Musings on Quentin Tarantino’s 12 Favorite Films


Earlier this month, Sight and Sound magazine asked many of the well-known filmmakers today to list their favorite films, you can see the list here.

QT_cameraFor this article, I would like to just focus on Quentin Tarantino‘s favorite films. If you read most of my articles on this site (i.e. ranking favorite Tarantino’s films) then you know that I’m a big fan of QT. Sure I thought Django Unchained was quite disappointing but it’s still better than most films I saw in 2012. If not for Tarantino, I may not have seen some of the classics from the 60s and 70s. Because of his recommendation, I discovered the films of the great late director Sam Peckinpah and some of the lesser known spaghetti western and action films from said decades.

If I remember correctly, Tarantino tends to put out his best of list yearly but I think this list is his top favorite films of all time. I was surprised to see a couple of films on his favorite list, but before we get on that, here are twelve of his picks:

  1. Apocalypse Now (1976) – Francis Ford Coppola
  2. The Bad News Bears (1976) – Michael Ritchie
  3. Carrie (1976) – Brian De Palma
  4. Dazed and Confused (1993) – Richard Linklater
  5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – Sergio Leone
  6. The Great Escape (1963) – John Sturges
  7. His Girl Friday (1939) – Howard Hawks
  8. Jaws (1975) – Steven Spielberg
  9. Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) – Roger Vadium
  10. Rolling Thunder (1977) – John Flynn
  11. Sorcerer (1977) – William Friedkin
  12. Taxi Driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese

Out of the 12 films on the list there, the one I’ve never seen or heard of before is His Girl Friday. Otherwise I’ve seen all of them and four are on my all favorite list films: Apocalypse Now, Rolling Thunder, Sorcerer and Taxi Driver.


A couple of films that surprised me to see on his list are The Bad News Bears and Dazed and Confused; for the kind of films that he tends to make, I wouldn’t think he’d include a comedies on his list. Over all it’s a good mix of genre and it’s great seeing what kind of films he truly enjoy.

As mentioned earlier, the four films on his list that are also on my list, two of them are well known and highly regarded as some of greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver. No doubt those two were excellent films and deserves all the praises from critics and fans alike. Now other two films were not as well known, Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer, both also came out in the late 70s but they didn’t garner any critical or box office success. I think these two films deserve to be seen by more people and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend you seek them out. Particularly Sorcerer which was a remake of a French film from 1953, Wages of Fear. To be honest with you, I prefer Sorcerer over Wages of Fear. It was well directed by the then hot director William Friedkin, who’d just made two very successful films, The Exorcist and The French Connection. I think the film failed because I believe audiences were expecting to see some sort of supernatural thriller not an action thriller about men versus nature.

Rolling Thunder on the other hand, was a gritty shoot’em up revenge action thriller, a genre that was quite popular at the time. For anyone who’ve never seen either of these films, the good news is that both are coming out on Blu-ray real soon. Friedkin has tweeted that he has raised enough money to do a digital restoration on Sorcerer so it can be release on Bluray.

I can’t wait to see it on HD and in widescreen!
– Post by Ted S.

So what’s your opinion on Tarantino’s favorite films? Have you seen some or all of them? If so, share your opinion on the comments section.

73 thoughts on “Musings on Quentin Tarantino’s 12 Favorite Films

    1. I’ve only seen Jaws from the list, imagine that! I’d love to see His Girl Friday though, that’s quite a surprise to see that on the list.

  1. I could totally tell he loved The Great Escape. I see it all over his films. I love that movie too so whenever he references it I freak out 🙂
    Love Apocalyspe Now and Taxi Driver of course, but I haven’t seen the rest (I still can’t believe I haven’t seen Jaws I don’t know what’s wrong with me…)
    Cool post! I’ll have to check the rest of these out!

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah you can tell in his films, he burrowed a lot of elements from his favorite films of the past.

      Jaws was a good movie, not one of my favorites but it’s definitely a film that sets the standard for summer blockbuster.

      1. Jaws is a great film in terms of acting, writing, structure and direction. It’s very reminiscent of The Godfather, which took a crappy novel and turned it into a cinematic masterwork. Jaws remains my favorite Spielberg film.

