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Clint Eastwood: His best films to date

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Later this week, Clint Eastwood will unleash a new film into the world in Sully, which debuted a few days ago at the Telluride Film Festival. Early word is very solid, suggesting a potential awards player this year. I’ll be writing about that movie shortly, but for now, I want to look at Eastwood’s career to date, both as an actor as well as a filmmaker. Eastwood is a unique one, that’s for sure. In just a day or two I’ll be back with a straight Sully piece, but right now, it’s more or less just going to be a look at Eastwood and what he’s done so far. Enjoy!

In case you don’t know, Sully is a biopic about Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the pilot who became a national hero. We all learned about Captain Sullenberger, or Sully, after he glided his crippled plane to a landing in the Hudson River, saving all 155 souls on board. What we never knew though was the investigation that went on concurrently to his victory tour of sorts. Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) had to go before the NTSB to defend their actions. Sully feels he did right, but what if he put everyone at risk? We all know what will happen, but this is a behind the scenes look at it all. Eastwood directs a script from Todd Komarnicki, with the supporting cast including Laura Linney as Sully’s life, along with the likes of Ann Cusack, Jerry Ferrara, Anna Gunn, Sam Huntington, Holt McCallany, Mike O’Malley, and more. Tom Stern again handles Eastwood’s cinematography.

Clint Eastwood
Here’s a bit from my Spotlight piece on Eastwood a few years ago:

“Eastwood has basically done it all in the business. He’s starred in franchises (the Dirty Harry series as well as The Man With No Name movies), acted in Best Picture winners, and directed them as well. Though one could legitimately make the claim that his best days in Hollywood are behind him, there was a time when he was basically the king of the industry. Two of his directorial efforts (both of which he starred in and received Best Actor nominations for) won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and he had a long run of his work being repeatedly embraced by Oscar voters. He has four competitive statues at home (for producing and directing Million Dollar Baby as well as producing and directing Unforgiven) and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to show for it.

If you take a look at his work, he’s shown how an actor with one specialty could become a filmmaker with a completely different one. He was never on Oscar’s radar as a western star and even when he moved to the director’s chair, it was in genre fare. Slowly but surely he kept improving his work, culminating in Unforgiven in the 90’s being the first time voters cited a film of his, along with his own performance as well. Since then, he’s dabbled in comedies (Space Cowboys), mysteries (Blood Work, Changeling), war epics (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima), and even baity biopics (J. Edgar). Most recently, he went the musical route with Jersey Boys, before doubling back to biopics with this weekend’s Sully. You have to say this for Eastwood…he never sits on his hands (ironic, since he’s an accomplished piano player and musical composer as well, even getting a Golden Globe nomination for doing the score to Grace is Gone, which he was otherwise uninvolved in). He always has something new brewing for audiences.”

Here’s how I would rank Eastwood’s directorial outings to date, excluding Sully:

1. Million Dollar Baby
2. Unforgiven
3. Mystic River
4. The Outlaw Josey Wales
5. Heartbreak Ridge
6. High Plains Drifter
7. A Perfect World
8. Play Misty for Me
9. American Sniper
10. Letters from Iwo Jima
11. Pale Rider
12. Space Cowboys
13. Flags of our Fathers
14. Bird
15. Honkytonk Man
16. Blood Work
17. Bronco Billy
18. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
19. The Bridges of Madison County
20. The Gauntlet
21. White Hunter Black Hear
22. Jersey Boys
23. Absolute Power
24. True Crime
25. Changeling
26. Firefox
27. J. Edgar
28. Invictus
29. The Eiger Sanction
30. Sudden Impact
31. The Rookie
32. Gran Torino
33. Hereafter
34. Breezy

As a bonus, here are what I feel are his ten best performances so far as well:

1. Million Dollar Baby
2. Unforgiven
3. Dirty Harry
4. Heartbreak Ridge
5. In the Line of Fire
6. Blood Work
7. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
8. Every Which Way But Loose
9. Space Cowboys
10. Gran Torino

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Stay tuned for more on Sully in a day or two, before it hits theaters over the weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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