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20 Films That Cribbed Pulp Fiction

How many knockoffs have you seen?

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You've probably read that this week marked the 20th-anniversary of Pulp Fiction being released in theaters. After you've caught up on viewing one of the most culturally influential films of the past two decades, take a trip down the memory lane of your local video store aisles and check out 20 films that tried to cash in on Tarantino's success. For six solid years (Pulp Fiction tells three narratives, Marcellus's briefcase combination was three sixes -- conspiracies abound), quirky gangster characters gave speeches about their preference for 8-track players, took advice from Oreo cookies and quoted the Bible while aiming a handgun.

Tarantino himself has always been open about the films that have influenced him. The dude loves movies (he's even taken over ownership of a Los Angeles theater, the New Beverly). After the huge success of Pulp Fiction Tarantino also started a DVD imprint which re-released films that he loved from Asia (gangster pics, martial arts pics and art-house faves) and forgotten B-movies (such as Switchblade Sisters). He'd probably be the first to admit that imitation is the highest form of flattery. That said, a lot of his imitators were just plain insufferable.

Making $108 million in domestic box office revenue, Pulp Fiction was a surprisingly huge success. And at an $8 million budget, it was cheap to make. So of course everyone was scrambling to duplicate it. Producers all across greater Los Angeles were sending assistants to dig through apartment dumpsters and could be heard screaming on phones, "Get me a group of toughs, some bursts of violence and a goddamn dance sequence!"

To reference a title that QT-fave Ennio Morricone scored, here's the good, the bad and the ugly of the early (and heavily) Pulp Fiction influenced films, years 1994-2000.

Go (1999)

Roger Ebert noted, in his review of Go, that limitations have to be placed on calling something similar to Pulp Fiction... but it had only been five years since Pulp Fiction hit theaters and so this triple-narrative comedy lands as the best high-quality comparison. And it came, like many, from the Sundance Film Festival.

Take Doug Liman's Swingers, add a few guns, rave culture and teenagers; substitute a strip club champagne room for Tarantino's sex slave dungeon and ecstasy for heroin. And that's Go.

The Limey (1999)

A little bit of a stretch, but Steven Soderbergh's re-contextualizing the career of a forgotten actor, here Terence Stamp, by making him a gangster has some shades of Tarantino rescuing Travolta from the cinematic dustbin.

The Limey also features clips from earlier Stamp films to fill in his character's memory. That's a nice cinematic gesture that echoes a similar Tarantino flourish of having Travolta (of early Saturday Night Fever, Grease musical fame) enter a dance competition that he doesn't want to be in, but wins anyway.

Get Shorty (1995)

After Pulp Fiction, Tarantino made Jackie Brown, based on an Elmore Leonard novel. After Pulp Fiction, Travolta starred in Get Shorty, based on an Elmore Leonard novel.

Get Shorty was a dark Hollywood farce with Travolta playing a loan shark who's hired to bust Hollywood heads. Similar to Pulp Fiction, bad things happen when someone sits on the toilet.

Buffalo '66 (1998)

Again, bad things happen when a criminal goes to the bathroom. Vincent Gallo's film plays out about the same way that John Travolta and Uma Thurman's date did (without an overdose). Also, there's a great subdued dance scene.

Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead (1995)

This one features a few Tarantino players: Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken sprinkled in amongst a pretty bonkers supporting cast of Christopher Lloyd, Treat Williams and Jack Warden. Despite having one of the best or worst titles ever, Denver has some ridiculously named characters, such as an assassin named Mr. Shhhh. But between all the violence, there's the idea that hitmen are high class gentlemen. Denver fancies itself the classiest of the Pulp Fiction knockoffs.

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997)

A hitman loses his luggage. And it has eight heads in it! This awful film must've had a pitch like this: take that little kid quote from Jerry Maguire that everyone is quoting ... what is it? "A human head weights eight pounds!" That's it. Times that by, oh I dunno ... Eight heads! Toss in some Pulp Fiction music, and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, we’ve got a hit!

2 Days in the Valley (1996)

Most notable for being the cinematic debut of Charlize Theron, who gets to don a white catsuit and get in a cat fight with ("they're real and they're spectacular") Teri Hatcher. What would it look like if Pulp Fiction was a trashy soap opera? Well, it'd look like the Valley.

Suicide Kings (1997)

Christopher Walken is tied to a chair. A bunch of college bros try to get a kidnapped sister back. Suicide Kings and The Boondock Saints shepherded in the bro-takeover of Tarantino-type premises. The difference? The bros focus solely on twists and not dialogue or characters -- y'know, the stuff we actually love about Tarantino.

The Boondock Saints (1999)

This is the most blatant copycat on this list. It quotes from bible scripture before hitmen murder their victims, fer chrissakes). Harvey Weinstein (the head of Miramax, who distributed Pulp Fiction) wanted another Tarantino so badly that -- on top of buying this hack’s script -- he also bought this Boston dude's bar that he worked at so he could quit. Said dude (Troy Duffy) bit the hand that fed him (see the documentary Overnight) and turned in this pile of dog shit.

The Big Hit (1998)

The Big Hit was an attempt to combine Tarantino hitmen with the Asian action films QT re-released on home video. The results were neither big, nor a hit. Even though this one was produced by QT fave, John Woo.

Very Bad Things (1998)

In the 90s, many writers were trying to out-dark all the dark comedies. Very Bad Things is the one that made critic Owen Gleiberman write, “The scrub-the-car episode of Pulp Fiction now seemed a cozy bedtime story.” A bachelor party goes wrong when the prostitute dies. The bachelors try to dispose of her body.

Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s first film, uses three narratives that all meet at a car accident; each car gets their own story of how they came to that exact collision at that exact time. It includes dogfighting, a retired homeless assassin and a vapid model. It's a stirring debut, but Iñárritu would subject audiences to further portraits of human despair for years and years. Until this year's Birdman.

Palookaville (1985) trailer

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An under-seen "gotta-do-something-so-why-not-crime?" comedy.

The Last Days of Frankie the Fly (1996) trailer

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Featuring one of the last great Dennis Hopper performances, Frankie Fly's last days involve porno, gangsters and Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) trailer

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Oh, just another "hitmen-are-people-too" comedy from the 1990s. But this is the best of 'em!

Rounders (1998) trailer

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This inclusion is all about John Malkovich, the cookie mobster.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) trailer

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Guy Ritchie took from both Tarantino and homegrown Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) to create a genre of British thuggery that would be ripped off almost as much as Pulp Fiction (see Layer Cake and most Jason Statham-starrers).

Run Lola Run (1998) trailer

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Lola (Franka Potente) has three chances to save her boyfriend after receiving one phone call. Three narratives. Sound familiar?

The Way of the Gun (2000) trailer

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The writer of The Usual Suspects combines Tarantino with Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. In this one, two scoundrels (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro) go to a sperm bank. And it ain't Two Men and a Baby.


Brian Formo is an entertainment journalist for CraveOnline and Complex Pop Culture. He also writes features for Flaunt magazine and can be found at @BrianEmilFormo

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