Pulp Fiction’s Title Explained: What It Really Means

ytsfreeSeptember 6, 2022

Pulp Fiction is widely regarded as Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, but there are some details about it that have raised many questions, such as the meaning of the movie’s title and how it connects to the movie’s story. Quentin Tarantino has become one of the most acclaimed but also controversial filmmakers of his generation, thanks to his peculiar narrative and visual style and the amount of violence and blood in every one of his movies. Of course, there are also specific details in his movies that have made him stand out – from his love for cinema and thus the many homages he makes to other movies, to the use of fictional brands like Red Apple cigarettes across all his movies.

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Tarantino’s career in the film industry began in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs, and while it was a critical success, his big break arrived two years later with Pulp Fiction, which stood out for its non-linear narrative. Pulp Fiction is formed by different segments told out of order and led by different characters, whose paths cross at some point. These characters are hitmen Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), their boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), and boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), all of them leading at least one segment, though the characters widely considered as the main ones due to their roles in different segments and their appearance in the movie’s promo material are Jules, Vincent, and Mia.


Related: Why Did Marsellus Use Vincent In Pulp Fiction (When He’s Terrible)?

Pulp Fiction is now considered one of the most influential movies of the decade, one of the greatest movies ever made, and Tarantino’s best work, and continues to be analyzed and praised by critics and viewers. However, one question remains about Pulp Fiction, and it isn’t linked to the mystery of the briefcase nor the true intentions of some characters, but about the title’s meaning and how this connects to the movie’s stories.

How Pulp Fiction’s Title Perfectly Fits The Movie

Pulp Fiction begins with a title card that gives two dictionary definitions of “pulp”: the first one being “a soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter”, and the second one “a magazine or book containing lurid subject matter and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper”. The movie’s title refers to the latter, which were very popular during the mid-20th century and were known for their graphic violence as well as their strong dialogue. As the movie’s title card explained, these magazines were printed on cheap wood pulp rather than in high-quality, glossy paper like most magazines, and they made way for the term “pulp fiction” in reference to their low-quality literature. Pulp magazines contained a wide variety of genre fiction, most notably mystery, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and western, and they are sometimes considered the predecessors of superhero comic books.


While Pulp Fiction might seem to not have much in common with its title, it actually fits perfectly. As mentioned above, Tarantino is no stranger to tributes and homages in his movies to other movies and everything that has served as an inspiration to him, and pulp magazines are some of them – Pulp Fiction, then, is Tarantino’s version of a pulp magazine, with its graphic violence, seedy characters, and situations that include violence and crime on different levels. In Pulp Fiction and its story divided into segments, Tarantino tried to mirror the structure and essence of pulp magazines while also giving it his own style. Pulp Fiction isn’t the only Quentin Tarantino movie with a title that has raised many questions about its meaning and connection to the story, but it might be the most misunderstood one.


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