One of the more heated movie debates of the 21st century has been settled once and for all. That is, if you take the writer-director’s word for it. Following his severely underrated Jackie Brown, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino took a long time developing and deciding on his next project. When he finally resurfaced, he had a truly epic screenplay called Kill Bill that he intended to make as his fourth film. Production lasted a whopping 155 days on Kill Bill, which took a kitchen sink approach to genre as Tarantino tried his hand at kung fu, spaghetti Western, tragic romance, and revenge tale all in one story.
When Kill Bill entered post-production it was already a running joke amongst the crew that the three-hour film should be cut in half, and even producer Harvey Weinstein had already suggested considering a split, but as editing continued, it became clear to Tarantino and Miramax that releasing Kill Bill as two films made sense. Thus, in July 2013—three months before the intended release of Kill Bill—it was announced that the movie was being cut into two parts, which would be released separately. Kill Bill Vol. 1 hit theaters in October 2013 as planned, and Kill Bill Vol. 2 was released in April 2014.
Two release dates. Two opening and closing credits. Two movies, right? Wrong, according to Tarantino. The debate over whether Kill Bill is one movie or two has raged on over the past decade, but in an appearance on the CinemaBlend podcast, Tarantino stated emphatically that Kill Bill is one movie:
“Technically we released it as two movies, and there is a closing and an opening credits [on each movie], but since I made it as one movie and I wrote it as one movie, [it’s one movie].”
But Tarantino went on to admit that releasing the film in two parts worked to its advantage:
“Now it works really good that way. Frankly, the truth of the matter is, I don’t think it would’ve been as popular as a four hour movie. I literally had a guy say that to me. It was one of those weird diamond bullet moments where you can’t unhear it. He said, ‘Quentin, here’s the thing. My uncle would love this movie, but he wouldn’t love it at four hours.’”
That’s not untrue, and there is a combined cut called Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair that edits the film together as one movie with key differences (the opening scene for The Whole Bloody Affair is the opening scene from Vol. 2), but the fact remains Kill Bill was released as two movies. It exists as two movies. I paid for two movies. And each movie has a fairly distinct tone and focus—Vol. 1 is pretty much all action, whereas Vol. 2 is more character-centric. Moreover, with talk that Kill Bill Vol. 3 is once again a real possibility, the numbering would get very confusing. So as far as I’m concerned, until Tarantino finally makes The Whole Bloody Affair widely available, Kill Bill is two movies.
On the bright side, since Tarantino considers Kill Bill one film, we still have one Tarantino movie left after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood before his self-imposed retirement.