#25) Pulp Fiction (1994)


#25) Pulp Fiction (1994)

OR “Oooo Eeee Oooo Steve Looks Just Like Buddy Holly”

Directed & Written by Quentin Tarantino. Story by Tarantino and Roger Avary.

Class of 2013

The Original Trailer, which tries its best to clean up the language.

The Plot: A classic pulp magazine on film, “Pulp Fiction” is the interwoven stories of seedy lowlife in 1990s L.A. Among them are two hit men, Vincent & Jules (John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson). Vincent has an unexpectedly eventful night when he has to take the boss’ wife (Uma Thurman) to dinner, and Jules experiences an epiphany while witnessing a robbery at a diner. Meanwhile (or before, or later) a prizefighter named Butch (Bruce Willis) makes a deal with crime lord Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and loses his family’s valuable watch. All this, plus at least two Arquettes.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls it, “one of the few films on the National Film Registry as notable for its lasting impact on the film industry as its considerable artistic merits.” The essay by film critic Jami Bernard echoes these sentiments, and also uses the phrase “pissing contests” in a complimentary way.

But Does It Really?: I’m gonna get this over with; I enjoy this movie a lot. It deserves to be here. It’s a movie I have to watch every year or two and just have a good time. But does that mean I think Tarantino’s a genius? No. I think he’s a great writer and a great lover of film whose work has been embraced (maybe a little too fanatically) around the world. But good acting helps good writing, and everyone in this movie relishes the opportunity to speak good dialogue. The film is uniquely stylized and is an instant classic, but to quote The Wolf, “let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.”

Shout Outs: As a good student of film, Tarantino includes many film references, but doesn’t hit you over the head with them. Among the fellow NFR entries alluded to are “Rebel Without a Cause”, “Deliverance”, “Shaft”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, and most notably, “Kiss Me Deadly”.

Everybody Gets One: Among the big names in this film making their only NFR appearance are Uma Thurman, Amanda Plummer, Tim Roth, and Bruce Willis (Though I suspect Willis has at least two movies that will show up eventually**). Noteworthy in the featured cast are Phil “Hermes” LaMarr, Julia “It’s Pat” Sweeney, and Kathy “Kathy Griffin” Griffin. Also starring Stephen Hibbert as “The Gimp”.

Wow, That’s Dated: Cellular phones the size of your head, and the ability to smoke indoors in California. Plus that woman who Marsellus accidentally shoots could not be dressed more like 1994.

Seriously, Oscars?: The little indie film that could, “Pulp Fiction” ended up with seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. But in a year dominated by big studio-backed “Forrest Gump”, the film only took home one prize; Best Original Screenplay for Tarantino and Avary. Samuel L. Jackson’s loss in the Best Supporting Actor category gave us one of the great nominee reactions ever.

Other notes

  • Never, ever, under any circumstances, watch this movie on basic cable.
  • Geez, less than four minutes in and Tarantino has used more ethnic slurs than your average ‘40s film.
  • I would love to have seen the woman who Jules is dating.
  • What’s in the briefcase? Who cares?
  • Samuel L. Jackson is clearly enjoying every minute of this film, and we all benefit from it.
  • Don’t be a…rectangle?
  • What exactly about it makes it a “Douglas Sirk steak”? Is it melodramatic? Does Todd Haynes eat it?
  • Of all the casting “what-ifs” posed on the internet, the one that intrigues me the most is Alfre Woodard as Mia Wallace. I would love to have seen that.
  • “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” is performed of course by…Urge Overkill? What, did Neil Diamond want too much for his version? This is why we can’t have nice things!
  • I’m not his biggest fan, but I must admit John Travolta is damn good in this film.
  • The little detail I noticed this go-round with the film is Trudi, as played by Bronagh Gallagher, just sitting on the couch with her bong while Mia’s life is at stake. Hilarious.
  • Christopher Walken as Captain Koons is the reason the Oscars should have a “Best Cameo” category. In a limited amount of screen time he fully captures the spirit of this film. This is also just before Walken became a caricature of himself.
  • Butch has my favorite never-quoted line in the film; “We’re American, honey, our names don’t mean shit.”
  • For what it’s worth, “The Watch” is my least favorite of the film’s segments. It’s the most removed from the other segments (this is Roger Avary’s primary contribution to the screenplay), and it moves at a slower pace. There’s the conversation with Butch and the cab driver, then him and Fabienne, then another conversation between them the next morning, and THEN we finally get to the missing watch. We’re too far into the film to slow things down like that.
  • Zed kinda looks like Daniel Day-Lewis. Oh, but what if it IS Daniel Day-Lewis? Such range.
  • I respect Quentin Tarantino as a writer and director, not so much as an actor.
  • If only Jules and Vincent had waited a year, then they could have seen “Babe”, the most charming pig of them all!


  • Every indie movie since 1994. Seriously, every damn one. Just Google it, I’m tired.
  • John Travolta: Act II.
  • Samuel L. Jackson’s entire film persona.
  • Confused Travolta!
  • Not only did Uma Thurman’s Oscar nomination thrust her into movie-stardom, but she got to meet Oprah too!
  • That point in the ‘90s when the ‘70s came back.
  • This Banksy mural;
  • Countless parodies, but we’ll focus on this one from the 1995 MTV Movie Awards that gave the other Sweathogs a chance to shine.
  • What happened next? Well in Hollywood they say, that Tarantino’s small ego grew three sizes that day.

Listen to This: Another fantastic film soundtrack, one song from “Pulp Fiction” has made it onto the National Recording Registry: Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. You could listen to it while staring at Ving Rhames’ neck band-aid, or while getting next to that special someone. The point is, “Let’s Stay Together” is awesome.

** 2017 Update: And one those movies just showed up: “Die Hard“.

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