Music has a wide-array of use in films. May it be creating drama or tension in a scene, setting a mood or enhancing or adding up to the emotion and storytelling of the movie—whatever it may be, adding music may ruin or take your scene to the next level.

No other filmmakers use music like director Quentin Tarantino does. His bold, stylized, and masterful use of music has been a tour de force of his works.

Tarantino As a Musical and Visual Auteur

Regular movie-goers and cinephiles alike are sure to be familiar with Tarantino’s work, may it be his iconic movie “Pulp Fiction” where he influenced a whole decade of movie-goers or his later movies like “Kill Bill Vol I and II”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.” One thing is certain to stand-out for the audience—his use of gore and music.

Tarantino and his ability to use popular music as well as rekindle old classics in a heavily stylized scene to create a memorable, wacky and unique atmosphere that only Tarantino can is what sets him apart from other filmmakers.

I remember the first time I’ve watched Pulp Fiction. The opening scene of the movie was in a diner where a couple plans to rob it. As they stood up on the table and announced a robbery the frame freezes and Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” plays. It gave me the chills as it sets the whole tone and mood of the film whilst opening credits run. This is almost the same thing with his movie “Reservoir Dogs” where he used George Baker Selection’s – “Little Green Bags”, where the whole gang left a diner and walked in a glorious slo-mo.

How Tarantino Choose Music For His Films

 “I find the personality of the piece (movie) through the music that is going to be in it…”

This surprisingly unorthodox conception in writing is what Tarantino is famous for, as if music adds soul into his masterpieces. An example for this is his bold use of David Bowie’s song “Cat People” into a scene in his film “Inglorious Basterds”. 

For those who are not familiar, the scene is Shoshanna, a cinema owner, prepares herself for his plan to set the cinema on fire along with all the Germans attending Dr. Goebbels film screening, along with a montage on how they literally punched their way for the plan to work while David Bowie’s song is on the background. It adds tension and whole lot of badassery to Shoshanna’s character as she prepares for her revenge.

Aside from picking songs, Tarantino is also master remixer. The example to this is his use of a mashed-up song by 2Pac and jazz master James Brown in a scene in his film “Django Unchained” in a bloody shoot-out between Django and Monsieur’s Candies Henchmen.

It boasts a flashy and bold theme that compliments perfectly with Django’s slick gunplay. The result—a victorious theme that creates a whole new level of tension in which symbolizes Django’s bloody fight against human slavery.

This barely scratches of what Tarantino did with music to create memorable scenes, such as John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s dance to a song of Chuck Berry in “Pulp Fiction”, or the torture scene in “The Reservoir Dogs” where Mr. Blonde tortures a cop whilst singing and dancing to Steeler Wheels’ song “Stuck in The Middle with You.” and a whole lot more.

In an interview Tarantino said:

“That’s one of the things about using music in movies that’s so cool, is the fact that if you do it right, if you use the right song, in the right scene; its about as cinematic a thing as you can do. You are really doing what movies do better than any other art form; it really works in this viscerat, emotional, cinematic way that’s just really special.”

And as a filmmaker, I couldn’t agree more.