Love him or hate him, what Quentin Tarantino has achieved over his more than 30 years of filmmaking is inarguably impressive. Not only is the “Reservoir Dogs” writer/director a renowned auteur — nominated three times for the Best Director Oscar with two Best Original Screenplay wins for “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained” — Tarantino is also a well-versed film critic whose encyclopedic knowledge of other artists’ filmographies precedes him.
Living in Los Angeles, the “Pulp Fiction” director famously began his journey to cinematic rock star status as an employee at the Video Archives rental store in Manhattan Beach: since closed, rebuilt in Tarantino’s basement, and turned into a podcast he hosts with longtime friend and collaborator Roger Avary. It was in the bygone era of rewindable tapes that Tarantino cut his critical teeth: combing through the store’s collection, full of everything from black-and-white classics to straight-to-TV sci-fi specials.
A famed borrower (or appropriator, depending on your viewpoint), Tarantino pulls liberally from the movies he likes to inspire his work; see the Blaxploitation tropes in “Jackie Brown” and the samurai films channeled in the “Kill Bill” duology. The writer/director’s favorites are well-documented for this reason. IndieWire previously rounded up dozens of the filmmaker’s go-to recommendations, from John Carpenter’s “The Thing” to Brian De Palma’s “Blowout.”
Though he’s shared fewer of them, the movies Tarantino doesn’t like have also piqued audience interest. Over the years, the cinephile has lambasted a wide array of esteemed competing directors, including John Ford (Tarantino dubbed his westerns “overrated”) and Stanley Kubrick (whom Tarantino has said is a “hypocrite” for his stance on depicting violence). Last summer on his podcast, Tarantino even called Ed Wood and François Truffaut “bumbling amateurs.”
Tarantino tends to speak about film history and trends in general terms, so it’s less common for him to name specific titles he didn’t enjoy. But when he does, the “Cinema Speculation” author really lets it fly.
Compiled from interviews and news stories throughout Tarantino’s career, the following list contains 21 films the writer/director reportedly does not recommend: be it because he considers the films themselves to be bad or because the circumstances surrounding their releases left Tarantino feeling sour. Featuring a notable number of sequels — and a couple of fringe cases Tarantino didn’t wholesale dismiss, but only liked parts of — the following selections are listed in no particular order. They range from Sam Mendes’ Academy Award winner “1917” to action blockbusters like the Charlize Theron-starring “Atomic Blonde” to classic comedies such as Ivan Reitman’s “Stripes” and the Alfred Hitchcock flick “Frenzy.”
Tarantino dedicates a full chapter of “Cinema Speculation” to Brian De Palma’s 1972 psychological thriller “Sisters.” He compares De Palma to numerous contemporary filmmakers in his analysis, taking a snide swipe at Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”: a crime thriller starring Jon Finch also from 1972.
“While De Palma liked making thrillers (for a little while, at least), I doubt he loved watching them,” Tarantino said. “Hitchcockian thrillers were for him a means to an end. That’s why when he was forced to return to the genre in the mid-eighties, they were so lackluster. Ultimately he resented having to make them and was bored with the form. Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy’ might be a piece of crap, but I doubt Alfred was bored making it.”
Reflecting on theater outings that impacted his childhood for “Cinema Speculation,” Tarantino recalled a double-feature his parents, uncle, and babysitter once attended as a double date. He slams two Robert Altman movies along the way.
“The evening was not a success,” Tarantino said. “Not only did they not like the two movies, my stepfather and uncle proceeded to bitch about them for days after. ‘Brewster’ McCloud is one of the worst movies to ever carry a studio logo, and that’s fully acknowledging Altman also made ‘Quintet’ for a studio as well. ‘Quintet’ is just terrible, boring, and pointless.”
“Brewster McCloud” (1970)
In the same passage from “Cinema Speculation,” Tarantino continues, “But ‘Brewster McCloud’ is the cinematic equivalent of a bird shitting on your head. Nevertheless, it’s kind of amusing imagining my parents, and my young uncle, and my seventeen-year-old babysitter buying a ticket to ‘Brewster McCloud’ and expecting to see a real movie.”
