Dirty Harry starring Clint Eastwood turns 50 years old this week. The film, which came out in 1971, made a major impact on modern cinema. The serial killer film from Don Seigel faced mixed critical reception on its release. Like many films, nobody knew the legacy it would lead.
The film emerged during a time of heightened distrust in authority, mixed with politicians pushing fear of lawlessness. The Nixon-era-born film, known for its unprecedented action sequences, follows a serial killer and the homicide detective tasked with tracking him down.
Dirty Harry is a landmark action film and an absolute thrill-ride, but it also changed and shaped the procedural genre. This came at a time where action and crime films were in high demand. Thanks to new laws loosening censorship, films could depict more violence. This led to a rise in action movies.
In 1971, half of the top 20 box office earners were crime or action films. But it did cause quite the controversy amongst its release, sparking conversations about Police brutality, victims’ rights, and the nature of violence.
Yet after all the buzz settled down Dirty Harry has still managed to stand out.
As Variety puts it, there was a lot more to Dirty Harry that made it able to endure so many years and remain a classic. Dirty Harry relished in the morally deplorable and interesting. And with that, its key phrase, “Do you feel lucky?” is still engrained into the fabric of American Entertainment.
Clint Eastwood Starred in ‘Dirty Harry’ As Inspector Harry Callahan
Clint Eastwood led the film as Dirty Harry Callahan. He starred alongside Andy Robinson as “Scorpio” the sniper killer terrifying the public. Production based Scorpio loosely on the real-life Zodiac killer, who was never found. The film also featured actors Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Venton, and John Larch.
Critics praised Eastwood’s gritty and intense performance in Dirty Harry. Being the heart and soul of the film, Eastwood’s portrayal of Harry was essential to its success. In Dirty Harry, he delivered some of the most iconic and quoted lines in film history.
In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the national film registry by the Library of Congress. This is a rare honor given to films for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.” The film was actually followed by four sequels, but none of them reached the same level of commercial or critical success that Dirty Harry did. And honestly, Dirty Harry stands perfectly well on its own.
As Dirty Harry turns 50, there are still moments in the film that feel relevant and interesting. Regardless if you’re a fan of action, any film buff could appreciate a re-watch as the film celebrates half a century since its release.