MOTW: Why "Pulp Fiction" is One of Quentin Tarantino's Greatest Films

Photo Credit: Miramax Films
August 19th, 2013

MOTW: Why "Pulp Fiction" Will Always Be One of Quentin Tarantino's Greatest Films

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino burst onto the movie scene in 1992 with the dark and occasionally funny "Reservoir Dogs," which was unlike anything else in movie theaters at the time. It became a cult hit that gave Tarantino just enough clout to spend a little more money and make the superb "Pulp Fiction" in 1994. A lot of landmark films aren't recognized as such when they first come out, but pretty much everyone who saw the wildly original "Pulp Fiction" knew right away that it would be one for the movie history vaults. Though some would argue that "Inglorious Basterds" or even "Django Unchained" are better films, nobody can deny that "Pulp Fiction" will always be one of Tarantino's greatest, and here are the reasons why.

The Quotable Script

Tarantino is a master of words, and every single one of his movies has several quotable lines that fans can recite by heart. Of the director's seven films (not counting "Grindhouse" or "Four Rooms," since he directed only one segment of each), "Pulp Fiction" is inarguably the most quotable. Think of how many people have probably gone into a McDonald's and asked for a "Royale with Cheese" rather than a Quarter Pounder. Don't forget Jules's (Samuel L. Jackson) epic speech that starts with a biblical quote and ends in a hail of gunfire. This is just the tip of the "Pulp Fiction" quote iceberg, since there is really barely a scene that doesn't have at least one memorable line.

The Influence

"Pulp Fiction" is a movie that viewers must pay close attention to because it can get confusing if they are distracted. The film jumps back and forth through its timeline so that different stories are told without completely revealing how all of the story arcs are connected right away. This leads to a series of increasingly exciting reveals that show just how familiar some of these characters are with each other. This fragmented timeline approach to filmmaking has since been copied by dozens of directors who hope to capture some of the untamed spirit of "Pulp Fiction." Its influence can be seen across a wide variety of genres now, including several television shows.

The Shocking Moments

Tarantino films are not lacking in the shock department at all. In "Kill Bill Vol. I," Uma Thurman uses a katana to slice off the top of Lucy Liu's head. She also manages to take out a small regiment's worth of assassins using the same sword with plenty of exaggerated blood spray. "Inglorious Basterds" had more than one scalping, and "Reservoir Dogs" had a decidedly unsanitary ear amputation. No matter how much these scenes might have wowed audiences, they just don't compare to some of the "Oh, snap!" moments in "Pulp Fiction."

Take, for example, the scene where Bruce Willis's boxer, Butch Coolidge, walks into a basement to find baddie Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) in a very compromising position. There's also the moment that Vincent Vega (John Travolta) tries to revive an overdosing Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) by shooting adrenaline straight into her heart, causing her to wake up with a giant needle sticking out of her chest. These are just two examples of the many scenes in "Pulp Fiction" where characters are put in situations that shock not only them but the audience as well. The best part is that none of these scenes is played just for the shocks, because each of the jolts actually adds to the film and in some cases advances the plot.

John Travolta Dances Again

When "Pulp Fiction" came out in 1994, John Travolta's career had seen much better days, and it had been years since his disco-dancing heyday in films such as "Saturday Night Fever." Tarantino was still a huge fan of his and gave him the plum role of Vincent Vega out of respect and because he knew the grizzled veteran could do it. Not only did Travolta knock the role out of the park, but he and Tarantino also revived his career in a way that nobody could have possibly seen coming. Since then, Travolta has become a bona fide movie star again, starring in hits such as "Face/Off" and "Swordfish," to name just a few. It's rare for an actor to get a second chance as Travolta did, and it is even rarer for him to take such great advantage of it. The fact that Travolta's career got a second lease on life is one of the most satisfying parts about "Pulp Fiction," a satisfying movie that will always be among Tarantino's best.