  2. Hi, Ted and company:

    Cant argue with ‘Rolling Thunder’. Schrader, Flynn, Devane and Tommy Lee Jones all at the tops of their games in a little known, gritty, low budget gem!

    ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ and ‘The Great Escape’ aren’t surprising. Excellent “Guy Films”. Very surprised and pleased to see ‘His Girl Friday’ make the cut.

    Also Frankenheimer’s take on ‘The Wages of Sin’ with ‘Sorcerer’ and Vadim’s ‘Pretty Maids…’ make the list.

    Was hoping to see a title from low rent, kung fu masters, the Shaw brothers. Also surprised that Jack Hill’s ‘Switchblade Sisters’ (QT’s ‘Death Proof’) or any films from Russ Myers (‘Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’).

    A great list and equally fine critique, Ted!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Jack, yeah I was surprised he didn’t include some of the martial arts films he tends to reference in some of his films.

  3. I’ve seen all of these, and QT’s list is an awesome mix. You know I’m a fan of ‘Sorcerer’ and can’t wait for it to finally arrive in remastered anamorphic widescreen Blu-ray. Great look at this, Ted.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Michael, can’t wait to watch Sorcerer in its proper screen and in HD! I’ve only seen it on TV and crappy VHS. It would be like I’m seeing it for the first time when it hits Bluray.

  4. Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer are the only two I haven’t seen, but I like the other 10, even if I wouldn’t rank them so high. Is this supposed to be his all-time list? What happened to Rio Bravo? That used to always be in his top three. I don’t know if the list was cut-and-pasted from somewhere, but His Girl Friday was 1940, not 1939, and Roger Vadim’s last name is misspelled.

    1. Ted S.

      I assume he kept changing his mind for his favorite list? I got the list from BFI’s website and it’s also listed on Miramax’s official site.

      Do you check out Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer, two pretty great films in my opinion.

  5. It’s interesting that the favorite movie of a director I’m not the biggest fan is a movie is a movie that I feel is terribly overrated (please don’t skin me for saying that).

    His Girl Friday is a blast you have to check that one out. And I’m surprised to see Dazed on the list as well. Great movie but not very QT-like. Jaws, Taxi Driver, The G,B,U… Absolutely!

    Great post. Interesting to get a look at the preferences of guys like QT!

    1. I really need to see His Girl Friday! Jack had a great post on Howard Hawks women a while back and that one definitely sounds interesting.

      1. I think I remember that post. It was good! I just finally saw His Girl Friday last year. It’s a verbal rapid-fire assault of charisma and clever dialogue. It’s so good.

    2. Ted S.

      Yeah it’s very interesting to see his taste in films. Just curious, which film on his list you think it’s overrated? One big film from that list I thought it’s kind of overrated.

      1. I’m know I’m in the minority but I really think Apocalypse Now is an overrated picture. Now there are moments where I absolutely love the film. But I thought the overly long drug and booze binge at the beginning and the way it flies off the rails at the end really brought the film down as a whole. But again I don’t dismiss it’s strong points. I just don’t see it as the top-notch near perfect piece of cinema that many do.

        1. Ted S.

          Ahh okay, you’re not the only who thinks it’s overrated. For me the film that I thought it’s a bit overrated is Jaws, good film for its time but I just don’t think it aged well. I watched it recently and got bored with it. Probably because I’m just not scare of sharks. LOL.

            1. Stories always trump effects for me, especially since so much of the CGI stuff looks so incredibly fake to me. I’m more amazed watching Howard Hawks staging a real cattle drive in 1948’s Red River than computer trickery to try to make it appear as if there is a crowd of people. In some ways, watching the slow, static shot of Lon Chaney Jr. transforming into The Wolf Man still impresses me more than the wolf transformations since because it required actual ingenunity on the part of fimmakers and effects artists to achieve those tricks back then. Now, all the equipment they use today makes it a bit too easy and it ends up looking less real. Life of Pi is a great movie, but Ang Lee and the cinematographer get most of the credit while the effects artists get pink slips as their company slides into bankruptcy.

