The revenge saga of Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo is one of Tarantino’s most polarizing stories.
On the one hand, the double-header of Tarantino’s films tell a story steeped in the lore of traditional martial arts movies. On the other hand, they sometimes stray too far into the homage. However, Uma Thurman’s character of The Bride is one of his finest creations.
Driven by pure vengeance to destroy the team she once worked with. The team she deserted after believing she had lost her baby because of their actions. The team who all came to kill her after her desertion. The Bride is a ruthless machine that butchers anybody in her path.
2. Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)
Vincent Vega is one of the few roles the great actor Daniel Day-Lewis ever sought, which tells you how special it was on the script’s pages. However, it’s hard to imagine anybody playing the role as perfectly as John Travolta did—not even Daniel Day-Lewis.
Vincent is bold, daring, calm, and without a sense of mercy. His broken-up narrative during the events of Pulp Fiction only aid Travolta’s magnetic performance, as he and Jules Winnfield recover the briefcase and become embroiled in a restaurant holdup.
The best sequence sees Vincent take out Mia Wallace for dinner as the pair gradually begin to like one another. She snorts his heroin, leading him to dramatically save her life with his layabout drug dealer.
1. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)
The opening scene of Inglourious Basterds is everything that Hans Landa is. It shows the audience that this man is a conniving, ruthless hunting machine without a shred of decency.
Hans Landa is portrayed with grand charisma by Christoph Waltz, which draws the audience into liking him on some level.
Tasked by Nazi High Command to hunt down and kill Jews, Hans Landa sums himself up to Aldo Raine as “a damn good detective.” He doesn’t believe in the extermination of Jews; he’s merely doing a job. Of course, that doesn’t save him from his fate at Aldo’s hands.