The 10 best Clint Eastwood movies of All Time

Feb 8, 2005

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The Bottom Line Clint Eastwood is now a Hollywood legend, and this is what I found to be his 10 best movies.

One of the greats to come across the Silver Screen, Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood icon that is still going strong into is 70's. A great actor, turned great Director, he has been involved in many great films throughout his career. This review is intended to honor what I felt to be the 10 best that he either Directed or acted in.

My intent for writing this review, was that I am planning on seeing Million Dollar Baby very soon, and have heard that it is Eastwood's best work yet. With that in mind, I wanted to establish what I thought to be his best work, and then incorporate his newest film into my list upon seeing it.

Here is, in my opinion, the 10 best Clint Eastwood movies thus far:

10. A Fistfull of Dollars (1964)

Directed by Sergio Leone, this was the first film in a series of 3, in which Eastwood starred as the man with no name. A remake of an older Western, this was one of the films that helped redefine what made a great western. With beautiful settings, and great characters, Eastwood and Leone changed the genre of Westerns for years with the introduction of one of Eastwood's most famous characters. In this film, the main character, shows up in a town that is controlled by two rivaling families. He has the idea to use the families against each other to turn a profit, and that is where the film takes us. This plot was reused by Bruce Willis in "Last Man Standing", but in this instance, we are watching a great character unfold into something that would spawn 2 more movies.

9. Bird (1988)

Bird is a film on the life story of the great Charlie Parker. Eastwood Directed and Produced the film about the great saxophone player from New York in the 1940's. The film showcases the remarkable way that Parker was able to handle musical notes, and depicts the ups in his life, as well as the downs. This included his severe drug addiction, and the great lengths his wife was willing to go to try and help him out. The film goes a long way to showing Parker as a troubled man, but at the same time, shows just how great of a musician that he was. Forrest Whitaker took on the lead, and from it was able to establish himself as an actor. While a tale of the darker side of music, the film is very involved.

8. A Perfect World (1993)

Another film Directed by Eastwood, A Perfect World starred himself, Kevin Costner, and Laura Dern. A convict (Costner) has kidnapped a young boy, and it is up Eastwood's character (Chief Red Garnett) to bring him to justice before something happens to the boy. All of the characters are likable in the film, and Costner really does well in a role that differs from his normal baseball playing/saving the world roles. Eastwood is great as the man who will stop at nothing to track down the kidnapper, and the story is a very well written one. With Eastwood and Costner at the top of their games here, we are treated to yet another great movie that Eastwood Directed.

7. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Part 2 in the Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood trilogy, this film picks up the story of "the man with no name", who is seeking out the bounty of a central villain to the story. At odds with, and at times teaming up with a second bounty hunter, it is the on-screen chemistry between these two "hunters" that actually makes the film so good. Lee Van Cleef plays Col. Douglas Mortimer, who wants the same man that Eastwood is after, but we aren't sure exactly what he wants with him. With the introduction of a second main character to the films, we are treated to a lot of on-screen drama between what we see as the misunderstood "good guy" and "the man in black." There are a lot of dramatic moments that this film provides us with, and by having two men searching for the same criminal, we are able to see the different methods that cowboys of the time used. The film leaves us wanting more though, and indeed we are rewarded with a 3rd film that appears later in my list.

6. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Eastwood Directed, and starred as the title character of this Western that came out in 1976. This movie was a great depiction of Josey Wales, a dirt farmer from Missouri, who struggles within his own character to decide what is right. Through events that unfold in the film, Wales is declared an outlaw, and must flee those that mean to do him harm. A superbly written film, its main stand-out is that the Eastwood character talks more than in other Westerns, and is given lines that show exactly what is going through the characters mind. This is a revenge film, as we see Wales go through some character development that would crack the strongest of men. It is through this revenge, that we are able to see how great of an actor Eastwood really is, and how much he puts into these roles.

5. In The Line of Fire (1993)

In one of his last roles as an actor no Directing himself, Wolgang Peterson cast Eastwood as Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan in the film. Horrigan has a troubled past that includes an incident that called into question his ability to perform his job. This time around, he serves as the lead on a detail to protect the President of the United States. Rene Ruso plays a co-worker in the service, who wants to do everything by the book, and is attached to Eastwood to keep him under control. But, as they search out what could be a potential assassin, they discover that the years of experience Horrigan has will play a vital role in stopping the President from being killed. John Malkovich is the psychopath who wants Frank to be there when he attempts his killing. The movie soon becomes a drama of the mind, as we try to figure out just why this man is willing to leave so many clues as to why he is undertaking this mission. Eastwood is great as the grizzled agent, who must prove once and for all that he can do his job well.

