Why Are We So Obsessed With Tarantino’s Violence? An Excerpt From ‘Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece’


For all of the discussion about the violence in Pulp Fiction, and for the equal place it holds in that discussion within Tarantino’s filmography (alongside Kill Bill Vol. Volume 1’s 95 dead and Inglourious Basterds’ 300-plus), remarkably few people are killed during its 154 minutes. When Gene Siskel asked Samuel L. Jackson about the film’s violence during its 1995 Oscar campaign, Jackson pointed out that Woody Allen’s charming gangster comedy Bullets Over Broadway (also up for several statues that year) has six more deaths in it than Pulp Fiction has.

How many people, exactly, get bumped off in this super-violent movie? Nine—only six of them onscreen:

• Three men in the apartment: Brett, “Flock of Seagulls,” and the “fourth man” in the bathroom.
• Marvin, accidentally shot in the face by Vincent in the car.
• Vincent Vega, killed by Butch in his apartment.
• Butch’s opponent, Floyd Wilson—killed off-screen, but seen dead in his dressing room.
• Maynard, disemboweled by Butch.
• Presumptive pawnshop deaths: Zed, only maimed onscreen, but certain to live “the rest of his short-ass life in agonizing pain”; and “the Gimp,” punched out and seemingly hung by Butch.
• Not counted: the brunette woman who catches Marsellus’ stray bullet (it hits her in the leg, and does not appear to be a life-threatening injury)

Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece is available now from Voyageur Press. My new book, The Complete Woody Allen Film Companion, is out this week.