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Clint Eastwood’s 10 Best Westerns, According To IMDb

A man with one of the most easily recognizable names, looks, and demeanors in movie history, actor and director Clint Eastwood was 25 years old when he played a small part in The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) - his first Western.

RELATED: 10 Great Neo-Westerns You Should Watch (According to IMDb)

After becoming known for the television series Rawhide, Eastwood became an international movie star thanks to his role in Sergio Leone's Dollars Western trilogy. When Eastwood won his first Academy Award, it was to Leone whom he dedicated his winning movie to. Over a career of 65 years with over 20 Western movies and shows, Eastwood's name has practically become synonymous with the genre, and according to IMDb, these 10 Westerns are his best!

10 Honkytonk Man (1982) - 6.6

A Western featuring music and an atypical location and time period, Honkytonk Man follows a country and western singer named Red (Eastwood), who's dying of tuberculosis during the Great Depression.

When the aging Red gets one final opportunity to become a hit with a performance at a famous concert in Nashville, he sets off on a long road trip to the venue. Accompanying Red is his young nephew - Whit (Kyle Eastwood) - an aspiring musician who idolizes his uncle along their humorously heartwarming coming-of-age journey together.

9 Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970) - 7

En route to help a camp of Mexican revolutionaries battle the French army, a gunslinger named Hogan (Eastwood) rescues a nun (Shirley MacLaine) from being raped by a group of men.

As the interesting friendship blossoms between the two, Hogan begins to suspect that the nun is not all that she appears to be. Two Mules for Sister Sara marked the second of five collaborations between Eastwood and Dirty Harry (1971) director Don Siegel - the other filmmaker Eastwood dedicated his first Oscar-winning movie to.

8 Hang 'Em High (1968) - 7

The first movie produced by Eastwood, Hang 'Em High focuses on one of the most common, powerful, and pure themes in Westerns - revenge. When Jed Cooper (Eastwood) is wrongfully accused of cattle rustling by a nine-man posse, he's hanged and nearly killed before a marshal (Ben Johnson) saves him just in time.

RELATED: The 10 Best Westerns Ever Made Ranked, According To IMDb

After proving his innocence to a judge (Pat Hingle), Cooper is granted his freedom and is offered a job as a marshal, with the provision that he doesn't seek revenge on the men who tried to kill him. Spoilers: he seeks revenge.

7 Pale Rider (1985) - 7.3

A character shrouded in mystery, Eastwood plays a nameless preacher who comes to the aid of a small prospecting town being bullied by Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) - the greedy head of a large mining company trying to obtain the town's land.

After the preacher refuses to be intimidated by LaHood's goons, a couple of which are played by Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs) and Richard Kiel (MoonrakerHappy Gilmore), the town refuses to accept LaHood's negotiating terms, leading to an exciting climactic showdown.

6 High Plains Drifter (1973) - 7.5

The first Western directed by Eastwood, the dark story in High Plains Drifter once again sees Eastwood star as a nameless stranger who drifts into a small mining town in need of protection from violent goons.

The people of the fictional California town of Lago initially disapprove of The Stranger after he kills three of their protectors, but when he demonstrates his skills as a gunslinger, they hire him to protect them from three vindictive outlaws. The Stranger accepts with ulterior motives, as the townspeople unknowingly have a connection to his past.

5 The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) - 7.9

In Civil War era movies, Union soldiers are typically protagonists and Confederates typically antagonists, but this isn't the case in The Outlaw Josey Wales, which sees the peaceful farmer Josey Wales (Eastwood) seeking revenge on the vicious Union soldiers who murdered his wife and young son in Missouri.

RELATED: Clint Eastwood's 10 Best Movies (As A Director), According To Rotten Tomatoes

Wales joins a Confederate guerilla unit to pursue his revenge, resulting in one of his highest kill counts of any movie. Wales winds up falling for a woman played by Sondra Locke, marking the first of six movies the real-life couple would collaborate on.

4 A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) - 8

Eastwood's first of three movies with legendary spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollarsprovided Eastwood with his first starring role in a feature as Joe (AKA The Man With No Name).

