Angela’s Top 5 Quentin Tarantino Soundtracks

Written by Angela September 10, 2013

QT Soundtracks

When anyone sits down to watch a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, they’ll most likely know what they’re in for: violence, tense dialogues, lovable heroes seeking to even out a score, and of course, a soundtrack full of groovy tunes. Since Tarantino’s soundtracks are as carefully compiled as the cast of his films, the music in his movies plays a large part in moving along the storyline and keeping the audience’s attention during those famously uncomfortable silences. Here is my Top 5 list of Quentin Tarantino Soundtracks.

5.“Jackie Brown” (1997)

Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” fits the theme of “Jackie Brown” like a glove. The song is a highly appropriate and affectionate reference to both the personal struggles of Jackie Brown and the 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name, a pinnacle work in the genre from which Tarantino drew his inspiration. Amongst other tracks, Pam Grier’s “Long Time Woman” and The Delfonics “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” impart the film’s deeper emotions, background, and social context.

4.“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

Ever since the screening of Tarantino’s debut film, Stealers Wheel’s 1972 song “Stuck in the Middle with You” has never been listened to the same way. Even though “Reservoir Dogs” shocked festival audiences with its extreme violence (for the time), the film’s soundtrack includes some of the cheeriest songs of the 60s and 70s, such as Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex. This juxtaposition of visual and auditory tones prepared audiences for what was to come from Tarantino in future years, but in the meantime Stephen Wright’s deadpan performance as K-Billy the DJ was there to guide them through one of the most jarring movie experiences of the twentieth century.

3. “Django Unchained” (2012)

Once more, Tarantino borrows the theme song from an obscure cult classic to open his own film, in this case 1966’s Italian Western “Django.” In fact, a large part of this particular soundtrack is pastiche in its style. A number of songs are taken from older Westerns and action movies, perhaps with the intent of encouraging younger audiences to take a lesson in film history. A few tracks composed just for the film include “Who Did That to You?” by John Legend, “100 Black Coffins” by Rick Ross featuring Jamie Foxx, and my own favourite, “Untouchable,” a James Brown and 2Pac track sampled with Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz dialogue. The soundtrack’s mixture of past and present is hugely supportive of the film’s tone, conveying a sense of the subject matter’s historicity blended with a modern tinge of compunction.

2. “Kill Bill, Volumes 1&2” (2003, 2004)

Nancy Sinatra! RZA! Meiko Kaji! The Green Hornet Theme Song! All these and more are paired with Tarantino’s visual candy buffet of kung fu, gore, neon lights and revenge. “Kill Bill” is his most playful, epic and colourful flick, which means this soundtrack is, too. The famous theme song which O-Ren and her gang struts to in Volume 1 is often mistaken for a Wu-Tang piece, so I’ll set the record straight: The song is titled “Battle Without Honour or Humanity,” and it was composed by Tomoyasu Hotei. After being featured in “Kill Bill,” the song has been used in numerous film and television sequences, all with the aim of recreating the scene in which it was first introduced to American audiences. Another song to pack equal punch is the 5.6.7.8’s cover of The Rock-A-Teen’s 1959 single “Woo-Hoo,” which went on to appear in an I-pod commercial, all the while promoting the fact that Japanese musicians can put on a hell of a show. Again, this Tarantino soundtrack boasts several songs borrowed from the genre he references, notably the finale music from the classic Western “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” (1966).

1. “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

“Pulp Fiction” entirely owes its cult status to its soundtrack. Sure, the characters are memorable and the storylines are entertaining, but the movie just wouldn’t be the same without Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega dancing to Chuck Berry in Jack Rabbit Slim’s twist contest, or the sound of The Revels during the fantastically horrid gimp scene. And has there ever been an introduction of a female lead quite like the one of Mia Wallace snorting cocaine as she listens to Dusty Springfield? On a personal note, I must say I owe my love of surf rock to “Pulp Fiction,” thanks to its use of The Tornadoes, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, and The Lively Ones. This is the magnum opus of Quentin Tarantino soundtracks, proving that good music is one of the most integral elements to making a great film.

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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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