Read on for Part 3 of our extremely thorough ranking of characters who’ve appeared in the movies Quentin Tarantino has directed, up to The Hateful Eight. (Want to start at the top? You can do so here.
90. Raquel, Monster Joe’s Daughter (Julia Sweeney) — Pulp Fiction Raquel is heir to a truck and body shop and has a flirtatious uncle/niece type relationship with organized crime fixer The Wolf. That’s an odd mix of characteristics, but Raquel seems quite cheerful about it all. She’s one of the few Tarantino characters entirely untouched by violence.
89. Private Butz (Sönke Möhring) — Inglourious Basterds After Sgt. Rachtman dies to protect German soldiers, Butz almost breaks his finger when he points to the map and gives away their locations. For his troubles, the Basterds carve a swastika into his head. Then Hitler screams at him, spraying spittle everywhere. He’s had a tough war.
88. Marvin (Phil LaMarr) — Pulp Fiction Poor Marvin is more famous for the parts of the film where his brains are outside his head than for anything he says while they’re in there. Rest in pieces, Marvin. (Also worth noting: Guys named Marvin don’t end up well in Tarantino films.)
87. Major Dieter Hellstrom (August Diehl) — Inglourious Basterds
Hellstrom functions in the film as a kind of lesser Landa, though he’s less smooth effective than his prototype. His biggest scene is the one in the basement where he plays cat-and-mouse with Hicox. But more telling might be the earlier interaction, when he bullies Shosanna into his car even though he knows Zoller (waiting patiently with Goebbels for her to arrive) wants her treated well.
86. Larry Gomez (Larry Bishop) — Kill Bill 2 Budd’s boss at the strip club isn’t the greatest of Tarantino’s trash-talking oleaginous bullies, but still a fine specimen.
85. Esmeralda Villalobos (Angela Jones) — Pulp Fiction Angela Jones effortlessly steals a scene from Bruce Willis as a creepy cab driver fascinated (and aroused?) by the fact that her fare has just killed a man. The writing is maybe trying a bit too hard to be edgy and weird, but still, it’s too bad that we couldn’t have seen more of Esmeralda and less of the blandly cutesy Fabian.
84. Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) — Kill Bill 1, Death Proof
Earl is an over-the-top, tough-talking Texas Ranger cliché who unaccountably calls his deputy and progeny “Son Number One” à la Charlie Chan. He shows up in Kill Bill to ineffectually marvel at the carnage in the chapel, and then he shows up in Death Proof to ineffectually marvel at the deaths of the carful of girls. He’s got an uncanny ability to intuit the motive and method of the killers, and an equally uncanny ability to do nothing about tracking them down. Tarantino seems to be imagining a television show for him where he surveys the bloody results of a crime every week, shrugs and then goes off to watch NASCAR.
83. Django (Jamie Foxx) — Django Unchained White action heroes like Indiana Jones and James Bond are always murdering their way through rafts of undifferentiated people of color on screen, to the sound of explosions and audience cheer. So there’s something undeniably cathartic and just about seeing Tarantino and Jamie Foxx turn the tables. Watching Django’s six-guns blazing, as a white plantation burns, is as good a use of the Western genre as any.
The problem with the character is… that’s kind of all there is to him. He isn’t really imbued with any particular pulp smarts, the way the Bride is. Mostly he just shoots people — often, unarmed people. He talks his way out of one difficulty via the unmitigated idiocy and racism of his captors (who can’t believe he’d mislead them). But there is no badass samurai to defeat, no gunfighter nearly at his level to overcome through cunning or superior skill. It’s difficult to look like a really dangerous badass if you don’t have someone dangerous to fight.
An even bigger problem is Jamie Foxx. Foxx is one of the most unresponsive actors to ever work with Tarantino; His expression shifts between impassive and constipated. Maybe if Kerry Washington had been given this role (rather than being relegated to Broomhilda), she could have given it some intelligence and swagger. As it is, Django as an idea has promise, but as a character in the actual film, he’s disappointingly ‘blah.’
82. Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama) — Kill Bill 1 Gogo Yubari is less a character than a video game obstacle, but Chiaki Kuriyama certainly sells the deranged Japanese schoolgirl shtick, complete with terrifying giggles.
