Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who cowrote its screenplay with Roger Avary. The film is known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture; Tarantino and Avary won for Best Original Screenplay. It was also awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. A major critical and commercial success, it revitalized the career of its leading man, John Travolta, who received an Academy Award nomination, as did costars Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman.
Directed in a highly stylized manner, Pulp Fiction joins the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. Considerable screen time is devoted to conversations and monologues that reveal the characters' senses of humor and perspectives on life. The film's title refers to the pulp magazine and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue. Pulp Fiction is self-referential from its opening moments, beginning with a title card that gives two dictionary definitions of "pulp". The plot, in keeping with most of Tarantino's other works, is presented out of chronological sequence.
The picture's self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive use of homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a prime example of postmodern film. Considered by some critics a black comedy, the film is also frequently labeled a "neo-noir". Critic Geoffrey O'Brien argues otherwise: "The old-time noir passions, the brooding melancholy and operatic death scenes, would be altogether out of place in the crisp and brightly lit wonderland that Tarantino conjures up. [It is] neither neo-noir nor a parody of noir". Similarly, Nicholas Christopher calls it "more gangland camp than neo-noir", and Foster Hirsch suggests that its "trippy fantasy landscape" characterizes it more definitively than any genre label. Pulp Fiction is viewed as the inspiration for many later movies that adopted various elements of its style. The nature of its development, marketing, and distribution and its consequent profitability had a sweeping effect on the field of independent cinema (although it is not an independent film itself). A cultural watershed, Pulp Fiction's influence has been felt in several other media.
In keeping with writer-director Quentin Tarantino's trademark of nonlinear storytelling, the narrative is presented out of sequence. Pulp Fiction is structured around three distinct but interrelated storylines—in Tarantino's conception, mob hitman Vincent Vega is the lead of the first story, prizefighter Butch Coolidge is the lead of the second, and Vincent's fellow contract killer, Jules Winnfield, is the lead of the third. Although each storyline focuses on a different series of incidents, they connect and intersect in various ways. The film starts out with a diner hold-up staged by "Pumpkin" and "Honey Bunny", then picks up the stories of Vincent, Jules, Butch, and several other important characters, including mob kingpin Marsellus Wallace, his wife, Mia, and underworld problem-solver Winston Wolf. It finally returns to where it began, in the diner: Vincent and Jules, who have stopped in for a bite, find themselves embroiled in the hold-up. There are a total of seven narrative sequences—the three primary storylines are preceded by identifying intertitles on a black screen:
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