In his eighth feature film, The Hateful Eight, director Quentin Tarantino once again invites a cast of familiar faces to act on screen. In the post-Civil War western, many of his longtime collaborators return for a classic mystery set-up: all the action is largely set in one room. It's a true ensemble that lets Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, as well as several notable newcomers* play off each other in unexpected and funny ways.
The Hateful Eight marks Jackson’s sixth collaboration with Tarantino, while others are returning for their second or third time. With that in mind, we power rank Tarantino’s Hateful Eight cast and make note of a few first-timers, who would make welcome additions to the director’s short list.
1. Walton Goggins (Up)
A relative newcomer to Tarantino’s world, Goggins has quickly become a standout. In The Hateful Eight, the actor steals every scene he’s in -- and yes, even from Jackson, who often does his best work with Tarantino behind the camera -- as an eager, would-be sheriff. The part, written specifically with Goggins in mind, is a mix of his anti-heroic Justifiedpersona -- the FX series just ended after six seasons -- and his brief, but memorable part in Django Unchained. (The Hateful Eight, while written as a stand-alone film, was at one point considered a sequel to 2012 spaghetti western.) He’s a young man’s Tommy Lee Jones or Bruce Dern, who fittingly enough, plays war hero to Goggins' character in the film. Goggins has a gift making an unlikeable character someone worth rooting for, and in The Hateful Eight, he runs away with the entire thing.
2. Samuel L. Jackson (Even)
There’s a lot to be said about the work Jackson’s done with Tarantino. It’s among some of his best, when you consider Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Django Unchained. However, The Hateful Eight is a mixed bag. On one hand, it should be Jackson’s tentpole Tarantino performance. He’s easily the lead of the ensemble, and in his sixth on-screen collaboration, it seems deserving for Tarantino to give Jackson an Oscar-worthy scenery to chew on. Jackson should be applauded for mastering Tarantino’s dialogue and maniacal sense of humor. Yet, unlike Pulp Fiction, which earned him an Oscar nomination, it doesn’t quite all come together. Jackson stands out, but that’s wherein lies the problem. At times, he fails to blend in -- in a way, he’s too large for a project like this. It’s like Julia Roberts trying to hide her smile in August: Osage County or Tom Hanks doing anything outside of the Toy Story franchise. Those actors will never be anything but their marquee name. It’s why they were cast in the first place.
3. *Jennifer Jason Leigh (New)
While she’s the film’s biggest newcomer, Leigh almost didn’t get the role of Daisy. Jennifer Lawrence, who is earning Oscar buzz for her star turn in Joy, reportedly met with Tarantino about playing the fugitive gang member while Amber Tamblyn sat in for the part during a live reading. However, Leigh makes Daisy all her own as the film’s only female lead among a group of brutish men. Not put off by the role, which is largely spent being brutalized by her on-screen counterparts, Leigh offers a crazed-yet-gritty performance. The actress has already earned a Golden Globe nomination and will likely walk away with the film’s sole acting Oscar nomination.
4. Tim Roth (Up)
Largely absent from Tarantino’s world, Roth last worked with the director on Pulp Fiction(we’re not counting the multi-director experiment, Four Rooms). His absence may have been overlooked due to the addition of fellow import, Christoph Waltz, who has seemingly filled in for Roth with his stellar work in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. While Oswaldo Mobray feels like a role written for Waltz, Roth brings the charm and the balance to the chewy acting choices from his co-stars. Only Channing Tatum (more on him below) matches Roth’s wink and smile.
5. Kurt Russell (Down)
A latecomer to Tarantino’s group, Russell has quickly found his groove playing a loud, sh*t-talking stranger in both Death Proof and The Hateful Eight. In the former, Russell was a stunt driver turned serial killer, who killed pretty co-eds based on their position in his little black book’s “naughty or nice” list. In Tarantino’s latest, he’s a bounty hunter with a mouth as vile as his punch (both of which are primarily directed at Leigh’s character). Russell has no problem with Tarantino’s chewy dialogue, but the actor plays much better in the ensemble than he did in Death Proof, where his snarl opposite Rose McGowan was a welcome surprise.
