Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are highly influential filmmakers known for their complex characters, sharp dialogue, and cool visuals.
In a cinematic showdown, we will compare their top five films according to Rotten Tomatoes scores.
In the first round, Nolan's "Insomnia" (92%) easily beats Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" (75%).
When it comes to inspiring filmmakers, only a few names are as notable as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. These two undeniable geniuses have provided us with some of the most memorable moments of the last two decades. With their complex characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and penchant for cool visuals, Nolan and Tarantino are true icons of the modern cinematic world.
From movies that have made us question the fabric of existence to characters that have redefined the meaning of the word “cool,” modern cinema owes a lot to these two visual virtuosos. However, if Highlander taught us a valuable lesson, it’s that “There can be only one!”
At first glance, movies like Interstellar and Reservoir Dogshave nothing in common. That said, you’d be surprised how closely Nolan’s character and world-building mimic the style of Tarantino. At the same time, a sci-fi movie directed by Tarantino – which sounds like the best thing ever – would probably share more than a few similarities with modern science-fiction classics – and Christopher Nolan is the only one leading the charge in the field of awe-inspiring sci-fi flicks.
Put all those things together, and what we have in our hands is a cinematic showdown of epic proportions. They’re both heavyweights, but only one man can claim the title of the best director of the last 25 years.
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As the title says, we’ll only count movies made in the last 25 years. For Tarantino, that disqualifies two of his greatest films:Pulp Fictionand Reservoir Dogs. Jackie Brown is also out of the competition because it was released 25 years and ten months ago. Christopher Nolan is safe since, unlike Quentin Tarantino, all his movies have been released less than 25 years ago.
We’ll pair each filmmaker’s top five films, according to Rotten Tomatoes. That leaves us with this lineup:
The Hateful Eight
Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
The Dark Knight
Each film will be pitted against its closest competitor – in terms of Rotten Tomatoes score – and a victor will be chosen. Of course, there’ll be some subjectivity – but let’s try to keep things as objective as possible. With that out of the way, let’s get to the movies!
Fittingly, the first bout is between two of the filmmakers’ lesser-known flicks. The Hateful Eight was a movie that almost didn’t happen. The plot leaked online, forcing Tarantino to stop production and nearly abandon the project. Fortunately, The Hateful Eight came through in the end and now holds a divisive 75% on Rotten Tomatoes.
On the other hand, Insomnia is also a claustrophobic thriller. Released early in Nolan’s career, the film follows a veteran detective who investigates the murder of a young girl in a town where the sun never sets. The escalating tension, clever characters, and killer performances by Al Pacino and Robin Williams earned Insomnia a well-deserved 92% on the Tomatometer.
Sadly for Tarantino fans, this is an easy win for Nolan. Insomnia sets the bar high for thriller movies, and in terms of presentation and the overall plot, the movie simply leaves The Hateful Eight buried in the snow.
Still, considering Hateful Eight‘s troubled production, we got just what we wanted out of this movie: another Quentin Tarantino joint where Samuel Jackson plays a badass character. For what it’s worth, Insomnia has none of that.
Round 2 — Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair vs. Dunkirk
Dunkirk accentuated Nolan’s fascination with time above all things. Only someone like him could have made a WWI movie where time was one of the main characters. The movie’s unparalleled sense of urgency and brisk pacing make it one of the most impressive action flicks ever directed by Chris Nolan.
Speaking of action, you couldn’t pack any more legendary action sequences into Kill Bill if you tried. Originally released as two volumes, most Tarantino fans enjoy the movie the way it was meant to be seen: as a Whole Bloody Affair. From timeless characters to iconic setpieces, Kill Bill is easily one of the most influential action flicks produced in the last two decades.
For those reasons, it’s safe to say that Kill Bill comes up on top as the better of the two films. Dunkirk is Oscar-worthy, true, but movies like Kill Bill are the ones you can watch over and over again and always have a blast. Also, Uma Thurman as the Bride – that’s all we need to say.
WINNER: Kill Bill
Round 3 — Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood vs. Memento
Perhaps one of Nolan’s most seminal films, Memento‘s inverted narrative cemented Nolan’s genius as an innovative filmmaker who never plays by the rules. Either that or it established his fascination with confusing audiences with its intertwined narratives and unusual character arcs. I’ll let you be the judge.
On the other corner, we have Tarantino’s most recent film. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood pays homage to all things cinema. From stunt doubles to the world of studio television, it’s clear this is the closest we’ve ever got to a love letter from T to Tinseltown. Is it good? No. It’s great.
The undeniable chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt turns every scene they’re together into some of the best Tarantino has ever written. While certainly not as “complex” as something like Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time has quickly found its place in the pantheon of iconic films directed by Quentin Tarantino.