When Joe arrives in the Mexican village of San Miguel, he quickly gets caught in the middle of a longstanding feud between the Rojos and the Baxters - two powerful smuggler families fighting for control of the town. It's not long before Joe plays the rivals against each other for his own benefit.

3 Unforgiven (1992) - 8.2

The movie that earned Eastwood his first two Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Director) Unforgiven stars Eastwood as Will Munny, a farmer long-since retired from his gunslinging days to raise his children after their mother's passing.

When Munny's old partner (Morgan Freeman) convinces him to help with one last job, they set out to claim the reward offered by a group of prostitutes who want revenge on the men who violently disfigured her, but in an Oscar-winning role for Gene Hackman, the town's sheriff has vowed to kill vigilantes carrying out justice.

2 For A Few Dollars More (1965) - 8.3

The second installment in Leone's Dollars trilogy stars Eastwood as a bounty hunter nicknamed Monco (another variation on The Man With No Name), this time alongside fellow bounty hunter Col. Douglas Mortimer, played by another spaghetti Western great in Lee Van Cleef (Escape From NewYork).

RELATED: 10 Best Italian Westerns, Ranked

When a ruthless outlaw named El Indio (Gian Maria Volontè) breaks out of prison and leads his murderous gang on a bank-robbing spree across the West, Monco and Mortimer must set their rivalry aside and join forces to bring the man to justice.

1 The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966) - 8.8

Regarded by many as the greatest Western ever made, Leone's epic war commentary masterpiece fittingly concludes his Dollars trilogy. With the Civil War waning in the backdrop, three different gunslingers all race to find a massive buried fortune in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Eli Wallach plays Tuco - The Ugly; Lee Van Cleef plays Angel Eyes - The Bad; and Eastwood plays Blondie - The Good. Over about three hours, the three men all make and break alliances with each other and with the Union and Confederate armies, resulting in an unforgettable final standoff between the three.

NEXT: The 10 Best Westerns On Netflix


Next5 Movie Trailers That Have Nothing To Do With The Movie (& 5 That Gave Away Too Much)

About The Author
Max Tenenbaum (36 Articles Published)

Max is a movie addict and writer who's worked on the sets of several movies, shorts, and TV shows. When he's not writing articles, he spends his free time playing ice hockey, shooting his bow, running social media accounts, writing scripts, and watching movies.

More From Max Tenenbaum

When it comes to movies, it's always a good time to be a Clint Eastwood fan, and the prolific writer/director/actor—and legitimate cinema legend—is having yet another moment right now. The 91-year-old legend picks and chooses his spots to appear on-screen these days, having only starred in three other movies since his Oscar-winning turn both in front of and behind the camera with 2004's Million Dollar Baby. Cry Machomarks the latest of those, and his first time acting since 2018's crime drama, The Mule. Luckily, though, once fans catch up with Eastwood's latest, there are plenty of opportunities across various popular streaming networks to get acquainted with some of his other work, both well known and under-the-radar.

If you're an Eastwood fan, the best service to subscribe to right now is without question HBO Max. Not only does Cry Macho stream there exclusively, but the service also has a "Clint Eastwood Collection," which not only features several of the actor/filmmaker's greatest works, but also a curated list of some of his favorite movies (which includes some predictable choices (Cool Hand Luke) and somesurprises, like the hilarious mockumentaries Best in Show and A Mighty Wind and crude comedy romp The Hangover), and a series of features about Eastwood and his filmmaking career and process, titled Clint Eastwood: A Cinematic Legacy.

So, without further ado, let's dive into the movies that Eastwood has either directed or starred in—spanning more than half a century—that you can stream right now. While he's best known for his part in Westerns, and those are of course among his best known productions, there's actually quite a bit of variation among these films.

Cry Macho (2021)

Eastwood's latest—and his first time acting since 2018's The Mule—is a simple enough story, based on a 1975 novel of the same name. This is basically a '70s-set road trip movie, telling the story of a washed up cowboy—a former rodeo star and horse breeder—who needs to bring a man's son home, away from his alcoholic mother. And along the way—you guessed it—the washed up cowboy and the son bond, and grow close to one another. A vintage Eastwood film—coming out now.

