Quentin Tarantino is the master of cool. Whether he’s shooting a Western, grindhouse throwback, crime drama or war movie, the filmmaker has been responsible for producing some of the most iconic scenes and memorable scripts in modern cinema. However, if there’s one thing Tarantino really excels at it’s his ability to create some of the most badass characters to ever grace the silver screen. From hit men and bounty hunters to soldiers and ass-kicking assassins, it’s difficult picking just ten of the coolest characters from the Tarantinoverse.
10. Seth Gecko – From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
Proving that most of Tarantino’s coolest characters also happen to be villainous bastards, From Dusk Till Dawn opens with the Gecko brothers Seth (played by George Clooney) and Richie (Tarantino himself) on the run having just robbed a bank. The Geckos kill a sheriff, shoot the cashier and douse him in booze before setting the store on fire and calmly walking off – all before the opening credits roll. While his brother Richie is erratic and uncontrollable, Seth is calm, cool and collected, even when facing off against dozens of undead vampires in the movie’s climactic scene. In fact, by the end of the movie Seth seems pretty unfazed by the completely insane course of events that he’s just been through.
9. Max Cherry – Jackie Brown (1997)
Unlike most of Tarantino’s characters, bail bondsman Max Cherry isn’t a showy loudmouth with scene-stealing eccentricities. Played with understated effectiveness by Robert Forster, Cherry doesn’t have to say much to let the audience know that he is ahead of everyone else in the double-crossing world of Jackie Brown. As other characters are bouncing around and trying to get one-over on each other, Cherry is hanging back and slyly weighing up the situation so he can assess the risks of getting involved. There’s a clear romantic chemistry between him and Jackie but Cherry is a matter of fact professional who clearly got where he is by controlling the world he’s involved in and not bringing in unnecessary risks. Cherry is a refreshing character and it’s a shame that this downplayed coolness is seldom seen in other Tarantino movies because he writes it so well (obviously, it’s certainly helped by the source material – Elmore Leonard wrote Rum Punch, the book the movie is adapted from, and he was doing Tarantino cool decades before Reservoir Dogs came along). Forster’s subtle performance didn’t go unnoticed by critics and he received a thoroughly deserved Academy Award nomination for the role.
8. Lt. Aldo Raine – Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Lt. Aldo Raine is a simple man with simple pleasures. Namely, those pleasures happen to be “scalpin’ Nazis“. Spitting out his lines with a hillbilly drawl, Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Raine is at times surprisingly comical (seeing Raine struggle with a fake Italian accent is one of the funniest scenes in any Tarantino movie) and this hillbilly soldier seems like a fish out of water in Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet, behind this simplicity is a deadly serious man. As evidenced in his interrogation of Bridget Hammersmith and his final act of revenge against Colonel Hans Landa, Raine does not mess around and he is devoted to turning his assembled team of Jewish American soldiers into the boogeymen of the German army.
7. Django – Django Unchained (2012)
Although former slave turned bounty hunter Django owes his skills and emancipation to his mentor Dr. King Schultz, there’s no denying that the student ultimately becomes the master. Django’s transformation is the ultimate revenge fantasy. By the time he’s shooting up Calvin Candie’s mansion in the seriously bloody and entertaining gunfight during the movie’s final act (with a delightfully anachronistic and cool 2Pac song playing in the background), it’s become clear that Django has become one of the steeliest, most badass characters from any Western movie.
6. Stuntman Mike – Death Proof (2007)
Before Stuntman Mike is given a very bitter taste of his own medicine in the second half of Death Proof, the psychopathic driver is an undeniably cool character. He’s a maniac, sure, but a cool one. Kurt Russell brings a swaggering, charismatic and very scary edge to his performance as the professional driver who uses his stunt car to kill young woman, and he’s clearly channelling the badass qualities he refined so well playing iconic characters like Snake Plissken and MacReady.
5. Mr Blonde – Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Tarantino created a rogue’s gallery of larger-than-life crooks in Reservoir Dogs, but Michael Madsen steals the movie as the sadistic Mr Blonde. It’s definitely very wrong to describe the scene where Mr Blonde dances to “Stuck in the Middle with You” while torturing a captive cop as cool, but he really does make torture seem stylish. Like some of the best Tarantino characters, Mr Blonde is a wildcard whose actions you just can’t predict. Although he’s undeniably a dangerous psychopath, Blonde is also charming and weirdly likeable. Even after the big heist goes massively wrong (thanks in large part to his shooting spree when the cops turn up), Blonde finds time to stop off for some fast food before going to the safe house to cooly assess the situation while taking big slurps on his soda.
4. Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction (1994)
Cinema has seen its fair share of iconic hitmen, but none are as memorable or cool as Jules from Pulp Fiction. A true ‘bad motherfucker’, Samuel L. Jackson turns in a career-defining performance as a man who spouts biblical quotes before executing people, dominates armed robbers without a care in the world and has endlessly quotable back-and-forth banter with John Travolta’s Vincent Vega. Hell, he even managed to make the Jerry curl hairstyle seem stylish. Pulp Fiction may end with Jules going through a pretty profound change of heart and seemingly leave the criminal life behind him, but if anything this just proves that this cool character is much more than your typical hit man.
3. The Bride – Kill Bill Vol 1. & Vol 2. (2003 & 2004)
Tarantino’s love letter to his beloved martial arts genre is just bursting with iconic, cool characters. There’s the calm, terrifying and duplicitous Bill, the completely unhinged Crazy 88 and, well, pretty much every member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (even the name is awesome). Still, the Bride stands tall above them all. Left for dead by her former allies, the Bride is relentless in her vengeance-fuelled quest to take down those who have wronged her. Dressed in her iconic yellow jumpsuit and armed with a legendary samurai sword, Uma Thurman cuts a bloody path through her enemies like a badass terminator.
2. Jackie Brown – Jackie Brown (1997)
Drug-smuggling airline attendant Jackie Brown is probably one of Tarantino’s most fearless characters. Helped in no small part by a pitch perfect performance from blaxploitation legend Pam Grier, Jackie literally stares down drug dealers and circling ATF agents as they completely undermine and underestimate the type of woman they are dealing with. Street-smart, sexy and always completely in control of the situation (even when someone has their hands around her throat), Jackie doesn’t care what she has to do or who she has to double-cross to come out on top. Jackie Brown is probably Tarantino’s most underrated and underseen movie which is a shame because she is arguably the director’s most fascinating and strongest female character (no faint praise given the competition of other badass females she is up against), and the role brought attention to 70s star Pam Grier and her a long overdue career revival.
1. The Wolf – Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Wolf is proof that any character in Tarantino’s hands can be made memorable in just a relatively short amount of screentime. Calm, precise and surprisingly courteous, the Wolf is called in after Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the head in the back of his car. Professional cleaner and problem-solver for the criminal underworld, the Wolf turns up in a tuxedo and immediately takes control of the very messy situation. He is completely unfazed by the fact that there’s a Chevy Malibu with an interior covered in “little pieces of brains and skull”. In fact, the only time the man who “thinks fast and talks fast” seems even the slightest bit nonplussed is when Vincent asks for a ‘please’ off the man. The cool, understated performance from Harvey Keitel leaves us wanting more from this brief character, if only to see what other problems he fixes as part of his day job.