25 years ago today, Reservoir Dogs hit theaters and introduced audiences to Quentin Tarantino’s criminally cool vernacular. Influenced by a seemingly limitless (and more reckless) era of Hollywood filmmaking, Tarantino quickly established himself as a verbose auteur of pastiche cinema. Just as many of his films became instant classics, so did the unforgettable characters he created over the course of his career. To celebrate 25 years of Tarantino films, we chose the 25 coolest characters from the director’s nine features.

That means his shorts, like My Best Friend’s Birthday and his segment in Four Rooms, aren’t represented on this list. Also excluded are the films Tarantino wrote but did not direct, like From Dusk Till Dawn and True Romance. Nine films gave us more than enough characters to choose from, and even then, the voting process was far from easy. Tarantino has created so many iconic characters over the past 25 years that it was difficult to narrow it down to one for each year since Reservoir Dogs first hit theaters.

Without further adieu, here are the 25 best characters from Quentin Tarantino movies, ranked from cool to the absolute coolest.

The Weinstein Company

25. Sgt. Donny Donowitz, Inglourious Basterds

Pop-culture has historically portrayed the typical Jewish man as clever and kind, a nebbish with his heart in the right place. The one thing we haven’t been allowed to be is strong. Accordingly, Eli Roth’s towering, shredded Nazi-terminator isn’t just an unhinged power fantasy sprung to life, but a course-correction for centuries of Jewish typifying. The Bear Jew takes names as we all wish we could, playing up his “Teddy Ballgame” batting-practice schtick for maximum theatrical effect. He stands for all that is righteous, bringing the fight to the Third Reich with extreme prejudice. Come to think of it, did we ever find out who it was that punched Richard Spencer? – Charles Bramesco


Miramax

24. Mr. Orange, Reservoir Dogs

Yeah, yeah, Mr. Pink is my favorite too — he’s everyone’s favorite! But while Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen get the most quotable scenes, Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange is the stealth MVP. Why? His undercover cop succeeds at conning five criminals and a mob boss, and somehow he continues to keep up the charade while bleeding his guts out. His wailing and screaming in the backseat and on the floor of the warehouse is great, but Roth’s best moment is the commode story, where we get to see Mr. Orange come back to life for a few thrilling minutes. – Oliver Whitney


Miramax

23. Mr. White, Reservoir Dogs

“Let’s go get a taco.” “You forget your french fries to go with the soda?” “You’re gonna be okay-ay, say the goddamn wo-ords, you’re gonna be okay-ay!” As seasoned career crook Mr. White, Harvey Keitel really does get most of the best lines in Tarantino’s widely beloved debut. Moreover, he forms an ethical fulcrum with cop-on-the-DL Mr. Orange. But while Orange obeys the letter of the law, White follows a more complicated unstated code, laying out his methodology for a casualty-free heist as if it’s religious dogma. He believes everyone oughta be able to make a buck without drawing any blood, and for that, he at least qualifies as someone worth respecting in Tarantino’s universe. Now put that notebook away. – CB


The Weinstein Company

22. Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds

You can’t think of Inglourious Basterds without hearing Brad Pitt saying “Naht-zees” in his thick Tennessee accent. His all-American lieutenant doesn’t just stick out like a sore thumb in Nazi-occupied Paris, he’s like a mutilated thumb gushing blood on a white dinner jacket. I could happily watch Aldo Raine’s introduction to Christoph Waltz’ Hans Landa on loop, where he puts forth absolutely zero effort to mask his stiff moonshiner accent when posing as an Italian stuntman. His Nazi scalp-loving solider is hilarious, and easily deserves a spot in the top five best Pitt characters. – OW


Miramax

21. Elle Driver, Kill Bill

First introduced in a nurse outfit (with matching eyepatch!) to the eerie theme from the 1968 psychological thriller Twisted Nerve, Daryl Hannah’s sinister assassin possesses a chilling aura — made all the more precariously alluring by her calm demeanor. Elle Driver earns her spot (and California Mountain Snake nickname) on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad with her dangerous knowledge of poisonous snakes, which she wields almost as deftly as she handles a sword. (Almost.) That’s one heck of an unexpected (and awesome) choice in weaponry. – Britt Hayes


Miramax

20. Marsellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction

We know what Marsellus Wallace looks like. (Or, more specifically, we know what he does not look like.) And we know what it looks like when he goes medieval on someone’s ass — one of the most enduring quotes from a movie full of lines that have become permanent fixtures of our collective lexicon. There are more richly complex characters in Pulp Fiction, but few more intimidating figures in all of pop culture than Ving Rhames’ imposing mob boss. Before Rhames ever appears onscreen we hear the other characters talking about him; when he does show up, he somehow lives up to all their myth-making. But what was up with the bandage on the back of his neck? Did he really have his soul sucked out of his body and placed in the glowing briefcase? (Of course he didn’t, guys. That’s ridiculous. But he’s still a great character anyway.) – Matt Singer


