I love to watch movies. When I find someone who I enjoy watching I tend to watch as many of their movies as I can find. It can be a bit frustrating because so many movies have become harder to find. Clint Eastwood is the exception to this rule.
When I decided to start watching Clint’s movies I was surprised at how many were easy to get. In fact, there is only one movie staring Clint Eastwood that I was unable to purchase (le Streghe 1967), and I was able to watch it on YouTube. Everything else in the Eastwood library is available, and I watched it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In all honesty, most of his movies are entertaining, and the few that aren’t still include moments where I found myself smiling. Although not everyone loves Clint, most people have a special place in their hearts for at least of one of his movies.
I think Clint Eastwood is one of the most underrated actors of all time. Everyone knows he is an action hero, but what about his dramatic abilities? Why isn’t he taken seriously as a dramatic presence? And although many will disagree, I think he has a magnificent sense of humor. If I was an actor I would want to be like Clint Eastwood because he spent his entire career making the movies that he wanted to make. Even though he has two Academy Awards for directing, I would still argue that his directorial movies deserve more credit than they receive. He has made over 50 movies and still continues to put another one out almost every year. He is an icon in every sense of the word. Today is his 82nd birthday, and I couldn’t be happier to tell the world how much I love his movies, and how glad I am that I have been able to enjoy so many.
Every year I try to convince someone to watch one of Clint’s movies that they typically would skip, so today I challenge everyone to watch something that Clint made, even if you don’t think you will like it. Here are the best of my favorites. (It may be excessive, but that’s what happens when you’re this good.)
For A Few Dollars More (1965): Everybody knows about the “Man With No Name”, but of the three movies this is the one to remember. It has more feeling than the other two combined, and when you watch them all together, For A Few Dollars More stands out for one obvious reason. It’s better. I understand why The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is so famous, but just because it’s the biggest, most expensive of the three, doesn’t mean that it has the best story (which it doesn’t). Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef have an amazing chemistry in For A Few Dollars More, and for my money (or yours) that is the one I will watch time and time again. If this movie was released today I think it would have a huge following. It’s real, and dirty, just the way it should be.
Where Eagles Dare (1968): If Quentin Tarantino was directing movies in the last sixties, this would have been his movie. It’s a WWII action movie where Richard Burton and Clint go into a German castle to retrieve an Army General who has been captured. Essentially, it’s a phenomenal “Nazi-Killing” movie. It might have been the most violent movie that had been made, at that time. It’s so much fun you might not even notice the holes in the plot, or the two and a half hour running time. This is a movie that is just as enjoyable today as it was 45 years ago. Some late-teenagers with a hankering for action will find it to be right up their alley.
Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970): A drifter comes across two men about to rape a nun. When he kills the men, he becomes stuck with the woman. Yes, I know this sounds like just another run of the mill western plot, but it is more than that. Shirley MacLaine plays the sassy mouthed nun, and the two have unbelievable chemistry. It’s actually more of a comedy, with a western theme. Then at the end, we get twenty minutes of straight action when Clint joins the underdogs and fights alongside “his” nun. This is one of those movies that cheers me up when I’m feeling down. It also was the movie that taught me what I should do if I ever get shot with an arrow. (You never know.)
Play Misty For Me (1971): This was Clint’s directorial debut, and there are obvious moments of brilliance. It’s a suspense movie that has flown under the radar. If you haven’t seen it and you like that old “pit-in-your-stomach” feeling, you should try this one out. Years before Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct Clint knew what would scare men all across the country: a woman scorned.
Dirty Harry (1971): No Clint Eastwood list would be complete without Dirty Harry. The strangest thing about Dirty Harry for me is the simple fact that it came out the same year as The French Connection, and shared many similarities, but for some reason didn’t seem to gain the same recognition. (Although in all fairness, Dirty Harry doesn’t have that amazing car chase!) One thing Dirty Harry can always say (besides, “Make My Day”) is people turned out to see all four sequels, and most people don’t even remember French Connection 2. Dirty Harry is not only action-packed, but it is also a very real feeling movie. And really, it’s what made Clint a star.