Stream It on HBO Max

Unforgiven (1992)

This absolute masterpiece of a Western was almost meta in its characterization of Eastwood as a past-his-prime cowboy; it could almost be taken as a shot, if the person doing the casting (and directing the movie) wasn't Eastwood himself. The plot itself finds Eastwood's cowboy taking on one last job: bringing down a corrupt and violent lawman played by Gene Hackman. Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris also star in this movie which won Oscars for Hackman (Best Supporting Actor) and Eastwood himself (Best Picture and Best Director).

Stream It on HBO Max

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Eastwood first played his legendary 'Man With No Name' in A Fistful of Dollars, directed by legendary Western auteur Sergio Leone. The movie finds his character—an icon of badassery—playing both factions of a small-town battle against one another. It's a classic of the genre.

Stream It on HBO Max

Stream It on Amazon Prime Video

For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Eastwood returned as the 'Man With No Name' the following year in For a Few Dollars More, which finds his iconic character teaming up with another lethal bounty hunter, both in pursuit of a sadistic killer and his band of outlaws. Also directed by the legendary Sergio Leone.

Stream It on HBO Max

Stream It on Amazon Prime Video

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The final film in Leone's trilogy is without a doubt the best known, and also without a doubt an epic masterpiece of the Western genre. The movie's long runtime (2 hours and 58 minutes) is made up for with stunning cinematography, performances, and characters. The plot here centers on Eastwood's "Man With No Name" again returning, in pursuit—along with two other dangerous men—of a box filled with $200,000 in cash. If you haven't seen the movie before, you've almost certainly seen numerous references to it in other work.

Stream It on HBO Max

Pale Rider (1985)

Eastwood directed and starred in Pale Rider, a western that saw him return to his classic role: a drifter finding trouble in a small town. Here, his character finds a troubled town where a gold baron is bullying the residents into surrendering. And our hero isn't too keen on that. Pale Rider was the highest grossing Western of the '80s.

Stream It on HBO Max

Dirty Harry (1971)

Eastwood became another of his most iconic characters in 1971's Dirty Harry, which was the first of five times that he played the anti-hero movie cop Harry Callahan. You know the lines. This first one really establishes Dirty Harry, a man not willing to go outside the inept system—and the law—to bring the justice he feels is necessary. This first movie finds Harry taking on a sniper terrorizing San Francisco.

Stream It on HBO Max

Magnum Force (1973)

The second film in the Dirty Harry series finds Eastwood's Callahan linking a series of vigilante killings to the SFPD.

Stream It on HBO Max

The Enforcer (1976)

Eastwood once again played Callahan in The Enforcer, where he needs to rescue the mayor of San Francisco from a kidnapping plot involving a group with lots of firepower, and using Alcaraz as a base.

Stream It on HBO Max

Sudden Impact (1983)

The fourth Dirty Harry movie finds Callahan—on leave from the force—in a tricky situation. He finds that a woman who was assaulted by a group of men begins killing them off herself after no justice was taken, and the situation gets even murkier when he becomes romantically involved with her.

Stream It on HBO Max

The Dead Pool (1988)

The final Harry Callahan movie is The Dead Pool (of no relation to the Deadpool films), which finds a director played by Liam Neeson leading his own pool of people betting on celebrity deaths. A serial killer begins picking off people on the list one by one, leaving you-know-who to get to the bottom of whatever exactly is going on.

Stream It on HBO Max

Jersey Boys (2014)

Eastwood directed Jersey Boys, which was the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical of the same name. The movie tells the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and features a knockout supporting Christopher Walken appearance.

Stream it on HBO Max

Gran Torino (2008)

One of Eastwood's rare on-screen appearances in the last 15-ish years, Gran Torino was originally seen as potentially Eastwood's swan song, but he just kept on churning movies out more and more. Torino finds Eastwood as a retired Korean War veteran named Walt who has one love left in his life: his Gran Torino. When a Hmong teenager and one of Walt's neighbors is forced by a local gang to try to steal the car, Walt reluctantly grows close to him. The movie was one of the biggest hits of the 2000s, grossing more than $270 million against its budget of around $30 million.

