A Brief History of Kill Bill–Inspired Music Videos, From Beyoncé to Cardi B
Cardi B and CupcakKe have both referenced the movie this week.
With both Cardi B and CupcakKe releasing music video heavily inspired by the film in the past 36 hours, we’ve suddenly realized a new truth: Kill Bill is the new Scarface. At least when it comes to music video inspiration. Ever since its release 35 years ago, Brian De Palma’s Miami–set gangster film has provided direct inspiration for an uncountable number of (mostly male-starring) music videos. Everyone from Future to Drake to Zayn has decided the world is his and referenced the film. Though the first volume of the film hasn’t quite reached its 15th anniversary, Kill Bill seems to be quickly catching up. Although in its case, it’s female musicians and rappers driving the trending.
That’s no surprise; Uma Thurman’s The Bride is a take-no-prisoners assassin out to exact revenge on the man who wronged her and the women who enabled him. It’s a thematic and attitudinal mirror of so much pop music, it’s hardly a wonder why she’s so frequently referenced in music clips. It doesn’t hurt that the film and Thurman are both stylistically striking. Besides, appropriation of Kill Bill imagery seems fitting, considering that the film, like much of Tarantino’s work, is an appropriation of divergent imagery and inspiration from elsewhere. Which also makes tracking down Kill Bill inspiration sort of hard. Maybe an artist is giving a slight nod to Kill Bill with a shot or a bit of symbolism in their music video, or maybe they’re just paying homage to the same thing Tarantino was paying homage too in the first place. Take Post Malone’s “Rockstar” clip, which many compared to Kill Bill, but likely has more in common with Japanese film Lady Snowblood. Other times, music videos take their cues from Tarantino acolytes. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” was a little more Robert Rodriguez (think Sin City and Planet Terror) than Tarantino.
Starting with the two most recent examples and going back to the woman who (unsurprisingly) was the first to reference the film, here’s a brief history of the most obvious Kill Bill influences in music video history.
Cardi B – “Be Careful” (2018)
Kill Bill comes in two volumes, but there are about half a dozen different movies packed into its 247-minute running time. Or at least half a dozen different genres of film. Cardi B’s “Be Careful” entered the pantheon of “warning a trifling man” classics on its release ahead of her debut album Invasion of Privacy, and for the just-released visual she homed in on the spagehtti Western influences in Kill Bill and staged both a wedding and a funeral inspired by the film’s own tragic wedding scene. It even features the same church: the Sanctuary Adventist Church in Lancaster, California (fun fact: It also appeared in Britney Spears’ cinematic classic Crossroads).
CupcakKe – “Quiz” (2018)
It’s sort of amazing that two female rappers can release two music videos inspired by the same film within a day of each other, and yet, those music videos don’t actually look anything alike (say what you want about Scarface-cribbing clips, but those almost always look exactly alike). CupcakKe, the gleefully filthy-mouthed Chicago-based independent rapper, mashes up Kill Bill‘s motorcycle scene (and The Bride’s iconic yellow and black motosuit) with arcade fighting games for her braggadocious attitude track “Quiz.”
Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora – “Black Widow” (2014)
Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora! Name a more iconic duo! Okay, just kidding, every other duo mentioned on this list is more iconic. In any event, Azalea laid out her formula for success with “Fancy”: Get a Brit singer to do the hook, and remake a classic movie for the music video. Here, she swapped out Ora for Charli XCX, and Kill Bill for Clueless. They even recruited actual Kill Bill star Michael Madsen to costar and make it obvious.
Brown Eyed Girls – “KILL BILL” (2013)
No subtlety in inspiration here either. The boundary-pushing K-pop girl group’s song is called “KILL BILL” and the seven-and-a-half-minute music video basically re-creates the film.
Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé – “Telephone” (2010)
Though the plot is different, the various Tarantino-inspired stylistic flourishes in the Jonas Åkerlund–directed video for this iconic duo are aplenty. No need to guess either, as the pair borrowed Kill Bill‘s iconic “Pussy Wagon” from Tarantino.
Missy Elliott – “I’m Really Hot”
If there’s one thing you should know about music video history, it’s that Missy Elliott almost always does it first. This trend is no exception. Within a year of Kill Bill Vol. 1‘s premiere, Missy asked “Beep! Beep! Who’s got the key to the Pussy Wagon?” and recruited the car for a cameo.
In any event, kind of makes you wonder why Tarantino has never gotten into the music-video-directing game himself.
