Quentin Tarantino is known for many things as a filmmaker. His films have unpredictable violence and masterfully-crafted scenes. But above all else, Tarantino is known for his dialogue.
It’s not easy holding an audience’s attention for even two minutes, but Tarantino somehow manages to keep scenes engaging even when they extend well beyond 10 minutes. For a great example of this, you should review the Kill Bill Vol 2 ending, which showcases several techniques on how to make dialogue scenes interesting. We’ll also include other scenes from his filmography, so all you screenwriters can get the clearest sense of how to write scenes like this Kill Bill monologue.
Watch: Page to Picture — Tarantino Dialogue
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Kill Bill Analysis
Establish high stakes
One of the most critical aspects of screenwriting is creating conflict your characters have to overcome. There should be an overarching conflict that spans across your film, but you can also introduce sub-conflicts throughout the movie to ensure every scene has tension. And when your scenes have tension, the audience is invested.
For the scene analyzed in Kill Bill Vol 2, the stakes are high before The Bride even steps into the room. Will The Bride finally get her revenge or stumble at the finish line? We have watched her fight through Hell to get to this point — and we know how dangerous Bill is.
Bill takes control of the situation almost immediately. He's pins her down with a couple shots from his revolver. The stakes just got even higher. There’s a lengthy monologue coming up, but by raising the stakes early on in the scene, Tarantino can now hold our attention for the time being.Having the stakes so high is nothing unusual for Tarantino. Look no further than one of the best scenes of all time in Inglourious Basterds.
The scene is just over 19 minutes long. At around the halfway mark, the audience might wonder where exactly this is all going. And that’s when we get the big reveal — the farmer is housing a Jewish family under the floorboards. Tarantino raises the stakes in the middle of a lengthy dialogue scene so that we know what could happen next.For another example of raising the stakes, consider Django Unchained.
The scene starts menacingly enough with Calvin Candie placing the skull of one of his former slaves on the table. It only takes a few minutes for the stakes to be raised with one of Candie’s compatriots bursting through the door with a shotgun aimed at Django and Schultz.
The stakes hit the roof shortly thereafter when Candie brings Broomhilda into the room.
In all three of these scenes, the stakes are clear. Bill could easily kill The Bride. Hans Landa might find and murder the hidden family — and perhaps the farmer's family as well. And Candie is powerful enough to kill Broomhilda and Django if he so wished.
Make sure the audience fully understands what’s at stake, and they'll hang on every word of dialogue.
Create a three-act structureIf you’re having trouble writing a particularly long scene, then it helps to think of that one scene as its own short film. Your scenes should have their own three-act structure with a beginning, middle, and end. The YouTube channel Lessons from the Screenplay does an excellent job of summarizing this concept.
Looking at Kill Bill's last scene, Act One is the set up. It’s where we learn vital information about the characters, which in this instance is that they’re going to fight, and one of them will die. We learn about the protagonist’s desire. The Bride desires to kill Bill. Once everything is established, we can move onto the confrontation.
In Act Two of the scene, Bill shoots The Bride with truth serum. But before he interrogates her, we get the infamous Superman speech. He strings The Bride, and the audience, along until he reaches his thesis. Deep down, Beatrix was and always will be a killer. He confronts her by revealing insight into her true character.
Act Three leads to resolution. Bill asks The Bride questions about her journey and how it felt good to kill all those people to get to him. The scene ends with the completion of The Bride’s character arc. She wanted a normal life but was thrown back into a world of violence. She reaches the realization that even if her marriage worked out, she still would’ve been the violent person meeting Bill today.
It’s in her blood, and she cannot escape it.
Each mini-scene within this one scene serves a purpose. As a result, the final confrontation with Bill never feels stagnant. It’s always going somewhere, so even though the scene is lengthy, it retains our attention.
Quentin Tarantino Writing
Add anecdotesQuentin Tarantino loves telling stories. He loves it so much, in fact, that his characters will frequently tell anecdotes. And while the conversations may seem inconsequential, they can serve a purpose within the story. Just look at the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs.
Characters talking about a Madonna song may not seem all that deep, but it establishes a couple of things. It helps the audience relate to them. They may be criminals, but they talk about the same things you would talk about with your friends.
It also serves another function of having mini-stories in your film: adding humor. Mr. Brown says that “Like a Virgin” is actually about a guy with big dong. If you’re watching the movie for the first time, you instantly pay attention. It draws you in, so you immediately become invested in what happens next.An anecdote can also delay the inevitable to build suspense, and the best example of this comes from the Ezekiel 25:17 scene in Pulp Fiction.
Jules shoots Brett before going into his monologue. In this case, we know what’s going to happen. He’s going to kill Brett, but rather than get it over with all at once, Tarantino draws it out. This adds to the suspense, so we’re more engaged with the film for longer.
There are some other ways the speech adds to the film. The Bible quote ties into the themes of Pulp Fiction, but ultimately, it’s just a cool thing to say before shooting someone.And finally, we get to the third way stories can build your scenes. Anecdotes can reveal character. Let’s look back at the Kill Bill Vol 2 ending and the Superman speech.
The speech encapsulates the internal struggle within The Bride. She wanted to put on the costume of Beatrix Kiddo and lead a normal life. However, deep down, she will always be a natural-born killer. The movie’s almost over, but we still manage to glean one last bit of insight into The Bride.
Quentin Tarantino’s storytelling is at the top of its game. Screenwriters have to learn that you can’t always have short scenes. Sometimes to really build your film, you have to draw a scene out for well over 10 minutes.
Don’t let that task frighten you. By analyzing Quentin Tarantino’s use of dialogue in his movies, you can also create masterful scenes that build tension, develop character, and dig deep into the movie’s themes.
Read on for more resources and PDF downloads of popular screenplays.
Quentin Tarantino directing tips
If you know anything about Quentin Tarantino, you know he loves discussing the art of filmmaking. Now that you have a better idea of how to write like Tarantino, let's move on to how he goes about directing. We've collected interviews from his entire career and distilled some priceless gems about his approach. Get your pencils and notepads ready, Tarantino Film School is now in session.