Quentin Tarantino‘s movies have no shortage of deadly characters. He’s at his best when telling stories about heroes dishing out righteous violence and villains who lack all morality. His most beloved creations include hitmen, gunslingers, flamethrower-wielding actors, and an angry woman with a samurai sword.
The most dangerous QT characters combine combat skill with ruthlessness, deception, and sangfroid. They are diverse in their personalities and motivations, but they have one thing in common: you don’t want to get on their bad side.
10/10 Fredrick Zoller (‘Inglourious Basterds’)
Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) is an expert marksman who single-handedly holds off an Allied assault. He becomes a war hero and is cast in a movie about his exploits. This might sound farfetched, but Tarantino actually based the character on the American soldier Audie Murphy, who also starred in a film about his own life.
Zoller might be a great soldier, but he’s also devious, selfish, and cruel. Not to mention, he has one of the highest kill counts in the Tarantinoverse. “How many did you kill?” Shoshanna asks him. “Sixty-eight, the first day. A hundred and fifty, the second day. Thirty-two, the third day,” Zoller replies. “On the fourth day, they exited the city.”
9/10 Ordell Robbie (‘Jackie Brown’)
“Here we go. AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherf—er in the room, accept no substitutes.” Ordell Robbie might be Samuel L. Jackson‘s most evil Tarantino character, and that’s saying a lot. He comes across as friendly, all smiles, but will happily plunge a knife into your back as soon as you no longer serve his purposes.
His cruelest act is the murder of his associate Beaumont (Chris Tucker). Suspecting that Beaumont will snitch to the feds, Ordell convinces him to hide in the trunk of his car. Beaumont is suspicious but ultimately trusts Ordell. Ordell then calmly fires two bullets into the trunk, in one of Tarantino’s most powerful long shots.
8/10 King Schultz (“Django Unchained’)
King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is one of QT’s most likable characters. He’s smart, funny, and has a good heart, evident in his distaste for slavery and fondness for Django (Jamie Foxx). But make no mistake, he’s a killer. Schultz is a great shot who dispatches his victims with clinical efficiency. Not to mention, he’s fearless, regularly facing off against foes with more guns and more men.
Schultz’s morals are also his undoing, however. He meets his end when he can no longer handle being antagonized by the venal Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). “I’m sorry,” he tells Django after putting a bullet in Candie’s heart. “I couldn’t resist.”
7/10 Cliff Booth (‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’)
According to Tarantino, stuntman and former soldier Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is “one of the deadliest guys alive.” He’s past his prime when we meet him Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but still a force to be reckoned with. He holds his own against Bruce Lee, knocks down one of the insufferable hippies at Spahn ranch, and wrecks the Manson killers while tripping on acid and armed only with a tin of dog food.
QT explores Cliff’s backstory in more depth in the film’s novelization, including his experiences in World War II. It would be great to one day get a show or movie about Cliff on the front line. If he can wreak havoc with dog food, imagine what we could do with some real firepower…
6/10 Jules Winnfield & Vincent Vega (‘Pulp Fiction’)
“We should’ve brought shotguns.” Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) are probably Tarantino’s most iconic characters. These suit-wearing, movie-referencing hit men are practically synonymous with ’90s cinema. They’re both eccentric and frequently hilarious, but they’re also devastating killers with a cavalier attitude toward death.
Vincent barely flinches when he accidentally shoots Marvin (Phil LaMarr) in the face, and Jules faces off against Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) with icy calm. They have great synergy too, seeming almost to read each others’ minds. Singly, they might be vulnerable, but together they make for an unstoppable team.
5/10 Django ‘(Django Unchained’)
“Do you know what they’re going to call you? The Fastest Gun in the South.” Django Unchained is Tarantino’s purest tale of revenge, and Django his most sympathetic hero. He rises from humble beginnings to become a true cowboy and gunslinger who unleashes mayhem upon his enemies.
Given all Django has been through, one can’t help but root for him, making his triumph one of the most enjoyable plotlines in QT’s entire filmography. The moment when Django emerges from the explosion unscathed, ready to take on Candieland, still induces chills a decade after the movie came out.
4/10 Hans Landa (‘Inglourious Basterds’)
Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is easily one of the best movie villains of the 21st century. He’s both frightening and charming, sophisticated and soulless, fluently switching between four languages as he runs verbal circles around his opponents. He’s also a shapeshifter and presents a different version of his himself depending on who he’s talking to.
Most important of all, Landa has no principles. He pretends to be a devoted Nazi but is happy to sell out the leaders for his own gain. He’s the ultimate nihilist – a monster who believes in nothing other than furthering his own power.
3/10 Shoshanna (‘Inglourious Basterds’)
“I have a message for Germany.” Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent) might not be skilled with a gun or blade, but she makes up for it with imagination and steely resolve. Armed with just a few hundred reels of flammable nitrate film, she puts together a plot to torch the entire Nazi high command.
Laurent gives a powerhouse performance and succeeds in making the character believable and realistic. All this culminates in the conflagration in the movie theater, where a giant projected image of Shoshanna laughs while chaos breaks out all around. It was clearly inspired by the climax of Carrie, although it’s arguably even more intense.
2/10 The Basterds (‘Inglourious Basterds’)
“We got a German here who wants to die for his country. Oblige him!” The Basterds are Tarantino’s most morally gray heroes. They’re on a just mission to bring down the Third Reich, but they commit all manner of war crimes in the process, including scalping and torture.
They are utterly ruthless, something that Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) will be the first to admit. When Hans Landa kidnaps Raine and asks him if he would show Landa mercy if their roles were reversed, Raine says truthfully, “Probably not.”
1/10 The Bride (‘Kill Bill Vol 1&2’)
“I roared, and I rampaged, and I got bloody satisfaction.” The Bride (Uma Thurman) is unmatched in terms of sheer physical prowess and combat skill. She practically defies gravity, somersaulting through the air to slice and dice her enemies en masse. She kills dozens upon dozens of people on her mission to find Bill (David Carradine), leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Even more impressively, she achieves all this not with guns or explosives, but simply her trusty katana – and, when that’s not available, her bare hands.
“You’re not a worker bee,” Bill tells the Bride when they finally meet. “You’re a renegade killer bee, and no matter how much beer you drank or barbecue you ate or how fat your ass got, nothing in the world would ever change that.” He’s right: the Bride is less of a person than a force of nature. She is Tarantino’s purest expression of righteous revenge, and one of the most iconic warriors to ever grace the silver screen.
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