Quentin Tarantino’s 50 Best Character Names, Ranked
Prepare for alliteration. So much alliteration.
As Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood continues to rake in impressive box office numbers, the internet discussion around the film shows no sign of abating.
Some view it as a bright spot of hope that an adult-skewing film bereft of exploding cars or characters in capes can still succeed in Hollywood. Others debate the film’s gender and racial politics (though for Tarantino, this is pretty much par for the course).
But love or hate his work, few would deny that over the course of his career, Quentin Tarantino has boasted an ability that few filmmakers can match: giving his characters some of the best damn names in the game.
We took a look back across Tarantino’s ouevre, pulled the 50 most memorable monikers, and ranked them for posterity. Our rules:
- Only characters that Tarantino himself named (for example, the lion’s share of the characters in Jackie Brown are Elmore Leonard’s, and while Squeaky Fromme is by all accounts an excellent name, she was a real person)
- Characters can come from films Tarantino did not direct (True Romance and From Dusk Till Dawn were both written by Tarantino and feature several excellent examples)
- The character’s name must be spoken aloud in the film (Tarantino pictures are littered with secondary characters whose sobriquets are top-notch, but you would never know unless you bothered to look them up on IMDB — OUATIH alone features “Ernesto the Mexican Vaquero,” “Land Pirate Craig” and “Straight Satan David”)
And again, before anyone loses their mind over this, we’re ranking the character names here. Not the characters themselves. So chill out.
And now, without further ado…
50. Sweet Dave – Gene Jones, The Hateful Eight
My opinion here is probably colored by the fact that I have a friend named Sweet Lou and everyone calls my dad Big Dave, but I stand by my choice.
49. “Nice Guy Eddie” Cabot – Chris Penn, Reservoir Dogs
First-ballot Mafia Hall of Fame name — I bet it pisses Martin Scorsese off to no end that he didn’t think of it first.
48. Johnny Mo – Gordon Liu, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Bonus points for incongruity. Like, how the hell did a Japanese Yakuza lieutenant get this name? Does the rest of the organization switch to English when addressing him, or do they say it in Japanese? So many questions.
47. Perrier LaPadite – Denis Ménochet, Inglourious Basterds
Perrier! It’s like Tarantino sat down and googled “French stuff.” I wonder how close this guy came to being named “Beret Baguette LaPadite.”
46. Wayne Gale – Robert Downey Jr., Natural Born Killers
The name isn’t all that great, but the way that RDJ says it really sells it.
45. Six-Horse Judy – Zoe Bell, The Hateful Eight
“So why do they call you Six-Horse Judy, anyway?”
“Cuz I’m the only Judy you’ve ever seen who can drive a six-horse team?”
I’m no historian, but this seems very plausible for the time period.
44. Lee Donowtiz – Saul Rubinek, True Romance
True story: I once saw Saul Rubinek at an airport baggage claim and reflexively blurted out “Lee Donowitz!” He seemed vaguely amused.
43. Dick Ritchie – Michael Rappaport, True Romance
So wait, his real name is Richard Ritchie? How appropriate for this loveable doofus.
42. Det. Jack Scagnetti – Tom Sizemore, Natural Born Killers
As spot-on a cop name as “Nice Guy Eddie” is a mafia one. Fun fact: in Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) is asked who his parole officer is. His response: “Seymour Scagnetti.” As in, brother of Jack. Them Scagnetti Boys, running the law enforcement game!
41. Col. Hans Landa – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Say it out loud. That evil, evil assonance will send shivers down your spine.
40. Razor Charlie – Danny Trejo, From Dusk Till Dawn
Be honest: if you didn’t know who Danny Trejo was and he introduced himself as “Razor Charlie,” you would not for one second question it.
39. Major Marquis Warren – Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
They say “never trust a man with two first names,” but ol’ Marquis Warren turns out to be one of the only truly trustworthy characters in the film.
38. Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz – Til Schweiger, Inglourious Basterds
“Everyone in the German Army’s heard of Hugo Stiglitz.”
It bears noting that this name is so awesome that Tarantino gave it an actual title card.
37. Elle Driver – Darryl Hannah, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Sounds like the name of a supermodel who could kill you. Which is … accurate.
36. Oswaldo Mobray – Tim Roth, The Hateful Eight
Roth sells this moniker as hard as Downey did Wayne Gale, just with more ridiculousness to work with.
35. Floyd – Brad Pitt, True Romance
Everybody knows a Floyd, even if that person is not actually named Floyd.
34. Sgt. Donnie Donowitz – Eli Roth, Inglourious Basterds
So. Fahkin. Bawston.
33. Stuntman Mike – Kurt Russell, Death Proof
Another common Tarantino practice: combining occupation and first name to create character name. This is the best of that ilk.
32. Django – Jaime Foxx, Django Unchained
I caught a lot of shit for Django not being ranked higher, but I’d argue that the name is barely an original considering it was re-appropriated from an earlier film. Whatever your opinion, just remember…
31. Mickey/Mallory Knox – Woody Harrelson/Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers
Tarantino has a penchant for memorably alliterative monikers (as you’ll see further down this list), but this seems to be the only case where he applied it to a duo. And dammit, it really works.
30. Jules Winnfield – Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction
Tarantino also has a fun habit of taking vaguely famous surnames and then pairing them with a better first name than the original incarnation. How much does Dave Winfield wish his name was Jules?
29. Butch Coolidge – Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction
And that would go double for Calvin Coolidge, had he lived to see Pulp Fiction.
28. Daisy Domergue – Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Again with the alliteration, plus bonus points for both the delightful dichotomy between the name/character (named for a flower, is anything but) and a last name that’s arguably the most bizarre that Tarantino has ever concocted. Dahmer-gew? Huh??
