Few people in Hollywood can claim to have a career as accomplished and celebrated as Clint Eastwood. His work in spaghetti Westerns and crime thrillers, as well as his endless array of badass dialogues have made him an icon in Hollywood. But life hadn’t always been so kind to him. After struggling as a bit-part actor in average, low-budget films, his role as The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy elevated him to international fame. Ever since, he’s been a part of some timeless films, either as actor or director. Nothing beats that classic sneer and growl on the big screen.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Are we going to do a top 6 list or only 5? Well, to tell you the truth in all this confusion I lost myself. So you better ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”
Well, here’s the list, punk.
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
The classic instrumental in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has become synonymous with any sort of standoff or Western showdown in any situation. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is The Godfather of Spaghetti Westerns. In the third and undoubtedly best film of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, The Man With No Name partners with a bandit named Tuco (Eli Wallach) in tracking down $200,000 in Confederate coin. A ruthless assassin named Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) attempts to put a top to their pursuit of the money, and their lack of trust as well as the ongoing American Civil War don’t make things any easier. The final standoff between the three of them is the stuff of legends. “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” I-C-O-N-I-C.
2. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Sergio Leone initially approached Henry Fonda for the role of The Man With No Name, the now-iconic mysterious gunslinger. As good an actor Fonda was, it’s hard trying to picture anyone else acting with that same sardonic demeanour and the growl.
“I don’t think it’s nice, you laughin’. You see, my mule don’t like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you’re laughin’ at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you’re going to, I might convince him that you really didn’t mean it.” God, the man seems to make almost anything sound cool.
Up until this point, Eastwood was a nobody. A bit-part actor playing uncredited roles. Then visionary Italian director Sergio Leone cast him as The Man With No Name in his movie, A Fistful of Dollars, in a move which spurred Eastwood on to international stardom, as well as revive the dying western genre, which had begun to become too preachy, too predictable and too weak. Thus, the spaghetti Western was born, with Eastwood being its poster boy.
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3. Unforgiven (1992)
Clint Eastwood’s last Western, and one of his best. Eastwood stated that the film would be his last Western for fear of repeating himself or imitating someone else’s work. He’s 88 at the time of writing, and it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll make another one. So if it really is his last Western, it’s a triumphant ride into the sunset.
William Munny, a retired gunman, who raises his children on a pig farm is approached for ‘one last job’ for the promise of a huge cash bounty. With an all-star cast comprising Morgan Freeman, who plays his old sidekick Ned, Gene Hackman as local sheriff “Little Bill” Daggett and Richard Harris as hired killer English Bob.
Eastwood dedicated the film to his former directors and mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Unforgiven earned Eastwood a Best Director Academy Award as well as a Best Actor nomination.
4. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
This is one of the genre’s finest films, though overlooked sometimes due to the popularity of the Dollars Trilogy. Eastwood directs and stars as Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer, who is driven to revenge by the murder of his wife and young son by a band of Union militants, during the American Civil War. He joins a Confederate guerrilla band and fights in the Civil War. However, due to the Union’s victory, all his brothers-in-arms are forced to surrender, while Eastwood (typically) remains an outlaw and is hunted down by the Union.
Despite the film being about a farmer taking part in the Civil War, Eastwood remarked that the film was an anti-war film in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: “As for Josey Wales, I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends. A war is a horrible thing, but it’s also a unifier of countries… Man becomes his most creative during war. Look at the amount of weaponry that was made in four short years of World War II — the amount of ships and guns and tanks and inventions and planes and P-38s and P-51s, and just the urgency and the camaraderie, and the unifying. But that’s kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that’s what it takes.”
5. Dirty Harry (1971)
If you’ve seen Dirty Harry, you know what scene this is. You’ve probably even memorized the monologue he made while he held that .44 Magnum.
Clint Eastwood, in his career spanning 6 decades, is recognised for two roles which have become fixed in American pop culture till the end of time. One is The Man With No Name, the mysterious gunslinger in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. The other is San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, antihero cop who does not hesitate to break the law in pursuit of his own vision of justice. Despite not being overly political, the movie was criticized for being ‘fascist’ at that time. But overall, it’s remembered as the most badass movie of all time, with some of the greatest dialogues in recorded cinematic history.
“Go ahead, make my day.”
“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”
I just HAD to include these two in.
Now, back to the question asked back in the beginning? Top 6 or Top 5?
Do you feel lucky, punk?
6. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
I guess you were lucky.
This sports drama is proof that Eastwood was capable of making movies of emotion as well as action. Maggie Fitzgerald, played by Hilary Swank, is an aspiring boxer who turns to Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn to train her. The two form a formidable but unlikely duo, where Eastwood keeps a steely watch on his protege, avoiding any sort of a father-daughter relationship between them. Eastwood, Swank are accompanied by Morgan Freeman, who plays Frankie Dunn’s gym assistant. He delivered a performance that earned him his first and only Academy Award.
Million Dollar Baby scooped up numerous Academy Awards, notably Freeman for Best Supporting Actor, Swank for Best Actress, Freeman for Best Director, along with Best Picture. It really proved to be a KO victory for Freeman.
By Aditya Sarma