“The 400 Blows” (1959)
As revealed on the Video Archives podcast, Tarantino isn’t a fan of François Truffaut. The French New Wave director came up during a discussion of his contemporary Claude Chabrol (in an episode from August 2022).
“[Chabrol’s] thrillers are drastically better than the abysmal Truffaut-Hitchcock movies, which I think are just awful,” Tarantino said. “I’m not a Truffaut fan that much anyway. There are some exceptions, the main one being ‘The Story of Adele H.’ But for the most part, I feel about Truffaut like I feel about Ed Wood. I think he’s a very passionate, bumbling amateur.”
Tarantino’s distaste for Truffaut is reinforced by the novelization of his ninth film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Although Tarantino has said hero Cliff Booth’s film opinions are not necessarily reflective of his own, one passage seems to reflect the director-turned-narrator’s sincere feelings.
“He tried Truffaut twice, but he didn’t respond to him,” Tarantino wrote in the novel. “Not because the films were boring (they were), but that wasn’t the only reason Cliff didn’t respond. The first two films he watched (in a Truffaut double feature) just didn’t grab him. The first film, ‘The 400 Blows,’ left him cold. He really didn’t understand why that little boy did half the shit he did.”
“Jules and Jim” (1962)
In addition to slamming “The 400 Blows,” Cliff Booth takes a hard stance on “Jules and Jim”: Truffaut’s 1962 romantic tragedy set against World War I, starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, and Henri Serre. “He thought the mopey dopes in ‘Jules and Jim’ were a fucking drag,” Tarantino wrote in the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” novel.
“Pulp Fiction” fans have suggested that Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules and Tarantino’s cameo character Jimmy are references to Truffaut’s work. Tarantino has not confirmed this.
Appearing alongside Judd Apatow on the podcast “Club Random with Bill Maher,” Tarantino criticized Sam Mendes’ World War I epic “1917.” It competed against “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” during the 2019 awards season, a fact Tarantino was quick to point out when Maher said the film ought to have “won all the awards.”
“You’re too impressed by that!” Tarantino remarked of Maher’s effusive compliments on Mendes’ use of one-shot takes. Tarantino argued the film used too many invisible cuts that should have instead been consolidated. “I’m not saying they do a bad job of that… But if you’re going to do it, really fucking do it. Go 15 minutes per fucking take.”
He continued, “I actually liked the movie, but my friend brought something up, and oh my god, once he brought it up I couldn’t unhear it. He was complaining about it because he felt it played too much like a video game. Now, I don’t play video games, so I don’t feel that per se. So [watching the film], I’m actually thinking it feels more innovative than maybe someone who plays video games does. But the person I was speaking to said, ‘It’s ‘Wolfenstein’ the movie.'”
“There’s this famous Nazi-werewolf game called ‘Wolfenstein,'” Tarantino laughed. “It’s like ‘Wolfenstein’ the movie, but I’d like it better if it was ‘Wolfenstein’ the movie.”
“Atomic Blonde” (2017)
While (negatively) reviewing “1917” on Bill Maher’s podcast in December 2022, Tarantino also took aim at the Charlize Theron-starring action flick “Atomic Blonde.”
“When I’m watching like the long fight in ‘Atomic Blonde,’ I’m like, ‘God. This is amazing! This is fucking amazing! OK… wait a minute, no,” he said. “‘The shot took a shit. The shot’s not going on this long, it took a shit.’ So it’s all tainted. It’s all tainted. Because obviously, they didn’t carry it through.”
“Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” (1992)
In a 1992 interview for LA Weekly (h/t Far Out), Tarantino spoke about maintaing a balanced relationship with studios. He cautioned against cozying up to big companies, but added: “If all you do is these little art films for 10 years for a million or two dollars, you’re going to climb up your own ass.”
He contined: “I’m not ragging on other people, but after I saw ‘Twin Peaks — Fire Walk With Me’ at Cannes, David Lynch has disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different. And you know, I loved him. I loved him.”
