Quentin Tarantino had been telling interviewers about a World War II movie he was working on for years before he finally managed to complete the script. He pushed back Inglourious Basterds to make Kill Bill and Death Proof before getting the cameras rolling on his WWII epic. But the resulting movie was worth the wait. It’s one of Tarantino’s finest works — he even declares it to be his masterpiece in the final scene.
From the introduction of the Bear Jew to the historically inaccurate death of a certain dictator, Inglourious Basterds has a ton of unforgettable moments that wildly subvert the audience’s expectations.
After Col. Landa deduces that the LaPadite family is harboring the Dreyfuses and his soldiers open fire on the floorboards, one of them escapes. Shoshanna flees into the French countryside to start a new life. Landa lines up the shot but decides to spare her life. He shouts out, “Au revoir, Shoshanna!”
Everyone has their own theory about why Landa let Shoshanna escape. Maybe he didn’t think she could survive the night. Maybe he liked the idea of letting her go so he could catch her later.
The opening scene of Inglourious Basterds is a prime example of Hitchcockian bomb-under-the-table suspense. Col. Landa arrives at the LaPadite dairy farm in search of Jewish refugees, and Tarantino pans under the floorboards to reveal a whole family trying to keep quiet.
When LaPadite gives away the Dreyfuses’ location, Landa bids him adieu and lets his soldiers into the house so they can tear the floorboards to pieces with machine gunfire. Shoshanna escapes, of course, but her family is all killed around her first.
When a German sergeant chooses death over betrayal, Lt. Aldo Raine giddily shouts into a dark tunnel, “Donny, got us a German who wants to die for his country. Oblige him!”
The Bear Jew rattles his baseball bat along the tunnel walls as he gets closer and closer to beating the Nazi to death. Ennio Morricone’s “The Surrender (La Resa)” beautifully builds up the suspense to Donny’s on-screen debut.