There is a reason I recommend movies to watch after you see a new release. I believe you will better appreciate the new movie by familiarizing yourself with film history, specifically the movies of the past that inform and influence that movie of the present. Quentin Tarantino movies are easy to do this with since he often wears his inspirations on his sleeve.
Or he programs a series of the old films at his own movie theater and works with Sony to curate selections for their cable channel or with Fandango to promote titles to rent or buy on their digital film service. He did all three for his latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. You can also find a handy guide to all the movies he’s acknowledged.
Seeing as he’s covered all the bases for what to watch before seeing his movie, I figured this edition of Movies to Watch After… would aim for something a little different. These titles didn’t necessarily influence OUATIH. Watching them might not give you a better appreciation of OUATIH. Rather, I think seeing OUATIH will give you a better appreciation of them.
Oh, and if you need anything to help you with the true story of the Manson Family and their murders, don’t watch anything, just listen to this: Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast series from 2015 titled “Charles Manson’s Hollywood.”
Echo in the Canyon (2019) and David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019)
Two hit documentaries released this year are already a good double feature together. They also can be watched after OUATIH as part of a triple feature. Echo in the Canyon is about the Los Angeles music scene of the mid-1960s with a specific focus on the groups based around Laurel Canyon, while David Crosby: Remember My Name is about David Crosby, who was part of that scene.
Echo not only celebrates the Mamas and the Papas, members of which are portrayed in Tarantino’s movie (specifically Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips, portrayed respectively by Rebecca Rittenhouse and Rachel Redleaf), but it also features clips from Jacques Demy’s Model Shop, a movie that also heavily influenced OUATIH. Echo filmmakers Andrew Slater and Jakob Dylan suggest Model Shop also just looks like how the era of the LA music scene felt.
As for the Crosby doc, for which producer Cameron Crowe has said Echo serves as a preview, it’s a good fit with OUATIH because there’s a moment when its subject says he’d have been better than Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (another movie on Tarantino’s list of OUATIH influences). There’s even an imagined exchange as if Crosby was in that movie using intercut clips, similar to when OUATIH inserts Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in The Great Escape.
Echo in the Canyon and David Crosby: Remember My Name are now playing in theaters.
The Hero (2017)
Brett Haley’s The Hero should have been an awards darling a couple of years ago, at least for star Sam Elliott, for whom it was written and which seemed almost made with Oscar in mind (the Academy maybe realized this when finally nominating him for A Star is Born a year later). Like OUATIH, it’s about an aging star of Westerns in need of a return to glory, or just decent work.
For many reasons, though, The Hero, is nothing like Tarantino’s movie. It’s set in the present, it’s inspired by its own star’s own career rather than icons of the past (Elliott got his start at the time OUATIH is set, even appearing on such TV series as The F.B.I. and Lancer), and there’s a lot more drama with its romantic and estranged daughter storylines. But there’s also some film industry send-up, albeit played straight — if Rick Dalton was around today, perhaps he’d be auditioning for YA franchises, too.
The Nice Guys (2016)
In its opening weekend, OUATIH has already grossed more than the total domestic take of The Nice Guys. So, as well known as it should be, I assume a lot of people seeing Tarantino’s latest haven’t seen Shane Black’s detective comedy masterpiece. But should. As great as DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are as a dynamic duo in OUATIH, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling very well might top them in this.
The Nice Guys is set almost a decade later than the events of OUATIH but is also in and around LA at another turning point of the film industry, namely when porn was peaking. The movie also features OUATIH standout Margaret Qualley (aka miniature Andie MacDowell) as the girl the “nice guys” are hired to find in a goofy noir-ish plot involving an automaker conspiracy.
Double Dare (2004)
In 2001, the popular syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess concluded its lengthy run, leaving Lucy Lawless stunt double Zoe Bell out of a job. She eventually moves to the US and gets hired to double for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Numerous collaborations with Tarantino later, she’s the stunt coordinator on OUATIH with a brief onscreen role as well.
Double Dare is a documentary that follows Bell’s career through that whole transition and may even have itself affected her life by leading to her (with financial assistance from the filmmakers) to become acquaintances with people, especially fellow stuntperson doc subject Jeannie Epper, who helped steer her toward her American breakout. On top of that, the film is just a fascinating look at and celebration of women stunt performers.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
The Wrecking Crew gets a very nice showcase in a scene with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in OUATIH. The fourth and final installment of the Matt Helm spy action-comedy franchise has otherwise not had much of a legacy in its 50 years of existence. Thanks to Tarantino, however, his fans are now checking out the James Bond send-up after seeing clips of it in OUATIH.
