Quentin Tarantino is a master of the use of music in film. Using everything from pop music to award-winning film scores he has crafted some of cinemas most memorable moments and music is central to his achievements. Tarantino also credits some of his writing inspiration to his record collection and listens to it as a habitual part of his film writing process.
Article originally published on The National Student
- Cat People- Inglourious Basterds
David Bowie, makeup, and handguns combine in the planning sequence for Inglourious Basterds’ great wellspring of tragic revenge and historically inaccurate justice. Bowie’s dulcet tones subtly turn up the tension and fit the scene like a glove.
- Hold Tight- Deathproof
Death Proof is, without a doubt, the worst film Quentin Tarantino has directed. It’s a disjointed, simplistic story with an over reliance on Kurt Russell and compares horribly to his other work. It’s not entirely without merit though and does have its moments. This use of ‘Hold Tight’ by Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich is one of the few. Tarantino effectively builds an atmosphere of hopeful momentum in the car around Hold Tight, a sixties pop-rock classic, which is suddenly and brutally shattered by Kurt Russel’s vicious automotive charge. The optimism is swiftly replaced by a brutal, gory melee just as the sound of the guitars and drums are replaced by the morbid crunch and shatter of the vehicles and their occupants…
- Across 110th Street- Jackie Brown
Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street epitomises Jackie Brown as a film. It’s an ode to the hard done by, littered with soaring climaxes and tense lows. Across 110th Street is to music what Jackie Brown is to film and the fact that the former fits perfectly within the latter just seems like it was meant to be.
- Twisted Nerve- Kill Bill Volume 1
Bernard Herrmann’s Twisted Nerve is a bit of an anomaly in this line up otherwise largely made up of popular music from commonly recognised artists. It suits the scene to a tee though and is guaranteed to play in your head long after the end credits have rolled. As the assassin stalks her prey Twisted Nerve’s distinctive whistle floats down corridors and around a seemingly helpless Uma Thurman.
- You Never Can Tell- Pulp Fiction
Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell accompanies one of the most talked about scenes in cinema history. ‘The Jack Rabbit Slims Twist Contest’ is one of the magic, memorable moments that sets Pulp Fiction apart as one of Quentin Tarantino’s crowning achievements and possibly his best film.
- Little Green Bag- Reservoir Dogs
Iconic. Iconic. Iconic. Tarantino’s deployment of Little Green Bag, by The George Baker Selection, can’t be described any other way. A memorable opening to a memorable film, the punch of a cymbal signals an end to the film’s introductory (and tremendously well written,) conversation and the start of something special…
- Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon- Pulp Fiction
Urge Overkill’s haunting rendition of Neil Diamond’s Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon builds tension perfectly in one of Pulp Fiction’s subtler moments. As audiences worry about the approach of what promises to be an immensely ill-advised and dangerous romance, Mia Wallace dances enthusiastically, Vincent Vega talks himself down in the bathroom and of course the eventual, unexpected punch line comes very much from left field.
- Bang Bang- Kill Bill Volume 1
“Do you find me sadistic?” asks the eponymous Bill in Kill Bill’s intense and brutal introductory scene. Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang rings in as the opening titles replace a close up of Uma Thurman, who lies beaten and bloodied on the floor. After an opening dialogue full of revelations and brutality the audience is left with a lot to chew over and Bang Bang is a thoroughly haunting accompaniment for that process.
For more on Tarantino take a look at our piece on his resurrection of the Western genre.
- Stuck in the Middle With You- Reservoir Dogs
You’ll never hear this song quite the same way after taking in its usage in Reservoir Dogs. A brutal and notorious torture scene supported by a well-loved, upbeat Gerry Rafferty number really is something to behold. Michael Madsen carries off sinister, cop-hating psychopath perfectly with his usual dour style and for many this classic and catchy guitar number has become inseparable from the memory of Madsen’s straight-razor spree…
- Freedom – Django Unchained
One of Tarantino’s most emotive scenes. The union of song and scene when Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton’s Freedom plays in Django Unchained is raw and emotional.
The provocative brutality of the slave trade, the biting violence Tarantino shows, the hope of escape, and the tenderness of Django’s relationship with his wife, all blend together in the small montage-style sequence that Freedom soundtracks’. A historic tragedy, a master filmmaker and a beautiful piece of music combined here and the resulting scene is as special as it is gut wrenching.
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By George Storr