Top 10 Clint Eastwood movies
Barbara VanDenburgh, The Republic | azcentral.com
A list of 10 is not nearly enough to do his enormous filmography justice, but it’s a good starting point. Yes, most of them are Westerns, but not all, and a few key standouts — as diverse as a deeply empathetic war film and a tear-jerking romance for the ages — reveal his eye for good storytelling.
10. “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976): It’s not his best-aged Western, but this early directorial effort is still a haunting revisionist Civil War Western, lush with gorgeous photography of the American West. Eastwood’s Josey Wales fits squarely in the actor’s most familiar archetype, a taciturn loner who becomes a reluctant hero by the film’s end. Here, he plays a family man caught up in the Civil War, siding with the Confederacy when his wife and child are killed by pro-Union militants. The film is Eastwood’s first with actress Sondra Locke, who would go on to be his longtime companion and frequent film collaborator.
9. “Dirty Harry” (1971): His most iconic role not performed in a cowboy hat, Eastwood’s vigilante cop set the tone for police films for the decade ahead of it. Loosely based on the real-life Zodiac Killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area several years earlier, the film follows the less-than-saintly exploits of Harold Francis “Dirty Harry” Callahan in his pursuit of a serial killer named Scorpio. He’s not the most PC of protagonists, but desperate times call for dirty heroes.
8. “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995): This is a side of Eastwood we don’t often get to see, playing an emotionally vulnerable lover in a romantic tearjerker. He direct, and stars as rootless and solitary National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid, who’s in Madison County, Iowa, in the ’60s on an assignment to shoot an essay on bridges in the area. His pick-up truck finds its way to the farmhouse of Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), an Italian housewife whose family is away at the Illinois State Fair. They know the four days of stolen bliss that follow must come to an end, that the real world looms just on the other side of the Roseman Covered Bridge — but that doesn’t make the fifth day any less wrenching.
7. “A Perfect World” (1993): Clint Eastwood followed his Oscar-winning Western epic “Unforgiven” by directing this gem in which he plays a Texas Ranger pursuing an escaped convict (Kevin Costner) who takes an 8-year-old boy hostage. The boy and the convict bond on their run from the law, Costner’s character becoming a reluctant father figure as they hurtle onward toward an inevitable showdown with Eastwood. It’s a delicate bond and never cheesy, thanks in part to Eastwood coaxing out of Costner the best dramatic performance of his career.
6. “Million Dollar Baby” (2004): There’s something comfortingly straightforward and old school about the first half of Eastwood’s best-picture- and best-director-winning boxing drama about an aging curmudgeon with a heart of gold (Eastwood) agreeing to train Maggie Fitzgerald, a scrappy waitress from the Ozarks. He’s a haunted man, emotionally closed-off and estranged from his daughter, and he begins to form a touching father-daughter bond with Maggie as he trains her towards victory. Then, the film sucker punches the audience with the bleakest of plot twists, and a movie you thought was about boxing turns to be about family.
5. “High Plains Drifter” (1973): This is Eastwood’s most disturbing directorial effort (we’re looking at you, unsettling rape scene and general air of misogyny), in which the Man With No Name stars as yet another man with no name, a mysterious stranger who rides into the small Western town of Lago and begins to wreak havoc. But he’s the lesser of the town’s worries: A group of outlaws are about to be released from prison, and they’ve got a score to settle with Lago. And suddenly this fearless troublemaker seems like a good gamble to help defend the town. It sounds like the set-up for one of Eastwood’s fun and good-humored Spaghetti westerns, but he’s less a squinting antihero in this bleakly violent film and more an avenging spirit who revisits the town’s sins upon itself.
4. “Letters From Iwo Jima” (2006): Eastwood conducted an interesting film experiment when he made a diptych of WWII films and released them within months of each other. The first film, “Flags of Our Fathers,” which recounts the Battle for Iwo Jima from an American perspective, is a staid and familiar bit of flag-waving patriotism. But its companion film, “Letters From Iwo Jima,” which is told from the perspective of Japanese soldiers, proved the more vital of the pair. Filmed almost entirely in Japanese, it offers a rare three-dimensional portrayal of Japanese soldiers by an American filmmaker. Eastwood finds good and evil on both sides of the battlefield as a people prized for their honor succumb to overwhelming defeat.
3. “For a Few Dollars More” (1965): Italian director Sergio Leone brought Spaghetti Westerns — and new young star Eastwood — to the masses with 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars,” more or less a direct rip-off of Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo.” That movie is great fun, but this, his more original follow-up, is even better. Eastwood, the Man With No Name, teams up with another bounty hunter, played by Lee Van Cleef, both looking to take down the villainous and totally cracked El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte). This was the film that announced the Spaghetti Western was no longer just a novelty, but vibrant pop art capable of making a musical pocket watch ominous.
2. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966): This is who people think of when people think of Clint Eastwood, a nameless loner gunslinger in a side-swept poncho with a cigarillo clenched between his gritted teeth, filmed in impeccably composed widescreen cinematography to the twangy strains of Ennio Morricone’s famous score. The third and best film in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy has been hugely influential on modern filmmaking and pop-art connoisseurs like Quentin Tarantino. It’s almost impossible to see past all that immortal iconography, but try — you’ll find a wildly entertaining and frequently hilarious film that doesn’t feel like its three-hour running time, anchored by a trio of vastly different but equally unforgettable performances from Eastwood (the Good), Lee Van Cleef (the Bad) and Eli Wallach (the Ugly) as they gunsling it out for a treasure trove of buried Confederate gold.
1. “Unforgiven” (1992): This is Eastwood’s finest hour as an artist, both as an actor and a director, and the story only has the resonance it does because of Eastwood’s storied career. He’d entered his grizzled phase when he played Bill Munny, a notorious bandit in his youth and turned pig-farming widower who agrees to be a hired gunslinger once again, paid to bring justice to a pair of cowboys who disfigured a prostitute in a Wyoming town run by the despotic Little Bill (Gene Hackman). Munny is the autumn of the icons that Eastwood came of age playing, his men with no names grown old and forced to take stock of their misdeeds and confront a past that never fades. Eastwood’s understated artistry earned the film best-picture and best-director Oscars.
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