The Weinstein Company

19. Stephen, Django Unchained

Few (if any) villains in the Tarantino-verse are as evil as Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained. Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) chief house slave isn’t wicked in the same way that his master is; he’s worse. Stephen is treacherous and sneaky, a traitor to his fellow slaves who has aligned himself with the White Man, horrifically benefiting from his systematic oppression. This is no mere case of Stockholm Syndrome; Stephen is an active participant in the subjugation of black people. It makes for a startling complex character, and one that’s all the more impressive given his relatively brief screen time. – BH


Miramax

18. Butch, Pulp Fiction

Vincent Vega spends most of Pulp Fiction floating through a heroin haze and trying to stop himself from cuckolding his boss; by my count, the closest thing that film has to a hero is Butch, a boxer on the take who realizes it’s never too late to make a lunge for decency. His path to redemption begins in his childhood decades earlier, as one extended anecdote about his father’s intimate smuggling methods defines the quality of bravery for a baby Butch, and comes to a head in the secret sex dungeon below a seedy local pawn shop. When Butch doubles back and goes to help fellow prisoner Marsellus Wallace, he considers arming himself with a chain saw and baseball bat, but ultimately goes with the katana. Why? He’s responding to the call of duty, as faithful to an inner sense of responsibility as the samurai who came before him. – CB


Dimension Films

17. Stuntman Mike, Death Proof

Mike McKay is a deranged stuntman who uses his death-proof car (which is such an amazing character in its own right it probably deserved a spot on this list) to murder unsuspecting women. He seems like a suave ladies’ man as he charms the patrons at an Austin bar. Then he reveals his disturbing psychosis. Later, after another group of women turn the tables on him, he transforms again into a screaming, crying baby. This Stuntman Mike fellow has as many layers as an onion; a stinking, disgusting, rotten onion. And Kurt Russell plays him perfectly, as an engine of lust and unkillable terror. He’s one of Tarantino’s most fascinating — and most disturbing — villains. – MS


Dimension Films

16. Zoe Bell, Death Proof

If I could spend a day hanging out with any Tarantino character, it’d be Zoe Bell in Death Proof (which is to say I just really want to hang out with Zoe Bell). Playing herself as a Kiwi stuntwoman pulling daredevil tricks is some of the best casting in Tarantino’s filmography. We’ve seen her stunt wizardry elsewhere, but it’s especially thrilling to watch Bell thrash across the hood of a speeding Dodge Challenger as herself and not disguised as another actor. Her tough, frisky attitude is also the perfect antidote to the story’s toxic hyper-masculinity — after the bonkers car chase, Zoe the Cat, spritely as ever, pops up from the bushes with a wave and a giddy, “I’m okay!” – OW


The Weinstein Company

15. Calvin Candie, Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is famous for rescuing actors from B-movie and direct-to-video hell (see: John Travolta before Pulp Fiction), but he’s equally good at casting huge movie stars and using their iconography (or subverting that iconography) for his own ends. One of the best examples is how Tarantino deploys Leonardo DiCaprio as monstrous plantation owner Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. DiCaprio, the star of TitanicInceptionCatch Me If You Can, and The Departed, along with being a tireless champion of environmental causes, is one of the most likable, empathetic modern actors. Casting him as the embodiment of racism, cruelty, and senseless violence uses DiCaprio’s handsome features and innate charm to show how gentility and good manners can mask injustice and hatred. – MS


The Weinstein Company

14. Major Marquis Warren, The Hateful Eight

Samuel L. Jackson often plays one of the best — if not the best — characters in every Tarantino film, including the director’s most recent release. In the chilly western epic, Jackson plays Major Marquis Warren, a ruthless, duplicitous bounty hunter who delivers one hell of a killer monologue. That monologue is the suspenseful lead-in to The Hateful Eight’s intermission — one that provides a much-needed breather after Warren reveals his exceptionally unsettling encounter with a Confederate General’s son. Never has repeated use of the word “dingus” been so intense. – BH


The Weinstein Company

13. Shosanna, Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino’s revisionist historical piece has become more relevant in light of recent events in the news, which makes Melanie Laurent’s Shosanna and her plan to burn down a movie theater filled with Nazis all the more heroic. It’s a cathartically satisfying (and somewhat meta) moment, that transforms the escapism of the cinema into a revenge fantasy for its audience. — made all the more enjoyable by the montage of Shosanna getting ready to enact her plan, set to David Bowie’s “Cat People.” The image of Shosanna’s face cackling as flames engulf the theater became instantly iconic, and made Laurent’s character one of the greatest protagonists in Tarantino’s filmography. – BH


