Eastwood. Eastwood’s filmography is stronger than he is as a stylistic director. Still—at slot #79 here—we have a director with 4 films in the top 500 with similarities in the visual design and persistent narrative themes.  It’s tough to reconcile just how different his films from a color palette standpoint in the 20thcentury look from his films in the 21st century but I think this is a good spot for him. In both eras he made beautiful films (Unforgiven is incredibly striking and his color/lighting scheme in the early 2000’s is impressive). He has a ton of archiveable films (17)– especially for a modern director.  

Best film:  Unforgiven. If you made a list of the 20 best shots in Clint’s oeuvre as a director 6 of them would be from Unforgiven (Clint’s conversation under the tree here), as well as the beating of Richard Harris by Hackman (both superb in the film) and the final showdown.

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cinematic paintings in Unforgiven
Eastwood’s most beautiful film

total archiveable films: 17

top 100 films: 0

top 500 films: 4 (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Outlaw Josey Wales)

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darkness in Million Dollar Baby — the pinnacle of Eastwood’s run in the 2000’s

top 100 films of the decade: 5 (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Letters From Iwo Jima)

most overrated: The Bridges of Madison County. The TSPDT consensus has this as Eastwood’s 4th best film as director—I’m at #8.

most underrated:  Mystic River is still nowhere to be found in the TSPDT top 1000 after 15+ years now. I have it at #310. This was the first film of Eastwood’s new visual style (lighting, décor, costume—basically mise-en-scene in general) and string of films in the 2000’s (6 archiveable films in the decade) and a haunting ending that will stick in your head for weeks.

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the incredible narrative/character arc brought to a boil here with this excellent shot in Mystic River
climatic crane shot choice here in Mystic River

gem I want to spotlight:    Pale Rider. It’s Eastwood’s update on Shane. It’s Eastwood, so it’s darker—much more nihilistic—but a worthy update of the George Stevens’ film.

a stunner– symmetrical– with one hell of a picturesque backdrop with Clint as the imposing figure/model here in Pale Rider

stylistic innovations/traits:    Because he has been such a consistent box office success he’s largely had creative control over his films for about 50 years at Warners. Remarkable. In that time he’s put together one of the more fascinating examinations of masculinity in cinema. His films are also meditations on individualism and violence. Eastwood needs to be praised for his late renaissance. He was 74 when Mystic River came out. That’s the first of 8 archiveable films for Eastwood in the 21st century (all age 70+ and counting). He’s also known for his own iconic film star image, jazzy scores (many of which he wrote and scored), and made some of the best of the desaturated color (greys, washed out blues, greens) films of the 2000’s (like say Fincher or Soderbergh I can tell Eastwood’s films (some great, some good, some ok) in less than a minute from the mise-en-scene color palette and lighting mix)).

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from Changeling – wall art like this in your 10th best film is impressive indeed

top 10

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Million Dollar Baby
  3. Mystic River
  4. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  5. Letters From Iwo Jima
  6. High Plains Drifter
  7. Pale Rider
  8. The Bridges of Madison County
  9. The Flags of Our Fathers
  10. Changeling
one of Eastwood’s greatest images as an auteur– here from in Million Dollar Baby

By year and grades

1971- Play Misty For Me R
1973- High Plains Drifter HR
1976- The Outlaw Josey Wales MS
1983- Sudden Impact R
1985- Pale Rider
1988- Bird R
1992- Unforgiven MP
1993- Perfect World R
1995- The Bridges of Madison County R
2003- Mystic River MP
2004- Million Dollar Baby MP
2006- Letters from Iwo Jima MS
2006- The Flags of Our Fathers R
2008- Changeling R
2008- Gran Torino R
2014- American Sniper R
2016- Sully R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives