7 Classic Movies That Inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Movies

Quentin Tarantino is one of the few directors today who has stayed true to the art and craft of filmmaking. Unlike most people in the industry, Tarantino never received any formal film education and learned about films by seeing classics like The Great Escape and Rio Bravo. his latest movie Once upon a time in Hollywood is a historical fiction that explores Hollywood in the 1960s and is steeped in classic nostalgia.


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Almost all of Tarantino’s films reflect in one way or another his passion for classic cinema. Whether it’s to cast classic star Rod Taylor Inglourious Basterds or the invisible voice of Elvis Presley in true romance, Tarantino’s films are full of references to a variety of classic films and stars.

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“To Be or Not to Be” (1942)

Maria Tura and Joseph Tura listen to Jan Dobosz

Set in Poland during Nazi occupation, To be or not to be follows a group of actors who help a Polish soldier apprehend a German spy. The movie stars Carol Lombard as Maria Tura, wife of actor Joseph Tura played by jack benny. Maria and her husband are involved in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. With the help of their supporting actors, they manage to lure the Nazi leaders and Hitler into a theater and lock them up before setting the building on fire. The heroes flee as the audience watches as the burning theater disappears in the distance.

Tarantino used this ending in his filmInglourious Basterds but added its own modern, gory twist to it. Unlike in To be or not to be, Tarantino lets the audience enjoy the sight of the carnage. The director also pays homage to this film with his character Bridget von Hammersmark, played by her Diane Krueger. Kruger’s character is a symbolic nod to classic star Carole Lombard. After Lombard finished a tour raising war bonds, he was killed in a plane crash while returning to Los Angeles. Although Hammersmark dies under different circumstances in the film than Lombard, her unfortunate death is the result of her involvement in the war effort.

“The Great Escape” (1963)

Steve McQueen alongside an officer in The Great Escape

The Great Escape tells the story of Allied POWs who devise a plan to break out of a German camp during World War II. The movie stars Steve McQueen as Hilts, the unofficial leader of the group and the driving force behind the escape. McQueen goes to the limit from the start, undermining the rules of the German soldiers and their intelligence. In one scene, he crosses a wire without permission and is shot at by the guards.

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in the Once upon a time in HollywoodLeonardo DiCaprioplays a fictional television star, Rick Dalton, whois digitized into that very scene, replacing Steve McQueen. McQueen also appears as a character in the 2019 film and is played by her billionstar Damien Lewis. In an early scene Margot Robbie who plays Sharon TateShe jumps into Lewis’ arms as she arrives at a Playboy mansion party. McQueen was supposed to be Sharon Tate’s guest on the night of the murders, but a persistent friend had made him change his plans.

“His Girl Friday” (1940)

Cary Grant looks at Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

With Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His girl Friday is a comedy about newspaper editor Walter Burns who tries everything he can to prevent his star reporter Hildy Johnson, who is also his ex-wife, from remarrying. Grant and Russell were comedic geniuses and played so well together that director, Howard Hawksgave stars the freedom to improvise their lyrics, resulting in some of the most hysterical moments in classic film history.

Howard Hawks is one of Tarantino’s favorite directors and has influenced several of his films including pulp fiction. His girl Friday is known for its quick and funny quips and is the first film in which actors talk about each other. Timo Roth and Amanda Plummer play a few in pulp fiction arguing back and forth in a diner before robbing the store. Tarantino had Roth and Plummer observed His girl Friday to show them the rapid delivery of dialogue he had envisioned. The actors mirror Grant and Russell while Plummer quacks like a duck at Roth as he tries to keep his composure.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966)

Eli Wallach sits next to Clint Eastwood on a wagon in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The good the bad and the ugly follows an unnamed bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood) and a wanted outlaw (Eli Wallach) in a race against a bandit named Angel Eyes (Lee van Cleef) to find a golden fortune buried in a graveyard. In the end, the three men, guns drawn, lie spread out in the middle of the cemetery in a standoff. The tension builds between the men with their tense looks and the unique musical score soaring in the background.

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This scene is considered one of the most iconic movie moments with a memorable score and an intense setup. Tarantino is an avid fan of Spaghetti Western films and pays homage to this classic in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. The score composed by Ennico Morricone, is seen in the bride’s flashback scene. The music sets an ominous tone as the bride auditions Uma Thurman slowly walks to the front of a church until she spots Bill, played by David Carradine. As in the good the bad and the ugly, The camera zooms in on the actors as they quickly exchange glances that match the same level of tension.

“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974)

Walter Matthau grabs a man by the shirt collar in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Taking Pelham One Two Three is a film about four men who decide to hijack a New York City subway train and hold the passengers for a hefty ransom. As the kidnappers transmit their demands to the police over the subway radio, officers attempt to identify them, believing it could lead to leverage against them. The only problem? The suspects don’t use their real names, not even fake names, but use different colored names.

tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogsfollows a group of guys who plan a jewelry heist that goes horribly wrong. When the survivors meet, they begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant. As in ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ They are each labeled with a different color to protect themselves not only from the police but also from their fellow conspirators.

Rio Bravo (1959)

John Wayne and Dean Martin listen to Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo is the story of a small-town sheriff, played by John Wayne, who needs the help of a young gunslinger and an alcoholic Dean Martin to help keep a criminal’s brother behind bars.

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This is another film directed by Howard Hawks and one of Tarantino’s favorites John Wayne Western film. Tarantino describes Rio Bravo as a “hang-out” movie with a slow pace and scenes that focus on character development, but it doesn’t really advance the actual story. Tarantino’s 1997 film,Jackie Brown,is full of “hang out” scenes that give the audience a glimpse beyond Jackie and her criminal past, such as when she’s playing her records when Max Cherry comes over. Their conversation adds nothing to the story, but the audience did learn more about the characters.

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)

Lee Marvin in conversation with Charles Bronson in The Dirty Dozen.

The dirty dozen Stars Lee Marvin as Major Reisman, who is assigned to train a group of soldiers to parachute over enemy lines to assassinate German officials in France. The twelve recruits are ruthless convicts on death row who agree to the mission in exchange for commutation sentences.

Brad Pittand his band of merry men in Tarantino’s film Inglorious Basterds are a fitting tribute to this classic film. Lt. Aldo Raine, played by Pitt, is a nod to Lee Marvin’s mischievous character. Major Reisman is a little more straightforward than Raine, but both men have a lack of respect when it comes to rules and regulations. Pitt also leads a group of criminals on a mission during World War II to eliminate German troops in France.

NEXT: 10 Great Movies of the ’70s Recommended by Quentin Tarantino

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