81. Fritz — Django Unchained King Schultz’s horse, who whinnies when his name is mentioned. Probably shouldn’t really be up this high, but I’m a sucker for horse reaction shots. Sue me.
80. Big Daddy (Don Johnson) — Django Unchained The supercilious plantation owner by day who turns into a cursing, disgruntled Ku Klux rider by night. Not a surprising transition exactly, but Johnson pulls it off nicely. In both incarnations, he manages to give the impression of seething with barely repressed bile.
79. Gen Ed Fenech (Mike Myers) — Inglourious Basterds Mike Myers plays an impossibly British general. The humor is broader than Tarantino usually goes for, but as a Saturday Night Live sketch, it’s one of Myers’ best.
78. Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker)— Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blue doesn’t do much in Reservoir Dogs. He briefly defends the honor of waitresses, dies off-screen and that’s about it. But Edward Bunker is a real-life bank robber turned actor, making him one of Tarantino’s early coups of meta-casting. His presence here is an intentional wink, a reminder that it isn’t stretching the truth to suggest that criminals are connected to pop culture, too. If Edward Bunker, bank robber, cares about indie film, why shouldn’t the assembled thugs here chat about Madonna and Pam Grier?
77. Amy, Billingsley sales girl (Aimee Graham) — Jackie Brown Amy, the sales girl, seems genuinely blown away by how good Jackie Brown looks in her new suit. Which is good taste on her part. Jackie Brown is, again, Tarantino’s most naturalistic movie, and Graham’s default friendly-but-bored service employee riff adds just the right touch of verisimilitude. She handles it so well you almost think she’s got a great career ahead of her — but alas, this and a bit part in From Dusk till Dawn are about the extent of her fame.
76. Crazy 88s — Kill Bill 1 The mass of masked, swaggering Kato-esque Yakuza ninjas make an enjoyably kooky visual impression, and the stunt work is superb.
75. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) — Inglourious Basterds It’s not precisely clear why the German Stiglitz hates the Nazis so. There’s some suggestion that he was tortured by officers, so perhaps that’s all there is to it, though it’s fun to imagine him as a German Communist or socialist with an ideological grudge against Hitler. In any case, the character mostly works because of Schweiger, who does homicidal very, very well.
74. Laughing Bosses — Kill Bill 1 The assembled bosses for Oren-Ishii’s coronation indulge in so much forced merriment it sounds like they’re going to collectively cough up their lungs, or possibly their testicles. The scene is almost more disturbing pre-beheading than post-beheading.
73. Pfc Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom) — Inglourious Basterds The shorter, rounder Basterd, who speaks the third most Italian. Private Ulmer is notably low-key even when he has his heroic Nazi-killing moment. “Can you do it?” Donovitch asks him. “I’ve got to,” he responds. That’s the kind of humble, can-do attitude that killed Hitler in a movie theater and won the war in ‘44.
72. Sheronda (LisaGay Hamilton) — Jackie Brown LisaGay Hamilton puts in a display of virtuoso awkwardness as Ordell’s country, teen-aged girlfriend. Her contrast with Pam Grier’s radioactive poise is intense.
71. Hand-cannon guy (Alexis Arquette) — Pulp Fiction
Arquette’s flailing panic as he bursts out of the bathroom gun blazing is so thoroughgoing, you can believe he missed the two gangsters standing right in front of him. In fact, you can hardly believe he hit the wall behind them.
70. Buck (Michael Bowen) — Kill Bill 1 Buck who likes to fuck and has a truck. Bowen is memorably repulsive in the role, and that’s not even counting the gross, glitter-spackled key chain that spells out “Pussy Wagon.” He deserves death for that alone.
69. Pumpkin/Ringo (Tim Roth) — Pulp Fiction Chatty gangster Ringo seems to have stepped out of Reservoir Dogs, though his improvisatory heist goes off better here than the hyper-planned one in the former film. If the part itself is a bit familiar for Tarantino, Roth remains charismatic and kinetic, and sells the romance with his partner in crime.
