The Tarantino Universe John Doe Dead Meter Death has no limits

The mastermind behind some of the best action films of the 21st century needs no explanation. Quentin Tarantino has etched out a whole cult-following where he is worshipped as their prodigious prophet, his film’s highly graphic and violent scenes interspersed within engaging novel storylines toted as their bible, and scores of threads in YouTube comments and Reddit forums as hymns of praise for the director’s creations. Sadly, with reports of this esteemed filmmaker confirming his directorial retirement after finishing his tenth film, Tarantinerds are mourning the imminent loss of their leader – which could be anytime within the next five years.

But let’s be honest: we’re probably going to be seeing more of the man himself in screenwriting credits, or maybe even appearing in a cameo like he did in Inglorious Basterds as a “scalped Nazi”, as he was credited on IMDb (which specific scalped Nazi – that’s the question). To honour his monumental contribution of unbridled savagery to the cinematic world, here’s a breakdown of all the people in his movies who have died on-screen – a John Doe Dead Meter for each of his eight films. To those just getting in to his masterpieces: spoiler alert.


Reservoir Dogs (1992) – Dead Does: 13

A diamond heist gone terribly wrong.

So wrong that the only person who benefited out of the whole thing was Steve Buscemi[1], and that’s saying a lot considering his characters are infamously killed in almost every action-thriller movie he makes. But we have to give props to The Tarantino for his stunning directorial debut piece – and introducing us to savvy suited-up criminals, iconic car-trunk POVs, non-linear storylines and of course, gory death scenes as controversial as “blackface”.

Pulp Fiction (1994) – Dead Does: 7

The film that propelled him into the Director’s Hall of Fame.

A tribute to the colourful characters and storylines of pulp magazines from the 70s, this haphazard story that ends up coming full circle was awarded the Palme d’Or in Cannes[2], won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, and has been officially preserved in the US National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” If awards aren’t enough for you, you have to admit that this brain-bursting scene was iconic – directorial genius Tarantino’s creative juices do indeed contain pulp.

Jackie Brown (1997) – Dead Does: 4

Probably his least known film, after Death Proof.

Also the least number of deaths portrayed on-screen, but that doesn’t mean this movie compromises on suspense and debauchery. With Pam Grier making a comeback as a ballsy bad-ass money-smuggling triple-crossing air-stewardess, Jackie Brown serves up an impressive two hours of scheming, negotiating and nerves, with seamless cinematography to match – which begs the question:why isn’t Samuel L. Jackson’s perfect impression of a car unlocking more viral?[3]

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004) –  Dead Does: Vol. 1 – 71, Vol. 2 – 4. Total 75

The film that everyone remembers Tarantino for.

This two-part saga is Tarantino’s tribute to grindhouse cinema, a genre that he revisits in his next movie. While the movie’s highly exaggerated plot and poor casting decisions was just outright nasty (they could find a Japanese-speaking French lady, but couldn’t cast a Japanese-speaking Japanese to play a Japanese mob boss!?), these errs are somewhat eclipsed by the brilliant character aesthetics and the what-you-see-is-what-you-get driven revenge plot, its storyline driven entirely by the desire for vengeance, from the film’s title to the end credits. Also, who doesn’t love a really good fight scene?

Death Proof (2007) – Dead Does: 6

One of the most underrated Tarantino films.

Part of a double bill collaboration with Robert Rodriguez known collectively as Grindhouse, Tarantino’s indulgence in creating this exploitation film is a blood diamond for those who love B-movies with an unexpected plot twist. Throw in renowned stunt woman Zoë Bell’s “Ship Mast” stunt and the climactic car chase ending and you have a film that’s bad-proof.

Inglorioust Basterds (2009) – Dead Does: 412

That movie about killing Hitler.

There are a slew of gratuitous torture and murder scenes in this one, all involving the death of Nazis. From scalping their skulls to blowing up an entire theatre hall of them, this film where Hitler’s body is used as short-range target practice not only reimagines history dramatically, but also employs a strong female character to plan and execute the sensational ending sequence. The final frame memorialises a martyr burning at the stake while dragging her persecutors down with her – a classic example of visual perfection.

Django Unchained (2012) – Dead Does: 64 and 1 horse

Tarantino’s first foray into the Western that was an instant success.

A wild ride from start to finish (literally), we live the rage and wreakage of a black slave on an unfair society through Django, our outstanding young hero of this film. Tarantino introduces us to both the cruel life of a black slave and the eccentricities of his white superiors, from the latter’s brutal Mandingo fighting to their equally savage deaths at the hands of our legendary hero. Even with such a heavy theme on his shoulders, Tarantino still manages to poke fun at the KKK in a scene à la Mel Gibson’s mockery of the Klan in Blazing Saddles[4].

Hateful Eight (2015) – Dead Does: 20

The film where everyone dies.

This Agatha Christie-esque mystery envisioned in a post-Thirteenth Amendment America ingeniously sets up a manipulative tale of unreliable narrators where they all die by the end of the story. True to Tarantino’s style, this film spares no expense at censoring graphic death scenes and crazy plot turns, leaving you thinking “what?!” at every act.

[1] Yup, that’s him at the end of the clip walking away unscathed – one of the few movies where his character actually survives

[2] Fancy French term for “Golden Palm”, which is apparently the most prestigious award you can get in the Cannes Film Festival

[3] Go to 3:39 here to hear Samuel L. Jackson do that and then continue watching to hear how the car actually sounds like. You’re welcome.

[4] This clip teaches us that Klan members either hate their enemies so much that they are oblivious to gullible trickery or simply do not possess any wits.

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