Clint Eastwood's Ten Directorial Triumphs

In his eighties, Clint Eastwood directed the biggest money-maker he has ever been associated with, American Sniper. Modeling himself on his mentor Don Siegel, Eastwood gradually evolved from a meat-and-potatoes genre director to a consummate craftsman and the maker of some true artistic triumphs. Let’s look back at the ten best he’s ever helmed.

10 White Hunter, Black Heart (1990). One of Eastwood’s stranger offerings was this project about the making of The African Queen and its director, John Huston, who in the film is fictionalized, called “John Wilson” and played by Eastwood. Eastwood’s attempts to recreate Huston’s peculiar lockjaw are mixed, but White Hunter is a worthy inquiry into the nature of obsessive artistry and the relationship between an artist’s personality and the caliber of his work.

9. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). Eastwood began to explore his sensitive side with his portrayal of an honest farmer and family man who turns into a ruthless desperado after the murder of his wife and child. Classic Eastwood motifs such as barroom showdowns and wickedly barbed one liners (such as “Buzzards gotta eat too,” said over the body of a dead man who doesn’t deserve a burial) are laid over an unusual political foundation, about the pointless savagery at the end of the Civil War, when marauding bands of pro-Union “Red Legs” lay waste to civilian homes. Josey Wales explains in his climactic parley with a Comanche chief that despite dealing death for most of the movie he believes in tolerance, his “word of life.”

8. Sudden Impact (1983). Eastwood rejuvenated the Dirty Harry franchise with this fourth entry, in which Callahan tangles with a gang of rapists yet has an uneasy relationship with one of their victims (Sondra Locke), who shares Harry’s approach to violent criminals. Although some of the film’s themes were approaching cliche at this point, it’s still a highly entertaining action picture that deserves to be remembered for more than its signature one liner (cited by President Reagan in the course of promising to veto tax hikes), “Go ahead, make my day.”