Eight Incredible Music Moments in Quentin Tarantino Films

In the mid-’90s, no college dorm room was complete without a Pulp Fiction poster on the wall. But writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s film wasn’t only a dorm aesthetic—the movie also introduced its younger fan base to a stellar soundtrack that included Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” and “Surf Rider” by The Lively Ones. Pulp Fiction, though, was only one of his many works to feature standout song choices. In celebration of Tarantino’s upcoming ninth movie, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, we’re looking back at some of his classic music-driven scenes.

Creating unforgettable, impactful matches between music and action in all his films is essential to Tarantino’s creative process—from when he writes a screenplay to when he’s shooting it to when he’s editing. He touches on this frequently in the Spotify exclusive podcast Once, created in partnership with Sony Pictures, in which Tarantino is interviewed by Rolling Stone’s David Wild. On the use of José Feliciano’s version of “California Dreamin’,” for example, he points out that “right where the movie is feeling at that moment is actualized by the song  … and so the song and the movie almost hold hands for a moment while they play together in unison.” 

True to form, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood resurfaces songs from the likes of Neil Diamond, The Mamas & The Papas, and more. “I tried to lean toward songs that I liked the most that were the least famous,” he said in his Once interview. So odds are, it won’t be long until a scene from this new film takes its place alongside Tarantino’s other seminal moments committed to cinema history, but in the meantime, here are eight of his incredible pairings of sight and sound.

 Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Blonde tortures his prisoner as the ironically peppy “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel plays over the radio.

Pulp Fiction

Vincent Vega arrives at Mia Wallace’s house as she watches him through the security system and “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield plays.

 Jackie Brown

In the opening credits, Pam Grier walks through the airport as “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack plays. Tarantino told The Guardian that he started writing the script with that song and sequence in mind.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Santa Esmeralda plays over the slow-motion sequence of Beatrix/Black Mamba and Cotton Mouth drawing their samurai swords for the movie’s epic fight sequence.

Grindhouse: Death Proof

Staggolee” by Pacific Gas & Electric plays as the movie’s villain, Stuntman Mike, casually feasts on nachos ahead of luring his next potential victims into his deadly car.

Inglourious Basterds

Cat People” by David Bowie plays as Shoshanna prepares for the Germans to arrive at the theater for the movie’s climactic scene.

 Django Unchained

Written and recorded specifically for Django Unchained, “Freedom,” by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton, plays as Django recalls his past just before he exacts revenge on the film’s villains, the Brittle brothers.

 The Hateful Eight

Apple Blossom” by The White Stripes plays as the film’s three main characters ride in a stagecoach just before complete chaos ensues for the rest of the plot.

Stream Tarantino’s guest curation of our Film & TV Favorites playlist to hear memorable music from his film archive and listen to the director’s podcast interview with Rolling Stone’s David Wild, available beginning Friday, July 26 at midnight ET, only on Spotify.