Top 10 Clint Eastwood Films

Clint Eastwood may be to many casual filmgoers the gun-toting authoritarian Harry Callahan from the “Dirty Harry” movies, or perhaps the man with no name from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, or more recently Frankie Dunn in “Million Dollar Baby. He’s an iconic Hollywood figure who has embodied some of the world’s most recognisable characters in many of the most prominent films of the last fifty years. But he’s also as accomplished behind the camera as he is in front of it, directing such classics as “Play Misty For Me”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, “Unforgiven”, and the critically acclaimed recent hits “Million Dollar Baby” (which won two Academy Awards including one for Best Director) and “Gran Torino”. The multitalented star has also composed several of his own film scores, providing the music for “Mystic River” and “Changeling”, while also recording original piano compositions for “In The Line of Fire”.

Film critic Mike Sutton takes us through Clint’s greatest films both in front of and behind the camera.

tightrope

10. Tightrope (1984, Richard Tuggle)
The even dirtier side of Dirty Harry as the rebel cop edges towards becoming the social pariah in a serial killer story which is about as sordid as any mainstream American film of the period. Eastwood is brilliant at suggesting dark edges to the seemingly normal family man and he works brilliantly with Genevieve Bujold – one of the best actresses he’s ever worked with.

Diary of a Mad Movie Fanatic Review

unforgiven

9. Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)
Won Clint an Oscar and mainstream critical acceptance, gave a valuable breath of life to the Western and offered great opportunities for those great actors Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris and Saul Rubinek. Clint is brilliant too of course, playing the part with which he is so familiar and complicating it with a moral framework that remains troubling because it is (deliberately?) unresolved.

Critical Analysis: Passion For Cinema Reviews: Wonders In The Dark | Lets Go To The Movies | Commentary Track | Celluloid Heroes

play misty for me

8. Play Misty For Me (1971, Clint Eastwood)
His directorial debut and the very best thriller about the havoc wrought by a meeting between self-regarding, thoughtless machismo and obsessive neediness. The first clear sign that Clint wasn’t interested in simply being a screen tough guy superstar and his first great probe into what makes men tick.

7. The Beguiled (1971, Don Siegel)
An astonishing Southern Gothic melodrama in which Clint, as a wounded Yankee soldier, finds himself at the mercy of a group of sexually curious young women and a deeply repressed spinster. The ending is still a fantastic shock moment which you should under no circumstances allow anyone to spoil.

Last Blog on the Left review

6. Gran Torino (2008, Clint Eastwood)
After an impressive comeback this decade as a director with Mystic River and as an actor in Million Dollar Baby, Clint finally gives a master class in screen acting as a disgruntled Korean war veteran who re-examines his own prejudice and questions the assumptions upon which his life has been based. If this is his last screen performance, it’s a very fitting tribute.

Afro Spear review | Blogocrats review | Barbara Jane Reyes review

josey wales clint eastwood

5. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, Clint Eastwood)
Almost single-handedly keeping the American Western alive in the Bicentennial year, Eastwood takes a standard revenge plot and turns it into a picaresque road movie in which vengeance-crazed Josey Wales becomes the reluctant centre of a raggle-taggle family of outsiders. Brilliant Jerry Fielding score.

Mike’s full review at DVD Times
Natsukashi retrospective & Podcast Download the excellent Podcast HERE | The Stop Button review

bronco billy film clint eastwood

4. Bronco Billy(1980, Clint Eastwood)
Clint at his most charming and off-beat as a failed shoe-salesman turned failed circus owner who somehow becomes a winner through the sheer determination to build his own myth. Very, very funny and enormously touching.

Parallax View review (Robert C. Cumbow) | Parallax View review (Pierre Greenfield)

clint eastwood film

3. The Bridges of Madison County (1995, Clint Eastwood)
A desperately moving love story which is some kind of cinematic miracle; Clint and screenwriter Richard LaGrevanese take an offensively sentimental, badly written bestselling book and turns it into a Brief Encounter for the nineties. Clint’s performance is exemplary and he and Meryl Streep turn out to be an unlikely but deeply satisfying love match. If you don’t feel a tear coming to your eye during the scene in the rain, you’re not human.

Lets Go To The Movies review | Bobby Talks Cinema

2. For a Few Dollars More (1965, Sergio Leone)
Not Clint’s first film nor the most renowned of his Spaghetti Westerns but for my money this is Leone at his very best and Clint at his most typically taciturn as he embodies the solid narrative centre around which Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonte can revolve. He also single-handedly makes wearing a poncho seem like quite a good idea.

Mike’s review in full
10k Bullets review | Heroes of the East review

1. Dirty Harry (1971, Don Siegel)
The original and best. Accept no substitutes, sequels or copycats. Extraordinary use of light and space, brutal and necessarily violent set-pieces and Clint in one of his signature roles. Note particularly how the committed liberal Don Siegel uses the camera to make Harry nearly as scary and unbalanced as the killer.

Dirty Harry Collection review

Written and compiled by Mike Sutton
Mike is a DVD Times film critic and regular contributor to the British Film Institute’s Screenonline. You can find more of his work at Mike’s Movie Guide.