The Weinstein Company

12. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds

Back in 2009, audiences wigged out over the multilingual component of Christoph Waltz’s tour de force as a Nazi colonel and expert Jew hunter. And while it’s still somewhat impressive to see the actor flip between English, French, and German with such fluidity, there’s more to it than that. (Only speaking one language is kind of an American thing, after all.) What’s truly shocking is that Landa can playact his own emotions just as easily, hiding his cruelty with ersatz friendliness only until that politeness has outlived its usefulness. A master manipulator, Landa’s no less convincing an actor than the man playing him. – CB


Miramax

11. Mr. Pink, Reservoir Dogs

When Quentin Tarantino first wrote Reservoir Dogs, he planned to play the part of Mr. Pink — the ruthlessly self-centered robber with a motor mouth and an unfailing survival instinct — which explains why the character has many of the movie’s best lines. After an impressive audition, Tarantino decided to hand over the part to actor Steve Buscemi, but Mr. Pink retains all of the interesting stuff Tarantino wanted to express. (Watch my recent video essay for more on that.) For years, Tarantino teased a possible Vega brothers movie which would have starred Michael Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs and John Travolta’s from Pulp Fiction. But of all the characters from Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre, Mr. Pink is the one we would most want to see again. When a man so scrupulously protects his personal information, it only makes us more curious what he’s hiding. – MS


Miramax

10. Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

In Tarantino’s tangled odyssey through L.A.’s criminal underbelly, John Travolta does not portray Vincent Vega. He portrays “John Travolta” portraying Vincent Vega. Tarantino resuscitated Travolta’s career by specifically playing on America’s positive memories of the actor as a suave slickster, walking him back through his Saturday Night Fever dance steps in the boogie at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Vega’s not one of Tarantino’s cool customers, however. When he’s not mellowing out with a little heroin rush, he’s freaking out over every last thing, whether it’s an accidental murder in the back seat of his car or sexual advances from his boss’ foxy wife. He’s a moral contradiction like his partner Jules, searching for his way through the valley of the darkness. – CB


Miramax

9. Bill, Kill Bill

We never actually see Bill until Vol. II, but David Carradine’s gruff voice makes his presence known throughout Vol I; once he finally arrives on screen, you feel like you already know him. Despite being the title character we’re cheering for Thurman’s Bride to kill, you can’t help but love Bill. He may be a total bastard, but he’s got the peaceful vibe of a hippie dad crossed with an aged cowboy reminiscing about his wilder days. Carradine brings a softness and a sagaciousness to Bill, and it makes it easy to see why Beatrix fell for him in the first place. And after all the hell he put her through, once she finally does the deed, Bill’s death is one of the film’s more heartbreaking moments(no pun intended). Name another movie where the main bad guy dies with as much honor and class as Carradine’s Bill. – OW


Miramax

8. Winston Wolfe, Pulp Fiction

“The Wolf” is such a delightful enigma. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? How does he know the proper technique to get brain matter out of upholstery? We don’t need to know the answers to these questions; it is far more pleasurable to simply accept the mystery. Even with limited screen time, Harvey Keitel enlivens the Wolf (aka Winston Wolfe) with so many wonderful details. The way he nods appreciatively at his cup of coffee; his careful notes in his phone call with Marcellus Wallace. He’s supposedly 30 minutes away when he gets Marcellus’ call for help; he says he’ll be there in 10. (His actual arrival on the scene is preceded by a title card that reads “nine minutes thirty-seven seconds later...”) Winston Wolfe blows into Pulp Fiction during “The Bonnie Situation,” sets about correcting a fatal error, and leaves just as quickly as he came, never to be seen or heard from again. He warns Jules and Vincent that he drives “real f—ing fast so keep up.” It’s hard to do, but oh so much fun. – MS


Miramax

7. O-Ren Ishii, Kill Bill

Each member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is distinct in their own way, but Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii the most fleshed out of the hired guns (or swords). Her backstory is what makes her such a rich and ideal nemesis for Uma Thurman’s Bride: Both are survivors of violence, and both use their mastery of said violence to command respect and terror from the men around them. What I love most about O-Ren is how well Liu channels the character’s anime origin story into her performance. Her total composure and unnerving calm opposite the Bride’s intensity in the House of Blue Leaves duel is part of what makes it such a phenomenal fight scene. How long till we get the O-Ren prequel spinoff we deserve? – OW


The Weinstein Company

6. Daisy Domergue, The Hateful Eight

If I had my way, Daisy Domergue would take the number one spot on this list; at the very least, she’s tough enough to genuinely rival the character who wound up on top. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s feisty performance as Kurt Russell’s felonious bounty is all guts and glory, and every bit as shameless as Daisy is unrepentant. Leigh’s Daisy isn’t merely acting in this snowed-in two-act play; she’s reacting. You can see her facial expressions and eyes at work during any given scene, especially when she’s not talking. Daisy has more grit and kick than any of the so-called hateful men inside that cabin. She isn’t trapped in there with them; they’re trapped with her.  – BH


