The 10 Best Needle Drops in Quentin Tarantino Movies

Whether you love his movies or not, it’s hard to deny that Quentin Tarantino knows how to pick good music for his film’s soundtracks. besides The Hateful Eightwith it Ennio Morricone score, his soundtracks are almost entirely of pre-existing songs, whether they’re pieces of music written for other films or various pop songs (usually of the underrated/semi-forgotten variety) from decades past.

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It’s impossible to list all the great uses of music from Tarantino’s filmography, as he has films that arguably have 10 or more fantastic needle drops each. But in the interest of covering some of the best (and most diverse) music he’s used, here are 10 of the best uses of songs in Tarantino films, taking into account how good the song is and how well it fits within the scene it complements .


“Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel from ‘Reservoirs Dogs’ (1992)

Reservoir Dogs was Tarantino’s first feature film and established his knack for picking great music right off the bat. The film’s most memorable song appears in what’s become the film’s most infamous scene, where the sadistic Mr. Blonde torments and tortures a tied-up police officer, all the while “Stuck in the Middle With You” plays in the background.

The catchy grooviness of the song clashes jarringly with the tension and eventual horror of the film’s scene. For his career as a whole, it serves as Tarantino saying that with his films, he’d be unafraid to explore the terrible things people are capable of. Without this particular song’s ironic, iconic use, that message may not have been received quite so loud and clear.

“Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack from ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997)

Jackie Brown has one of the best opening credits scenes of all time, thanks to its simplicity and the song used. The title character, played by Pam Grierstands on a travelator, the camera traveling along with her, all while Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” plays.

The straightforward nature of the opening scene contrasts nicely with the sprawling, intricate, double-cross-filled crime story to come. It’s stylish and a great introduction to the main character, and Womack’s iconic song – the main theme song for a 1972 film of the same name – is powerful, both musically and lyrically.

“Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill from ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

A (debatably superior) version of the Neil Diamond song, Urge Overkill’s cover of “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” plays just before things descend into chaos during one of Pulp Fiction’s three main storylines.

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While Vincent Vega lectures himself in a bathroom mirror, the young woman he’s supposed to be looking after, Mia Wallace, dances carefree to “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon,” and shortly after that, mistakes a bag of heroin for cocaine , snorting it, and having a near-fatal overdose. The moodiness of the song fits the overall mood of the scene perfectly, and you could analyze the lyrics as referring to Mia’s youth or naivety playing a part in what happens by the scene’s end.

“Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection from ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992)

While it might not live up to the “Stuck in the Middle With You” scene from later in the film, Reservoir Dogs does get off to a great start with George Baker Selections “Little Green Bag,” which plays in the film’s opening credits, just after the opening dinner scene.

The way the song kicks in, after a brief introduction by the fictional K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend announcer, is perfect. It’s another cool, stylish, timeless song that perfectly syncs up with the film’s visuals. Walking in slow motion has rarely looked so effortlessly cool, both before Reservoir Dogs and ever since.

“The Lonely Shepherd” by Gheorghe Zamfir from ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ (2003)

If one Tarantino soundtrack had to be singled out as the best one – or at least the more varied and musically inventive – it might have to be the soundtrack for Kill Bill Vol. 1. It’s perhaps Tarantino’s fastest-paced and most action-packed film. Its eclectic song choices amplify the excitement and entertainment of the film significantly.

The best use of music in the film is a slower, more sorrowful piece of music. played by Gheorghe Zamfir on the pan flute, “The Lonely Shepherd” plays after the Bride receives the sword she’s to use for her rampage of revenge and then plays again just before the end credits roll. Each time, it’s amazingly effective, with its distinctive instrumentation, haunting melody, and memorable build/crescendo. It’s all so good that it’s no wonder Tarantino used it twice in one film.

“Cat People” by David Bowie from ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)

“Cat People” is one of the best songs the legendary David Bowie released during the 1980s. It was used as the title song for the 1982 film Cat Peoplea horror film that was a remake of a 1940s horror movie of the same name.

Inglourious Basterds certainly isn’t a horror film – and doesn’t contain any cats – but the Bowie song works amazingly well towards the film’s climax. As Shosanna prepares to exact revenge against numerous high-ranking Nazi officers inside the theater, she runs, and the mysterious, tense song builds and builds, setting the stage exceptionally well for a fiery and explosive climax.

“L’Arena” by Ennio Morricone from ‘Kill Bill Vol. 2’ (2004)

Ennio Morricone was one of the greatest film composers of all time, with numerous classic movie scores to his name, all written over a nearly 60-year-long career. Tarantino was clearly a fan, as he used many classic themes from Morricone before getting him to score The Hateful Eightfor which the Italian composer finally won his first Oscar.

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But the best use of an older Morricone piece would have to be “L’Arena,” used in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (and originally used in the 1968 western, The Mercenary). It starts quiet and has a truly epic build, superbly accompanying the scene where the Bride triumphantly escapes from a coffin after being buried underground.

“Unchained (The Payback/Untouchable)” by James Brown & 2Pac from ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)

Django Unchained is one of Tarantino’s longest films and, maybe somewhat unfortunately, has what feels like a big climax about half an hour before the actual ending. But still, what a scene it is, with the ludicrously bloody shootout at Candyland being an action scene for the ages.

It starts without music, but towards the end, uses a mashup of James Brown and 2Pac, which doesn’t sound like it would work but truly does. It also helps the film’s themes, having two legendary Black artists playing in the background as Django wreaks bloody revenge on a house full of slavers who had it coming.

“Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei from ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ (2003)

In a rare instance of Tarantino using a fairly recent (at the time) song, Kill Bill Vol. 1 uses the track “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity,” featured in the yakuza film New Battles Without Honor and Humanitywhich came out just three years earlier.

At least for Western audiences, that song is now firmly linked to Kill Bill, perhaps unfairly. Still, it’s hard to deny how much of an impact the instantly catchy instrumental piece has on the film, especially when it accompanies O-Ren Ishii and her gang doing a cool slow-motion walk.

“Misirlou” by Dick Dale from ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

Pulp Fiction is a blisteringly fast-paced film with a 2.5-hour runtime that flies by. The song in the opening credits, “Misirlou,” helps it get off to a speedy start. As a couple declares they’re robbing a diner, the film freezes, that iconic guitar starts up, and the opening credits roll.

From there, it never slows down. The song sets the tone perfectly; it’s loud, fun, fast, and hugely memorable. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate song announcing that the flashy and ferocious Pulp Fiction is about to start.

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