Stream It on HBO Max

Changeling (2008)

Gran Torino came out only a few months after Changeling, a compelling mystery based on true events. The story here is quite the hook: a woman (Angelina Jolie) has her young son go missing, before being told he's been found. When she's horrified to learn that this child that's been found is not her son, she's gaslit and eventually sent to a psychiatric ward. Eastwood directed the movie from a script written by J. Michael Straczynski, who is also well known for his time writing comics.

Stream It on HBO Max

Mystic River (2003)

Eastwood directed (and composed the score!) for Mystic River, a crime thriller mystery based on Dennis Lehane's novel of the same name. The story here follows three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins) who grow up in different directions. When one of their daughters is murdered, another one becomes a suspect—and the third, now a detective, is left to investigate. Sean Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor for the movie, and Tim Robbins won for Best Supporting Actor. It's a truly compelling—and heartbreaking—movie of its form.

Stream It on HBO Max

Stream It on Netflix

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Eastwood directed and starred in Million Dollar Baby, a boxing movie that's undoubtedly one of the very best of his late career. Eastwood plays a trainer who helps a contender (Hilary Swank), while Morgan Freeman has one of his very best roles as Eastwood's assistant, a former boxer in his own right. The movie won a plethora of awards (for Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood, Best Actress for Swank, and Best Supporting Actor for Freeman), and featured smaller appearances for a number of actors we'd soon come to know very well, including Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, and Anthony Mackie.

Stream It on HBO Max

Stream It on Netflix

Every Which Way But Loose (1978)

One of the most unexpected turns on this list is Every Which Way But Loose, a rare comedy that Eastwood made in which he plays a boxer who is friends with an Orangutan. The movie did not receive good reviews, but was a huge box office success—so much so, in fact, that the movie got a sequel two years lated, titled Any Which Way You Can.

Stream It on HBO Max

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Eastwood stared alongside Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare in 1968, a war movie about a team of specialists sent to Bavaria to rescue a captured American general.

Stream It on HBO Max

Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

Based on the novel of the same name, this is far from one of Eastwood's most memorable (or notable) outings. It's also long, at 2 hours and 30 minutes. But if you're interested in a mystery and can look past the presence of Kevin Spacey (who leads the cast along with John Cusack and Alison Eastwood), this could be one to check out.

Stream It on HBO Max

Trouble With The Curve (2012)

Nobody is going to mistake Trouble With The Curve for a masterpiece, but it's a perfectly fun baseball movie with a great cast. Eastwood stars (but does not direct) as an aging baseball scout, who goes to scout a young prospect with the help of his daughter (Amy Adams). Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, and John Goodman are among others in the cast.

Stream It on IMDB TV

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Eastwood's 1976 movie is a Civil War revisionist story, where he plays the titular Josey Wales. The set-up is the character's family are murdered by Union soldiers during the war, so he joins the Confederate army out of revenge, becoming a feared gunfighter himself. When his entire unit is killed, Josey Wales becomes the lone gunfighting outlaw, fighting off combatants coming after him due to the bounty on his head. Eastwood directed the movie, and it's even been named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Stream It on Netflix

In the Line of Fire (1993)

In this thriller, Eastwood plays a veteran secret service torn apart by his failure years earlier to save John F. Kennedy. The movie goes into high action when a killer—and former CIA assassin (John Malkovich) starts taunting him over the phone—and our man Clint is determined to not let the worst happen again.

Stream It on Netflix

Space Cowboys (2000)

Of course Clint Eastwood is the star and director of a movie called Space Cowboys. The movie stars Eastwood, along with Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Suterland, and James Garner as former "test pilots" sent into space—long after they were originally supposed to—to repair an old Soviet satellite. It's part adventure, part thriller, part drama, and even part comedy. Weird movie, but it all kind of works.

Stream It on Netflix

Evan RomanoEvan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.

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Clint Eastwood’s 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.


At 91, Clint Eastwood throws a punch and rides a horse in his new movie. And he’s not ready to quit


Clint Eastwood has been directing himself and others longer than many of his colleagues have been alive. If he walks a little slower on-screen, he’s entitled.

