Pulp Fiction’s narrative is told out of chronological order, and follows three main interrelated stories: Mob contract killer Vincent Vega is the protagonist of the first story, prizefighter Butch Coolidge is the protagonist of the second, and Vincent’s partner Jules Winnfield is the protagonist of the third.
The film begins with a diner hold-up staged by a couple, then moves to the stories of Vincent, Jules, and Butch. It finally returns to where it began, in the diner. There are a total of seven narrative sequences; the three primary storylines are preceded by intertitles:
“Prologue – The Diner”
Prelude to “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”
“Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”
Prelude to “The Gold Watch” (a – flashback, b – present)
“The Gold Watch”
“The Bonnie Situation”
“Epilogue – The Diner”
If the seven sequences were ordered chronologically, they would run: 4a, 2, 6, 1, 7, 4b, 3, 5. Sequences 1 and 7 partially overlap and are presented from different points of view, as do sequences 2 and 6. According to Philip Parker, the structural form is “an episodic narrative with circular events adding a beginning and end and allowing references to elements of each separate episode to be made throughout the narrative”. Other analysts describe the structure as a “circular narrative”.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino; it is based on a story by Tarantino and Roger Avary. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, and Uma Thurman, it tells several stories of criminal Los Angeles. The film’s title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue.
Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction in 1992 and 1993, incorporating scenes that Avary originally wrote for True Romance (1993). Its plot occurs out of chronological order. The film is also self-referential from its opening moments, beginning with a title card that gives two dictionary definitions of “pulp”. Considerable screen time is devoted to monologues and casual conversations with eclectic dialogue revealing each character’s perspectives on several subjects, and the film features an ironic combination of humor and strong violence. TriStar Pictures reportedly turned down the script as “too demented”. Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was enthralled, however, and the film became the first that Miramax fully financed.
Pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and was a major critical and commercial success. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and won Best Original Screenplay; it earned Travolta, Jackson, and Thurman Academy Award nominations and revitalized and/or elevated their careers. Its development, marketing, distribution, and profitability had a sweeping effect on independent cinema.
Pulp Fiction has been widely regarded as Tarantino’s masterpiece, with particular praise for its screenwriting. The self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a touchstone of postmodern film. It is often considered a cultural watershed, influencing movies and other media that adopted elements of its style. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named it the best film since 1983 and it has appeared on many critics’ lists of the greatest films ever made. In 2013, Pulp Fiction was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.