Related: The 11 Fiercest, Ass-Kicking, Gun-Toting Women in Action Films of All Time
Definitely Not “Bond Girls”: Meet the Most Badass Women Who’ve Starred Alongside—and Tried to Kill—James Bond
A former fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force, Famke Jenssen’s Xenia Onatopp becomes an assassin, in part motivated by the fact that killing apparently gives her sexual satisfaction. That much is clear in 1995’s GoldenEye when, after crushing an admiral to death with her thighs during sex, she steals a helicopter and then the controls to a Cold War-era Soviet satellite weapon and kills the center’s staff—all before she kidnaps the film’s Bond girl, Natalya Simonova, and finally even meets Bond in the first place.
As a child, Léa Seydoux’s character Madeleine, whom we meet in 2015’s Spectre, once shot and killed an intruder looking to kill her father, which led to her reticence when it comes to guns. In adulthood, she pursues medicine and works for Doctors Without Borders before she ends up meeting Bond—and threatens to kill him, too, if he touches her in her sleep.
Karin Dor’s character Helga Brandt is supposedly a secretary in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, but before Bond knows it, she has him tied up in her room, where she questions him and threatens to torture him, plastic surgery implement in hand. The two end up consensually having sex, though Dor flees after they’re finished, leaving Bond locked up in a private plane.
Bond couldn’t have done his job in 1967’s You Only Live Twice without Akiko Wakabayashi’s Aki, the Japanese secret service member and expert driver who both helps Bond on his mission and rescues him twice, with more than a few car chases along the way.
Once Aki dies in You Only Live Twice, accidentally swallowing a poison intended for Bond, Mie Hama steps in as Kissy Suzuki, an agent chosen for her diving skills to help Bond stay undercover in Japan, which she also does by pretending to marry him. She later helps him uncover Spectre’s hidden headquarters in a fake volcano—and enjoys the view of it exploding with him, after they both invade it and escape.
After decades of being ceaselessly in-your-face about his masculinity, Bond was forced to answer to a woman from 1995 to 2012, once Judi Dench became the first woman as M, Bond’s boss and the head of the British Secret Service. She squeezed plenty of chastising of the agent in in that time, starting with her very first Bond film, GoldenEye, when she calls the agent “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold War.”
The Second Officer in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and the helpful asssistant to M, the head of the British Secret Service who’s also Bond’s boss, Miss Moneypenny is not your ordinary secretary—especially when played by Samantha Bond in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Though other iterations of Moneypenny openly flirt with Bond, Samantha Bond’s openly spurns 007; in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, she asks Bond if he brought her back any souvenirs from his mission in Spain, and promptly throws his gift of a cigar away.
Finally, after decades, Miss Moneypenny gets a first name—and, played for the first time ever by a person of color, Naomie Harris, also adds M16 field agent to her accomplishments as well as secretary. In Skyfall, Harris’s Moneypenny does get romantic with Bond, but the film actually starts with her shooting him—a revenge won for all Bond girls throughout the years, even if it was accidental.
Daniel Craig made his debut in the Bond movies opposite Eva Green, who almost steals the show in 2006’s Casino Royale as the foreign liaison agent—and secret double agent—Vesper Lynd. After she saves his life with a defibrillator, Lynd later sacrifices her own life to betray Bond, which she does while the pair are on a supposed romantic getaway.
Bond makes it his mission at the beginning of 1999’s The World Is Not Enough to protect Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King, a wealthy heiress who once went so far in colluding with a terrorist named Renard to steal her family’s fortune that she cut off a chunk of her ear and sent it to her father. Her biggest move, though, comes later: She eventually kidnaps M, and manages to both torture and seduce Bond before he kills her.
Halle Berry was criticized even before she appeared in 2002’s Die Another Day, thanks to the film’s marketing: Some 007 fans were upset that she was being treated as a costar of the film, thereby stealing the spotlight from Bond, then played by Pierce Brosnan. The film, though, definitely shows she deserves that status: As Jinx, Berry is an NSA operative and Bond’s partner in tracking down the North Korean agent Zao, with Jinx taking down the M16 double agent Miranda Frost along the way.
After being introduced to Bond by none other than Madonna, who plays her fencing instructor, Verity, Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost works alongside him as M has requested, not knowing that, in addition to being an Olympic gold medal winner, she’s also a double agent—and the one who betrayed Bond years earlier in North Korea, leading to over a year of imprisonment and torture.
Camille Montes, played by Olga Kurylenko, became the first lead “Bond girl” not to have sex with Bond with the release of Quantum of Solace in 2008. Instead of “love scenes,” which Kurylenko said she was “so glad” weren’t included, the Bolivian Secret Service agent spends the film teaming up with Bond to get revenge on the man who raped and murdered her family.