Eastwood’s first film behind the camera, “Play Misty for Me,” came out half a century ago, and he’s still at it. At age 91, with his new “Cry Macho” set for a Sept. 17 release in theaters and on HBO Max, Eastwood — whose acting credits date to 1955 — is perhaps the oldest American ever to both direct and star in a major motion picture. But ask if anything is different between then and now and you get the verbal equivalent of an amused shrug.

Clint Eastwood showing a guest around the grounds of his Tehama Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

“I never think about it,” Eastwood says, considering the question. “If I’m not the same guy, I don’t want to know anything about it. I might not like the new guy. I might think, ‘What am I doing with this idiot?’” He smiles at the thought.

Eastwood at 91 is like that, relaxed and at ease. Wearing tan pants and a blue patterned shirted, he settles into the sun in a secluded corner of Tehama, his 2,000-acre golf club-gated community accessed by winding roads worthy of a land-grant rancho. He’s game to talk about both his new film, “an odd movie in today’s world, kind of offbeat,” and the career that led up to it.

Clint Eastwood and Donna Mills in Eastwood’s directing debut from 1971, “Play Misty for Me.”

(Universal Studios)

With a screenplay by Eastwood veteran Nick Schenk (“Gran Torino,” “The Mule”) and the late N. Richard Nash and based on Nash’s novel, the 1979-set “Cry Macho” tells the story of Mike Milo — “a broken-down ex-rodeo guy,” in Eastwood’s words — who, out of a combination of obligation and desperation, agrees to help his former boss (Dwight Yoakam) extricate his son (newcomer Eduardo Minett) from Mexico.

Like every Warner Bros. release this year, “Cry Macho” will be available to stream on HBO Max the same day as it appears in theaters, a situation Eastwood dryly dismisses as “not my favorite thing in the world. How that’s going to work out at all? I still don’t know.”

Given that it is an Eastwood film, “Cry Macho” features a certain amount of action and jeopardy, including the actor throwing a punch (“It might not be as good as I’ve thrown in the past but it was fun to do it”) and getting on a horse for the first time since “Unforgiven” three decades ago.

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in “Cry Macho” along with Natalia Traven.

(Claire Folger / Warner Bros.)

“The wrangler was worried. She was saying, ‘Be careful, be careful now.’ She was scared I’d end up on my rear end,” Eastwood remembers. “But if you treat the horse like a buddy, he’ll take care of you.”

Never a vain actor, Eastwood doesn’t make a big deal about playing a character old enough to be teased about taking naps, someone on whom the weight of years and injury is always visible. “I don’t look like I did at 20, so what?” he says. “That just means there are more interesting guys you can play.”

Along that line, and despite everything that is familiar about it, “Cry Macho” has a different energy, more sweet-natured and earnest than is traditional for the filmmaker.

Clint Eastwood.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a story that focuses on a protagonist who’s fed up with macho posturing while dealing with age and the possibility of change and renewal, all within the classic Eastwood frame. (It also features a rooster named Macho, played by 11 birds because, in the director’s words, “chickens are not the most versatile animals in the world.”)

It’s a mark of how different “Cry Macho” is from business as usual for Eastwood that an incident the director highlights in the filming involves not a stunt or an action set piece but the situation around a little girl who’d been cast as the granddaughter of one of the main characters, only to get bumped because she tested positive for COVID-19.

“But then the producer came to me and said the test was a false positive and we could use the girl after all,” Eastwood relates, smiling. “She was so elated, it was one of the happiest days we had on the whole picture.”

Clint Eastwood directs on the set of “Cry Macho.”

(Claire Folger / Warner Bros.)

It’s one of the oddities of the project that “Cry Macho” was originally offered to Eastwood by producer Al Ruddy in 1988, but Eastwood’s response was, “I’m too young for this. Let me direct and we’ll get Robert Mitchum, an older dude.”

Mitchum did not work out, and other filmmakers toyed with the story with various stars in the role, including Arnold Schwarzenegger before and after his time as governor of California. “I always thought I’d go back and look at that. It was something I had to grow into,” Eastwood says. “One day, I just felt it was time to revisit it. It’s fun when something’s your age, when you don’t have to work at being older.”

