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.
total archiveable films: 17
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 4 (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Outlaw Josey Wales)
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.
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.
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)).
- Million Dollar Baby
- Mystic River
- The Outlaw Josey Wales
- Letters From Iwo Jima
- High Plains Drifter
- Pale Rider
- The Bridges of Madison County
- The Flags of Our Fathers
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|
|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- Gran Torino||R|
|2014- American Sniper||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
i love clint to death. why doesnt he have a higher ranking with three masterpieces. dont forget his amazing work with leone as an influence by the way.
@ clint– I admire Clint’s work, too. I have his filmography ranked at #63 and then I think he falls back a little because he isn’t the visual stylist someone like Sirk or Demy is. I don’t count Clint’s work solely as an actor here (so the work with Leone wouldn’t count). On this page i’m stricly talking about him as a director. I did a top 100 actors and Clint has a great slot on that list — here’s his page http://thecinemaarchives.com/2018/07/02/the-19th-best-actor-of-all-time-clint-eastwood/
What do you think about Invictus?
@Edward. I’ve seen it 2-3 times. I’d watch again to potentially reconsider but didn’t find it to be worthy of the archives. What did you think about it? I guess I thought was it had a good moral message (i think this moved many of the critics) and I’d sign up for my sons to watch it in a social studies class in 8th grade or something– but I didn’t find enough about it from a visual or narrative standpoint to put it up there with the best 30-40 films of 2009.
@Drake. Pretty much the same as you. I thought it was predictable. As a big sports fan, I enjoyed it and I thought it was inspiring by uniting the black and white people of South Africa but I don’t think it is among Eastwood’s best. The performances from Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon were good in my opinion though.
@Edward— glad we’re basically on the same page. Thanks for letting me know.
I know he has probably a better resume as an actor. Do you agree?
How much out of 10 would you rank Clint as
1) a director and
2) an actor
When a I think of Clint Eastwood as a director, the first description that comes to mind is – mediocre and it’s really shame because he showed moments of brilliance and that he is capable of being a great director. He just keeps making mediocre films, it’s so frustrating. I’m totally on board with you about Mystic River and I don’t even think you overdid it – 310 sounds about right to me. That one, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby are all great films and he can look any director in the eye with the top 3 like that but after that there’s a huge gap (maybe Letters from Iwo Jima is above the rest). I know that bad films should’t take away from his good stuff but for me I think that’s what’s happening subconsciously. It’s just hard to look at his massive filmography with so little to show for it.
@Chief Keef- how about the Changeling? I thought that was underrated. I hear you on how many mediocre films he has made. And “per average” is a factor. But I don’t want to be too hard on someone that turns out a film every year two as long as he has roughly the same number of superb films (this happened a lot, even with great directors like John Ford or Howard Hawks) in the studio era). We’re used now to long years between films for auteurs and some of these older school guys like Eastwood and Woody Allen just don’t do it that way.
Unforgiven (1992) continues to move up my list of all time greats. Visually it’s stunning, a couple of its best shots are captured above on this page. It has top notch performances all the way around along with several all time great scenes; the “we all have it coming” scene where the Scofield Kid is forced to admit what we the audience suspected all along (he isn’t the cold blooded killer he claims to be) and the final shootout which is a standard Western Trope but feels more personal as Clint’s character avenges Ned’s (Morgan Freeman) death and Clint’s speech before and the final “deserves got nothin to do with it!”
Where does Unforgiven belong in terms of the greatest Actor/Director accomplishments?
Obviously Orson Welles in Citizen Kane is hard to top but what are some of the other best dual performances?
Now that I think of it Orson Welles has many of the greatest and frankly deserves his own list:
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Touch of Evil (1958) – my personal favorite of his
The Trial (1962) – he’s more of a supporting character here
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
@James Trapp- Renoir can’t be too far down the list in The Rules of the Game.
Perfect World is probably my favorite Eastwood film (out of the ones he directed, of course – nothing can top For A Few Dollars More). It’s pretty straightforward and simple, but I feel like it’s the one – along with Bridges of Madison County – where he’s most in control as a formal director who’s also going for emotional stories.
Sean Penn kinda bothered me in Mystic River though. Wish I had liked that film more.