68. Nikkia Bell (Ambrosia Kelley) — Kill Bill 1 In Kill Bill 1, 4-year-old Nicki watches her mom killed in front of her by the Bride, which is horrible but — in the absence of other developments — doesn’t make her that interesting of a character. However, the Bride suggests that when Nicki grows up she might come after her for revenge, and Tarantino has made noises about making her the protagonist of a potential Kill Bill 3. So she’s a character who may have more in her. And as such, she functions as a kind of symbol of the cycle of violence and revenge.
67. Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) — Reservoir Dogs The crime-lord-as-crotchety-father-figure feels a little predictable by Tarantino’s standards, and Tierney’s mugging veers occasionally from funny into cutesy. Not a bad character, exactly, but the one in Reservoir Dogs where Tarantino’s riffing on gangster tropes seems least assured.
66. Ted the Bellhop (Tim Roth) — Four Rooms Ted, the elfen everyman, is the one constant through all the vignettes in Four Rooms. There’s a bit too much winking to make Ted a truly great character, and Tarantino’s segment is probably the least interesting script in the film. Still, Roth makes the most of it. The bit where he chops off poor Norman’s finger, swoops up the money, and scampers from the room is delightful in its innocently avaricious twitchiness.
65. Dov (Eli Roth) — Death Proof Dov is a sad excuse for a wolf. He buys drink after drink in the hopes of getting taken along to the lake house with the girls, but to no avail. The kicker is that when he tries to put the moves on Shanna, he can’t even pronounce her name right. Given that he’s the competition, you can sort of see why Pam and Butterfly are willing to flirt with Stuntman Mike.
64. Nice Guy Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn) — Reservoir Dogs Nice Guy Eddie wouldn’t be out of place in Goodfellas — and that’s not exactly a compliment. Still, his straightforward love of his dad (resulting, of course, in disaster) is a nice touch, and Penn performs the casual murder of the cop with memorable panache.
63. Marcy (Marcy Harriell) — Death Proof Marcy does a great, parodic impression of a drunk dude coming on to Butterfly. There’s more chemistry between Harriell and Vanessa Ferlitto than with any other couple in the film, probably. In Death Proof, women are way better at being men than the men are.
62. Fifties’ Impersonators — Pulp Fiction Given Tarantino’s penchant for homage, it would feel wrong to leave “Buddy Holly,” “Ed Sullivan” and “Marilyn Monroe” off this list. The cast of Jack Rabbit Slims’ eatery is every bit as real, or as fake, as Tarantino’s other characters, after all. The brief chat between Buddy Holly (played by Steve Buscemi) and John Travolta, in particular, is a confused music nostalgist’s dream.
61. Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) — Pulp Fiction A standard-issue tough crime boss. But Rhames delivers his profane threats with gleeful authority (“I’m getting medieval on your ass”), and his motivations for asking Victor to take out Mia on a date are pleasantly ambiguous, as is his entire relationship with his wife.
60. Pam (Rose McGowan) — Death Proof Stuntman Mike’s first victim. She’s spacey and vacuous, and her mild flirtation with Mike is both gross and hard to figure, but McGowan’s desperation and confused panic make it clear that, whatever her minor sins, she doesn’t deserve to die for them.
59. The 5, 6, 7, 8s (as themselves) — Kill Bill 1 The Japanese retro-rockers, appearing onscreen with beehive hairdos and tight glam dresses. No wonder the Crazy 88s wanted to go to this club.
58. Brett (Frank Whaley) — Pulp Fiction What we don’t know about Brett is more intriguing than what we do. How did this clean-cut white college kid end up with an illicit magic suitcase of infinite value? We never find out, but it’s fun to think of this as a kind of sequel to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which Ferris’ latest scheme goes comically awry and ends in his painful and humiliating death.
57. Counter Guy (Nicki Katt) — Death Proof
As Abernathy says, there’s something almost miraculous about a gas station attendant in the middle of nowhere Tennessee who has this month’s issue of Italian Vogue.
56. Chicks Who Love Guns — Jackie Brown Tarantino’s greatest infomercial features hot girls in bikinis touting the virtues of semi-automatic weaponry. It’s a perfect encapsulation of exploitation cinema in general, and blaxploitation in particular. It also neatly catalogues Ordell’s interests (and a wag might say, Tarantino’s): sex, guns, violence, money and campy preposterousness.