Read Mike’s reviews of other Clint Eastwood films:
A Fistful of Dollars
High Plain’s Drifter
Absolute Power
Blood Work

Discover More:
IMDB
Essential reading: The Nation: “Last Man Standing: On Clint Eastwood” by Akiva Gottlieb – Detailed career overview
The Guardian: “Dirty Harry Comes Clean” – Interview
Night Hawk News – Great Directors
Clint Eastwood: The Good, The Bad, and the Extraordinary
5 Reasons Cinema Autopsy loves Clint Eastwood

About the Author
Mike Sutton is a film critic from England. He is a regular contributor to The Digital Fix, has written for major print publications including Sight and Sound, and has contributed to the BFI’s Screenonline project.

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  1. Angie Reply

    Good selection of Eastwood’s best work. I’ve felt he’s improved as a director but I have enjoyed most of the films he’s made. I even liked Absolute Power but, like you, felt it was too much like, and not nearly as good as, Now Way Out. I like the fact you’ve highlighted some of his less seen films – I especially like Bronco Billy and The Beguiled. I perhaps would have found room for High Plains Drifter and Million Dollar Baby. Although it isn’t top 10, Changeling was also a great example of his talent behind the camera.

  2. Jethro Bertrand McGonnigal Reply

    You do know of the existence of a small Italian film from 1966 called “Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo”, don’t you?

    You should check it out, it’s pretty good!

  3. Angie Reply

    Of course, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly is one of the greatest films ever made, but for my money, and a few others clearly, For A Few Dollars More is the more enjoyable jaunt for The Man With No Name.

  4. Rob Reply

    I admit to not having seen it for a spell, but ‘A Perfect World’ was one that really stood out to me. Most notably, I thought it was one of Costner’s finest hours.

  5. Ross McG Reply

    hehe, good to see Bronco Billy in there
    would have liked In The Line Of Fire to sneak in though

  6. Ross McG Reply

    and The Rookie, of course: mainly cos it contains the greatest line in film history..
    ‘i didnt come to you because youre my father… i came to you cos youre the richest guy i know.’
    charlie sheen, take a bow
    and tom skerrit take a bow too for keeping a straight face while charlie sheen said that

  7. Dan Reply

    I have to say Absolute Power sneaks into my favorite Clint films. Perhaps it goes alongside would-be guilty-pleasures like The Rookie!

  8. Bobby Sing Reply

    Thanks for including my write-up on “The Bridges of Madison County”.
    That was indeed a big encouragement for me.

    bobbysing

  9. M. Carter @ the Movies Reply

    Although I’d have placed “Unforgiven” much higher on the list, I really like that you included “Bridges of Madison County” in the top three. People tend to confuse the movie with the terrible, no-good/very-bad book, and that’s wildly unfair! The movie lets us see a side of Clint we don’t often see, and I appreciate that.

    So I have to ask: Would “Space Cowboys” make that Clint Eastwood guilty pleasure list? On principle I CANNOT hate a movie with a cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner AND Bill Munny.

  10. Heather Reply

    Unforgiven at 9? Definitely my top three.

    I don’t agree with Bridges of Madison County. I know some are avid fans but I’ve never been able to connect with characters even with Eastwood and Streep.

    I would have included Every Which Way But Loose. I love that one. “Right turn, Clyde.”

  11. Jimmy J Reply

    The Outlaw Josey Wales has to be number one. Some of the greatest line. Missouri boat ride, you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixi,recon they won’t be need’n them horses. My favorite one was from antoher movie. Maybe A Few Dollars More or MWNN. When he wanted the three men to appoligise to his horse. Right before he shot them down LOL That was funny!I can hear the whistle right now and the wha wha wha’s.

  12. Morgan O. Reply

    This is certainly a list that goes against the grain. And it’s better for it too. Clint Eastwood’s body of work is something to behold. It’s great to see Gran Torino recognised – he’s still got it (whatever that is!) as an actor and a director.

  13. James Reply

    Great list. Not sure about Gran Torino though. I thought the actors who played the main boy and girl of the Asian family were just terrible (especially the boy), so much so that it actually interfered with the overall quality of the film. Not sure what Eastwood was thinking casting them.

  14. Derek Reply

    Great to see gran torino on this top ten. Loved that movie.

  15. Alankruth Reply

    Clint Eastwood is one of the evergreen actors of hollywood…!!

  16. Gustavo Reply

    Holy Jeez, I’ve seen less than half of them. My bad.

  17. OSORNIO Reply

    well, nice list…too bad ,that when we talk about the best clint eastwood movies.. we had to leave great movies out.. A PERFECT WORLD,PALE RIDER, SPACE COWBOYS,HEARTBREAK RIDGE, BRONCO BILLY,HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ,HANG ‘EM HIGH… AND MUCH MORE…

  18. Ted S. Reply

    Great list Dan, glad to see The Beguiled on the list, what a weird and crazy movie for Eastwood. I love Unforgiven and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Eastwood is definitely one of the most important icon in Hollywood.

  19. Shirley Algie Reply

    I could not take this as a serious list without his hands down greatest movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…..

  20. mark Reply

    The Good, the Bad and The Ugly SHOULD have been on the list, no questions asked.

    Another marginal one was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – his performance a joyous counterpoint to that of the young Jeff Bridges.

    And yes, Unforgiven should have been higher on this list. He may have received an oscar for best director, but as the meanest bastard on Earth he was fantastic – that whole sequence from “It’s a hell of a thing killing a man ….” to “…or I’ll come back and kill all of you sons of bitches” was perfect cinema. What a performance! A true giant.

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