Comparative Review of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards and Pulp Fiction

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Quentin Tarantino is a renowned film writer and director, whose work is highly acclaimed. Tarantino’s films are particularly known for challenging Hollywood norms. In fact, Tarantino is known to have a different and atypical view of the world, which is often represented in all of his films. Tarantino’s films all bear certain features and qualities, which are associated with Tarantino’s style of film making. For instance, some of his films tend to take place in the same fictional universe. Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction share numerous features. A comparative review of these two films will identify the most significant similarities and differences shared by these two films.

The Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction are probably some of the most notable Quentin Tarantino’s films. These films share numerous similarities. To begin with, they both depict characters with criminal ties and questionable qualities. Tarantino is known to depict characters who are closely connected with illegal world in almost all of his films. These characters are often hit men, traffickers, thieves, mobsters and bounty hunters (Nogueras 4). In Inglorious Basterds, both sides of the war are depicted as individuals with questionable qualities. The Nazi Germans are painted as ruthless killers, who specifically target Jews in their attempts at purifying their race. In Pulp Fiction, the film revolved around individuals whose primary occupation is hit men, robbers and mobsters.

Another notable similarity between these films is the redeemable qualities assigned to the same criminal characters. One of the most striking aspects of both films is the manner in which Tarantino uses dialogue to promote their narratives. For instance, in Pulp Fiction, the movie is filled with gangsters, whose actions are often depicted in hoods. Despite this fact, such characters engage in conversations, which depict their high level of communication style, wit and charm. This trait goes hand in hand with Tarantino’s views of morality, which are prominent throughout his films. For instance, in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino demonstrates that there are bad individuals with good qualities (Haigh 98). A similar image is painted in Pulp Fiction, through the use of dialogue and humor. Similarly, Inglorious Basterds employs the same approach, in which the dialogue in the film remains very clean, clear and largely easy to understand. Lander is able to transition seamlessly from speaking Italian to Germany in a fluent manner. At this point, he is depicted as a very intelligent individual and not as a killer.

Additionally, Tarantino’s films are also known for their high level of violence, a feature also found in the Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. In fact, guns, shootouts and death are often considered to be some of the identifying features of Tarantino’s films (Nogueras 7). In Pulp Fiction, violence is mainly perpetrated through guns. For instance, the breakfast scene, which is shown just a mere moment into the film, features Vincent and Jules shooting Brett after he tries to cross their mobster boss. In Inglorious Basterds, violent scenes are prominent, and this point works to normalize the vile acts. For example, the carving of a German swastika on Nazi soldiers’ foreheads is treated as a form of art. Towards the end of the film, Aldo curves the same image on Landa’s forehead before remarking that this is probably his “masterpiece”. Most importantly, the numerous acts of violence perpetrated by the basterds, such as Donowitz’s use of a bat to beat German soldiers to death using his baseball bat, are also normalized. This technique works to show that killing Nazi German soldiers is permissible (Cook 18).

On the same note, both films also depict an exaggerated use of blood, another feature commonly associated with Tarantino’s films (Nogueras 4). In both films, there are numerous scenes in which blood is displayed prominently on the scene, particularly during and following acts of violence. One such scene is evident in Inglorious Basterds, when a German officer is shown being shot by a machine gun, which pulverizes his body turning it into a gory blood mess. In Pulp Fiction, Marvin is shot in the face by accident and sprays of blood can be seen in this scene, which is probably the bloodiest scene in the film.

The use of black comedy is also another common feature in both Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino is known for writing and directing films, which make jabs at subject matters that are considered a taboo, such as race discrimination and assault. In his pictures, the director manages to provide comic relief by mixing comedy and violence (Nogueras 4). In Pulp Fiction, the exchange between Brett and Jules in the breakfast scene is humorous and immediately after, Brett is killed. In a different scene, Lance and Vincent’s conversation as they try to save Mia from a drug overdose also provides comic relief in the face of impending doom. The same technique is applied in Inglorious Basterds

when the basterds attempt to disguise themselves as Italians but their poor accents give them away, resulting in their massacre soon after.

Another notable similarity observed between the two films is their prominent use of cultural artefacts. In Pulp Fiction, such objects are used to reinforce and sometimes poke fun at the American culture. For example, food prominently appears throughout this film as a cultural feature (Klamann 5). There are numerous shots of people eating in a diner and carrying foods such as burgers, coffee and donuts. All these items are symbolic of the American culture, which is known for its love of fast foods. The Today Show, an intrinsic American cultural element, is also used in the film to symbolize the national way of life. This performance mention in the movie aims to demonstrate how Americans are obsessed with getting their fifteen minutes of fame as Mia speaks of how her fame only lasted for a single episode (Klamann 6). At the same time, in Inglorious Basterds, the use of cultural artefacts is evident to depict a particular society’s way of life in the German swastikas carved on the foreheads of soldiers. These images are symbolic of the Nazi troops, who were known to perpetrate the Jewish genocide during WWI.

