Clint Eastwood's 10 Greatest Acting Performances

Clint Eastwood’s unexpected career renaissance this winter with American Sniper has reaffirmed his position as one of the most respected and formidable filmmakers. But what were his best performances as an actor?

10. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Like Gary Cooper turned ruthless, Eastwood made under-acting his byword as he and Italian director Sergio Leone created the mysterious, almost wordless “Blondie,” aka the Man with No Name, who finds himself partnered with a clownish criminal (Eli Wallach) in a race with the bloodthirsty Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) to find a stash of gold. Eastwood perfected the terrifying squint but in his performance (and Leone’s direction) there’s a hint of witty self-mockery also.

9. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Clint plays a bank robber whose habit of breaking into safes with a cannon earned him the nickname “Thunderbolt.” His buddy-movie chatter with a manic young driver (Jeff Bridges) showed off Eastwood’s gruff-but-dry sense of humor as the two hook up for a major heist. Eastwood even gets to play a minister and a cop along the way.

8. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Eastwood isn’t the first guy you’d think of to play tortured, but he did fine work as a Secret Service agent forever haunted by his failure to stop the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. Beaten-up but still a pro, he gets another chance to redeem himself when a lunatic former CIA operative (John Malkovich) plots another presidential assassin. Eastwood used his age to great effect, making his character unusually damaged and vulnerable.