In this thesis, I explore the representation of Nazis and violence in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), including how the film proposes justification for violence and murder, and how the film participates in cultural fantasies. The film presents an alternate outcome of World War II in which the Allies achieve victory by assassinating Hitler and the High Command of the Third Reich in a movie theater. The Nazis in the film, far from being a complex enemy, are used for their token villain status. Using the Nazis in this way both participates in and reinterprets the Nazisploitation genre. The protagonists, the clandestine military force known as the "Basterds," which attacks German troops using guerrilla warfare tactics, help make this victory possible. Aldo, their leader, encourages his men to brutalize the Nazis they come in contact with, and Aldo shows the way by carving swastikas in the foreheads of Nazis he allows to live. Tarantino creates an aesthetic surrounding his violence in an attempt to create a paradigm in which murder is imagined to be morally acceptable. Yet the film also supports this paradigm by setting the Nazi up in much the same way cinema uses the zombie, as a killable being, a blank body on which violence can be justifiably enacted. As a blank body, cultural imagination can also be inscribed on the Nazi, using them as a meditation on Jewish revenge fantasy and a fantasy of American revenge against terrorists. In the end, the Basterds become more like Nazi villains than heroes due to their participation in Nazi-like violence. The audience, as well, faces the problem of becoming like Nazis by viewing the film.



College and Department

Humanities; Germanic and Slavic Languages



Date Submitted


Document Type





Violence, Nazisploitation, Quentin Tarantino, World War II, Jewish Revenge Fantasy, Terrorism