Quentin Tarantino Film Style Guide

Quentin Tarantino Film Style Guide

Throughout his career, he has been praised for his ability to create a unique visual style that captures the mood and tone of his stories. Let's take a closer dive into the colors, symbols and shots (literally... )


Palette Guide

Tarantino's use of color is as off-kilter as his storylines can be. We know we're in for something weird with "Reservoir Dogs" and its cast of crazy colors... all of them wearing black suits.

tarantino movie style

"Pulp Fiction," though is filled with bright, vibrant colors, the red of Vincent Vega's car, the bright blue sky and denims, paired with strong contrast. These bold, distinctive and often primary colors create a sense of heightened reality, drawing us into the strange, twisting narrative of the film.

"Kill Bill" again resonates with a vibrant color palette, memorably a bright yellow and deep red tones. These colors are used to create a sense of action and excitement, as we follow the journey of the Bride on her quest for revenge. The use of yellow and red creates a sense of intensity and danger, as we are drawn into the fast-paced, blood-soaked world of the film. Red and yellow were also the colors chosen by McDonald's for the first restaurant interiors... because of the jumpstarting nature of the two, this combo makes sure you don't get too comfortable and they can make "fast food".

(Speaking of which... there's iconic references to fast food in the movies too.... more of that in the motifs section).

tarantino movie color

In "Inglourious Basterds," Tarantino uses color to create a sense of mood and atmosphere. The film is filled with warm, muted colors, such as the soft yellows and browns of the rural German countryside, and the deep, rich reds of the movie theater. 

And in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Tarantino takes us on a nostalgic journey back to the late 1960s... it's a warm, sun-drenched palette. These colors help draw us into the world of old Hollywood and its golden age.

Signature Shots

tarantino movie style

Wide-angle shots: Tarantino frequently employs wide-angle shots to create a sense of space and context. 

tarantino movie style guide

Close-ups: He uses close-ups to create intimacy with the characters and to emphasize important details, such as during the fight scenes between The Bride and her enemies. It also gives a kind of graphic style to the cuts, as if in a comic book. The same thing often goes with sound - he puts a mic so close you can hear the slurps and swallows that puts the viewer almost inside the movie.

Non-linear storytelling: Tarantino often employs non-linear storytelling to keep the audience engaged and to build suspense.  

Rapid-fire - much like the martial arts and gunfire depicted, Tarantino balances the lingering with the short and sharp punches. 

Motifs & Symbols

We can't mention Tarantino's films without mentioning violence, often serving as a symbol of power and control. His movies frequently feature graphic, stylized violence, often with a darkly comedic tone.

Revenge: Revenge is another common theme in Tarantino's films - it drives the plot - with characters seeking vengeance against those who have wronged them.

Strong female characters: Tarantino often includes strong female characters in his movies, such as The Bride.

Pop music & pop culture references... These can be in your face, like the Shaw Brothers Intro in the opening of Kill Bill, Tarantino declaring his deep knowledge and love of cinema, and providing great re-watching fodder for cinephiles. His films almost all pay homage to classic movies and genres especially martial arts and Spaghetti Westerns, and tv shows from the 60s and 70s. None more so than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, where they can be subtler too - Adam West and Burt Ward are reunited in the credit sequence. 

tarantino style guide motif1

tarantino style guide motif2
Put your feet up: Tarantino has a noted fetish for feet, and often includes shots of bare feet or characters playing with their feet, fighting with their feet or really any excuse to show them close up in his films...

Food (usually indulgent or fast): Most notable in Pulp Fiction with more than one iconic diner scene', food takes on a character- and plot-expanding role of its own in Inglourious Basterds. How Tarantino makes dairy sinister is quite a feat, when Colonel Hans Landa interrogates over milk and later in the story orders strudel, putting his cigarette out in the (valuable) leftovers. There's plenty of close-up shots here too. But - wait for the cream! 

Wordplay and type: The Bride. Six-Horse Judy. Hugo Stiglitz. Marcellus Wallace. Zed. Butch. Vincent Vega. Winston Wolf. Mr Pink. Hattori Hanzo....

tarantino typography style

His movies often utilize amazing, alliterating names and unique typography, stylizing text in different colors and sizes, again a borrow from the graphic, animated world and pop culture. 

Self-referencing... Not content with writing in endless love-letter references to Hollywood and TV, Tarantino references his own movies such as 'Pulp Fiction' inside 'Kill Bill' and even has his own fictional Hawaiian fast-food joint, 'Big Kahuna Burger', appear in many. 

Recipe for a Tarantino movie

  • Lots of red 
  • Strong, retro fashion statements
  • Smoking (if not cigarettes, then guns)
  • Memorable monikers & title cards (retro fonts too)
  • Endless cinematic, animation & pop culture references
  • Bare feet action
  • Extreme close-ups, preferably short and sharp with sounds just as close
  • Fast food, fast dialogue
Slice with a Samurai sword, then beat together using legendary techniques of the White Lotus Clan. Then stick the lot of it in the trunk of a car and order "a Royale with cheese” instead.