Clint Eastwood’s Top 10 Westerns

by Matthew Wilson
clint-eastwoods-top-10-westerns

Clint Eastwood is America’s favorite gunslinger. Like John Wayne, the actor was never one to mince words. In fact, in most of Eastwood’s iconic westerns, audiences never learned much about his characters. They were mysterious and often otherworldly. Eastwood always let his guns do the talking.

The actor has appeared in many iconic films. But these stand out above the rest. Ride off into the sunset with these Top Ten Clint Eastwood films.

10. Clint Eastwood Helps a Nun in ‘Two Mules For Sister Sara’

Clint Eastwood is at his best when paired with another to act off his gruff, tough as nails exterior. This 1970 classic can best be described as one of the few western buddy comedies. Only featuring more nuns than either the typical western or buddy comedy. A cowboy and a nun certainly make for an entertaining if unlikely pair.

A gunslinger rescues a nun from a group of men while heading to help Mexican rebels fight against the French army. The two quickly strike up a partnership as they journey across the West. But the nun may not be everything she appears to be.

9. ‘Joe Kidd’ Casts Clint Eastwood as a Bounty Hunter

The late, great Elmore Leonard always had a talent for dialogue and a passion for westerns. He lent his talents to this 1972 western starring Eastwood. Eastwood’s former bounty hunter Joe Kidd finds himself in a dispute between a Mexican revolutionary leader and a wealthy landowner.

Like many of Eastwood’s best westerns, the gunslinger finds himself in the thick of it. And both the landowner and revolutionary leader soon regret that the bounty hunter ever got involved. The climactic battle features a creative use of a steam train and is high on spectacle.

8. Eastwood Gets Revenge in ‘Hang ‘Em High’

As these men will soon find out, there’s nothing scarier than Clint Eastwood when he’s out for revenge. In this 1968 film, Eastwood delivers his own brand of justice. After becoming marshal, Eastwood begins to hunt down the men who almost killed him. And well, he’s not hunting them down to arrest them, that’s for sure.

Eastwood plays a man falsely accused of rustling cattle. A posse tries to hang him despite his innocence. After surviving their attempt, Eastwood becomes marshal. Unlike many westerns, the film explores the complicated issue of what is justice and what is old fashioned revenge.

7. ‘For A Few Dollars More’ Is a Rare Sequel

Given their nature, westerns don’t often get sequels. That makes this 1965 second installment in the “Dollars” trilogy such a rarity. While it’s not quite as iconic as its predecessor or sequel, “For a Few Dollars More” is still iconic in its own right. Eastwood is at his most iconic as the mysterious Man with No Name.

The sequel pits Eastwood with Lee Van Cleef as a pair of rival bounty hunters tracking down the same outlaw. The duo decides to team up to bring the man to justice.

6. Eastwood Plays Another Stranger in ‘High Plains Drifter’

Eastwood once again plays a nameless drifter that comes to town in what could almost be seen as a spiritual sequel to the “Dollars” trilogy. The film at least feels related as a close cousin. Eastwood took everything he learned from the genre, stepping behind the camera as the director.

Eastwood’s stranger knows how to make an entrance. He arrives at a fictional mining town and kills its protectors. But what initially feels like a straight forward western soon takes a supernatural twist. This may be one of the spookiest western’s around as sometimes justice comes from beyond the grave.

5. The Actor is a Horseman of Death in ‘Pale Rider’

Clint Eastwood is the horseman of death in this 1973 film, which he also directed. He is less of a man and more of a spirit of reckoning for a Western prospecting town. Eastwood is at his most enigmatic as a preacher come to town to answer the citizens’ prayers. The preacher is bringing a little Old Testament justice with him.

When a rich mining company wants to take over the town’s land, they turn to the preacher to help them out of their predicament. Let’s just say that Eastwood is just as deadly with an ax handle as he is with a gun.

4. Clint Eastwood Plays an Outlaw in ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’

Revenge makes outlaws of us all. In another western directed by Eastwood, the actor plays a farmer turned Confederate soldier turned outlaw. When a group of Union soldiers kills his family, Eastwood’s Josey Wales joins up with the Confederate army to get his revenge. But after the war, Wales finds himself a wanted man.

This film asks an important question: do audiences want to see Eastwood on a Gatling gun? And the answer is always yes. Wales proves to be a difficult man to take down in a climactic battle.

3. ‘A Fist Full of Dollars’ Kicks off a Trilogy

Directed by Sergio Leone, this 1964 film was a seminal classic in the Spaghetti western genre and helped turn Eastwood into a star. Spaghetti westerns were known for their stylized nature and anti-heroes. “A Fist Full of Dollars” kicked off the “Dollars” trilogy and Eastwood’s Man with No Name. It’s hard to say where Eastwood or the western genre would be without Leone’s influence.

In the film, Eastwood’s character plays an opportunist seeking to play both sides of a feud for the highest price. But the gunslinger soon finds that has consequences. Particularly memorable is a moment involving a high noon duel and a steel plate.

2. The Actor Gives a Career-Best in ‘Unforgiven’

Clint Eastwood may still direct and occasionally act. But he said goodbye to the western genre back in 1992. “Unforgiven” is his magnum opus to the westerns of old, a deconstruction of the genre, and an exploration of violence. It’s easy to imagine Eastwood’s other characters if they didn’t go down in a hail of bullets, ending up like Will Munny.

The actor plays Munny, a retired gunslinger who’s hung up the six-shooter for good. But despite his best efforts not to, Munny is pushed to return to the violence of his formative days.

1. ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ is Eastwood’s Most Iconic

As good as “Unforgiven” may be, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” is just more iconic. It features pretty much everything you could ask for in a western. From its sweeping visages of the desert to its memorable attire and stylized cinematography, the film still holds up today as it did in 1966.

It also features perhaps the best western soundtrack ever put to film. And who can forget the climactic battle in the graveyard that’s a scene for movie history? They often say they saved the best for last. But Sergio Leone really did reach his crowning achievement in this last installment of the “Dollars” trilogy.

Though Eastwood improved on the formula in the years after, he never quite escaped that enigmatic stranger riding out into a whole lot of nothing.

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