Before its prominence in OUATIH, The Wrecking Crew partly inspired the second Austin Powers movie, The Spy Who Shagged Me. Mike Myers’ spy comedy sequel is more of a parody of James Bond parodies than a James Bond parody, and as such, it features a character modeled after Tate’s Freya Carlson combined with Anya Amazova from The Spy Who Loved Me: Heather Graham’s Felicity Shagwell.
The first Austin Powers movie also seems to reference The Wrecking Crew in its joke about England not looking anything like Southern California. The Matt Helm sequel features a chase scene through the “Dutch Alps” that is clearly shot in California. It’s safe to say that if you see The Wrecking Crew and then other Helm movies (including The Silencers, Murderers’ Row, and The Ambushers, none of which feature Tate), you’ll want to watch the Austin Powers films.
In OUATIH, Tate is shown picking up a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles as a gift for her husband, Roman Polanski. She was known to have recently read the book before her murder and suggested Polanski adapt it into a feature film. And that he did, a decade later, with young Nastassja Kinski starring as the titular character in this production, which went on to a Best Picture nomination and three Oscar wins.
Had she not died then, Tate very likely would have played the lead in Tess in a movie made by Polanski. She would have been too old for the part if they’d waited until 1978 to make it, but she expressed interest in the role when she gave her husband the book and they probably would have done it sooner than later. Alas, she was killed, but Tess is dedicated “To Sharon.”
Throughout OUATIH, even before it was confirmed that Tate would live in the alternate history ending of the movie’s universe, I thought she might and hoped Tarantino would have an American Grafitti type pre-credits epilogue showing where the characters are now and what movies and TV shows they did after 1969 — or even showed Robbie as Tate inserted into them.
Tarantino has constantly shown his love for stunt work and stunt performers throughout his career, including in his collaboration with Zoe Bell and his characters portrayed by Kurt Russell in Death Proof and now OUATIH. His latest movie, however, is his greatest homage to the profession via Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth.
Hooper is a similar appreciation of stunt performers in a fictional film. Directed by iconic stuntman and coordinator Hal Needham, it stars his frequent collaborator Burt Reynolds (whom Needham sometimes doubled for early on) as an aging stuntman who was once considered the greatest in his line of work. He’s working on a spy movie when he meets a new stuntman whom he befriends yet also initially competes with.
Considering Reynolds was initially such a big part of OUATIH — he’s replaced in the episode of The F.B.I. and was meant to himself appear in the movie portraying George Spahn and also portrayed by James Marsden — it’s fun to imagine his later movies as being vehicles for the fictional Rick Dalton. Maybe he would have starred in Hooper as helmed by Booth.
I also recommend the criminally underseen 2016 Needham-focused documentary The Bandit, in which the stuntman turned filmmaker reflects on his life and career.
Lions Love (… and Lies) (1969)
When Jacques Demy went to Hollywood to make Model Shop (already mentioned above as a major influence on OUATIH), his wife, filmmaker Agnes Varda, joined him and made some movies of her own. Among her California period works (collected in a great Criterion set) were some short documentaries and the metafictional hybrid Lions Love (… and Lies).
Perfectly described by our own Landon Palmer as “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (another influence on OUATIH) meets Gimme Shelter,” Varda’s movie follows Warhol star Viva in her polyamorous relationship with Hair composers Jerry Ragni and James Rado as they navigate Hollywood alongside Shirley Clarke playing both herself and a stand-in for Varda.
Although shot in 1968 (Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination affects the tone and story), simultaneous to the Model Shop production, Lions Love (… and Lies) provides some documentary material for what the setting of OUATIH looked and felt like for real around the same time. And yet it’s also, like Model Shop and OUATIH a cinematic dream of LA, too.
It Happened Here (1964)
Before Tarantino came along and started making happily ever after revisionist histories concerning Hitler and Manson, the trend with the genre was to go with darker fates. Rather than seeing inglourious basterds wipe out most of the top Nazis, movies imagined Nazis succeeding in their master plans and expanding their reign further than was true.
It Happened Here is one of the earliest alternative history movies as well as the earliest project of filmmakers and historians Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, who began the project as teenagers in the mid-1950s and eventually finished it with support from Stanley Kubrick and Tony Richardson. It’s also the first work of The Empire Strikes Back DP Peter Suschitzky.
The plot of the film follows an Irish nurse in Nazi-occupied England, which is said to have been taken by the Germans in 1940 following the Dunkirk evacuation and is supported by a now fascist British government. By its end, we can assume the Allies still win the war in this parallel universe but the What If? themes of indoctrination and collaboration are the focus.
Despite my aforementioned desire to have seen Tarantino answer the questions of where are they now, revisionist history stories can get tricky with such lengthy consequential speculation. Perhaps the real events of OUATIH were also course corrected and Manson came back the next day to kill Tate and Seberg (in the true timeline, he actually did something similar in response to the events of that night but elsewhere). Movies like It Happened Here and OUATIH are best as closed narratives.