20 Best Clint Eastwood Movies of All Time

There’s no doubt about it, there’s not a cinematic actor out there that compares to Clint Eastwood. Starting out his acting career in the 1950’s, his name would quickly become the first associated with any film set in the Wild West.

As his career developed, he’d become well known for his Dirty Harry character, famous for blurring the line between good and bad far too often. In recent years, Eastwood has been famous for portraying gritty characters who are coming towards the end of their careers but still have a point to prove.

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These are 20 best Clint Eastwood movies that you must see (ordered by release date):

1. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Genre: Spaghetti Western
Director: Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood (34), Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch

In this classic, Clint Eastwood plays a character without a name, who visits a small town in Mexico called San Miguel. It doesn’t take him long to find out that this town is the setting for a vicious war taking place between the families of Baxter and Rojo. Our protagonist sees the opportunity to make himself a ‘fist full of dollars’ and plays the two families against each other for a significant pay day.

It’s the first lead role and at the same time one of the best Clint Eastwood movies.

2. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Genre: Spaghetti Western
Director: Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood (35), Lee Van Cleef (40), Gian Maria Volontè

In the second film of what is now referred to as ‘The Man With No Name’ trilogy,
Clint Eastwood plays a bounty hunter. He’s soon made aware of another hunter, Colonel Mortimer, who is chasing the same bounty – a criminal by the name of El Indio. The two hunters decided to team up in order to take down El Indio and it is later revealed that Mortimer is hell bent on killing him to avenge his sister who was raped and killed by the bandit.

In the final showdown with El Indio’s gang, Mortimer finally kills Indio and he and the Man With No Name ride into the sunset.

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

Genre: Spaghetti Western
Directors: Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood (36), Eli Wallach (51), Lee Van Cleef (41)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the final installment in the trilogy and is widely regarded by many as the best. According to IMDb score, it is the best Clint Eastwood movie, with a score of 8.8. In fact, it’s in the top 10 movies of all time on IMDb.

The film follows three men by the names of Blondie (The Good), Angel Eyes (The Bad) and Tuco (The Ugly), who are in search of $200,000 worth of gold coins.

Blondie and Tuco are partners in crime and discover the location of the gold coins from a dying highway man called Bill Carson. Unfortunately, Angel Eyes knows that Carson was aware of the location and knows Blondie and Tuco would now lead him to it. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly eventually meet for a final showdown where the winner takes all.

4. Hang ‘Em High (1968)

Genre: Western
Director: Ted Post
Starring: Clint Eastwood (38), Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle

Jed Cooper, played by Clint Eastwood, is found guilty of killing a farmer and stealing his
cattle. Sentenced to death by hanging, his nine accusers hang him and leave him to die. However, he is saved by a U.S. Marshall and is later proven innocent when it is found out that he in fact bought the cattle. Cooper eventually becomes a Marshall but not being someone that forgives easily, he finally catches up with his attempted murderers.

5. Dirty Harry (1971)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: Don Siegel
Starring: Clint Eastwood (41), Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino

Anyone who pays attention to film and cinema has heard of Dirty Harry, even if they haven’t seen the film. A list of the best Clint Eastwood movies without this one would be pointless.

It takes place in 1971, where a maniac by the name of Scorpio is causing havoc in San Francisco by picking off innocent civilians with a sniper rifle. He eventually holds the city to a $100,000 ransom and Harry Callahan and his partner Chico are tasked with delivering the money to him before he kills anyone else. In the process Chico gets injured and Harry chases Scorpio to the 49ers Stadium, where he injures the villain. Unfortunately, due to Harry’s disregard for the law, Scorpio is released and angrier than ever. This time, Harry is the only one who can take him down.

6. High Plains Drifter (1973)

Genre: Western
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (43), Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill

Once again Clint Eastwood plays a nameless character who only goes by the name of ‘The Stranger’.

Upon visiting the town of Lago, three hired gunmen quickly engage The Stranger in a shoot-out and as is so often the case, they wind up dead. The people of the town are terrified of the three infamous outlaws that are soon to be released from prison and plan to return to the town. With no one else to turn to, they look to The Stranger to protect them from the villains. When they do eventually arrive at Lago, our protagonist is there, ready and waiting.

7. Magnum Force (1973)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: Ted Post
Starring: Clint Eastwood (43), Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan

In Magnum Force, Harry Callahan and his partner start to investigate the death of someone who has recently been let off for murder. Shortly after, Harry is pulled off the case by his boss Lt. Neil Briggs and put on stakeout duty. As time goes on, more criminals are continually murdered, and Briggs eventually reassigns Harry back to investigate the murders.

Harry suspects it could be a vigilante cop due to the same weapon being used and eventually discovers a group of rogue cops who are frustrated with the criminals in their city causing trouble and who have decided to take the law into their own hands. It’s Harry’s responsibility to bring these vigilantes to justice, but they have a powerful friend.

8. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Genre: Western
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (46), Sondra Locke (32), Chief Dan George

Josey Wales wants to lead a simple life, but when his family is brutally murdered, he
joins a group of guerilla fighters. At the end of the war, the group surrenders but Josey’s desire to avenge his family is not satisfied. He continues life as an outlaw, running away from bounty hunters, but eventually finds a peaceful group of settlers to build a new life with. But the first thing he needs to do is put his past behind him, once a for all.

9. The Enforcer (1976)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: James Fargo
Starring: Clint Eastwood (46), Tyne Daly

Once again, Harry Callahan has been penalized for his unorthodox dealing with a robbery. However, he’s soon called upon when a terrorist group declares war on San Francisco and demands a ransom of two million dollars. To deal with such a group, Harry will have to push boundaries further than he ever has before. Callahan eventually pursues the group to their base in Alcatraz for the dramatic final showdown.

10. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Don Siegel
Starring: Clint Eastwood (49), Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom

In a slight change of direction for Clint Eastwood, Escape from Alcatraz is based on a true story. This film sees Frank Morris, a notorious bank robber, played by Clint Eastwood, sent to the world-renowned prison of Alcatraz. The prison has held some of the most infamous criminals the world has ever seen, and yet as far as we know, Morris and two other inmates are the only inmates to have ever escaped. This is the story of how they achieved it.

11. Sudden Impact (1983)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (53), Sondra Locke (39), Pat Hingle

Sudden Impact is Eastwood’s fourth return to the Harry Callahan character. This time, Dirty Harry is in a sticky situation after chasing a criminal down and causing him to have a heart attack. Predictably, the criminal’s gang wants Harry dead, so the police send him to a seaside town. It’s not long until Harry comes across a rape victim that has taken the law into her own hands as she is hunting down and shooting her attackers.

It’s not long until the vigilante clocks on that there’s a new cop in the area, and now it’s not just the criminal gang that Harry has to worry about.

12. Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

Genre: War
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (56), Marsha Mason, Everett McGill

Tom Highway served as a Sergeant in the Korean War but has now returned back to the U.S. As he approaches retirement, he is assigned to training a reconnaissance squad made up of a group of men that haven’t yet tasted the harsh reality of war. They very quickly grow to dislike Highway who trains them harder than they’ve ever trained before.

Their squad can’t understand why it’s necessary to train so hard during peacetime. Things really change when the United States do go to war and Sergeant Highway’s men are given the toughest of tests.

13. The Dead Pool (1988)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: Buddy Van Horn
Starring: Clint Eastwood (58), Liam Neeson (36), Patricia Clarkson (29), Jim Carrey (26)

Johnny Squares, a famous rock singer played by Jim Carrey, dies in very suspicious circumstances. Harry Callahan is assigned to the case and quickly discovers that Johnny Squares was filming a music video and the Director, Pete Swan, along with the crew were involved in a game called ‘The Dead Pool’. The winner of the game must choose ten celebrities who they think will die before the game ends.

Callahan finds Pete Swan’s list during a robbery in Chinatown and realizes that coincidentally a number of celebrities have recently died. At the bottom of the list, Dirty Harry’s name is on the list, and someone’s following him.

14. The Rookie (1990)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (60), Charlie Sheen (25), Raul Julia, Sônia Braga, Lara Flynn Boyle (20)

The rookie in this film is called David Ackerman and is played by a young Charlie Sheen. He has his own dark past but is keen to put it behind him by progressing quickly in the police force and sees the Auto Theft Department as the best route to do so. Nick Pulovski is a more experienced cop who’s much more laid back than Ackerman and initially they do not get on. However, they are eventually united in their hatred for a German criminal by the name of Strom who’s running a cut and shut operation. When Strom later abducts Nick, it is down to The Rooke to save the day.

15. Unforgiven (1992)

Genre: Western
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (62), Gene Hackman (62), Morgan Freeman (55)

Clint Eastwood goes back to his roots in this classic Western. Big Whisky is a small rural town, where nothing happens and inhabitants keep their heads down and go about ordinary life. When a prostitute is mutilated by a group of cowboys, the prostitutes of the town put a bounty on the assailant’s head. William Munny is tempted back into his old life of bounty hunting and along with his older partner Ned, ventures out to hunt the group of savages.

16. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Clint Eastwood (63), John Malkovich (40), Rene Russo (39)

When we meet Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan (played by Clint Eastwood), he seems to be a successful, competent agent. However, he’s haunted by the failure of not protecting President Kennedy on that fateful day. Years later, he’s assigned to protect another president who he finds out is at threat by an assassin by the name of Booth (John Malkovich). Booth identifies Horrigan as the agent who was with Kennedy and taunts him.

When Horrigan raises this with his superiors, they believe that Frank is letting his past have an impact on his judgement. Frank Horrigan has no choice but to take down Booth on his own.

17. Absolute Power (1997)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (67), Gene Hackman (67), Ed Harris (47), Laura Linney (33)

Absolute Power is based on a novel by the same name by David Baldacci. Clint Eastwood plays Luther Whitney who is a professional thief and is planning his last job before he retires. During the robbery, Whitney is forced to hide when two people enter the room. He sees a man attack a woman who in turn tries to attack him in self-defense but before she can do any damage with a letter opener, two guards storm in and shoot her.

Whitney realizes that it’s actually the President of the United States that he’s just seen commit an awful crime. He dashes out to steal the letter opener, but the Secret Service gives chase and the President is now aware Luther Whitney knows the real truth, and you don’t want to make an enemy of the President of the United States.

18. Space Cowboys (2000)

Genre: Adventure, Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (70), Tommy Lee Jones (54), Donald Sutherland (65)

When a space satellite starts to venture off course and starts careering towards the earth, the original designer is sought out. Frank Corvin was part of the Air Force 40 years ago and expected to go into space with his design, but NASA was formed and he was quickly forgotten about. Corvin is understandably bitter about it, but after some negotiation he agrees to help, but only if he and his original crew can go to space and fix it directly. The squad is cleared for space travel, but when they arrive they realize that everything is not as it was explained on Earth.

19. Gran Torino (2008)

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (78), Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, Ahney Her

Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean war veteran who is struggling to adapt to multicultural modern life. All he’s interested in is maintaining his 1972 Gran Torino and keeping himself to himself. A Korean family moves in next door and one night their young son Thao is encouraged to try and steal Kowalski’s Torino by his cousin Spider. Walt catches Thao and over time they slowly form a friendship. When Thao starts to spend less time with Spider and his gang, they decide to take vengeance on Thao and his family. Walt Kowalski decides to take action.

Gran Torino is not only one of the best Clint Eastwood movies, it is also his highest grossing movie.

20. The Mule (2018)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood (88), Patrick L. Reyes, Cesar De León

Clint Eastwood is almost 90 years old in this movie and he plays the lead role, which in itself is an incredible fact. In the movie Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a World War II veteran, who is broke and decides to take a job as a drug mule for a Mexican cartel.

Clint Eastwood will forever be known as one of the biggest actors in cinema during the 20th century. These films and characters will forever live on as some of the greatest ever created and it’s without doubt that Eastwood played a significant part in that. If you are on the search for the best Clint Eastwood movies, then you need to check out these!

10 Best Clint Eastwood Movies According to IMDb

According to IMDb, these are 10 best Clint Eastwood movies in the lead role:

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – 8.8
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965) – 8.3
  • Unforgiven (1992) – 8.2
  • Gran Torino (2008) – 8.1
  • A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – 8.0
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – 7.9
  • Dirty Harry (1971) – 7.7
  • Escape from Alcatraz (1979) – 7.6
  • Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – 7.6
  • The Bridges of Madison County (1995) – 7.6

10 Best Clint Eastwood Movies According to Box Office

  • Gran Torino (2008) – $270 million
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) – $217 million
  • The Bridges of Madison County (1995) – $182 million
  • In the Line of Fire (1993) – $177 million
  • The Mule (2018) – $175 million
  • Unforgiven (1992) – $160 million
  • Space Cowboys (2000) – $129 million
  • Heartbreak Ridge (1986) – $122 million
  • Every Which Way but Loose (1978) – $105 million
  • Any Which Way You Can (1980) – $71 million

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