Reservoir Dogs introduced the world to Quentin Tarantino’s narrative and filmmaking style, while also making everyone wonder what the title actually means. Tarantino is known to pay close attention to all details in his movies, making viewers believe that the title Reservoir Dogs might not be there just because it sounds interesting. The problem is, Tarantino hasn’t offered a clear explanation for what the title means, making way for a lot of theories and myths. With fan theories, some generally make more sense than others, and it’s the same with Reservoir Dogs.

The film followed six diamond thieves whose planned heist for a jewellery store went terribly wrong. Each character had a codename – Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Brown – and one of them was an undercover cop. Reservoir Dogs is now regarded as a classic of independent film and has reached cult status, and there are multiple theories and discussions on the meaning of many elements from the story, including the title.

Unlike other Tarantino films with titles that are direct or at least easier to interpret, the meaning behind Reservoir Dogs is a mystery, and out of all the myths and possible explanations on it, there’s one that makes more sense and fits with the overall tone of the movie.

What ‘Reservoir Dogs’ Really Means

The most popular story is that, when Quentin Tarantino worked at a video store, he recommended Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants to a customer, who misheard the title as “reservoir dogs”. Another version of this says that Tarantino’s girlfriend was the one recommending the movie and Tarantino mishearing it. Others suggest the title is a hybrid of Au Revoir Les Enfants and the 1971 exploitation movie Straw Dogs, which makes sense when taking into account how big of a movie buff Tarantino is, but it’s still not quite convincing (and isn’t really confirmed).

The meaning of the title might be hiding in plain sight. Hearing the words “reservoir dogs” might not evoke anything beyond the movie itself, but it becomes clearer when breaking it down. Understanding “reservoir” as a “container”, and “dogs” as slang for “criminals”, then the title of the movie would literally refer to a “container of criminals”. This explanation fits with the origin Tarantino initially shared, in which he said he got the title while visiting a production company where they had a pile of unsolicited scripts labeled as “reservoir dogs”, as all of them were “fighting with each other for attention as dogs trapped in a reservoir tank”. Tarantino later changed the story to something completely different, hence why there’s no concrete explanation.

Some fans believe that “dogs” stands for a gangster term for “rat”, connecting with the fact that there was a snitch within the group. At this point, it’s very unlikely that Tarantino will share what the real meaning behind the title of Reservoir Dogs is, but the aforementioned breakdown might be the closest there is to a proper explanation – although it shouldn’t be ruled out that Tarantino might have just liked the sound of it and has been enjoying seeing all the different theories that have popped up about it for years, and that’s why he hasn’t given an official origin for it.

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