Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction”
Notable Quotable: “ENGLISH, motherfucker, DO YOU SPEAK IT?”
Hitchcock had Tippi Hedren. Scorsese had De Niro. Tarantino’s muse is, fittingly, Samuel L. Jackson, the baddest muthafucka in film, who has played significant roles in six of his movies, including the latest, “The Hateful Eight.” Jackson’s career defining role was as Tarantino’s most memorable and quoted (by every drunk frat guy of the past 20 years) character — a righteous, bible-quoting, burger-eating hitman, who rocked the hardest jheri curl since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album cover. Bad motherfucker indeed.
Alabama Whitman in “True Romance”
Notable Quotable: "Do you like to eat pie after you’ve seen a good movie?"
Alabama is the modern equivalent of the female fantasy ideal...the hot girl who loves football and cooks a mean steak. Patricia Arquette’s Alabama is a manic pixie, ride or die chick with a heart of gold and crooked teeth, whose down with neon bras, leopard print and a kung-fu watching, Elvis-loving man-child (clearly Tarantino’s avatar) in Christian Slater form. This is less a true romance than a wet dream captured on celluloid, but it works because of Alabama’s hopeless romanticism and commitment to her man. Slater’s self-centered, Clarence might be “so cool,” but it’s Alabama behind the wheel of the pink Cadillac, driving off into the sunset at the end of director Tony Scott’s exceptional Tarantino adaptation.
Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained”
Notable Quotable: “Gentleman, you had my curiosity…but now you have my attention.”
Django is the titled star and Christoph Waltz took home the Oscar, but it’s this curious, not-so southern gentleman with a thing for Mandingo fighting, outlandish suits and rum cocktails served in coconuts, that has our attention. The eccentric slave owner/pimp standing in Django’s way to reunite with his beloved Broomhilda, is a scumbag of the highest order, but DiCaprio plays him with such bravado and lust for (the good) life that the movie loses its steam after he’s taken out. Leo, who too-often chases that elusive Oscar like he does supermodels, is clearly having fun in his first truly villainous role and it shows in every delicious scene-chewing frame.
The Bride in “Kill Bill Vols. 1&2”
Notable Quotable: “Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you lost. They belong to me.”
Tarantino slices and dices the damsel in distress label into shreds with Beatrix Kiddo, aka The Bride, a scorned, samurai sword wielding, hit woman out to Kill Bill and his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. The Amazonian Uma Thurman is totally believable as The Black Mamba (Kobe co-opted the nickname in case you’re wondering), whose basic mission of revenge is a lot more complicated than Tarantino’s other similar-themed movies. Beatrix’s been betrayed by those closest to her, but doesn’t take it lying down, not even when she’s buried alive in a coffin. If that’s not enough for you to love, she’s a widowed, single mother, who drives a Pussy Wagon and takes out a Lucy Lui-led Yakuza clan in a Bruce Lee-inspired yellow-and-black track suit.
Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction”
Notable Quotable: “That's a pretty fucking good milkshake. I don't know if it's worth five dollars but it's pretty fucking good.”
Tarantino broke John Travolta out of B-movie jail, giving the OT Level 5 Scientologist his comeback role after QT mainstay, Michael Madsen, turned down this iconic part to be in “Wyatt Earp” (ouch). Vega is an aloof, heroin-addicted hitman, who does very bad things, but he’s instantly relatable, from being weirded out by the French’s penchant for mayonnaise to enjoying a good book while on the shitter. There’s a parallel thread running through every Travolta scene, a pathetic desperation in his hangdog blue eyes that wants to make his master (Tarantino) happy, especially when his boss’ moll (Mia Wallace) drags the reluctant Vega onto the dance floor. What should be caricature spoof turns into a second-career defining moment for Travolta under Tarantino’s Oscar-nominated direction.
Winston Wolf in “Pulp Fiction”
Notable Quotable: “I’m Winston Wolf…I solve problems.”
In a filmography full of scene-stealing cameos, Harvey Keitel earns top billing with his no-nonsense portrayal of fixer Winston Wolf. Although he’s got less than 15 minutes of screen time he owns every second, barking out orders, busting balls, drinking coffee and “cleaning” up Jules and Vincent’s hair-brained mistake, all while rocking a tux in the early AM. Thank god Jimmy had the good coffee.
Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs”
Notable Quotable: “Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. Pussy. How 'bout if I'm Mr. Purple? That sounds good to me. I'll be Mr. Purple.”
Originally written by Tarantino to be played by himself, Mr. Pink, is a man who tells it like it is. Like many of QT’s best characters, he’s walking, talking ID, who spits fire, sparking conflict over his no tip policy, hatred for the color pink and conspiracy theory when the pitch black comedy’s diamond heist turns into an ear-amputating dumpster fire. The nameless motormouth has become the DB Cooper of movie lore since his fate was never revealed after he was the lone survivor of the warehouse shootout in the movie’s bloody climax. Here’s hoping that his appearance as a waiter at Jack Rabbit Slim’s in “Pulp Fiction” was his ironic fate.
Colonel Hans Landa in “Inglorious Bastards”
Notable Quotables: “I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”
Tarantino is best known for resurrecting the careers of once famous faces from his favorite movies, but he’s also discovered a host of unknowns that he’s not afraid to put in prominent roles. Tarantino has said that for this diabolical Nazi he had originally wanted Leonardo DiCaprio for the part, but eventually went with the then obscure Waltz, who would go onto win his first Oscar for this breakout performance. Landa is a classic “love to hate” Tarantino bad guy. More ambitious opportunist than stereotypical Nazi sociopath, Waltz plays him as an SS Sherlock Holmes, whose charmingly cerebral and relentless ruthless, breaking down people with goofy charm, fake smiles and cordial conversation to eventually get what he wants, which incidentally includes a foot fetish scene with a German starlet.