4. Dirty Harry (1971)

"I know what you're thinking, did he fire 5 bullets or 6. Do you feel lucky? Well do ya punk?" A series of lines in the dialogue of this film that will forever be linked to Clint Eastwood. The Dirty Harry series got its start with a great film that showed how far a particular cop was willing to go to protect and defend those people who couldn't stand up for themselves. Harry Callahan is a San Francisco detective who believes that righting a wrong through extreme violence is just something that comes with the territory. In a depiction of just how bad things can get, Callahan searches for a serial killer, using methods that would be frowned on by even Gene Hackman's character in "Unforgiven." The key here is to understand why Callahan feels it necessary to put his neck out for people that he doesn't even know, and that he sees violence as a necessity. The characters were very well written, and gave way to many follow-up films that starred Eastwood as Callahan again. This was just the first instance where we were able to see what Eastwood could bring to the role of a cop in a big city.

3. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

The final chapter in the "Man With No Name" series, this film stands out as one of the best Westerns that Eastwood was ever directed in. It ties up all loose ends that came up in the prior two films, and goes a long way towards developing the character even more. The civil war serves as a backdrop to a film that was a sweeping epic. The music is what indeed separates this film from the first two, and we are carried along in a search for a buried treasure for which only one clue is known. The movie builds momentum as it goes, and the final 20 minutes of this film are simply mesmerizing to watch. As the 3 main characters come face-to-face to decide the fate of them all, we sit in stunned anticipation as everything unfolds. The sequences, camera shots, dialogue, and indeed the score, help to make this one of the best conclusions that a western has had. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, is truly one of those films that sets itself apart from the rest, because the characters are just that good. This was a fitting tribute to the 3 films, and a great climax to 3 years worth of work on the series.

2. Unforgiven (1992)

With Eastwood buying up the rights to a film once under the control of Francis Ford Copola, his intent was to make a film that would depict the darker side of the Western. Gone were the thoughts that there was a brighter side to things, and with this film, we were shown that even the best of souls can have a hard time redeeming themselves. Eastwood cast himself as the lead character William Munny, who has had a life of hardships that could have stemmed from the deeds that made him the person he is today. He has two children, and has recently buried his wife. This has led him to rethink the way that he lived his life, and evaluate exactly what is important to him. He now must care for two children, and has retired the weapons that made him infamous. Ned Logan (played by Morgan Freeman) convinces him to take on one last job that will help out his old partner, and they set off the discover what is going on in a small town run by Gene Hackman's character. The film is very, very dark, and we are confronted with characters that we are inclined to "root" for, but who find themselves to be no better than those they would stop. Eastwood has never been better as Munny, and Hackman was superb as the sheriff who feels he is doing right by "his" town, but in all actuality is causing many of the problems himself. This film stands out as one of the best Westerns I have ever seen, and is what I consider Eastwood's finest acting.

1. Mystic River (2003)

To say that Mystic River is a great film, is to underscore just how well made that it really is. Considered by me to be the best picture of the year (stolen by LOTR 3), this film goes deep into the human mind, as though it were a bullet, coming out the other side having caused severe damage. The film was Directed by Eastwood, and stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. The all-star cast does a great job to make sure that the story stays strong, and having characters that don't over-shadow their parts is something that Eastwood has been great at doing. In addition, having famous names in all of the lead roles made it easier to follow the characters as they were developed. And oh boy were they developed in this film. A childhood tragedy has led 3 men to where they are now in life, and we see how the events have left all 3 of them affected. When one of the men has his daughter go missing, the drama begins to unfold, and we are taken on a ride of emotions throughout the duration of the film. At the end of the film, you are emotionally drained, and you feel like you have been hit by a truck, it was just that well done. When I hear the music that Eastwood used, on commercials or on previews, I get a chill, as I am brought back to this film. Eastwood shows that he has an eye for everything great in film, and with this movie, he put himself up with the best there has ever been. Mystic River is by far, the best film that Eastwood has been involved with.

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