There are very few directors who know how to use music as well as Quentin Tarantino -- I can only think of one who might be just a little bit better. So while some directors let the music guide their editing process and others like to play the soundtrack while they shoot, Tarantino uses music in a completely different way. His use of music goes beyond just making a kick-ass soundtrack (which he usually does) and the song becomes another layer of movie history and reference that can inform what is right in front of your eyes.
As we all know, Inglourious Basterds is hitting theaters this week, and even though this might be one of Tarantino's first films without a 'popular' soundtrack, it did get me thinking about all the other great songs that he has included over the years. It seems that when it comes to music and Tarantino, obscure is the name of the game. The man likes to dig out those hidden gems, either to give them new life for a younger generation of fans, or maybe he just likes to show off a little -- come on, it's not like he's known for being humble. But one thing is for sure, the guy must have one hell of a record collection, and that's why today's Cinematical Seven is about my favorite songs from the films of Quentin Tarantino.
After the jump: find out which tracks made my top seven... span style="font-weight: bold;">1. Battle Without Honor Or Humanity (2000) - Tomoyasu Hotei / Kill Bill Volume 1
I'll say this: if I ever need to go on a revenge mission or start a bar fight, this will be my soundtrack. This track is an alternate version of a song composed for the film, Another Battle, and has found its way into plenty of other films and TV shows but Kill Bill might be the most memorable application. Because I tend to listen to music wherever I go, I have a great appreciation for a song that can make you strut, and Battle makes me walk like a supermodel/gunslinger every time it comes up on my play list.
2. Stuck in the Middle With You - Stealers Wheel (1973) / Reservoir Dogs
OK, you can't talk about Tarantino and music without mentioning the big dog: Stuck in the Middle with You. The song was written by Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty and performed by their band, Stealers Wheel. The track was one of the band's big hits, but once Tarantino got a hold of the song I don't think anyone remembered the Scottish rock group. Thanks to Tarantino, a song that started out as a story about feeling a little lost at the party has became synonymous with straight razors and gruesome interrogations scenes.
Réservoir Dogs - Stuck in the Middle With You
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3. You Never Can Tell (1964) - Chuck Berry / Pulp Fiction
When pressed to pick a Pulp Fiction song, it' s a struggle because once you start to scratch the surface, you realize there are almost too many to choose from. But, if I have to choose, I will always go with Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell because it accompanies the moment that fans of musicals had been waiting a very long time to see: the return of a dancing John Travolta.
4. Across 110th Street (1972) - Bobby Womack / Jackie Brown
If I had to pick my favorite overall soundtrack from a QT film, I would have to go with Jackie Brown -- although that has more to do with my particular taste in music than anything else. The opening credits to Tarantino's tribute to Blaxplotation is a great pairing of star and song as you watch a stewardess (played by the legendary Pam Grier) make her way into the action. Like many of Tarantino's song selections, this track started out as part of the score to another film (by the same name), a film that was one of the first to give the Blaxploitation genre some legitimacy with critics -- an idea that I'm sure is near and dear to Tarantino's heart.
5. Little Green Bag (1969) - George Baker/ Reservoir Dogs
In the opening scene of Dogs, you knew you are in for something a little different. I mean, rarely does a heist film start off with a conversation about pop song metaphors and discussions about tipping. By the time the beat of George Baker's '69 hit about waiting on a man for a little green bag kicks in, Tarantino has turned an over-cranked establishing shot into something pretty special. Not to mention there are very few things in cinema that are as satisfying as a good slo-mo walk.
6. Baby it's You (1969) - Smith/ Death Proof
This might not be Tarantino's best movie, but again, I had to give him points for his taste in music. As the one-hit wonder plays in the background we watch Jungle Julia wildly toss her hair catching the attention of Stuntman Mike ... and in one brief moment that pretty young thing is doomed.
7. The Demise of Barbara and the Return of Joe (1966) - Ennio Morricone/ Kill Bill Volume 2
If Kill Bill Volume 1 was Tarantino's ode to the Samurai, then Kill Bill 2 was his love letter to westerns -- and it don't get much more western than the music of Ennio Morricone. When The Bride and Bill finally face off, it only makes sense to use music by Morricone. The song that plays in their final showdown was taken from the 1966 western, Navajo Joe, about a man fending off the bandits who murdered his tribe -- and it doesn't take a film degree to guess what Tarantino was getting at by using this song in the final scenes of his revenge saga.
Kill Bill 2 : Bill's Death - Free videos are just a click away
Now like any compilation of the 'best of the best', there is never enough time or space to include everything you would like. But I couldn't leave without including these honorable mentions:
Girl You'll be a Woman Soon - Pulp Fiction
Long Time Woman - Jackie Brown
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) - Kill Bill Volume 1
Sound off in the comments below and leave your picks for Tarantino's greatest hits...