Do you want to learn to write like Tarantino? Learn how to make 3 decades of fresh, original movies? Well, I can’t guarantee that, but there’s no better place to start than by reading a Tarantino script. Today, we study his Oscar-winning Django Unchained script, the storyline, characters, and what makes it distinctly Tarantino. The man is known for his writing, let’s find out why.
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WHO WROTE django unchained SCRIPT?
Written by Quentin Tarantino
A writer/director who truly needs no introduction, Tarantino’s been one of the best in the business since Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Tarantino dropped out of high school at 16 and famously worked at a video store in Manhattan Beach for 5 years in his early 20s where he would watch movies all day.
His first paid assignment was the From Dusk Till Dawn script, but it didn’t come out until 1996. Therefore, his legitimate writing credit was the aforementioned Reservoir Dogs.
After that, Tarantino didn’t skip a beat. His True Romance (1993) screenplay came out a year later and he directed Pulp Fiction (1994) the following year.
Tarantino has etched himself into history as one of the best film auteurs of the past few decades.
He has two Oscars for Best Original Screenplay: Pulp Fiction (1994) & our subject for today Django Unchained (2012).
Django Unchained Summary
Here is the basic story structure for Tarantino's Django Unchained screenplay:
Via flashback, Django and his wife, Broomhilda, are separated and sold on the auction block. We get flashbacks on pages 1, 7, 16, and 30. All detailing events in Django’s past as a slave.
Dr. Schultz explains his bounty hunting profession and why he needs Django on page 14.
The Django Unchained plot is set in motion when Django is freed by Dr. Schultz in the opening scene. However, going back a little further, the story was set in motion the moment Django got separated from his wife.
Plot Point One
Django and Dr. Schultz partner up. They will make money and collect bounties for the winter before going to rescue Broomhilda together.
Django and Dr. Schultz collect bounties, and Django gets very good at it. They go to Greenville to find Broomhilda’s location. We get a flashback of Broomhilda’s backstory (not in the film) and build up the lore of Calvin Candie.
We finally meet Calvin Candie. From here on out, we’re in his world, we get invited to Candyland on page 78.
Plot Point Two
Stephen (Sam Jackson) and Calvin Candie realize Django and Dr. Schultz’s plan. Candie gloats. Dr. Schultz kills Candie and is subsequently killed himself on page 131.
Django is tortured, almost killed, but eventually sent to The LeQuint Dickey Mining Company to be worked to death.
Django quickly tricks the miners, kills them, and heads back to Candyland for the final showdown.
Django single-handedly kills everyone. He blows up Candyland, shows off his quick-draw skills, and saves Broomhilda.
Victorious and free, Django and Broomhilda kiss and ride away together.
The Django Unchained Script Is Wordy
Django screenplay's description
Tarantino is known for his dialogue. Anyone who’s seen a Tarantino movie might instantly notice the rhythm and style of Tarantino’s dialogue. However, when I started reading the Django screenplay, I first saw pages and pages of scene description.
Check it out below, I’ve imported the script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software so you can take a look at the first page.
Django Script • Page One
It isn’t totally uncommon for screenplays to run a page or two without dialogue, but the way Tarantino writes this scene description is uncommon.
- As the film’s OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE plays...
- We see a MONTAGE of misery and pain...
- DJANGO has a SPAGHETTI WESTERN FLASHBACK. Now Spaghetti Western Flashbacks are never pretty, it's usually the time in the film when the lead character thinks back to the most painful memory.
- The Slaves shiver from the cold on their shirtless backs, both Speck Brothers wear rawhide winter coats with white fur linings, and white fur collars.
Tarantino writes with a semi-passive tone, one that’s not particularly efficient. He uses music cues and camera instruction, he refers to the history of the Spaghetti Western movies, he doesn’t give the montage a new scene heading. He uses extreme detail on characters that survive one scene.
Many of these acts would get you scolded at even the best film schools, yet the Django Unchained script won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
So, what do we learn from this?
Tarantino doesn’t write scripts for anyone other than himself. He doesn’t have to sell a script or show it to a director, he is the director and any actor would kill to work with him. Tarantino has always done things his own way, turns out his screenplays are no exception.
Django Unchained Quotes - Monologues
The many Django monologues
There are a handful of memorable Django Unchained quotes, but there is certainly a fair share of monologues. This should come as no surprise. Nearly every Tarantino movie is peppered with memorable monologues.
Whether about tipping, the Commode story, the Bible, Madonna, a grandfather's watch, Jews, Sicilians, skulls, anything.
Sometimes a gun is involved, torture, or persuasion, but other times the characters just have something to say.
Dr. Schultz is the primary monologist in the Django Unchained script but Calvin Candie isn’t too far behind. Heck, by the end even Django joins in on the fun. Nearly all the featured Django Unchained characters get a monologue at some point.
Perhaps the most well-known monologue is the one Calvin Candie gives at the dinner table about skulls. Interestingly enough, this scene wasn’t in the original Django Unchained script.
Here’s how it reads:
Django Script • Calvin Candie monologue
Here’s how it was re-written and shot:
Django Monologue • Calvin Candie
That’s a three and a half minute monologue. One that adds tension and intensity to the scene. At this point in the Django storyline, we know that Calvin Candie knows Django and Dr. Schultz’s intentions. This creates some effective dramatic irony as we wait for things to get crazy.
Tarantino LOVES this writing technique — showing us a bomb, and letting the audience sit and squirm until it inevitably goes off.
Combined that with his rambling, sometimes gruesome monologues, and we get one of many things that give his movies that distinct Tarantino style.
Django characters don’t really change
Another film school no-no, Django is the main character of the Django Unchained plot but doesn’t change all that much.
Yes, he is trained as a bounty hunter and picks up some new vocabulary, but a lot of that happens in a montage and is accomplished by page 50.
Django is not a very emotional character. He’s an angry knight going to save his princess. That's the Django Unchained summary. It's very similar to Kill Bill (2003) in that manner.
Okay, so Django doesn’t have a huge transformation…What about Dr. Schultz?
Well, he doesn’t change a ton either. Sure, he learns to like Django more and realizes the true horrors of slavery…but he was never a racist to begin with. He frees slaves in the first scene of the movie!
Django Unchained is a folk tale. It’s cartoony at times and there’s never really a doubt the hero will succeed.
Just look at this scene:
Django Unchained KKK Scene
He plays the KKK for comedy, and Django and Dr. Schultz dismantle the raid with ease. Django is never challenged by a worthy competitor, just a sea of dumb white slave owners.
The gruesome visuals and horrible language give the impression that Django is a serious, intense, disturbing film. Django does go there at times, but that’s not what the film is at its core.
It’s kind of a cartoon, with a heavy dosage of Tarantino's “fun action.” Look at the title page:
Django Unchained Script • Title Page
Tarantino even hand-wrote every page number in the top corner.
It feels crazy to call a movie about slaves cartoony, but it’s unavoidable. We saw the title page above, find the last scene in the film below:
Django Unchained Plot • Final scene
In the scene, Tarantino’s use of music informs us. The ending tone is jovial. Much of the movie is very jovial. Perhaps that’s why Tarantino neglected the character development, perhaps he’s just trying to make what he feels is most interesting. It’s hard to say.
Read and download more scripts
Take a deep breath, you earned it. The Django script is long and intense. But once you’re ready, we have similar titles like Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, and The Departed in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and decide where Django Unchained slates among Tarantino's best.