With all of their over-the-top violence, non-linear storylines and impressive monologues, Quentin Tarantino’s movies are cult classics for film-buffs. While they’re all masterpieces in their own right, Pulp Fiction has been voted the best of all time.
The movie was released on this day 14 years ago, and while Tarantino has directed many films since its release, its humorous self-referential structure, swear word-filled dialogue and, of course, John Travolta’s sweet dance moves never get old.
The neo-noir crime film was shown at the 1994 Cannes film festival, where it won the Palme d’Or and went on to become a breakout success.
Pulp Fiction grossed more than $213 million globally during its initial theatrical run, becoming the first independent film to gross more than $200 million, which, considering it was created on a budget of only $8 million, is surely a sign of how good it is.
The movie has remained just as popular through the years; it currently stands at number eight in the IMDB top 250, and according to Ranker, a site where the public have their say through voting, has successfully achieved the top spot for the best Tarantino movie ever.
Pulp Fiction challenged the audience’s patience by withholding information – we still don’t know what was in the damned briefcase – which could theoretically have made viewers turn away in frustration, but which ended up paying off by creating in-depth intrigue and guesswork from the audience.
Its intertwined, non-chronological storylines stayed with the viewer after the movie came to an end, forcing them to dwell on the scenes as the watcher tried desperately to slot all of the information they’d just learned into place. In turn, this gave the viewer the sense of gratification when they eventually understood all the links, making the movie a rewarding experience.
While the success of the movie is of course mostly down to Tarantino’s impeccable directing and writing, the seedy characters also work to entertain the audience with their quotable back-and-forth quips and comedic accidental face-shootings interspersed with the telltale Tarantino violence.
Actors John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, among others, brought Tarantino’s characters to life and created many of the memorable scenes that made the movie so loveable.
Travolta worked hard to get into the mindset of his character Vincent Vega and the life of crime he was wrapped up in – right down to the knowledge of what taking heroin feels like. The Grease star didn’t actually take heroin as a rehearsal, but according to Shortlist he turned to someone who had better knowledge of the feeling for advice.
The actor reportedly spoke to a recovering heroin addict, who was a friend of Tarantino’s, during his research. The recovering addict apparently suggested Travolta drink tequila and lie in a hot pool, as this would be the closest representation of heroin’s effects without actually having it.
I should advise you – don’t try this at home. Though it’s certainly an interesting approach to method acting on Travolta’s behalf!
In an interview with American Film Institute, Samuel L. Jackson recalled receiving the script for Pulp Fiction – and with the amount of secrecy wrapped around it, it seems like the creators were aware it would be an innovative and successful movie right from the off.
Jackson recalled how it was vital the script remained a secret, explaining:
The script came. A little, plain brown wrapper from Jersey Films, and Jersey have got these gangster images on the logo, and it said ‘if you show this script to anybody, two guys named Ernie and Luigi will come and break both of your legs’.
I sat down and read it, and I’m like ‘oh my God, this is awesome. Nobody writes a script this good. There’s no way this script is as good as I thought.’ So I closed it, opened it again, read it immediately – ‘okay, this is great’.
He went on to explain how he felt after watching Pulp Fiction for the first time, saying:
I’d never felt that satisfied and that full about a performance and about being part of something as I was in that particular moment.
Check out his interview here:
Tarantino has spoken in the past about how the iconic movie came to be created, explaining he had the idea for the three intertwining stories based on classic tales of crime viewers have heard before, but this time presented in a new light.
In an interview with Jamie Foxx, the director said:
The whole idea of Pulp Fiction was the idea I was going to do these three crime stories, kind of like the stories you’ve heard a zillion times before, but I was just going to take them different ways, and maybe have the scenes that don’t play out in movies happen – let real life intrude on genre.
When real life does intrude on genre it f**ks sh*t up, and that was what I kind of wanted to go with.
Though many young adults nowadays would only have been young children, or possibly not even born, when Pulp Fiction was originally released, modern on-demand viewing platforms open younger generations up to Tarantino’s older projects and allow the movie’s excellence to fall on fresh eyes.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, following the release of Tarantino’s 2015 movie The Hateful Eight, the director revealed he was planning on releasing just two more feature films before retiring.
He said he wanted to go out with a bang, saying his final release would be the movie-equivalent of a mic drop:
Drop the mic. Boom. Tell everybody, ‘Match that sh*t’.
The way I define success when I finish my career is that I’m considered one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived.
With the way Pulp Fiction has remained a must-see movie throughout the years, I don’t think there’s any doubting Tarantino is an incredible filmmaker!
Though the director has been involved in a range of projects since its release, the world’s love for the classic crime movie remains as strong as ever.
Could he possibly top it before he retires?! We’ll have to wait and see…
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.