Clint Eastwood's 10 Greatest Acting Performances

7. Gran Torino (2008)

A victim of changing economic and cultural times, Clint’s Walt Kowalski clings to his notion of an Archie Bunker-era America the same way he keeps his 1972 Ford in primo condition, as a monument to manufacturing greatness when he used to work at the Detroit plant. It’s a measure of Eastwood’s deep appeal that he could make an embittered racist so strangely sympathetic, and Eastwood slyly modulates the character’s attitudes without dropping the snarls.

6. Every Which Way But Loose (1978)

The single biggest hit Eastwood had ever been associated with until American Sniper (in domestic grosses, adjusted for inflation) was this singularly Western take on the American romantic comedy, in which Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe plays a trucker who moonlights as a bare-knuckle fighter while he yearns for a honky-tonk singer (Sondra Locke, Eastwood’s real-life girlfriend of many years). Though Locke wasn’t much of an actress and Eastwood had far more chemistry with his orangutan sidekick Clyde, the movie’s screwball plot and blue-collar pride made it a standout, and Eastwood comes across as ferocious, gentle and lovestruck at the same time.

5. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

One of Eastwood’s most suspenseful and thrilling dramas, this fact-based period piece takes place in the early '60s, as Eastwood’s Frank Morris tangles with a cold-blooded prison warden (Patrick McGoohan) and plots to break out of the Rock, whose cement walls he notices have been corroded with salty sea air. Eastwood’s watchful intelligence and concentration power the movie as his character observes everything and puts it all together into one of the greatest prison-break dramas ever made.