27. Rick Dalton – Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
So perfectly appropriate for an actor of the era that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t already taken by a real person. Also goes great with “f*ckin” in the middle.
26. Cliff Booth – Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
The same exact argument goes here, but I’d argue that doing it for a 1969 stuntman is even harder than doing it for a 1969 movie star.
25. Pumpkin/Honey Bunny – Tim Roth/Amanda Plummer, Pulp Fiction
Not even bothering to give these two diner-robbin’ miscreants any names other than the pet ones they have for each other is an absolute masterstroke.
24. John Ruth the Hangman – Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight
It’s hard to articulate exactly, but I feel like this name comes with the mythology baked right in. It doesn’t seem strange at all that people far and wide within the world of the film have heard of this man and know his name immediately.
23. Bridget Von Hammersmark – Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
If you can think of a better name for a six-foot-tall blonde bombshell German movie star from 1944, I’d love to hear it.
22. Santanico Pandemonium – Salma Hayek, From Dusk Till Dawn
And if you can think of a better name for a scantily clad vampire Salma Hayek dancing with a massive python, I’d really love to hear it.
21. Dr. King Schultz – Cristoph Waltz, Django Unchained
I’ll be the first to admit that it took me much longer than it should have to catch the allusion here.
20. Sofie Fatale – Julie Dreyfus, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
This would be an excellent name for a band.
19. The Gimp – Stephen Hibbert, Pulp Fiction
Does this even qualify as a name? Does it matter? Ask 100 people on the street what a “gimp suit” is, and 99 of them will describe the black leather getup perfectly. The 100th will be unable to answer because he/she is wearing one.
18. Clarence Worley – Christian Slater, True Romance
Literally the only name more fun to say than “Clarence Worley…”
17. Alabama Worley (née Whitman) – Patricia Arquette, True Romance
… is the name “Alabama Worley.”
16. Lt. Aldo Raine – Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds
Apparently “Aldo” is derived from the Germanic “adal” which means “noble.” Pretty solid for a guy hellbent on killing as many Nazis as possible. Also goes great with “the Apache.”
15. Zed – Peter Greene, Pulp Fiction
Did Tarantino create this character name purely to facilitate Bruce Willis’s epic departing line? Or was the line birthed of the name? Please advise.
14. Drexl Spivey – Gary Oldman, True Romance
“Bama, I gotta ask you a question: who and what is a Drexl?”
Gary Oldman: “Hold my beer.”
13. Mr. Pink – Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs
Sure, the whole rest of the crew had very cool anonymous chromatic code names as well, but Pink was the only one to bitch about his, and thus he stands in for the lot.
12. Gogo Yubari – Chiaki Kuriyama, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
If I were a Yakuza boss auditioning personal bodyguards and a teenager in a schoolgirl outfit named Gogo Yubari showed up, I’d probably be somewhat skeptical. Right up until she pulled out the meteor hammer, at which point I’d be like “nope, you’re right — totally checks out.”
11. Broomhilda Von Shaft – Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
Oh, you liked Bridget Von Hammersmark, eh? Well wait ’til you get a load of this delightfully witchy shit!
10. Marsellus Wallace – Ving Rames, Pulp Fiction
Something about the “sellus” and “Wallace” together makes this 100% the name of a dude you would believe had another dude thrown off of a balcony for giving his wife a foot massage.
9. Jackie Brown – Pam Grier, Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown is full of great character names, but as previously stated, they belong to Elmore Leonard from his novel “Rum Punch” (on which the film was based). All except the film’s title character, however, changed by Tarantino from Leonard’s original “Jackie Burke.” Think about the smooth, sexy, confident way Pam Grier says “Jackie Brown.” Major upgrade.
8. Esmarelda Villa Lobos – Angela Jones, Pulp Fiction
While she never says so explicitly, Esmarelda’s surname means “house of wolves.” Which is awesome, and Butch knows it. As far as the meaning of his name goes …
7. O-Ren Ishii – Lucy Liu, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
If your character is gonna have a backstory so bananas that it requires its own anime sequence smack dab in the middle of the film, she better have the name to match. Mission accomplished.
6. Winston Wolf – Harvey Keitel, Pulp Fiction
As if it weren’t cool enough to hear that Marsellus is sending “The Wolf” to handle Jules and Vincent’s gore-covered car, then the guy shows up and introduces himself as “Winston Wolf.” It’s his actual name.
5. Bill – David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Taking a name this average and nondescript and ultimately imbuing it with such a mythic quality is a towering accomplishment.
4. Calvin Candie – Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
More excellent alliteration, plus it nets you “Candyland” as the name of Candie’s plantation, a name that bizarrely highlights the nightmarishness of the place to tremendous effect.
3. Beatrix Kiddo – Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Arguably Tarantino’s cleverest work in the naming department, as Thurman’s character was listed only as “The Bride,” and had her actual name bleeped out any time a character uttered it aloud. Finding out later that Bill’s use of “kiddo” is not a term of endearment, but the actual name that has been kept from us for two whole movies? Tarantino at his finest.
2. Vincent Vega – John Travolta, Pulp Fiction
Think about how hard it would be to come up with a name cool enough to be worthy of Travolta in this film. It’s impossible, and yet Tarantino nailed it. Those two back-to-back V’s are the phonetic equivalent of a black suit, long hair, handgun, cool demeanor and custom heroin kit, all rolled into one.
1. Hattori Hanzo – Sonny Chiba, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
It’s beautifully alliterative, vaguely folkloric … it just carries so much damn weight. Hattori Hanzo is Tarantino’s nom de résistance, featuring both the edge and solemnity of the legendary blades the Japanese swordsmith makes.
(Ed. note: to be fair, the name Sonny Chiba ain’t so bad either)