The Weinstein Company

5. Django, Django Unchained

A true story: I was living in New Orleans back when Quentin Tarantino and company went down to Louisiana for principal photography on his lunatic Deep South western. They’d shoot in the country during the week and then try to maintain a low profile in the city on weekends, as locals kept their eyes peeled for visitors from Hollywood. In all my searching, I saw Jamie Foxx but once: Posted up outside a cafe reading an unmarked black book, occasionally sipping from a glass of neat brown alcohol, rocking black sunglasses even then, in the dead of night. My point being that Jamie Foxx is one cool motherf—er.

And that’s not an immaterial point, either. His vengeful slave Django falls into the grand tradition of Tarantino characters who define themselves by the unflappable sense of style and poise known to some as “mojo.” He’s a hero so heroic he could only exist in the movies, always ready with a quip, turning back right on cue to watch the smoldering remains of the slaveholding empire explode behind him. He’s a blaxploitation icon of refined masculinity from his toothpick, that immortal symbol of badassery, right on down to his far-out threads. He’s Django, remember the name. The D is silent. – CB


Miramax

4. Jackie Brown, Jackie Brown

The blaxploitation movies of the 1970s had an immeasurable influence on Quentin Tarantino, a favor he repaid when he cast the great Pam Grier in his Pulp Fiction follow-up, Jackie Brown. Despite her unique combination of grace, poise, intelligence, beauty, and ferocious toughness, Hollywood never quite figured out how best to use Grier after her blaxploitation heyday. Tarantino did, crafting a perfect vehicle for all of Grier’s gifts (with a major assist from Elmore Leonard, writer of the novel Rum Punch, the source material for Jackie Brown). She plays a flight attendant caught between a gun runner (Sam Jackson) and the cops. With the help of a genial bail bondsman (Robert Forster, another Tarantino reclamation project), Jackie outmaneuvers them all. Among other things, Jackie Brown is the story of a woman who triumphs over a pack of men who constantly underestimate her. Unfortunately, I suspect Pam Grier could relate to Jackie’s plight all too well. – MS


Miramax

3. Mia Wallace, Pulp Fiction

Uma Thurman’s mob wife is the epitome of Cool. With her blunt bob hair cut and her elegantly uncomplicated combo of white button-down and black cigarette pants, Mia Wallace is effortlessly intriguing. Her affinity for retro pop culture and lingo could easily come off as contrived, but Thurman expertly elevates Tarantino’s dialogue, transforming a character that would, in most other films, read as an archaic cliché into the most interesting woman in the room. You don’t just want to know her; you want to be her — even when she’s having a needle full of adrenaline stabbed into her heart to revive her from an overdose. Look, we all know drugs aren’t cool, but how does Thurman manage to make a bloody-faced cautionary tale look so damn awesome?! – BH


Miramax

2. The Bride, Kill Bill

When I think of Tarantino, one image is permanently etched into my mind: Uma Thurman in a yellow jumpsuit. She’s so damn iconic that she doesn’t have just one moniker, but three — The Bride, Black Mamba, and Beatrix Kiddo — all names that ooze with a distinguished style. She’s one of the baddest action heroes of all time, and, I’d argue, one of the best. She’s an aces assassin who plucks off her enemies with purpose, a survivor with a lust for vengeance, and a mother. Best of all, her emotions and strong sense of empathy are never shown as a weakness. But as awesome as Tarantino’s hero is on paper, it’s Thurman who makes the Bride so unforgettable. Her ferocity mixed with her laid-back poise is the epitome of Tarantino cool. – OW


Miramax

1. Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

There are a lot of possible reasons why Quentin Tarantino chose to tell Pulp Fiction’s story out of chronological order. It put his structural deftness as a writer and director front and center, and it mirrored the anthological structure of old pulp magazines. But the most important reason is that it allowed him to give the film’s most important character, hitman Jules Winnfield, his emotional epiphany at Pulp Fiction’s climax rather than somewhere near its midpoint. Jumbling his timeline lets Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules conclude Tarantino’s masterpiece with a bravura monologue about God and his shepherds protecting the weak from the tyranny of evil men. Pulp Fiction is a badass movie, and Jules is a badass character. But despite his violent tendencies, Jules is also a man on a true spiritual journey, and only an actor of Jackson’s caliber, working from a screenplay of Pulp Fiction’s caliber, could balance that beautiful, fascinating contradiction. Yes, Jules is the guy with Bad Mother F—er written on his wallet. But he doesn’t want to be. And in letting Tim Roth’s Ringo and Amanda Plummer’s Yolanda live at the end of the movie, he has taken his first step on the path of the righteous man. – MS