“Natural Born Killers” (1994)
Though Tarantino wrote the script for Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” (an infamously dicey situation that left bad feelings on a few fronts), he still hasn’t be able to watch the movie from start to end. The screenwriter has lamented that Stone fundamentally misunderstood his story, rewriting portions that made the film’s characters unbelievable to Tarantino.
“One of the things about that script, in particular, was that I was trying to make it on the page,” he said on The Moment podcast in 2021 (h/t Slash Film). “So when you read it, you saw the movie. And it’s like why didn’t [Stone] do at least half of that? It was done for him!”
Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher-turned-horror juggernaut “Scream” was and is widely regarded as one of the best scary movies ever made. And yet, Tarantino once argued the classic, starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette, didn’t go far enough.
“I actually didn’t care for Wes Craven’s direction of it,” the filmmaker told Vulture in 2015. “I thought he was the iron chain attached to its ankle that kept it earthbound and stopped it from going to the Moon.”
“The Town” (2010)
Ben Affleck’s 2010 crime thriller is something of an outlier on this list, considering Tarantino specifically said he liked the film. But in a 2015 interview with Vulture (the same one in which he discussed “Scream”), the writer/director aired a specific complaint he had with the film’s “phony” casting.
“‘The Fighter’ had impeccable casting,” he said. “As an example, I really liked ‘The Town,’ which also came out in 2010. It was a good crime film. However, next to ‘The Fighter’, it just couldn’t hold up, because everybody in ‘The Town’ is beyond gorgeous. Ben Affleck is the one who gets away with it, because his Boston accent is so good. But the crook is absolutely gorgeous. The bank teller is absolutely gorgeous…Jeremy Renner is the least gorgeous guy, and he’s pretty fucking good-looking. Then, if you look at ‘The Fighter,’ and you look at those sisters, they’re just so magnificent. When you see David O. Russell cast those sisters, and you see Ben Affleck cast Blake Lively, you can’t compare the two movies. One just shows how phony the other is.”
Christopher Nolan’s time-traveling, sci-fi thriller was called a “humorless disappointment” by Mike McCahill in IndieWire’s review. Less pointed with his take (though perhaps that’s even more telling), Tarantino admitted during a podcast appearance in 2020 (h/t Slash Film) that he was utterly baffled by Nolan’s latest. “I think I need to see it again,” the filmmaker laughed.
Bill Murray may have been a major box office draw in the ’80s and ’90s, but there’s at least one notable audience member he routinely failed to win over.
In “Cinema Speculation,” Tarantino writes about the frustration he has with Murray’s feel-good films from that era: “Complex characters aren’t necessarily sympathetic. Interesting people aren’t always likable. But in the Hollywood of the eighties, likability was everything.”
He continued: “If you did make a movie about a fucking bastard, you could bet that fucking bastard would see the error of their ways and be redeemed in the last twenty minutes. Like for example, all of Bill Murray’s characters.”
Tarantino called out three films specifically; first, Ivan Reitman’s “Stripes.”
“How does Murray in ‘Stripes’ go from being an iconoclastic pain in the ass, who deserves to get beat up by Drill Sergeant Warren Oates, to rallying the troops (‘That’s the fact, Jack!’), and masterminding a covert mission on foreign soil?” he complained. “And ‘Stripes’ was one of the hip movies.”
Continuing with his complaints about Bill Murray protagonists from the ’80s, Tarantino writes in “Cinema Speculation”: “Film critics always preferred Bill Murray to Chevy Chase. Yet, more often than not, Chase remained the same sarcastic aloof asshole at the film’s end he was at the beginning. Or at least his conversion wasn’t the whole point of the movie as it was in ‘Scrooged’ and ‘Groundhog Day.'”
“Groundhog Day” (1993)
Tarantino finishes his Murray comments for “Cinema Speculation,” writing: “Admittedly, when you don’t give a fuck about other people’s feelings, it probably does wonders for your caustic wit. But I’ve always rejected the idea that Bill Murray’s characters needed redemption. Yeah, maybe he charmed Andie MacDowell [in ‘Groundhog Day’], but does anybody think a less sarcastic Bill Murray is a better Bill Murray?”
