The Film… Pulp Fiction (1994)
Entering From Stage Left… Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Bruce Willis, Rosanna Arquette, Eric Stoltz, Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Angela Jones, Maria de Madeiros, Duane Whitaker, Peter Greene, Stephen Hibbert, Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel in the roles of Everybody.
What Makes it Special…That every character, no matter how large or small, is memorable
I started thinking on this list that if there were any movie to which I’d give group recognition for noteworthy first impressions, it would have to be Pulp Fiction. Even after nearly 20 years, and the subsequent decades of films tying to be Tarantino-esque – most of which fail miserably – there may not be another ensemble of characters who get such memorable introductions in one movie.
You picture John Travolta, the face you’ve known for years, yet looking completely different after toiling in dreck for years, talking about European fast food:
Then there’s Samuel L., ridiculous yet cool wig in the same scene, reacting to what Europeans do with french fries and mayo. Soon after, you see him quoting a bible verse like you’ve never heard it used before right before rubbing out Frank Whaley:
And of course, this is all right after Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer kick the film off with Tarantino’s patented dialogue, right before sticking up a diner of all places.
Then Tarantino switches things up. You see Bruce Willis, and you’re not sure who he is for a while. His face holds the screen for an extended shot with Al Green’s melodic voice dimmed in the background…but Bruce isn’t the one who’s talking.
That would be Ving Rhames going on about the pitfalls of pride and not knowing when to hang up the gloves. When you finally see him, it’s from the back. He’s got a band-aid on the back of his neck, probably from a shaving cut (he’s bald after all):
Next you’ve got Rosanna Arquette going on about piercings (there’s a lot):
And Eric Stoltz talking about doing a heroin Pepsi challenge with that European shit any day of the week. Wasn’t he like a fly or something like five years before this?
Then enter: Uma Thurman, guiding Travolta into her place for their date that’s not a date, sexy-as-hell lips filling the screen. You don’t see her right away either, but you know just from those lips that you want to meet her ASAP. And hey, was that Steve Buscemi in the restaurant?
Then manomanoman, the most Christopher Walken scene in movie history. It’s everything Walken in five minutes. It’s Walken concentrate, just like the frozen orange juice that you have to slide out of the container and to which you add water. Because if you try and take it straight, your lips pucker. You only see him here, but it’s good for the rest of the movie, and years after:
Next segment: Angela Jones, aka the sexiest cab driver in history. Her character drips with Latin sexiness…and macabre interest in death? Her name means she comes from wolves:
Then we’re entranced by Maria de Madeiros and blueberry pancakes. If not for the overdose of Walken to hammer home how important a certain watch was, there’s no way we’d ever understand how Bruce Willis could leave that to go risk his life:
After said life is risked, there’s Duane Whitaker…
…and Peter Greene…
…and Stephen Hibbert…and, oh shit, eeny meeny miny mo?
Quentin himself shows up, going on about dead ____ storage and gourmet coffee:
Finally, enter: Harvey Keitel. He’s the cavalry:
Shit, Negro, that’s all that had to be said.
Why it Resonates… Because the movie and everyone in it smacks you in the mouth with awesomeness the first time you see it, and on any subsequent viewings. I saw this before I saw Reservoir Dogs and I absolutely had no idea what I was in for. We’re here talking about best first impressions in this list, this was my introduction to Quentin Tarantino and I was damn happy to make his acquaintance. A plus is that I was working in a movie theatre and got to see it for free. Absolutely one of the best movie tickets I never had to pay for.
Other Grand Entrances… See above.