The Best of Tarantino Soundtracks

The Best of Tarantino Soundtracks

To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence’.

Quentin Tarantino himself stresses the importance of music in his films.

Famous for being a sort of ‘filmavore’, he also consumes a good deal amount of music. He collects vinyls and when he is making a new movie, he confesses spending hours going through an everlasting list of songs trying to find good pieces of music that will, in his words: ‘layer into the film’. With his legendary humility, he admits that the reason why his music soundtracks are so good is because they’re a ‘professional equivalents of a mix tape’.

What makes Tarantino’s films so unique is the music he decides to incorporate in them. Most Hollywood directors in the 80’s resorted to specific composers creating a soundtrack for each film: Nino Rota composing for The Godfather, for instance. 1969’s Easy Rider, featuring Peter Fonda, pioneered a new kind of soundtrack-making simply by picking songs from the popular music culture.

Tarantino follows that line, most famously known for choosing groovy tunes from the 70’s. Artists like Johnny Cash, Joe Tex or Charlie Feathers are repeatedly present in his movies and certain themes go from one movie to another like White Lightning by Charles Bernstein which appears both in Kill Bill 1 and Inglorious Basterds.

The originality of Tarantino’s musical selections also lies in how it defeats the spectator’s expectations. The least we can say is that rap and soul tunes such as James Brown’s The Payback mashed up with 2Pac or Rick Ross’s 100 black coffins, co-written with Jamie Foxx who plays the character ‘Django’ in Tarantino’s recent Django Unchained, appears as iconoclast in a film evoking western-spaghetti genre.

Music is one thing, incorporating music into a scene is another. Tarantino masters diegetic music and sound effects: the music that the spectators hear is also heard by the characters. A perfect example of this diegetic effect would be the famous ‘ear scene’ in Reservoir Dogs where the song Stuck in the middle with you by Stealer’s Wheel plays in a background radio. As soon as torturer Mr.Blonde leaves the room, the music fades away and comes back again only when he re-enters the room. Most of Tarantino’s characters are music-lovers: they dance and interact with it. They are musically-conscious.

Very subjectively, I will suggest a ‘best-song-in-each-movie’ playlist:

  • Reservoir Dogs (1993): Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
  • Pulp Fiction (1994): Son Of A Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
  • Jackie Brown (1997): Street Life – Randy Crawford
  • Kill Bill (2003): Oren Ishii Theme
  • Inglorious Basterds (2009): Cat People – David Bowie
  • Django Unchained (2013): Freedom – Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton

Now the question is whether or not these songs are better played in your mp3 players or on the screen.



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