That sense of trusting your instincts is a theme that comes up again and again, both in terms of what projects to do and how Eastwood the actor approaches a role.

Clint Eastwood’s latest project as an actor and director, “Cry Macho,” follows the release of 2018’s “The Mule,” which he also starred in and directed, and 2019’s “Richard Jewell.”

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

“I never thought of acting as an intellectual sport,” he says. “You don’t want to overthink something. You want it to be emotional.

“If you think about it too much, you can take it apart to the point where you don’t like it anymore. If you think about it four different ways, you forget what dragged you into it in the first place. It’s like somebody throwing a fast pitch across the plate. Just swing at it, step in and go.”

As to future projects, Eastwood admits, “I don’t have anything percolating at the moment,” but adds “I didn’t have anything percolating before this one. If something comes along where the story itself, the telling of it, is fun, I’m open to it.”

While initially, “the whole point of directing was something you can do as an older guy,” at this point, Eastwood says he keeps at it simply because “I just like it. I have nothing against other directors, but I might have a whole different take on things and I don’t want to be thinking, ‘Why did I give it to him?’”

As to acting, Eastwood admits being a bit conflicted, sometimes wondering, “What the hell am I still working for in my 90s? Are people going to start throwing tomatoes at you? I’ve gotten to the point where I wondered if that was enough, but not to the point where I decided it was. If you roll out a few turkeys, they’ll tell you soon enough.”

Clint Eastwood visiting his horse stables at his Tehama Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Very much a child of the Depression, Eastwood has said he’s grateful “not to be still bagging groceries at 37 cents an hour.” When I mention that line, the actor nods and says, “I still remember that job.”

“All through the Depression and the war, my growing-up years, my dad had all kinds of jobs. He went job to job and we traveled all over the state. He worked at a Standard Oil station at the corner of Sunset and Pacific Coast Highway, it’s not there anymore, and I remember him telling my mother when I was just a little kid that some ancient actor or other had come in to get gasoline.

“I wonder if my dad would have liked to have been an actor or a singer. He had a good voice. He and another fellow would perform at parties, but none of those breaks ever came his way.

“I remember when I told my father I was dropping out of L.A. City College to train to be an actor at Universal with a six-month option. He said, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in that, it could be really disappointing.’ I said, ‘I think it’s worth a try.’ But I always remember it could have gone the other way.”

Clint Eastwood with one of his horses on the grounds of his Tehama Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)


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Clint Eastwood is 90. Here Are The 10 Best Films He's Directed

Clint Eastwood is a legend. 

First off, what a badass. How great would it have been to part of Clint Eastwood's first ever pitch meeting. Do you think it was as simple as him walking in and saying, "Hello, my name is Clint Eastwood--" before getting being interrupted by a studio executive blurting out, "Wait, your name is Clint Eastwood? That's fucking awesome. Here's some money, we'll see you in 90-days." 

Clint Eastwood has built a legendary filmmaking career over the last five decades. Not only as a prolific actor, but an auteur behind the camera. The film industry icon turned 90 years-old today and No Film School is celebrating his career by looking back at the ten best films he's directed. 

Sully (2016) 

The allegory navigated the true story of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight's passengers and crew. Shot by cinematographer Tom Stern on the IMAX’s version of the ARRI Alexa 65, US Airways flight 1549 is now known as the "Miracle on the Hudson." 

Mystic River (2003) 

If you haven't scene this film yet, book it in your queue. Mystic River follows the shattered lives of three men who were childhood friends after a family tragedy hits home. Both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won an Oscar for their performances and Eastwood was nominated for directing. It's one of Penn's best performances ever. He could probably thank Eastwood for that. 

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

The love story follows a photographer on assignment falls for a housewife, whose husband and children are away on a trip. It's a film that Eastwood not only starred in alongside Meryl Streep, but directed as well. Cinematographer Jack Green was behind the lens, who's worked on several Eastwood projects including The Rookie and Unforgiven

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Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

2006 was a big year for Clint Eastwood. He took on the incredible task of directing two separate films around the Battle Of Iwo Jima in World War II. The first being Flags of Our Fathers, which told the story from the American point of view, and the second,Letters from Iwo Jima, told the story from the Japanese viewpoint. Eastwood mainly used the same crew for both films, and if you're in a historical mood, both are worth watching back to back. 

