We celebrate the lanky legend’s best movie roles…
Clint Eastwood might be more than halfway to 90 but he is still going strong. While he hasn’t been on screen since 2012’s The Trouble With The Curve, he’s still a major force behind the camera. His last film as director, 2014’s American Sniper, grossed $US550m worldwide and was nominated for Best Picture along with five other Oscars. His next movie, Sully, about the hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, stars Tom Hanks and will be released in December. But while Clint is undoubtedly a great director, we’ll still always think of him playing these incredible characters…
1.Harry Callahan, Dirty Harry series
Cops don’t get any tougher than this San Francisco homicide inspector, whose trademark is ruthless disposal of criminals with his .44 Magnum. Debuting in 1971’s Dirty Harry, Clint’s character would blast bad guys across four more films—the excellent and brutal Magnum Force (1973), the oddly touching The Enforcer (1976) and lesser entries Sudden Impact (1983) and The Dead Pool (1988). But it’s the first film that’s encapsulates Harry, not least for one of cinema’s most quoted (and misquoted) lines: “You’ve got to ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
2. The Man With No Name, the “Dollar” trilogy
After a decade spent in middling movie roles (starting with his debut in 1955’s sci-fi Revenge Of The Creature) and nice-guy TV (he was a white-hat cowboy on Rawhide), Eastwood became a major movie star as loner cowboy “The Man With No Name” in the seminal spaghetti western trilogy directed by Sergio Leone. The character — who appeared in A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) and the towering The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) — was so closely ripped off from Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 ronin-with-no-name flick Yojimbo that the Japanese producers successfully sued. Nevermind, Clint made it his own—and besides Akira stole the character from detective novelist Dashiell Hammett!
3. William Munny, Unforgiven
Clint spent the 1980s doing mostly so-so films — Firefox, Tightrope, Pale Rider — before returning in a dark blaze of glory with 1992’s revisionist western Unforgiven. He directed and stars as William Munny, a retired and repentant former outlaw who returns to gunslinging to save innocent farmers. Unforgiven’s brooding violence marked a new direction for Eastwood and it’s a film that repudiates much of the flippant brutality dispensed by Dirty Harry and The Man With No Name. Unforgiven won him Best Picture and Best Director Oscars and saw him nominated as Best Actor. It was an Academy Award spread he’d repeat 12 years later with Million Dollar Baby.
4. Frankie Dunn, Million Dollar Baby
While we all expected a straight-up boxing picture, Clint knocked us out with this heartbreaking tragedy. In Million Dollar Baby he plays the grizzled old pugilist Frankie Dunn (“I don’t train girls”), who takes on Hillary Swank’s amateur boxer. It’s Clint’s most affecting role and we defy anyone to have a dry eye in the scene where he reveals the meaning of her nickname. (We won’t spoil it by posting it here).
5. Frank Horrigan, In The Line Of Fire
For sheer Clint watchability, it’s hard to go past this action thriller. Our man is Frank Horrigan, a Secret Service agent haunted by his failure to stop JFK’s assassination. But Frank gets a chance at redemption when he has to thwart ex-CIA-agent-turned-stone-cold-psycho John Malkovich from killing the current president. The two have awesome cat-and-mouse chemistry. What’s more surprising is that Clint often plays his role as a near-parody of an old action hero, keeping us laughing while we’re on the edge of our seats, and he shares a terrific on screen romance with Rene Russo, though that’s not taken too seriously either—as evidenced by the famous “now we take off our guns” seduction scene.