Clint Eastwood is one of Hollywood’s most iconic movie stars and has gone on to become one of its most respected directors. After making a name for himself in the 1960s Western genre, Eastwood branched out into cop dramas and eventually took to the directing chair, often directing himself in movies as well. He remains one of the most talented and striking visual storytellers in the industry.
When ranking the best movies by Clint Eastwood, there are too many to do a list of all the great ones. So, it’s important to look at the most vital movies within the context of his career as director and star. There have been so many wonderful movies made by Eastwood over the years, so we’re going to check out some of the best right now.
Play Misty For Me (1971)
Clint’s directorial debut, and the one where it all began. Play Misty For Me is not only hugely underrated but signaled a strong departure for Eastwood from the grizzled cowboy/cop stereotype he had perfected so well a decade prior. Playing the role of a radio DJ stalked by an obsessive fan, Eastwood crafts a tight and clever thriller, with plenty of his directing hallmarks showing even in his first movie. The film was a critical and commercial success, and Eastwood has never looked back since.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
But don’t worry, Clint wasn’t done with the Western genre just yet, and he returned to it five years later to make arguably the greatest Western of all time, The Outlaw Josey Wales. The movie follows Eastwood in the eponymous role, as a drifter seeking revenge for the murder of his family against the stunning backdrop of the American Civil War. The movie is violent, and unrelenting, and tackles heavy themes well – a gem in Eastwood’s back catalog.
A Perfect World (1993)
We almost included Unforgiven here instead, but, as it’s another Western, we bumped it for the almost-as-good, and thoroughly underappreciated A Perfect World. This 1993 crime road movie ranks among the best films Eastwood has made – a deep, emotionally rewarding, and surprisingly simple movie, that works on many levels. As famed critic Roger Ebert once said, it’s a film “any director alive would have been proud to make.”
Mystic River (2003)
Perhaps the pinnacle of the great man’s filmmaking career, Mystic River is a masterpiece. The Boston-based crime mystery explores themes like abuse, murder, community, organized crime, and friendship. The movie is one of the most compelling and wonderfully acted films ever made and scooped two Academy Awards. It’s unlikely that Eastwood will ever reach these lofty heights again, but here’s to hoping.
As we say, there are so many movies we could have put on this list – Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby are both two great examples of this. But we feel the movies we’ve listed rank among Eastwood’s best, as well as his most important. With The 15:17 To Paris set for release later this year, he could have another classic in his back catalog.