Both films also demonstrate that they have significant influence from past motion pictures. In Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino pays homage to spaghetti westerners in multiple ways. However, the most notable influence is evident in his use of music, which includes Ennio Morricone compositions, which are a core feature of spaghetti Western music (Blake 40, 46). In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino recalls Kiss Me Deadly, a classic film, when he uses the idea of the briefcase containing mysterious content inside (Nogueras 7).

The theme of racism is another similarity observed in both Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. The film Pulp Fiction is filled with numerous racial undertones. When Mia and Vincent are in a restaurant, the waiter asks for their order. When Mia says she wants a milkshake, he asks her if she prefers chocolate or vanilla. This is a subtle hint at racism, with vanilla symbolizing the White race while chocolate depicts the African-American race (Klamann 5). Racism is also evident in the politics of drug dealing, when Vincent tries to negotiate the price of heroin with the local drug peddler, Lance. After Lance boasts about his heroin, Vincent replies by saying that he is not a “nigger” and that they are not in Inglewood. He goes on to say that White people are able to distinguish between “good shit” and “bad shit”. This scene is indicative of the extent, to which racism continues to be a highly prevalent occurrence in the United States (Nama 47). Conversely, Pulp Fiction does not seek to represent a clash between the Caucasian and African-American races. Instead, it displays a reconciliation between the two as Shosanna is shown to be intimately involved with a black man (Nama 98). On the other hand, the war waged between the Basterds, who are American Jews and the German Nazi, is also indicative of racism, racial phobia and connected tensions.

Symbols of oppression are another shared feature between the two films. In Inglorious Basterds, the oppression of the Jews by the Nazi Germans is the main theme promoted by the film. Shosanna, a woman who is the sole survivor of her family’s execution by German soldiers is portrayed as a symbol of oppression. In the beginning, she is depicted as a small girl, who runs away in terror after escaping the execution. In the film, the audience meets her again as a fully-grown woman who is in a quest for enacting retribution against the German soldiers. In this manner, she functions as both a symbol of oppression and as a symbol of the power the oppressed have against their oppressors (Nama 98). On a similar note, the Pulp Fiction also contains symbols of oppression, which contain both racial and homophobic undertones. In one particular scene, Marsellus, an African-American mob star is captured and raped. After being rescued by Butch he lets the latter get away on condition that he leaves town and does not tell anyone that Marsellus was raped. In this manner, Marsellus is a symbol of oppression, as he depicts the prosecution of both African-Americans and homosexual Americans.

Whiles both films bear numerous similarities, there was a notable difference identified. This is particularly evident in the manner in which the stories are narrated. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino employs a non-linear approach. The story manages to turn back in on itself as Vincent and Jules are talking in the final scene when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny walk in and the words “garçon” can be heard exactly as they were uttered in the first scene. Conversely, a more linear plot is evident in the Inglorious Basterds, as the story begins with the slaughter of Shosanna’s family and ends when she burns the theater with German soldiers and Hitler inside. It is worth noting that despite the different approaches in plot and narratives, both films apply the Hollywood structuring of films, which contains the set-up, complication, development, climax and epilogue (Howley 4).


This comparative review of Quentin Tarantino’s films, the Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, demonstrates that these films are more alike than they are different. Both pictures depict characters with questionable characteristics, such as criminals, robbers, the Basterds and the German soldiers. Elements of gore, such as excessive violence, and bloody scenes are also prominent. Violence is also used together with humor to provide comic relief. Cultural artefacts and influence from past cinema are also evident in both films. Most importantly, themes of racism and oppression are also prominent in both the Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. However, the structure of the films’ plots differ as one employs a non-linear approach while the other makes use of a more linear approach.

Works Cited

Blake, Eric M. “Genre, Justice & Quentin Tarantino.” Graduate Theses and Dissertations, 2015, paper 5911.

Cook, Jared W. “Nazisploitation and the Problem of Violence in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.” All Theses and Dissertations, 2011, paper 2698.

Haigh, Richard. “Pulp Fiction and the Reason of Law.” Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing, vol.6, no.3, 1998, pp.96-9.

Howley, Kevin. “Breaking, Making, and Killing Time in Pulp Fiction.” Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies, May 2004,

Accessed 7 Nov. 2018.

Klamann, Seth. “Putting the Pulp in Pulp Fiction.” Artifacts Journal: A Journal of Undergraduate Writing, vol. 9, 2014.

Accessed 7 Nov. 2018.

Nama, Adilifu. Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino. Austin, University of Texas Press, 2015.

Nogueras, Pablo. Tarantino Unchained. [Dissertation]. Vedruna Catalunya, 2017.

Accessed 7 Nov. 2018.

September 25, 2023




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