55. Butch’s Mom (Brenda Hillhouse) — Pulp Fiction Butch’s Mom hovers in the background while Captain Koons talks about duty and honor and putting things up his ass. To her credit, Mom is completely and incongruously unfazed — whether it’s because she believes it’s not women’s place to comment on secreting watches, or because she approves of anal rites of passage, we’ll never know.
54. Jody (Rosanna Arquette) — Pulp Fiction Druggie hipster Jody is a much better character than she seems like she should be. That’s mostly because of Arquette’s quietly unhinged performance, which veers from a starry-eyed explication of the sexiness of tongue piercings to full-on termagant. What really makes the character, though, is her sudden, unexpected shift from irriation at being disturbed in the middle of the night to lip-licking joy at the chance to watch someone plunge a needle into the heart of an OD'ed Mia Wallace.
53. Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly (Laura Cayouette) — Django Unchained As written, Lara Lee isn’t necessarily a great character. But Cayouette takes what she’s given and draws a simpering, callous portrait of a wilting Southern Belle who is both self-satisfied and utterly inured to sadistic cruelty — and fastidious: she demurs when Candie shows Broomhilda’s whip marks at the dinner table. This wouldn’t be a notable performance in any other Tarantino film, but Django is short on great characters. As it is, Cayouette quietly steals every scene she’s in.
52. Nate (Omar Doom) — Death Proof Butterfly’s whiny sub. “You got two jobs. Kiss good and make sure my hair don’t get wet,” Butterfly tells him. He apparently manages that, and even stops whining (“I wanna make out!”) when she tells him he has to, though it’s obviously hard for him.
51. Vernita Green (Vivica Fox) — Kill Bill 1 Vivica Fox flips deftly between suburban mom and profane killer. Her mix of swagger and desperation is great, too. Breaking the truce to shoot at the Bride through a cereal box is such a worthwhile gamble that you wish it had worked. And not just because of poor Nicki.
50. Jimmy Dimmick (Quentin Tarantino) — Pulp Fiction Jimmy is a sneering, vicious suburban homeowner. His supercilious touting of his coffee’s virtues is possibly the most grating moment in a film that revels in grating moments. It’s solid evidence that Tarantino could have had a career in acting, if he’d wanted to go that route.
49. K-Billy’s Supersounds of the Seventies Announcer (Steven Wright) — Reservior Dogs Casting Steven Wright as the DJ curating Reservoir Dogs’ incidental music was a stroke of genius. His flat affect against the soundtrack of peppy seventies cheese perfectly encapsulates the film’s bright, clinical tone. Plus, the phrase “Dylan-esque pop bubble-gum favorite” may be the best line in the film — and it has a lot of competition.
48. Master Sgt. Wilhelm (Alexander Fehling) and his buddies — Inglourious Basterds Wilhelm goes out to celebrate the birth of his son, stumbles drunkenly into an Allied plot, and ends up coldly shot do death by his screen idol Bridget von Hammersmark. You shoot a Nazi, you often orphan a child — though Hammersmark shows no particular regret for killing him. She has other things to worry about, and, after all, war is about killing fathers, though you don’t often see that quite so explicitly demonstrated on screen.
47. O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) — Kill Bill 1 O-Ren watches her parents killed as a child, then grows up to become an assassin herself. Kill Bill isn’t especially interested in tying those two facts together into a consistent psychological profile, though. Instead, the most memorable thing about her is Lucy Liu’s sweet reasonableness after she chops off the head of the boss who questioned her. “As your leader, I encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic.” Words to chill the blood.
46. Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) — Jackie Brown Dargus mostly plays second banana to Ray Nicolette, but he’s still an impressively acid portrait of a cop as a bullying asshole. The part where he joyfully mocks Jackie’s low salary and age — “You’re 44 years of age. You’re flying for the shittiest-little-shuttle-fucking piece of shit Mexican airline that there is” — may be one of the flat-out nastiest bits of dialogue in a Tarantino film. Death threats look warm and fuzzy in comparison.