If you were to analyze the popularity surge Travolta earned after doing Pulp Fiction, how would it breakdown?

He did a great job in the movie and his character was very entertaining; but all the actors in this movie did a tremendous job in creating a masterpiece.

However, when I think of this movie, I think Travolta Comeback.

  • Was it his dancing in the movie?
  • Did he do a lot of PR?
  • Did TV shows like Access Hollywood or E.T. tout him constantly?

Internet was still in its infancy back then. There were no viral online movements to generate buzz.

Is there a science to this or did it just happen?

  • It was probably more likely the popularity of the film itself. Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson also underwent rises in their level of fame after it. (Bruce Willis was already in the public consciousness after Die Hard) Basically all of the actors with extended roles came out of it very famous.
    – komodosp
    Jun 26, 2023 at 10:23

1 Answer 1


Any answer to this question is going to be uncomfortably close to opinion rather than fact, but I will have a go at answering it objectively.

Travolta and Willis were - by far - the most well known actors in the movie. Travolta in particular had been around in leading roles since the 70s with major parts in Grease and Saturday Night Fever. However, his more recent successes were very light material such as Look Who's Talking. Willis had not enjoyed much great success recently either but Die Hard was not that far in the past compared to Travolta's heyday in the late seventies.

The other actors in the movie, whilst known, were not big stars. Roles in Dangerous Liasons and Baron Munchausen were probably Thurman's biggest to date. Likewise, Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in a lot of movies but in relatively minor roles.

Then there was the the story involving Mia (Thurman) and Vincent (Travolta) in the movie. We get to see Travolta at his very best - good acting, a funny and dramatic plot, and he gets to remind us that he can dance a little. Coupled with the more comedic moments with Jules book ending the movie, his character is arguably the most prominent in a very well regarded movie. As Nobby also points out, the role of Vincent Vega as drug-taking hitman is vastly different from the roles he normally takes, particularly the role of James in the Look Who's Talking movies.

So Travolta's position as a fading star coupled with him being attached to such a prominent role in such a well regarded movie is the reason why this is remembered as the movie that re-launched his career. It did no harm to Jackson and Willis' careers too, and Thurman goes on to do Kill Bill with Tarantino, probably the role that she will be remembered for.

The movie had a lot of buzz about it at the time. It was only 2 years after Tarantino has emerged into the mainstream consciousness with Reservoir Dogs. Reservoir Dogs was a very controversial movie at the time, and the follow up garnered a lot of free attention as a result. I am sure it got good publicity, but it was a bit of a perfect storm that Tarantino is unlikely to be able to repeat.

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    Ian nailed the answer I think - I would just add that Travolta's character was such a polar opposite to his previous roles (a violent drug user) that this was an aspect that was focused on by reviewers and added more meat to his resume.
    – Nobby
    Apr 15, 2012 at 12:18
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    Travolta's early career was largely attached to his young, kind of pretty-boy sex appeal, so, obviously, when that's your typecast, the career is going to dwindle as you get fed up with playing those roles, and as you age and get chubby. This was his first chance to shatter that stereotype of the kind of character he plays. Nice answer. Dec 2, 2016 at 16:30

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