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

The biggest difference between Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers is the story approach. Flags of Our Fathers is more reconcilable to Western audiences, telling the story through the eyes of a handful of characters. Letters from Iwo Jima looks at it from a wider scope, detailing the entire Japanese army coming to terms with eminent defeat. 

Gran Torino (2008)

Gran Torino navigates the trouble waters of American life, focusing on Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran alienated from his family and angry at the world. When his neighbor gets caught stealing his Ford Gran Torino, Walt cold, outer shell starts to crumble as he develops a relationship with the boy and his family. 

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

"Dyin ain't much of a livin' boy." Do you need much more than that? Penned by the great Phillip Kaufman, and starring Eastwood as the titular anti-hero, this brutal 'late western' shoots to kill and there is just no other way to put it. It's a violent, angry film focused on retribution. Some of the themes Eastwood works out in later films make their start here. 

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Eastwood directs himself again, as well as Hilary Swank, this time leading her to an Oscar win, as well as one for himself as director and for the film as best picture. The story focuses on a female boxer who convinces a grouchy old pro to be her coach and trainer. Tragedy strikes just as her career takes off, and the film becomes increasingly dark, but at the same time strangely uplifting. There is a darkness and simplicity to the film, and it's another example of how well Eastwood even as the years piled up, could adjust to different types of stories about such different types of characters. His ability to capture their humanity is undeniable.

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American Sniper (2014)

Eastwood tackles the true story of sniper Chris Kyle, his tours of duty but more specifically his struggle to adapt to a normal life. There are powerful themes connecting PTSD, and what happens to the men and women who've seen this level of violence. In his chameleon-like manner as a filmmaker, Eastwood slips audiences into another character's experience and whatever you thought going into it, it may challenge some of your assumptions. 

Unforgiven (1992)

Despite many excellent films that had nothing to do with the western genre, Clint Eastwood will always best be associated with it. That's why it's hard not to save the best for last here and single out Unforgiven for its excellence even in the midst of an excellent career. It's a 'one last job' story, where the retired gunman, Bill Munny (Eastwood), is looking to hang it up but get's sucked into a quest for vengeance against a more established form of evil. But this story has all the hallmarks of a great 'late western', covering the ideas of how legends are created, perpetuated, and how in reality they are simply a blood-soaked misery.      

Clint Eastwood Sudden Impact Coffee

Hang 'em High

What a mess! Sergio Leone, the Italian director who created the sweat, scab and beer school of Westerns, liked to linger on close-ups of horrible wounds and sadistic grins. His favorite camera angle was right behind a boot kicking Clint Eastwood.

But now Eastwood has made the big time, and Hollywood has brought him back home to star in "Hang 'em High." You can tell it's a Hollywood Western because Inger Stevens lives in the boarding house and Ed Begley is shaking his fist at the hero even before the titles begin.

I have come to the conclusion that Ed Begley is in every movie made and Inger Stevens is in every other Western. Begley is a superb character actor, almost a national monument, and you wouldn't think it was a real Western town if Begley wasn't in it.

Miss Stevens, on the other hand, seems to have nailed down the boarding house role. She was a widow boardinghouse operator in "Firecreek" and a lady barber and boarding house operator (with a heart of gold) in "Five Card Stud." This time she boards in the boarding house. These roles always give her at least one chance to sit by the bed of the wounded man and nurse him back to life.

As was the case with the Italian Westerns, "Hang 'em High" is a revenge story. Eastwood is strung up by a lynching mob, led by Begley. But he's cut down and vows to revenge himself. The friendly hanging judge of the nearby town (Pat Hingle) pins a badge on Eastwood, and he dutifully, sets out to gather enough scabs, scars, blisters and rope burns to satisfy the sado-masochistic standards set by Leone.

He does a pretty good job. Begley and Stevens add tone to the cast, and Hingle comes over like an especially earnest Karl Malden. The moral of the story is vaguely against capital punishment, and there's a lot of that thin, windblown guitar twanging for you thin, wind-blown guitar twanging fans.


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