          1. I think the fact that it’s been made into a Universal Studios ride also doesn’t help matters, ahah. It’s not all that scary after that 😀

    3. Never feel defensive about your opinions, Kevin. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to assessing movies or other art forms. It’s all subjective. There are no objective tools that determine a film’s worth. It can’t be said with 100% certainty that “movie x” id great the way you can say with authority, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.” If you think it’s overrated, you are right — but so are the people who love. Don’t let others intimidate you away from the way you feel about a film.

  6. It’s definitely an eclectic list. Dazed and Confused would make my top 10 as well, and Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver aren’t too far off. I think the biggest surprise is Bad News Bears — it’s a decent enough film, but seems a bit random to be in the mix here.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah when I saw The Bad News Bears on his list, I thought it was kind of strange but then again many of us have different taste in films.

    1. Ted S.

      As mentioned earlier, the two films that surprised me were The Bad News Bears and Dazed and Confused. But again we all have different taste films but it’s strange to see those two on QT’s fave list.

    1. Ted S.

      I used to watch The Bad News Bears constantly when I was younger, even the crappy sequels. I thought the one where they went to Japan was pretty funny.

  7. Awesome to see Carrie on his list! Not surprised about Taxi Driver being there, Tarantino strikes me like a guy who is a huge fan of this movie 🙂

  8. I dunno. “Favorites” feels like such a cop out. How can I say anything one way or another about someone’s favorites? Everyone’s entitled to their opinions. He could have “Dumbo” on there, and what can you say? They’re his favorites…

    Id like to see him list his GREATEST. That would be something.

    1. Ted S.

      He tends to always put this kind of list out, so who knows maybe next year he’ll come out with the list of the greatest films ever, according to him that is.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, I’m surprised he didn’t include some of the Asian films he tends copy in some of his films. I think he list Battle Royale as his favorite film from the 2000s, if you Google it I’m sure you’ll find that list.

    1. Something read wrong when someone mentioned Frankenheimer. I can’t believe I didn’t catch the before. Davis is on the money about His Girl Friday. Not only is it one of the great screwball comedies with arguably the best performances of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, it’s also my favorite Howard Hawks film (and there’s a lot of competition for that title).,His Girl Friiday also marks one of those rare instances when a remake of a great film (1931’s The Front Page) and actually produced a movie that was better than the original and a masterpiece in its own right . Two later attempts to remake it (one even by the master Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; the other starring Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve and so abysmal the less said about it, the better) shows why you shouldn’t remake movies that were great in the first place. His Girl Friday is the glorious exception to that rule.

    2. Ted S.

      Well I’m not sure how to answer your question, I’ve just never heard of that film. Probably because I’m into comedies and doesn’t watch a lot of films from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

  9. As far as Tarantino’s list goes he’s stated that his “favorites” change from year to year so Rio Bravo or Battle Royal not being in there is no big surprise. There are several top 10 lists from over the years here:'s_favorite_films.

    Love it or hate it Aaron Sorkin based his scriptwriting on the rapid fire style of His Girl Friday. The Front Page stage version, from which His Girl Friday was adapted from, was made into a movie in the 70’s with Matthau, Lemmon and Carol Burnett.

    Not surprised to see The Bad News Bears on there. It’s one of the very best movies I’ve seen about kids and sports. (Right along with Searching For Bobby Fischer). Ironically enough Linklater butchered the remake by toning it down to make it family friendly. As far as The Bad News Bears being a random pick for Tarantino… I’d say it has one of the most realistic portrayal of kids (curse words and all) and overbearing sports parents ever. I’ve played sports all my life and grew up in the 70’s as a kid playing Little League and that movie is right on the mark. Believe me… I lived that movie as a kid.

    Still have to see Sorcerer although I’ve seen Wages of Fear. Just never got around to seeing Rolling Thunder.

    Ted… shame, shame for spelling Vadim wrong. Your penance is having to watch And God Created Woman… but not the 1956 Brigitte Bardot version. You have to watch the 1998 Rebecca De Mornay, Vincent Spano version. You are absolved. Go in peace my son.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah he tends to put out his favorite list yearly.

      I’ve never heard of His Girl Friday until I saw QT’s list, sounds like a lot of people really liked the film, may have to check it out.

