Quentin Tarantino is one of the most recognizable names out there, not only thanks to his acclaimed films, but also because of his eccentric personality and his incredible film knowledge. It’s well known that he loves to pay homage to obscure films he watched as a child or during his times working at Video Archives.
He’s a probably a cinephile first and a director second, so it’s no surprise that in most of his interviews he slips in a reference to some odd film he loves for some odd reason. When scouring through all these interviews on YouTube you will find enough great recommendations to keep you busy for years, but with this list we’ll shine a light on some of the best ones; specifically, some of the best ones in the thriller genre. Here are 10 thrillers recommended by Tarantino:
1. Ms .45 (1981)
With gritty films like Ms .45, Bad lieutenant, King of New York, and New Rose Hotel, Abel Ferrara made a name for himself as a master of neo-noir. His stylish approach to often provocative subjects launched many of his films to cult status.
Ms .45 is no exception to Ferrara’s brand, this time dealing with the rape revenge genre. Thana (Zoë Lund) is a shy, mute seamstress working in New York. She goes into a state of shock and insanity when one day after work she gets raped twice in one evening. After this traumatic experience all men seem like a thread to her, so with her .45 she starts a killing spree of vengeance, roaming the streets of New York at night.
Abel Ferrara takes a lot of inspiration out of the work from other New York filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese. References to Taxi Driver are noticeable for example, but besides this, one of the films that inspired Ms .45 is Thriller: A Cruel Picture. Next to Ms .45, Thriller is also a well-known favorite of Tarantino, with both movies having their influence on his film Death Proof. For fans of Death Proof, watching these two female-driven revenge stories is highly recommended.
2. Joint Security Area (2000)
Tarantino is a vocal fan of Asian cinema. A lot of Hong Kong- and Japanese inspired action is visible in his Kill Bill movies and his love for Korean thrillers can be noticed throughout his filmography. Joint Security Area is one of these Korean thrillers he has praised. In 2009 he even put it in his list of 20 best movies since 1992; the beginning of his career.
The film revolves around a shooting that happened at the North-South Korean border. Two North Korean soldiers have been shot to dead, but the number of bullets at the crime scene don’t add up to the amount left in the gun used. To keep the peace, a Swiss/Swedish team is assigned to investigate the murders.
With his numerous hits, including Oldboy, the Handmaiden, Stoker, and a bunch more, Park Chan-wook is one of the most talented Korean, if not world-wide, directors out there, so it’s no surprise that Joint Security Area is not the only of his thrillers that Tarantino recommends. As the head of the jury of the 2004 Cannes festival he vouched for Oldboy to win the Palme d’Or but eventually Fahrenheit 9/11 took the honor. Since Oldboy is so universally loved already this spot in the list is reserved for a film that still deserves more praise.
3. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
In New York four armed men hijack a subway car and take its passengers as hostages. The men demand 1 million Dollars within one hour and threaten to kill a passenger for every minute late. They communicate over the radio with transit police lieutenant Garber (Walter Matthau). Garber is determined to bring the situation to a peaceful end and detain the four men in the process.
The armed men have the code names Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Brown. Unsurprisingly, according to Tarantino, the similar color code names in Reservoir Dogs are an homage to The Taking of Pelham 123. The film was not only received well by Tarantino, but by the general public as well and even spawned two remakes, although the accurate portrayal of New Yorkers and the realistic, yet humoristic approach to the subject matter has generated this original film the biggest fanbase. Most of this praise stemmed from the screenplay, even though this screenplay is an adaptation of Morton Freedgood’s novel of the same name. Besides being a well-written thriller, the score alone makes the watch worthwhile. In short; there’s enough to admire while watching this one.
4. Dead of Night (1945)
Dead of Night is one of the earliest horror anthology films made and it might also be one of the best ones. In a house he’s never been before, with six people he’s never seen before, architect Walter Craig explains these six strangers how he has dreamed about them in this moment countless times. While his recurring dream is slowly becoming reality, the strangers take turns in telling their experiences with the supernatural.
It’s these supernatural tales that make up for the anthology part of the film. Charles Crichton and Robert Hamer each directed one of the flashback segments, while Alberto Cavalcanti directed two and Basil Dearden directed one and the overarching story. Arguably that overarching story is the best one, since it does such a great job at connecting all the short segments.
Though the real star of the film has to be the last short segment called ‘The Ventriloquist’s Dummy.’ It’s the short the film is best remembered and praised for, also by Tarantino whom called it “the greatest of all ventriloquist dummy movies” in the Hot Fuzz director’s commentary featuring Edgar Wright and Tarantino.
Besides the ventriloquist dummy segment, the overall film is well-worth the watch thanks to its thrilling and comedic moments as well as being a little history lesson into British horror classics.
5. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
There are countless moments in Tarantino’s filmography that are homages to the Giallo genre. Especially Dario Argento’s work can be frequently seen in a Tarantino scene. The ‘photo snapping’ sequence in Death Proof is a direct recreation of the opening sequence of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and if that wouldn’t be enough; music from the movie is also playing over the recreated sequence.
Sam Dalmas, an American writer living a Rome, witnesses a mysterious figure attack a woman from behind the glass doors of an art gallery, powerless to stop it. As a witness he’s questioned by the police, but he can’t seem to recall every detail of the incident. He decides to start his own investigation, putting himself and his girlfriend in danger.
Dario Argento’s debut film is an impressive one to say the least. It helped popularize the Giallo genre, but more importantly; it was the beginning of a career that gave us many more thrilling gems. From the other two entries in the ‘Animal’ trilogy, to the ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy, to a lot more. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the start of it all and is still as impressive today as it was back then.