The interconnected threads of all Quentin Tarantino films.
Known for inimitable dialogue and blasts of sudden gore, Quentin Tarantino films have remained among every film buff’s favorites since Reservoir Dogs, not only for their nods to other films that show Tarantino’s love for the medium and obvious talent behind the camera (let’s not talk about his acting chops) but also because all of his films are connected. In the Tarantinoverse, there are a few sets of siblings, ex-partners in crime and one tight-jawed Texas lawman who seem to pop up pretty frequently. But sometimes the way Quentin Tarantino films are connected is so subtle or so briefly seen on screen it might take the director himself to mention a connection before anyone picks up on it.
Here we have collected — for the eight released Quentin Tarantino films at the time of this writing — how everything is tied together.
Let’s jump right in with the Tarantinoverse’s most important detail: It’s actually one universe within another.
The Nesting Dolls of Movie Universes
According to the director, there is the “Realer Than Real” universe and the “Movie-Movie” universe — films that the inhabitants of the Realer Than Real go to see. The only project that’s excluded and stands alone in Tarantino’s filmography is Jackie Brown since that was an adaptation of Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard.
One way to tell which movie is in which universe is Michael Parks’ Texas lawman Earl McGraw. His first appearance was in From Dusk Till Dawn — a project written by Tarantino and directed by Tarantino’s longtime buddy Robert Rodriguez. Next, we see the sheriff in Kill Bill when he arrives at the chapel massacre that left The Bride in a coma. McGraw also appears in both segments of the Tarantino-Rodriguez double-feature, Grindhouse. To make things even more complicated, the character Earl McGraw appears in the From Dusk Till Dawn TV series, but replacing Michael Parks is Don Johnson — who played Big Daddy in Django Unchained.
The Movie-Movie universe tends to be more over-the-top (there are built-in sword holders on the plane in Kill Bill) and, on occasion, features the supernatural — zombies in Planet Terror and vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn.
Compare to Brand X
Tarantino says he was always bothered when someone in a movie would go to a bar and just say, “Give me a beer,” without naming specifically the kind they wanted. However, instead of much product placement in Quentin Tarantino films, the filmmaker created Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple Cigarettes. We see Big Kahuna Burger in Pulp Fiction in the early scene where Jules (Sam Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) visit the roommates indebted to Marsellus Wallace. It also appears in From Dusk Till Dawn when bank robber Seth (George Clooney) goes to get something to eat for his psychotic brother (played by Tarantino) and their bank teller captive. Red Apple Cigarettes are mentioned by name in Pulp Fiction when Butch (Bruce Willis) goes to meet with Marsellus Wallace. We see an ad in the background of Kill Bill advertising Red Apples as well as another, painted onto the side of a building, in Django Unchained.
A New History
From the moment Hitler was killed the way he was in Inglourious Basterds, the revised Allied victory sets the tone for the remainder of history in the Tarantinoverse — everyone is much more comfortable with violence with Hitler being defeated in such a bombastic (and satisfying) way. A cool theory from Cracked posits that because Hitler was killed in a movie theater it may explain why everyone in Tarantino’s world is so well versed in cinema and obsessed with pop culture.
Shelves Brimming with the Future
In Pulp Fiction, after Butch escapes from the pawn shop basement and decides not to leave Marsellus to his fate, we see him go around the store deciding on a weapon. All of the objects Butch picks up would later feature prominently in Tarantino movies. Samurai sword: Kill Bill. Baseball bat: Inglourious Basterds. Hammer: Django Unchained. Which leaves the chainsaw Butch momentarily considers before putting it back. Though it has yet to be used in a Tarantino flick, the director recently said he’d love to take on the horror genre, meaning a chainsaw could very well come into play with a future movie. (It’s honestly kind of a surprise it hasn’t already.)
When The Bride accidentally walks into an ambush at the start of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Budd (Michael Madsen) buries her alive in the grave of Paula Schultz. Fans believe Paula Schultz was the wife of Django Unchained’s Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who mentions to Django that he gave up dentistry (for reasons he never explains) to become a bounty hunter. The theory goes that his wife left him and, distraught, he took an unsafe job because he no longer cared about his life. Seeking him out years later, Paula learns of his death at Candieland and never forgives herself but keeps the Schultz name until her death in 1893 — only for Beatrix Kiddo to be buried on top of her over a century later.
Five Bloody Bloodlines
When Mr. Blonde, Vic Vega, is speaking with Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs about joining the team of robbers, Vic mentions his parole officer is Seymour Scagnetti — a character who never even appears in the film. In Natural Born Killers, though Tarantino has disowned the film for the number of changes Oliver Stone made to the script, one character held on through the many unapproved rewrites: Detective Jack Scagnetti, played by Tom Sizemore, who is thought to be the probation officer’s brother.
