10 Best Clint Eastwood Movies

Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 7:57 am

Walk up to the average person on the street and ask them about Clint Eastwood movies. You’ll quickly learn that he’s regarded as an American icon, evoking the same rugged individualism that made John Wayne so popular. His career has spanned seven decades with five Oscar wins and over 50 motion pictures in the can. And while his directorial efforts have gained considerable acclaim in recent years, many people don’t realize that he’s been behind the camera since 1971. In short, Clint Eastwood is about as good as it gets when it comes to a movie star.

In the following list, I’ll detail my ten favorite Clint Eastwood movies that he starred in. You may differ in your opinion, so I urge you to speak up in our comments section and sing the praises of your favorite Eastwood films. After all, Clint’s career has been intrinsically tied to American ideals and values, and the freedom to speak your mind is one of our most precious gifts.

If any of the films listed below have eluded you in the past, you can remedy that by becoming a member of Netflix. With over 100,000 films to choose from, there’s little doubt why they’ve become America’s largest online rental service. They also have multiple subscription options, so you can enjoy quality films on DVD and Blu-ray regardless of your budget.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – The quintessential spaghetti western thanks to an iconic turn from Eastwood and memorable performances from co-stars Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. Director Sergio Leone would have a major impact on future filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, and the swelling score from composer Ennio Morricone would take on a life of its own. Simply one of the greatest westerns ever put on celluloid.

Dirty Harry (1971) – In this major hit that spawned four sequels, Eastwood created the most famous movie cop to ever stride across the screen, squint, and then blast someone with his hand cannon. He plays “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a loner San Francisco police detective whose code of ethics frequently clash with the laws he’s sworn to uphold. Loosely based on events surrounding the real-life Zodiac killings, Andy Robinson is particularly effective as the serial killer on the loose. Actors who were offered the part before Eastwood got the gig: Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, and Frank Sinatra.

High Plains Drifter (1973) – With a subtle mixture of the western and supernatural, Eastwood manages to create an intriguing film about a mysterious stranger who rides into the town of Lago, kills the local protectors, and then takes up the responsibly of protecting the morally bankrupt locals from three gunfighters who they double-crossed and sent to prison. You know you’re in for a wild ride when the “hero” commits murder and rape in the first half hour, but a series of disturbing flashbacks provide us with motive. There’s also a dwarf, a scene where the whole town is painted red and renamed Hell, and plenty of opportunities for the Stranger to kill townsfolk who get out of line.

Escape from Alcatraz (1979) – Years before Tim Robbins was plotting his escape from Shawshank, Eastwood –in the role of Frank Morris–was tying raincoats together in an effort to become the first person to successfully escape from Alcatraz Island. Eastwood pal Don Siegel directs, and the supporting cast includes Fred Ward, Patrick McGoohan, and Danny Glover in his movie debut. One of the greatest prison movies ever made.

Honkytonk Man (1982) – If you’re searching for overlooked Clint Eastwood movies, you could do a whole lot worse than this Depression-era tale of a struggling country musician (Eastwood) suffering from tuberculosis and dreaming of performing on the Grand Ole Opry. Son Kyle Eastwood co-stars as the nephew who accompanies on his journey to Nashville and becomes a man along the way. The film also features the last appearance of country legend Marty Robbins, which should be more than enough reason for old school country fans to give it a try.

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White Hunter Black Heart (1990) – One of the more overlooked Clint Eastwood movies, White Hunter Black Heart follows cantankerous film director John Wilson (Eastwood) as he uses a movie set in Africa as an excuse to hunt elephants. Loosely based on events surrounding the making of The African Queen, the film allows Wilson to get in plenty of one-liners, engage in a thrilling-yet-short fistfight, and pursue his growing obsession to the detriment of everyone around him. Jeff Fahey gives a fine performance as Wilson’s scriptwriter and voice of reason, and it presents a fascinating study of what happens when modern, white culture meets the ancient ways of Africa.

Unforgiven (1992) – After something of a career slump, Eastwood shot back to the top of the A-list with this film that both reinforces and shatters many of the myths he had helped to create in previous westerns. When the whores of Big Whiskey offer a bounty on the heads of a couple of cowboys, retired killer and all-around outlaw William Munny (Eastwood) decides to make a comeback in order to care for his two young children. Joined by a near-sighted youth and his old partner (Morgan Freeman), Munny heads into a town where the local sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) holds a special contempt for “assassins and men of low character.” Eastwood came across the idea for the story years before, but he wanted to wait until he was the proper age. Timing, as they say, is everything, and Eastwood couldn’t have timed it any better. Winner of four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor (Hackman), Best Editing, Best Director (Eastwood), and Best Picture.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995) – Some readers might roll their eyes at my inclusion of this tale about a middle-aged woman (Meryl Streep) whose life is revitalized by an affair with a visiting photographer (Eastwood), but how can you deny the power of two of America’s finest performers in the same film? A beautiful motion picture that proves the need for love never dies, no matter how old a person gets.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Hilary Swank picked up her second Best Actress Oscar, this time for playing a Missouri waitress who heads to L.A. and pursues the life of a professional boxer. Eastwood also shines in the role of Frankie Dunn, a boxing trainer who’s estranged from his own daughter. When he agrees to train her, the wounded duo form a close bon that remains through the film’s later, tragic developments. Morgan Freeman won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and the film would also get wins for Best Picture and Best Director.

Gran Torino (2008) – In perhaps his last on-screen role, Eastwood is all grit and gristle as a retired auto worker and widower who fights back against the gang activity in his neighborhood and learns to overcome his long-held prejudices. It’s a fitting end to his career as an actor, once again demonstrating his proficiency at working comedic lines into otherwise tense situations and wielding a gun like a world-class badass.

If you haven’t already viewed these Clint Eastwood movies, I recommend you see them immediately, lest you risk deportation at the hands of the GOP. Netflix carries them all, and becoming a Netflix member is as simple as gunning down a punk with the world’s most powerful handgun. Yes, we do get a commission when you sign up via our site, but it all goes right back into the Only Good Movie coffers to pay for operating expenses.

This entry was posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2011 at 7:57 am and is filed under Good Movies, Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “10 Best Clint Eastwood Movies”

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February 20, 2011

chris meade

You have greatly overlooked The Beguiled as one of Eastwood’s best and most unusual films. The lurid subject matter and disturbing visuals make this a one of a kind movie in any genre.

February 20, 2011

chris meade

The Outlaw Josey Wales deserves at least an honorable mention for it’s very quotable dialogue alone.

February 20, 2011


I’m a fan of both Josey Wales and The Beguiled, but I wanted to limit myself to 10 films for the sake of brevity. Unfortunately, that resulted in some rather excellent Eastwood films being left out.

What’s your favorite Clint Eastwood film, Chris?

February 21, 2011

chris meade

I come across High Plains Drifter quite often while flipping through the channels and always say to myself that I am only going to watch for a couple of minutes, but before I know it the credits are rolling. In retrospect, I have probably done this 20-30 times in my life. So while it is hard to say whether or not it is my favorite Eastwood film, it certainly entertains the heck out of me.

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