All that said, we can’t discard Memento just yet. After all, a 94% Tomatometer indicates a near-universal praise. Compared to Once Upon a Time‘s 85%, it’s clear who the critics favoured in this case. It’s a close match, so I’ll let the fans decide this one.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, Once Upon A Time‘s audience score is… 70%. Memento charges in with an audience score of… 94%!Memento is the undisputable winner of this bout, according to cinema fans.
We’re nearing our final bout, and things are decidedly heating up! This time, we have Christopher Nolan’s smashing 2023 hit, Oppenheimer. Though it’s been less than a year since its theatrical run, Oppenheimer has already become a pop culture phenomenon – mostly due to its association with the Barbie flick.
Nolan proves he’s been honing his craft all this time, delivering an amazingly nuanced character study of the man who created humanity’s most powerful weapon of war. Thanks to the outstanding performance of Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer is a film that’s sure to live on as a proper example of how to turn a real-life story into a compelling historical drama.
Django Unchained was Quentin Tarantino’s first attempt at a proper Western. It also examines closely the horrors of slavery, all through a definitively “Tarantinesque” lens. The result is a movie that’s every bit as timeless as the Westerns that inspired it. Jamie Foxx’s performance was great, and so was essentially everyone else in Django Unchained. Also, Leo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candy has become a massive pop culture icon, cementing Django‘s status as one of Tarantino’s most beloved joints.
Again, we face a dilemma. Here are two films whose stories have influenced modern pop culture discourse. It’s safe to say that Oppenheimer might lose this one since it’s had less time to make a dent in pop culture. Both films are exceptionally well-made, too – so the only option seems to appeal to the fans once more.
First, we have Oppenheimer. While the movie has Django comfortably beaten with its 93% Tomatometer vs. Django‘s 87%, the fans have spoken. According to fans, Oppenheimer gets a 91% fresh score, while Django takes this round with 92%/. It’s as close as you can get and a testament to just how beloved these movies are.
WINNER: Django Unchained
Round 5 — Inglorious Basterds vs. The Dark Knight
This is it. The match that will decide who’s the best filmmaker of the last two decades. Inglorious Basterds vs. The Dark Knight. One of the coolest movies about WWII meets with one of the most fascinating superhero movies ever made. Who will come up on top?
Let’s begin with Inglorious Basterds. Easily one of Tarantino’s most solid performances as a filmmaker, Basterds is as close as you can get to cinematic perfection. The movie spawned the perfect villain with Hans Landa, and also one of the most shocking ending scenes in modern cinema history. The plot twist ending, where the Basterds outsmart the Nazis like you wouldn’t believe, remains one of Tarantino’s best moments.
Still, for all this applause, we can’t talk about “The Greatest Movies Ever Made” and leave The Dark Knight out of the equation. While modern Marvel has done everything in its power to prove superheroes are dum cardboard cutouts paraphrasing the same jokes over and over, Nolan did the exact opposite with The Dark Knight.
If Hans Landa is the perfect villain, then The Joker is the archetypal bad guy. Menacing, deranged, and truly iconic, Heath Ledger’s performance is the stuff of legends. It elevated Batman beyond its comic book origins, earning the character a well-deserved spot in the select list of cinematic legends.
To be honest, this match-up is a bit unfair. As great as Inglorious Basterds is, you can’t beat The Dark Knight. Not even Nolan could, as none of his other Batman films ranks as high as The Dark Knight.
For becoming a timeless icon of cinema and geek culture everywhere, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight wins this round.
WINNER: The Dark Knight
Now that we’ve matched all ten films, the winner is clear. While Quentin Tarantino is a beloved icon of cinema and film students everywhere, Christopher Nolan emerges as the most consistent director of the two.
Tarantino loves to experiment with his films, while Nolan, as adventurous as his concepts are, essentially sticks to his trademark approach. The two directors can rest easy knowing that they’ll undoubtedly enter Hollywood’s Hall of Fame. Still, when it comes to the past 25 years, between Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, Nolan is the clear winner.
Do you agree that Christopher Nolan is a better director Quentin Tarantino, or would you have scored things a bit differently?
Born in Venezuela – and still living there – Tito Pernalete loves all things geeky and sci-fi. He studied Social Communications in college: an odd career choice for a confessed introvert. Though he has experience as a director of photography for some short films, Tito has been a writer for most of his adult life, with a particular interest in movies/TV and tech in general. When he's not playing Elden Ring or binge-watching a horror movie marathon, you can find him planning his dream trip to Japan. His favourite film is RoboCop, but he also has a soft spot for cheesy 80s horror flicks and anything made by Wes Anderson.