6. *Channing Tatum (New)
Whether or not you consider Tatum a serious actor hardly matters considering his ability to win over the caliber directors -- now Tarantino with Bennett Miller, Steven Soderbergh, and The Wachowskis coming before him. His role -- not to be spoiled here -- comes late in the film and offers another unexpected turn from the actor who has now mastered everything from romance to thrillers
and Oscar-bait films. While he doesn’t entirely fit into the film, he does play up his Southern charm (and French tongue) to maximum effect. This is Tatum, after all.
7. Zoë Bell (Down)
With a total of five collaborations, Bell sits only behind Jackson as the director’s most frequent on-screen collaborator. While most of her work has been as a stunt double -- most prominently in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds --, Tarantino did write Death Proof as a showcase of Bell’s talents. Since then, she’s acted in Django Unchained -- a role that was largely cut out of the final film -- and in The Hateful Eight as Six-Horse Judy. Her latest role is limited to one flashback scene and she doesn’t do any stunt work for Leigh. For Bell, it’s a large waste of her budding on-screen presence.
8. *Demián Bichir (New)
A successful Mexican actor, Bichir has become famous in the U.S. for his role as Detective Marco Ruiz in the FX series, The Bridge and appearances in The Heat alongside Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and Machete Kills. He makes his Tarantino debut after the role of Bob was changed from a Frenchman to a Mexican. It’s hardly a standout role, but Bichir fits in well with the ensemble. And he sure is sexy off screen.
9. James Parks (Even)
After playing the same bit role in two of Tarantino’s earlier projects, Parks is given a promotion and far more screen time as O.B. Jackson. Although he’s not considered one of the titular “eight,” Parks finds himself in the background of nearly the entire film -- and earns a few hearty laughs.
10. Bruce Dern (Down)
If there’s anything Tarantino does best, it’s giving aging actors their due or sparking late-in-career resurgences. The same can be said for Dern, who followed Django Unchained with his Oscar-nominated role in Nebraska. Here, he’s just as cranky as ever -- but largely underutilized -- as a Confederate general.
11-16. Dana Gourrier / Keith Jefferson / Lee Horsley / Belinda Owino / Bruce Del Castillo / Craig Stark (Even)
Largely a group of bit players from Django Unchained, these actors fill out Tarantino’s flashback scene. They all deserve more screen time than was allotted for them, but The Hateful Eight is already a large ensemble. Additional props are awarded to Del Castillo, who has also served as a grip on the production of numerous Tarantino films.
(Pictured Above: Dana Gourrier and Craig Stark)
17. Quentin Tarantino (Even)
In addition to writing and directing his eight feature films, Tarantino also has a habit of casting himself on screen. He’s appeared as Mr. Brown (Reservoir Dogs), Jimmie (Pulp Fiction), a Crazy 88 gang member (Kill Bill), Warren (Death Proof), a scalped victim (Inglourious Basterds), and a member of Big Daddy’s mob (Django Unchained). He’s also the voice on the answering machine in Jackie Brown. Often times, his appearance feels indulgent and removes you from the story. But in The Hateful Eight, in which he serves as the narrator, Tarantino only moves the story along, never distracting from the main players on screen.
18. Michael Madsen (Down)
At one time, Madsen was an essential member of Tarantino’s acting crew, destined to be a Robert De Niro to the director’s Martin Scorsese. Following the success of Reservoir Dogs, Madsen’s first Tarantino film, the director wanted the actor to star in Pulp Fiction. But after Madsen chose to make Wyatt Earp, a box office flop with Kevin Costner, Tarantino didn’t speak to him for over a decade. It wasn’t until the two reunited for Kill Bill, that they started to mend their relationship with Tarantino even flirting with the idea to build a film around the Vega brothers (Vic from Reservoir Dogs and Vincent [John Travolta] from Pulp Fiction). But Madsen feels like such an afterthought as a muted, mysterious cowboy in The Hateful Eight, it’s a wonder why he’s even there.
Watch below as the cast of The Hateful Eight, which is now in theaters, open up about the violence in the film: