Clint Eastwood's Best Movies as a Director

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Clint Eastwood plays a grumpy and prejudiced Korean War Veteran in this 2008 drama film. As Walt Kowalski, Eastwood's character is also a retired auto worker whose pride and joy is a 1972 Gran Torino that he helped build. When a young Hmong teenager tries to steal the prized possession, Kowalski, finding that the boy is under pressure from one of the local gangs, unwittingly sets out to reform him.
Photo Credit: Various
June 19th, 2014

Many actors are content to stay in front of the camera their entire careers, entertaining people in TV shows and films. Clint Eastwood is not one of those actors. Fifteen years into his five-decade career, he moved behind the camera as a director, earning praise and awards galore. Here are the best films with him at the helm.

 

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7. "Gran Torino"

This 2008 films marks Eastwood's return to acting after a four-year absence, during which he direct four other films. He plays a curmudgeonly retiree named Walt, who lives in a once-prosperous suburban neighborhood that is now a lightning rod for gang violence. He feels increasingly isolated by his new Hmong immigrant neighbors until one day one of them tries to steal his beloved classic Gran Torino. What follows is his introduction to the new society around him and even a bit of redemption.

 

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6. "Mystic River"

In addition to directing, Eastwood co-produced and wrote the music for "Mystic River" in 2003. The film featured Oscar-winning performances from lead, Sean Penn, and supporting player, Tim Robbins. The story is about two friends in a working class Boston neighborhood who share a history of sexual abuse at the hands of two men who posed as police officers. When the daughter of one of the abused men turns up dead, he suspects the other, leading to a tense investigation and a whole lot of tragedy. It earned $156 million, with almost universal accolades from critics and audiences alike.

 

 

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5. "Million Dollar Baby"

As with so many other Eastwood-helmed films, "Million Dollar Baby" earned heaps of praise and Oscar nominations. Unlike other Eastwood films, this one featured a woman as the primary protagonist. Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of Maggie, a poor waitress who dreams of becoming a boxer. She starts working out at the gym that Frankie Dunn, played by Eastwood, owns. He is reluctant to train her but does so at the behest of friend and employee, Eddie (Morgan Freeman, who also won an Oscar). Eastwood was also nominated for an Oscar for his performance, but lost. He didn't go home empty-handed though, as he got his second Best Director Academy Award that night.

 

 

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4. "Pale Rider"

Eastwood had starred in several Westerns in his career, but "Pale Rider" established him as a player in the genre both in front of and behind the camera. He directed himself as the mysterious Preacher, who rides into a small, struggling town and tries to save the people who live there from a corrupt miner named LaHood (Richard Dysart). He slowly kills all of LaHood's thugs, culminating in a showdown that hints at elements of the supernatural. It earned over $41 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing Western of the 1980s.

 

 

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3. "Heartbreak Ridge"

Most of the characters that Eastwood has played in his career aren't exactly the romantic type, but in "Heartbreak Ridge," his character, Highway, courts, if somewhat clumsily, his ex-wife Aggie (Marsha Mason). He again directs himself in this film, which is about a drill sergeant who tries to whip a group of slacker Marines into shape before they are sent to the conflict in Grenada. Eastwood is at high-classic tough-guy best, but with a slightly gooey center, considering Highway resorts to reading "Cosmopolitan" to try and figure out how to woo Aggie. The film was very popular critically and earned just under $121 million at the box office, a gargantuan amount in 1986.

 

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2. "The Bridges of Madison County"

If "Heartbreak Ridge" exposed Eastwood's soft underbelly, then "The Bridges of Madison County" turned him into a teddy bear. The unabashedly romantic tearjerker starred Eastwood as famed photographer Robert Kincaid, who travels to Madison County, Iowa, to take pictures of the many covered bridges there. He meets and falls in love with Francesca (Meryl Streep), who is married. They carry on a torrid affair, which forces Francesca to choose between Robert and her family. Streep received an Oscar nomination for her role, and Eastwood got praise for his ability to direct a film that is way outside of his comfort zone, and a far cry from his usual films.

 

 

unforgiven.jpgPhoto Credit: Warner Bros.

1.  "Unforgiven"

After the success of "Pale Rider," it is no surprise that Eastwood would eventually go back to Westerns. In "Unforgiven," he directs and stars as Billy Munny, a pig farmer who used to be a hired gun back in the day. He is asked to come out of retirement as an assassin to kill two men who are terrorizing a small town. He reluctantly agrees because the bounty will help his failing farm and ensure his two young kids don't go without. He won his first Oscar as a director for the film, which earned $157 million at the box office.

With 37 directing credits, it is hard to pick only seven out of Eastwood's long and storied career. These seven are the cream of the crop and prove he can do just about any type of film. His next directorial effort will be "American Sniper" starring Bradley Cooper, which is slated for release in 2015.