Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is known for presenting an alternate version of World War II and also because its title is intentionally misspelled – and here’s why Tarantino decided to write it like that. Tarantino has explored various genres and styles in his career, but in 2009 he took it a step further with his sixth film. Titled Inglourious Basterds, the story is set in 1944 and offers a “what if” look at historic events (a style he used years later in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, only this time set in the late 1960s).
Inglourious Basterds follows different subplots with one common goal: kill as many Nazis as possible, including Hitler. The story centers on two plans: one by a group known as “The Basterds”, led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), and another by Emmanuelle Mimieux/Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish cinema owner whose family was killed by SS officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Inglourious Basterds was a big box office hit, becoming Tarantino’s highest-grossing film to that point (later surpassed by Django Unchained and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), and was very well-received by critics as well. The film is now best remembered for the performances of Waltz and Pitt, its plot, and the peculiar way the title is spelled, which was completely intentional.
Tarantino is a well-known film enthusiast and takes inspiration from many films to write and make his own, not only in terms of narrative but also visually and other aspects, such as the titles. Inglourious Basterds’ title is inspired by Enzo G. Castellari’s The Inglorious Bastards (1978), an Italian action/war film (or “macaroni combat” film) that follows a group of prisoners drafted into a special war mission in 1944 – and which is, in turn, a loose remake of The Dirty Dozen (1967). However, Tarantino didn’t misspell the title to differentiate his film from Castellari’s, and was instead a creative decision which he initially refused to explain, simply saying that “Basterds” was spelled as such because “that’s just the way you say it”.
Tarantino eventually gave in and shared more about the decision of misspelling the title of Inglourious Basterds, saying it’s “a Basquiat-esque touch”. He later added while on the Late Show With David Letterman that it was a “Quentin Tarantino spelling”, but didn’t go any further into it. Of course, before that, fans came up with different explanations as to why the title of the film is spelled like that, and one of the most popular ones says it’s all because Aldo Raine can’t spell, as seen in the scene where the Basterds capture (and scalp) a group of Nazis and his rifle shows “Inglourious Basterds” carved into it – which is most likely just an in-movie nod to the title.
Inglourious Basterds’ title definitely makes it stand out from the rest of Tarantino’s movies, and gave viewers something to talk about for a while. Whether that was Tarantino’s intention or not is unknown, as well as if there’s more to the misspelling of the title than what he shared, as he tends to keep many details to himself.