Clint Eastwood’s career as an actor skyrocketed with these ten films, all of which have high scores on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Clint Eastwood is one of the most distinct and notable movie stars to ever emerge from America, which is quite a competitive field. Though often only thought of for his prominent place within the evolution of Westerns in the late-60s through to the 1990s, his career as both an actor and a director have seen him achieve huge amounts of critical and creative success across a broad spectrum of roles. In a career spanning over sixty years, he’s starred in – and made – some of the most acclaimed and influential films ever made.
Here are his ten best movies as an actor, according to the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.
Clint Eastwood turns 90 next month and he’s still making and starring in movies.
Eastwood, who first appeared on screen in 1955, most recently starred as an elderly drug runner in 2018’s “The Mule” and last year directed “Richard Jewell.”
The longest-running Hollywood icon, Eastwood, who also served as mayor of Carmel, California, in the 1980s, has acted in 50 movies — starring in 42 — and directed 43 pictures.
Over the last 65 years, he’s acted opposite an orangutan, tried his hand at a musical — his “singing” in “Paint Your Wagon” has to be heard to be believed — created a pair of iconic characters, the Man with No Name and “Dirty Harry” Callahan, and won four Oscars for movies he directed.
Here are my picks for the top 10 Eastwood pictures, presented in chronological order. This new batch of flicks could come in handy with another weekend of staying home (and staying safe).
* “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” 1968. The third in the series of movies featuring the Man with No Name, this spaghetti Western finds three gunslingers — Eastwood (the good), Lee Van Cleef (the bad) and Eli Wallach (the ugly) — battling each other to find treasure in the midst of the New Mexico campaign in the Civil War. Nearly three hours long, it’s one of the best Westerns ever made.
* “Dirty Harry,” 1971. The picture in which Eastwood creates his second iconic character, San Francisco police detective Harry Callahan, a shoot-first-ask-questions-later tough guy, is a taut, cop-action classic with Harry tracking down Scorpio. By the way, Harry’s iconic line — “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” — is still recited today.
* “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” 1976. The fifth film Eastwood directed is a powerhouse Western revenge tale. He stars as Missouri farmer Wales, whose family is killed by Union militants. So he joins the Confederate guerillas (a la Jesse James and Quantrill’s Raiders), refusing to surrender.
* “Unforgiven,” 1992. Eastwood’s masterpiece strips away the romantic sheen from the classic Western, creating and reflecting on a harsh, violent tale of frontier justice carried out by his character. “Unforgiven” won the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards. Eastwood should have won for his performance as well.
* “A Perfect World,” 1993. Escaped convict Kevin Costner befriends a small boy and takes him on the road, where he’s being pursued by Texas Ranger Eastwood in a well-honed crime drama that is one of Eastwood’s top directorial efforts.
* “In the Line of Fire,” 1993. A straight-up, smart political thriller, this one stars Eastwood as the last Secret Service agent left from the detail that was guarding President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, trying to stop a brilliant-but-bizarre ex-CIA agent (John Malkovich at his best) from assassinating the president.
* “Bird,” 1998. Jazz lover Eastwood produced and directed this biopic about Charlie “Bird” Parker, taking him from his childhood in Kansas City (he got his nickname on a trip to Lincoln to play a show) to his turbulent life in New York and his death at age 34. Bird is well-played by Forest Whitaker. The picture gets to the heart of Parker, and the music, of course, is done right.
* “Mystic River,” 2003. This powerful Eastwood-directed drama about the impact of a pair of murders on three old friends is an atonement for the violent “Dirty Harry” pictures, showing the painful effects of violence, rending families and friendships and leading to even greater tragedy.
* “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004. Eastwood again directs and stars in a masterpiece. It’s a boxing film that erases the cliches as it tells the story of an aging trainer (Eastwood), a former boxer who’s the trainer’s best friend (Morgan Freeman) and a hillbilly woman who thinks she can make it in the ring (Hilary Swank). It won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, while Swank and Freeman won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards.
* “Letters from Iwo Jima,” 2006. A companion piece to “Flags of Our Fathers,” which was released just months before. “Letters from Iwo Jima” takes a new tack on the World War II movie, showing the enemy — the Japanese — fighting a losing battle to hold the island and finding, at least for some combatants, dignity and a more genuine brand of heroism. Another Eastwood technical masterwork, it’s in Japanese.
And 10 more that could have made the list:
“A Fistful of Dollars,” 1964; “For a Few Dollars More,” 1965; “Where Eagles Dare,” 1968; “Magnum Force,” 1973; “Honkytonk Man,” 1982; “Pale Rider,” 1983; “White Hunter Black Heart,” 1990; “The Bridges of Madison County,” 1995; “Gran Torino,” 2008; “Invictus,” 2009.