      I used to watch The Bad News Bears many times back in grade school and high school. As mentioned earlier, I even enjoyed the crappy sequels.

      LOL, I just copied and paste that list, I should’ve done some a spell check. Ha ha.

    2. As I said elsewhere, the first version of The Front Page starring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O’Brien came out in 1931, preceding His Girl Friday by nine years, making for the remarkable achievement of a very good original getting remade into an even greater film. Unfortunately, this isn’t what happened with Billy Wilder’s 1974 version of The Front Page with Lemmon and Matthau, which paled in comparison to both The Front Page and His Girl Friday. However, Wilder’s version looked brilliant when in 1988 they tried to take His Girl Friday and set in the world of cable news, with Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve. Switching Channel’s idea of ingenuity was hiding Earl Williams in a copy machine instead of a roll-top desk. The original Front Page and His Girl Friday are both worth seeing, though Hawks’ film ranks far above its predecessor and most other comedies ever made.

  10. Cool post, Ted. If you like screwball comedies, you should definitely check out His Girl Friday. QT’s got several great films on his list, but I still need to see Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Josh, I don’t watch a lot of the films from the 30s, 40s or 50s, so that’s why I’ve never heard of His Girl Friday. But it seems to be quite well known to a lot of people so I might have to check it out.

  11. I think His Girl Friday is almost equally as weird seeing on there given it’s a screwball comedy. It js a pretty good movie though, I enjoyed it. The one that really takes me aback is Bad News Bears, though. I really enjoy the movie, but it definitely seems out of place there.

    Havent heard of Sorcerer or Rolling Thundef but I think I might have to check them out.

    No surprise to see Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. What I’m surprised to NOT see on there is any samurai or kung fu movies given what a fan he is of that stuff.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I’m a little surprised too that he didn’t include any martial arts films on his list, who knows next year he’ll come out with another list and that one might contain nothing but kung fu and samurai films, lol.

  12. Pingback: Checking Out the “Happy-Haps!” (3/13) | The Focused Filmographer

  13. He always has some movies in his list which make you scratch your head. Having seen Wages of Fear recently I can’t imagine a remake being better, but I’ll give it a chance.

    1. I give a little more slack to remakes of films from another country but I generally disapprove of remakes of great films. Unless it began as a flawed film, there is no reason to do it over. That’s why His Girl Friday is such a glorious exception to the rule. Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 and the Coens’ True Grit both were really good because the originals left lots of room for improvement, however the Coens got bit on the ass when they tried to remake the great British comedy The Ladykillers. Karma paid them back by having the usually reliable Zhang Yimou make an awful Chinese version of Blood Simple called A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.

  14. I’m also surprised not to see Battle Royale on here, QT championed the hell out of that one a few years ago, saying it was his favorite movie since 1992(since he started directing).

    His Girl Friday, the speed of the dialogue was too much for me to handle. Keep that in mind before you put it on, Ted S, it’s not an easy watch. Probably subtitles would help for that one.

    1. The only thing that makes His Girl Friday’s dialogue so fast today is because of the shortened attention span of most today. If instead of dialogue, it was pointless Michael Bay action sequences and explosions, the speed would be pretty equivalent (except His Girl Friday is funny on purpose and keeps you engaged instead of having your eyes glaze over at giant robots smashing things for no apparent reason).

  15. I like the fact that it’s such an eclectic list. I’m a fan of Bad News Bears (a childhood favorite), Carrie, The Great Escape, and Taxi Driver. I am one of about five movie buffs in the known world who didn’t particularly like Apocalypse Now. 😉

    1. Quirky, I don’t think your opinion on Apocalypse Now is as rare among movie buff as you suspect. I think it’s got many great moments but fails to add up to a cohesive whole. I think Fax Bahr and the late George Hickenlooper’s documentary using Eleanor Coppola’s on-the-set home movies, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, actually is a much greater film than Apocalypse Now itself.

  16. Very interesting! Love it that Dazed and Confused is on there. That’s in my top 25 of all time! I’ve only seen Wages of Fear but not Sorcerer. I’d heard it was a flop but quite tempted to give it a try now.

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