Monday, May 30, 2016

My Five Favorite Clint Eastwood Movies

Note that this list isn't comprised of the five best Eastwood films. Rather, it's just one fan's personal faves. And since this is a classic movie blog, I've focused on Clint's work through the 1980s.

1. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). Eastwood's fifth film as a director spotlights two of his favorite themes: the bonding among outcasts and personal redemption. Set after the Civil War, Eastwood portrays the title fugitive, a former farmer who rediscovers his humanity as an assortment of outcasts join him on his quest for revenge. Eastwood skilfully blends action, comedy, and character development. I think this one also ranks near the top of any list of his best movies.

2. The Gauntlet (1977). Because Clint plays a tough police detective in The Gauntlet, it often gets lumped in with the Dirty Harry movies. It's a very different picture, with Clint playing Ben Shockley, an alcoholic, none-too-bright detective assigned to protect a witness (Sondra Locke) testifying against the Mob. When she makes Shockley realize he's being used, he finally digs down inside to find the man he could have been...or, perhaps, still could be. The Gauntlet is fast and funny (especially when the two leads are sparring) and the ending is delightfully over the top.

3. Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970). It's hard to imagine a more unlikely duo than Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine. Perhaps, that's what makes them such a perfect pair in this lighthearted Don Siegel Western. Clint portrays a soldier of fortune who rescues a nun from bandits and helps Mexican revolutionaries fight against the French. Things get complicated when the grizzled cowboy finds himself attracted to the whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking Sister Sara. Budd Boetticher wrote the original story and intended it as a vehicle reuniting Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison co-stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.

Clint with Sondra Locke.
4. Bronco Billy (1980). It took awhile for me to appreciate this low-key comedy about a traveling band of misfits that performs Wild West shows. It was a critical failure and most fans probably discount it. But Eastwood once said: "If, as a film director, I ever wanted to say something, you'll find it in Bronco Billy." It certainly has plenty of old-fashioned charm, a sincere message, and shares some common themes with The Outlaw Josey Wales. Locke, who lived with Eastwood offscreen at the time, made six movies with him.

5. For a Few Dollars More (1965). My favorite of the Clint Eastwood-Sergio Leone collaborations pairs Clint with fellow bounty hunter Lee Van Cleef. They are both pursuing the notorious outlaw El Indio--though for very different reasons. Clint wants the bounty, while Van Cleef's reason isn't revealed until the climax (a trick used by Leone even more effectively in the later Once Upon a Time in the West). The success of this Spaghetti Western has as much to do with Van Cleef as Clint, but the two make a great pair.

Honorable Mentions:  Where Eagles Dare is a near-perfect action film, but Clint isn't really the star; Kelly's Heroes; and Magnum Force (Dirty Harry may be a better movie, but Magnum is more fun).


  1. Unforgiven (1992) would be the newest film on my list; I'd have to find a spot for High Plains Drifter (1972), and thought it isn't one of his best, Heartbreak Ridge (1986) is damned entertaining too.
    Underappreciated: White Hunter, Black Heart (1990)

  2. Holy cow! No mention of Undefeated, a magnificent Western that deserved its Oscars. To each his own, of course. Clint's made a bunch of fine films. TGTBTU would be my number 2 and somewhere in there I'd put High Plains Drifter. Josey Wales is definitely a good one.

  3. Oh boy, I've only seen one of these films (Bronco Billy), but I'm really curious to see Two Mules for Sister Sara.

    I know you've deliberately covered the earlier years from Eastwood's remarkable filmography, but it's still a good reminder of the busy career he's had.

  4. Lots of great films to choose from. My top five Clint films.
    1,Kelly's Heroes
    2,In the Line of Fire
    3,Play Misty for Me
    4,The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    5,Dirty Harry/Magnum Force--like both

    Also great: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Outlaw Josey Wales, Tightrope, and Million Dollar Baby.

    Most underrated:The Beguiled
    Most overrated: Gulp, The Undefeated
    Guilty Pleasure: Where Eagles Dare

  5. I'm not a huge UNFORGIVEN fan, though I'm definitely in the minority. I do like PALE RIDER, which is derivative of SHANE but still compelling. Among his later films, I think A PERFECT WORLD is underrated. It'd be interesting to see him revisit Harry Callahan as Sylvester Stallone did with Rocky.

  6. Regarding The Gauntlet ending being over the top - I can't watch the scene near the end where the bus is driving down the city street without wondering why no one involved in the movie thought it was ridiculous to have police lining both sides of the street and firing at each other, essentially.

    With you on Unforgiven, just a little on the cold blooded side.

    Always thought the best Clint Eastwood movie was the one he didn't actually star in, "Once Upon A Time in the West". Which maybe doesn't make too much sense - just that it was the best Sergio Leone movie, the sort of thing Eastwood had been making at the time but for some reason didn't star in.

    1. Eastwood was splitting from Leone then. Better he didn't do it, since it would be assumed he was still the same character.It would've made an interesting subtext, with Harmonica and Frank being virtual mirror images.

      Clint was also offered a cameo at the beginning, along with his GBU co-stars, as the three gunmen waiting at the train station.

    2. The Gauntlet has a number of unbelievable scenes, but the biggest has to be the Vegas casino taking action on Clint delivering Locke. A sportsbook just wants to live on the 10 per cent juice, the odds and action were way out of line.

    3. The Gauntlet is broad, unbelievable, and a little sloppy. But I also find it immensely enjoyable and it has become something of a comfort movie for me.

  7. I'm not an avid fan of Cowboy movies post 1950's and I find the Dirty Harry movies are a bit dated now, so I'll opt for 'Play Misty For Me' a good thriller that still holds up and for curiosity's sake and because I love Carole Channing and their pairing was so unexpected 'The First Traveling Sales Lady'.

  8. What, no love for "The Eiger Sanction" or "Paint Your Wagon"? LOL

    Personally, I always liked "Tightrope."

  9. Rick – Good post. Interesting idea. Hard to limit the list of films from a man who made so many good ones. Here are my five picks for favorite, pre-1989, non-westerns of Clint Eastwood: Play Misty For Me; Dirty Harry; The Eiger Sanction; Escape from Alcatraz; Heartbreak Ridge. That last is far from great, but I liked the scenes between Clint and Marsha Mason. And, just the mountain-climbing scenes in Eiger Sanction are worth the price of admission.