Quentin Tarantino is one of the most prominent movie directors working today, but before Reservoir Dogs hit the big screens, he already had numerous jobs that led him to be around movies all the time. From working at an adult cinema to the best place for any cinephile: Video Archives. Because he has been so involved with film for all of his life, Tarantino might be a cine-buff first and a director second, which really shows in all of his films. It’s clear that he doesn’t shy away from referencing pop culture in the form of music and other movies.
When scouring through interviews and YouTube videos featuring Tarantino talking about movies, you will find a lot of great recommendations; maybe even too many to handle. This list exists to shine a light on some of the best of his recommendations. Since he loves exploitation and the obscure, this list limits itself to cult movies, although even with only cult movies we could have made a list with dozens of his recs. There isn’t even a cult western on here, like Django, The Great Silence, or one of Leone’s, but that might make for a good list of itself one day. For now, here are 10 cult movies recommended by Tarantino.
1. Coffy (1973)
It’s no secret that Tarantino has a soft spot for Blaxploitation cinema. Django Unchained has similarities to the genre, but more notably; Jackie Brown is an homage to the genre. It even stars Pam Grier, the face of plenty blaxploitation films including Foxy Brown, the name inspiration for Jackie Brown, and one of Tarantino’s all-time favorite movies: Coffy.
Director Jack Hill was approached to make Coffy in a hurry in an attempt to beat Cleopatra Jones to the market after the head of production lost the rights to that story. With the phenomenal Pam Grier in the leading role, Coffy ended up succeeding and came out on top. The success was partly thanks to the depiction of the strong black female lead, which wasn’t a common sight at the time. Coffy goes from nurse to vigilante when she wants to seek revenge on the drug-dealers that are responsible for her sister’s addiction. She’s tough as nails and doesn’t hesitate to kill any bad guy that crosses her path.
So besides being a great piece of action cinema, we have Coffy to thank for spawning a string of similar female-led exploitation films and of course for inspiring Tarantino to make one of his nuanced films.
2. Band of Outsiders (1964)
Jean Luc-Godard’s Bandé a Part or Band of Outsiders is another film with a huge influence on Tarantino. He even named his production company A Band Apart in honor of the film. Besides this, the famous Pulp Fiction dance scene was partly inspired by the dance scene in Band of Outsiders, although it shares more similarities with Fellini’s 8½.
In this charming French new wave classic, the beautiful Odile, played by icon Anna Karina, tells film-loving friends Franz and Arthur of a big amount of cash stashed at the villa where she lives with her aunt. The three friends romanticize the idea of being outlaws and plan to steal the money.
Although Band of Outsiders is not Godard’s most popular film, it might be the most accessible. It has less experimentational aspects than other Godard films, but instead follows a little more straightforward path. This doesn’t mean it’s less of a masterpiece than any of his other works. The film has a bunch of scenes that are iconic (think of the minute of silence or the Louvre run) and inspired many filmmakers to this day.
3. Danger: Diabolik (1968)
When talking about Italian cinema of the 60’s, Sergio Leone is the first name mentioned. Although he is a well-known inspiration for Tarantino as well, the 60’s have a lot more to offer. Dario Argento is the most well-known name regarding Giallo, but Mario Bava must not be forgotten. Bava’s style has inspired many big names including Tarantino, Tim Burton, and Edgar Wright.
Diabolik is not Bava’s only cult movie that’s recommended by Tarantino. Kill Baby, Kill and Planet of the Vampires have been mentioned in interviews as well, but Diabolik is the most distinct one. It feels like a movie based on the best and most eccentric Bond villain that could ever exist. The movie is based on the Italian comic-series of the same name and follows the evil deeds of master thief Diabolik. Bava’s approach does the comics justice, with over the top schemes and equally over the top visuals. Upon release those visuals were called too unrealistic, but now they’re the main reason for the praise the movie gets and deserves.
4. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)
There had to be a cult revenge movie on this list and there were plenty of possible contenders to include here. Lady Snowblood, Last House on the Left, Dogville, and Audition are all highly spoken of by Tarantino, but Thriller: A Cruel Picture takes the crown. “The coolest actress in Sweden in the roughest revenge movie ever made” according to Tarantino. Thriller was once banned in its country of origin Sweden due to the excessiveness of it all, but since has gained a cult-following. The cult-following might have even started with Tarantino himself, whom later based the eye-patch-wearing Kill Bill character ‘Elle Driver’ on Thriller’s protagonist.
Christina Lindenberg, or the coolest actress in Sweden, plays Madeleine, a girl gone mute after being sexually assaulted as a child. If that wouldn’t be enough, when she’s older she’s kidnapped and forced into prostitution. Horror after horror comes upon this innocent girl, making it so satisfying when she finally decides to take revenge on all the ones that wronged her. A true gem of the revenge genre.
5. Hot Fuzz (2007)
For the cult-comedy entry in this list, Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz takes the crown over classics like Young Frankenstein, Bottle Rocket, and Airplane. The second installment in the ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ or ‘Cornetto’ trilogy must be the most popular film on this list, but the mutual respect between the two directors must be highlighted. After Tarantino (among many other great directors) showed his appreciation for Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, the two became friends and made good use of each other’s knowledge. From Wright directing a fake-trailer segment for Grindhouse, reading each other’s scripts, and a special thanks mention for Tarantino on Wright’s Baby Driver, to one special director’s commentary on the Hot Fuzz DVD.
In this fantastic action comedy, comedic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost portray a buddy cop duo investigating a series of mysterious deaths in the peaceful British village of Sandford. When watching the director’s commentary featuring Quentin Tarantino you won’t follow much of this plot, since you most likely will be in awe of the constant exchange of old and new movies between the two directors. With nearly 200 films mentioned during the 2-hour conversation it should be a mandatory watch in film school, since there is a lot to learn from two cine-buffs turned great directors talking about their passion.