Breezy (1973): The first movie that Clint directed, without acting in, was a smaller love story about an older man troubled with divorce and his life’s disappointments, who meets a very young drifter girl. The two fall in love, and although it’s a strange romance, they have to learn to come to terms with their differences. William Holden does some of the best acting of his career, and Clint’s directing is very strong. He shows us that he has something real to say with his movies.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): This was the first time Clint Eastwood was given proper attention for his directorial abilities. It’s an extremely well made western movie that starts at the very end of the civil war, and shows how one man who wanders long enough can find his place in the world. It’s one of the best westerns I have ever seen, and should be remembered more than it has been.
The Gauntlet (1977): All right, you can laugh if you want, but I think this movie is an extremely enjoyable movie. I would not call it a “quality” movie, but I laugh the whole way through. The first time my wife and I watched The Gauntlet, she was bored out of her mind. By the third time I forced her to sit there, she started laughing right along with me.
It’s the story of an alcoholic policeman who is transporting a witness across state lines. It turns out he has been hand-picked for the assignment because the police want the witness dead, and they think this dead-beat is the perfect man for the job. What they don’t know yet, but will learn quickly, is that they are messing with the wrong man.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979): It’s a great story with great acting all the way through. I don’t have to explain the plot because the title takes care of that for me. Doesn’t everyone love a drama about escaping from prison? And Alcatraz is the best prison ever made, so what could be better than this?
Pale Rider (1985): Another western; yes, but this one strikes me as different. Clint plays “Preacher” who comes into a small mining community at just the perfect time, because they are lost and in search of a leader. He leads them, by example, and teaches the power of community.
Unforgiven (1992): Best Picture winner, and possibly my all time favorite movie. Unforgiven tells the story of an outlaw that years ago went straight, but after the loss of his wife and a failing farm, he must turn to his old ways in order to provide for his children. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the greatest western ever made, and has so much to say about the different paths people choose. The entire movie is filled with thought provoking insights as to what we should all do with the time God has given us. This movie is beyond powerful, and shows what men will do with their backs against the wall. It is also one of the most “real” movies you could ever see. There are no good guys, and there are no bad guys. We are living now, and our choices will dictate our future. “Deserv’ns got nothing’ to do with it.” If I was ever able to meet Clint Eastwood I would thanks him for many things, but Unforgiven would be the standout moment of his career that changed the way I watched movies, changed the way I lived, and made me see the world in a new light.
The Bridges Of Madison County (1995): Clint is able to do many things in his movies, but I didn’t ever think he would make me root for a marriage to split up. This story was beyond sad for me, and when I think about this movie I become chocked up. Clint does some of his best work, in part because of Meryl Streep, but also because he had become an all around great filmmaker by this time.
Mystic River (2003): I consider Mystic River to be a “perfect” movie. It has everything I feel a movie needs, and easily could have won Best Picture. Unfortunately, too many people like to hand out “make-up” awards, and this was one of those years. I can argue all day on why this movie is great, but I don’t think I really have to today. Clint’s direction is better here than it had ever been before, and while surrounding himself with brilliant actors, he made a film that I believe will one day make a resurgence in the world and find itself on many peoples “best” lists. I know it’s on mine.
Million Dollar Baby (2004): Another Best Picture winner, Clint takes on woman’s boxing (why not, he already has done everything else), and he does it in the highest possibly quality. He gives an emotional performance, along with magnificent directorial work. Although many people have decided to skip this movie, it is one that should be seen not just because it won so many awards, but also because of the father-daughter relationship that Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood share on the screen. It is one of the finest relationships Clint ever has on screen, and I love every second that they give to us.
Letter From Iwo Jima (2006): I never knew how much I would enjoy a WWII movie from the point of view of the Japanese. Another in the long list of Clint’s “perfect” movies, this one takes its viewers through the days on Iwo Jima during the American’s attacks. It’s film making at it’s finest, and also a highly educational movie. I learned more about the battles on the island while watching Letters From Iwo Jima than I had learned the rest of my life combined.
Gran Torino (2008): Gran Torino blew me away, but not for the normal reasons. Obviously I love Clint Eastwood movies, but NEVER had I seen him act more beautifully than in this movie. It is a role that I didn’t expect from Clint, but was amazed by how well he pulled off the “old man” with his racist remarks, and don’t mess with me attitude. If you missed this movie, don’t waste any more time. It should be seen by every eighteen year old in the country, and I think that Clint himself should have been given more recognition for his work in the role.
I could go on longer, but then I would just be taking up time that you could be watching any of Clint Eastwood’s wonderful movies. Happy Birthday Clint! Thanks for giving us so much to talk about.