Top Ten Clint Eastwood Movies
In honor of the famed actor and director's 88th birthday, we're counting down his top ten best movies!
Honorable Mention: Two Mules for Sister Sara
This western odd-couple comedy is one of the most underrated films in Eastwood's long career. He and Shirley McClaine have palpable chemistry as they go on a dangerous adventure through the deadly deserts of the American west. It reminds me of the hilarious antics of The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn only in a much different setting. There are lots of fun surprises along the way as they encounter outrageous bandits and territorial natives. This is one you need to check out if you're looking for a fun, funny, and romantic time at the movies.
10. A Fistful of Dollars
A remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic samurai film Yojimbo, this western take on the story introduced Eastwood to international audiences as it was his big screen debut. Helmed by visionary Italian director Sergio Leone, the film follows a bounty hunter who pits two rival gangs against each other for his own gain. It's the first of the popular spaghetti westerns Leone made famous which revived the dying western genre and brought a more brutal, gritty approach to these mythic films. The movie is a blast from beginning to end and introduced us to the infamous Man with No Name. It's a great movie, but the fact that it's a rip-off and that it is not executed as well as the original puts it at the bottom of our list.
Chronicling the life-saving acts of airline pilot Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, Sully is a great movie showcasing Eastwood's skills as a director. He and lead actor Tom Hanks dive deep into the main character's psyche revealing the affects even heroic acts can have on a man. Aaron Eckhart also does a fantastic job portraying loyal co-pilot Jeff Skiles in a role that stands out in this well-crafted film. It utilizes flashbacks in magnificent ways and tells the entire story from Sully's perspective helping us connect with him and understand his plight. This movie represents Eastwood's maturity as a filmmaker, showcasing an intense storyline and meaningful character study.
8. For A Few Dollars More
In his second outing as the Man with No Name, Eastwood and Leone crafted a totally original story which is superior to the first film making it one of the few sequels that surpass the original. This time, the heroic bounty hunter must team up with another hired gun played by the great Lee Van Cleef as they look to take down a ruthless and psychotic criminal. It's a thrilling adventure with some amazing shootouts and fascinating characters. This is a character-driven action flick that solidified the spaghetti western and put Leone, Eastwood, and Van Cleef on the map as some of the biggest stars in the world. Check it out if you want to see a fun, brutal, and unique western.
7. Escape from Alcatraz
This one's a nail-biting suspense thriller about a convict who will stop at nothing until he finds a way out of the most heavily guarded prison in U.S. history. The fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more astounding. Eastwood does a wonderful job portraying a different kind of character with minimal dialogue. Most of this movie gets it's signature moody feel and tension through the use of expert cinematography by Bruce Surtees and a taut musical score from Jerry Fielding. I put it among the best prison films ever made alongside Cool Hand Luke, Papillion, and The Shawshank Redemption.
6. High Plains Drifter
This supernatural western stands out as being one of the most stunning in Eastwood's collected works and is only his second directorial effort. After a mysterious wanderer arrives and begins to terrorize a small town of miscreants they beg him to help them stave off a group of dastardly criminals. It's a subversive western in that Eastwood plays an almost completely unlikable character until you realize the shocking truth about who he is and what happened to him. There are plenty of unforgettable supporting characters here too in the form of Verna Bloom, Mariana Hill, and Billy Curtis. Also, a profound message and important themes are found here more so than in any of his previous works as ideas of justice, revenge, and corruption are all explored.
5. Pale Rider
Committing the biblical angel of death, who rides a pale horse in the book of Revelation, to film is a bold move, but that's just what Eastwood does in this mystical western. He depicts his Preacher character as a reluctant protector of the downtrodden who appears when he's needed and disappears after his good work is done. It's quite a violent movie, but one in which Clint's Preacher is much more clearly the good guy even if he's still outwardly gruff and emotionally cold. The 14-year-old actress Sydney Penny does a phenomenal job in the role of Meaghan Wheeler who becomes obsessed with this stranger who wanders into town and saves her and her struggling family from the cruel thugs working for greedy miner Coy LaHood. The movie focuses on divine retribution reminding us that justice comes for all of us, no matter what we've done.
4. American Sniper
Eastwood's take on the War on Terror is an emotional and horrifying look into the life of a soldier. The story of Chris Kyle is the perfect one to make a commentary on the effects war has on the men who carry out the Untied States' most destructive orders. The depiction of Kyle by Bradley Cooper in his single greatest performance ever, holds nothing back, as we see who the man really was and how he behaved both before and after he became the deadliest sniper in American history, as well as the effects it had on his family. The movie explores how corrupt nationalistic ideals, our government's insane foreign policy, and the glorification of killing in the name of country has a very negative effect on people in this nation and around the world. Eastwood's libertarian ideology shines through in this patriotic film revealing to modern audiences one of the biggest problems facing our world today is not terrorism itself, but the never-ending war that perpetuates it.
3. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The magnum opus of Sergio Leone's filmography is this classic western. The culmination of the Man with No Name trilogy is the best of the bunch as it takes the series in an epic new direction and pits three vile bounty hunters against one another making for a shocking showdown. This is actually a prequel to the first two films as it shows us how our titular anti-hero got his signature look. It has the iconic score from the genius that is Ennio Morricone which has been parodied and ripped-off for decades since making him the grandfather of suspenseful western scores. There's plenty of exciting action, well-defined and enjoyable characters, and astonishing cinematography from Tonino Delli Colli. This is the quintessential western adventure film and the pinnacle of Eastwood and Leone's collaboration.
2. The Outlaw Josey Wales
Set during the War Between the States, this 1976 film was Eastwood's most emotional and intensely character-driven piece at this point in his career. It follows a man at the lowest point in his life as he wanders the war-torn countryside in desperation seeking meaning and vengeance. Clint's at the top of his acting game here bringing this character to life, and he's also got great co-stars in Chief Dan George playing a brilliant mentor role, as well as Bill McKinney as the heartless villain Captain Terrill. It's a fantastic film with stellar performances, thrilling action, and unexpected humor that balances out the dark story. This is where Eastwood was solidified as the A-list actor and director he's now known as.
The best Clint Eastwood film is Unforgiven. This movie features his best performance as an actor and his most apt direction as it showcases his intense, gritty style with a story and characters that have purpose. Not only does Eastwood deliver his best acting here as the former gunslinger William Munny, he also gets some of the greatest acting out of his cast including Morgan Freeman as the loyal Ned Logan, Gene Hackman in the role of disgusting sheriff Little Bill Daggett, and Richard Harris playing the part of gentleman English Bob. In the movie the past is coming back to haunt Munny while he's trying to forge his own path leaving the life of violence behind, but extreme circumstances force him into conflict with Daggett. There are deeply psychological themes in this gut-wrenching story, and it places the audience in the middle of dusty, dirty old west and holds nothing back.