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Quentin Tarantino's Cinematic Soundtrack

Updated on February 28, 2015

In just 20 years, celebrated director Quentin Tarantino has directed several cult-classic films in the independent spirit full of rich dialogue, unflinching violence, and an homage to past genres. But a standout for Tarantino's films is his hand-picked soundtrack music choices. Along the lines of Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson, Tarantino would use his favorite songs to define scenes and structure the action and the dialogue. The following is a look back at some of his more memorable scenes using music as an instrumental (pun intended) backdrop to define its intentional impact.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

His directorial debut and an important film in the booming 1990s independent film scene, Tarantino's crime drama "Reservoir Dogs" opens with George Baker's "Little Green Bag," as the color-coded criminals walk in slow motion as the opening credits role.

The most infamous scene in "Reservoir Dogs" is the torture of the captured police officer by the sadistic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel is the up-beat 70s pop song played while Mr. Blonde chops off an ear off camera. He takes pleasure in his evilness but is thwarted by the wounded undercover cop posing as Mr. Orange (Tim Roth).

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Tarantino's Oscar-winning "Pulp Fiction is a celebration of the city of Los Angeles by chronicling a few days in its seedy crime world that makes the bad guys likable. The comeback of actor John Travolta and the film that made Samuel L. Jackson a badass, "Pulp Fiction" was filled with pop culture references aided by vintage 1960s surf rock music that set the tone.

Uma Thurman played Mrs. Mia Wallace, the untouchable wife of reputed gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Still, Marsellus asked Vincent Vega (Travolta) to take his wife out for company. The two dine at the 50s nostalgia trip Jack Rabbit Slims. Mia volunteers themselves for the night's dance contest despite Vincent's reluctance. Set to Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell," what follows is one of the most iconic (and imitated) dance numbers of the 90s.

Jackie Brown (1997)

After the success of "Pulp Fiction," Tarantino was in the position to make any type of film of his choosing. In 1997, he released his adaptation of "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard but with an African American female protagonist that honored the 1970s blaxpoitation genre. The opening sequence set to "Across 110th Street" by Bobby Womack sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Kill Bill (2003/2004)

Tarantino's two-volume "Kill Bill" epic tale of revenge relied heavily on different genres of music spanning the globe. From spaghetti-western styled tracks to Asian-influence compositions by Wu-Tang rapper RZA, the "Kill Bill" soundtrack is an eclectic mix. Yet, it's that distinct Mariachi sound that defines the film series. Mexican-American band Chingon (featuring Tarantino collaborator Robert Rodriguez) is a perfect fit for its blend of action and storytelling.


Death Proof (2007)

"Death Proof" was the second half of the under-grossing Grindhouse double feature. Like Tarantino's previous soundtrack of non-original music, "Death Proof featured vintage rock and R & B tracks. In the following scene, young gal Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) gives a lap dance to the serial killer 'Stuntman Mike' (Kurt Russell) to the Coaster's "Down in Mexico," unbeknownst his true intentions.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Tarantino's vision of World War II took the influential 'spaghetti-western' route, alternating history for a satisfying revenge tale of a Jewish troupe's bloody rampage against the Third Reich. Tarantino commissioned legendary film composer Ennio Morricone to score the film.

The following is a clip from a British entertainment show's interview with Tarantino about the musical choices in his films (taped circa 2007).

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