“The Hunger Games” (2012)
Tarantino famously loves Kinji Fukasaku’s dystopian thriller “Battle Royale,” having repeatedly listed it among his all-time favorite films. It’s no wonder then that the writer/director took a little ire with the remarkably similar “Hunger Games” franchise.
“I’m a big fan of the Japanese movie ‘Battle Royale,’ which is what ‘Hunger Games’ was based on,” Tarantino explained in a 2022 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “Well, ‘Hunger Games’ just ripped it off. That would have been awesome to have directed ‘Battle Royale.’”
“Halloween II” (1981)
“The sequels were horrible,” Tarantino complained of John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ franchise in a 2019 Consequence of Sound interview. “They’re like fruit from a poison tree because Laurie is not the brother of the Shape.”
Criticizing the “Halloween II” twist that reveals Michael and Laurie are related, Tarantino said: “It’s horrible that it does that. There’s something far more scary that he’s going through Haddonfield and it’s just her…I think they just yanked some idea out of their ass, alright, and they just talked themselves into ‘Hey, well, this is why…’ and now part two has a reason.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-present)
Joining in Martin Scorsese’s crusade to save cinema, Tarantino recently charged Marvel with the (metaphoric) death of the movie star, though he hedged his comments considerably more than his contemporay.
“Part of the Marvel-ization of Hollywood is…you have all these actors who have become famous playing these characters,” Tarantino said in an appearance on the “2 Bears, 1 Cave” podcast. “But they’re not movie stars, right? Captain America is the star. Or Thor is the star. I mean, I’m not the first person to say that. I think that’s been said a zillion times…but it’s like, you know, it’s these franchise characters that become a star.”
He said of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films: “I don’t love them. No, I don’t. I don’t hate them, alright? But I don’t love them. Right. I mean, look, I used to collect Marvel comics like crazy when I was a kid. There’s an aspect that if these movies were coming out when I was in my twenties, I would totally be fucking happy and totally love them. I mean, they wouldn’t be the only movies being made. They would be those movies amongst other movies. But, you know, I’m almost 60, so yeah. No, I’m not quite as excited about them.”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Episode VII” (2015)
There’s a decent chance Tarantino hasn’t seen “The Force Awakens,” and with good reason. First, the director is a famed “Star Trek” guy. Second, he infamously sparred with Disney in December 2015 when a dispute over theater availability pitted “The Hateful Eight” against the sci-fi sequel from J.J. Abrams.
“They’ve got the biggest movie in the world. We’re talking about one effing theater,” Tarantino told Howard Stern of the studio’s notoriously heavy-handed approach to securing the Cinerama Dome for “Star Wars” screenings. “It’s vindictive, it’s mean, and it’s extortion. They literally threatened the ArcLight to do this.”
“The Matrix Reloaded” (2003)
Few would deny the Wachowskis’ “The Matrix” is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made. But for Tarantino, the pair of convoluted sequels to follow — “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” — were less than impressive.
“That was the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” Tarantino said to Vulture in 2015, regarding the box office battle between “The Matrix Reloaded” and the first “Kill Bill.” “I saw ‘Matrix Reloaded’ at the Chinese Theatre the day it opened, and I walked out of the cinema singing that Jay-Z song [“S. Carter.”] I was like, ‘Bring it the fuck on. I was worried about that?’”
“The Matrix Revolutions” (2003)
In a 2009 interview with Sky Movies, Tarantino spoke about his 20 favorite films and called out “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” for losing “The Matrix” its previously high ranking on his list. (He instead listed the sci-fi classic at number 14, per the interview.)
“There was a time actually that I would have considered ‘Matrix’ the official number two after ‘Battle Royale,'” Tarantino said. “However, I have to say that time was before ‘Matrix 2’ and ‘3’ came out and actually ruined the mythology for me. But even though it did ruin the mythology for me and actually moved the original ‘Matrix’ down on my list — frankly, I just can’t think about it the same way I did before — it didn’t obliterate it entirely.”
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