Speaking of Mr. Blonde, Michael Madsen was originally supposed to reprise his role as Vic Vega in Pulp Fiction, making it a prequel, evidently, given that Mr. Blonde dies in the Mexican standoff in Reservoir Dogs. But because Madsen had already signed on to appear in another project, Tarantino decided to rename the character Vincent and cast John Travolta in the part — a decision that would breathe new life into the Saturday Night Fever actor’s otherwise stalled career.
Even though both Vegas die in their respective Quentin Tarantino films, there were plans in the late ’90s to put together a Vega Brothers film, but both actors grew too old for any prequel to be believable. There was a pretty hilarious suggestion floating around online for a while that said it could be possible for Madsen and Travolta to reprise the roles — if the actors played the middle-aged twins of Vince and Vic assuming their dead brothers’ identities. That . . . would’ve been something.
Given one of the best character introductions ever seen, in Inglourious Basterds we meet the fearsome Bear Jew himself, Sgt. Donny Donowitz, played by Eli Roth. But as things sometimes tend to go, the heroic line didn’t continue with Donny’s son. In True Romance, Lee Donowitz (played by Saul Rubinek) is a squirmy Hollywood producer.
Christopher Walken appears briefly in Pulp Fiction to give what might be one of the best monologues in cinema history, introducing himself as Captain Koons to give Butch the missing watch that would later serve hugely in the boxer’s story line. And in Django Unchained, we glimpse a Wanted poster listing the accomplices known to ride with the notorious Smitty Gang, one of whom is known as Crazy Craig Koons. Tarantino himself confirmed this very minor blink-and-you-miss-it connection. And while that may be kind of minor, later we’ll reveal why the detail is actually massive in the Tarantino split universe and possibly even breaks the line between them…
When Django tells Dr. Schultz about his wife, Hildy, he mentions her last name is von Shaft, leading many film fans to believe that she is a relative of the bad mother — shut yo mouth — Shaft, made famous by Richard Roundtree.
Ex-Partners in Crime
Morgan Creek Productions
In one scene from Reservoir Dogs, Mr. White gives a little backstory about his previous heists, briefly mentioning a former female cohort named Alabama. It’s believed that he’s talking about Patricia Arquette’s character from True Romance, Alabama Whitman.
When Vincent Vega takes Mia Wallace out to dinner, she describes the failed TV pilot she starred in, Fox Force Five. During the shooting of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino and Uma riffed on the idea between takes, invented the character The Bride, and 10 years later that idea would hit the screens as Kill Bill, with Fox Force Five becoming the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. And since Kill Bill is part of the Movie-Movie universe and Pulp Fiction part of the Realer Than Real, does that mean the failed pilot for Fox Force Five, after a few rewrites, became Kill Bill? And since Mia is an actress, does that mean Uma Thurman is playing Mia Wallace playing Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill?
Tarantino, during the filming of Kill Bill, shot some extra footage of a few characters that he said he “put in his fridge.” The standing theory is that when The Bride kills Vernita Green in front of her daughter Nikki early on in Kill Bill, the daughter of the assassin would later grow up to seek revenge on The Bride.
Another suggestion the story line will continue is that Bill (David Carradine) let Beatrix think she killed him because she deserved to win after all she went through — that her being shot and put in a coma, defeating the Deadly Vipers and tracking him down — was all some sort of ultimate test, a kind of training session that would eclipse even what she went through with Pai Mei. And maybe he knew she would create enemies along the way who would later come seek her out for revenge — like Nikki Green — thus ensuring the cycle would continue. Because, like Bill’s brother Budd pointed out: People who retire will die sooner if they don’t have a job to do.
Another hint that supports the theory that Bill is still alive is that at the close of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, when we see each actor’s name with their character’s name being crossed out. The entire Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is marked off, with the exception of Carradine’s Bill — whose name remains, untouched, suggesting he’s still alive.
Now, bearing all of this in mind, we can confirm Kill Bill and Django Unchained are part of the Movie-Movie universe, being that The Bride is buried in the grave of Paula Schultz, King Schultz’s wife. But the connection to a member of the Koons family in Pulp Fiction (Christopher Walken’s cameo), a descendent of a gang member listed on the Wanted poster in Django Unchained, means there is a bridge between the two universes. Maybe there’s something to that; maybe there’s not. Either way, in the coming years fans will be watching how Quentin Tarantino films connect in what will supposedly be his last two offerings.
What connections have you found in Quentin Tarantino films? Share with us in the comments.