Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ten Best Clint Eastwood Directed Films

The Outlaw Josey Wales
1. A Perfect World (1993)
2. Sudden Impact (1983)
3. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
4. Mystic River (2003)
5. Bronco Billy (1980) 
6. Unforgiven (1992)
7. The Gauntlet (1977)
8. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
9. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
10. White Hunter, Black Heart (1990)

Plus, ten runners-up: Gran Torino (2008), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Breezy (1973), Bird (1988), Space Cowboys (2000), Honkeytonk Man (1982), Firefox (1982), High Plains Drifter (1973), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Absolute Power (1997)

Updated: 10/4/2010


Mike Lyon said...

I'd like to peg "Sudden Impact" as a capitalized Bold Choice to rank so highly on your list, but I'll admit I haven't seen it since, hmmm, let's say Junior High; 1993? I admit that the rape/revenge framework, normally a mainstay of exploitation movies, made it stand out amongst the Harry sequels (I couldn't even tell you what happens in 3 or 5), and piqued my young sleeze-loving interest. But I wasn't precisely (or vaguely) a cineaste in those days, and I hadn't given it a thought in the intervening years - now I must revisit it immediately!

Additionally: "The Gauntlet" over "Million Dollar Baby"? Even loving "Gauntlet" as I do, I think that's a tough sell. I'm all for Eastwood in propulsive mode, but I think as the years go by, it's becoming too easy to undervalue MDB...

Lest I sound too much the negative creep: a great list with some very intriguing choices!

Michael J. Anderson said...

You're right to say that it should be capitalized/bold-ed based on the standard account of Eastwood, which would have Unforgiven signaling the director's revisionist phase. However, seeing it again after mutual pal R. Emmet re-recommended it, I have to say that it rates at the very pinnacle of his achievement, alongside Outlaw Josey Wales, which to my thinking is really the point of departure for the rest of his career, and A Perfect World which I continue to feel is his greatest later career achievement, and the quintessence of his uber-corrupted protagonist narratives. Sudden Impact, falling in between, is as comprehensive a revision of the 'Dirty Harry' persona as Eastwood ever attempted. Which is to say it is among the most forceful cases for Eastwood as the greatest American director of the last say 1/3 of a century. (It is why he is unequivocally superior to the other most qualified challenger, Martin Scorsese, who seems none at all interested in questioning himself, and in the process limiting his narrative subjects.)

As far as The Gauntlet over Million Dollar Baby is concerned, that was more willful, a somewhat slippery attempt to tip the scales toward his earlier, super under-appreciated work. I suppose it is worth pointing out that I do think Mystic River, in spite of its somewhat irritating histrionics, is the masterpiece of this current decade (as both further revision, and a barometer of its moment - another key reason for Eastwood's preeminence). Comparatively, I find Million Dollar Baby as comparatively slighter, though it is a masterful exposition of faith and another bad father narrative (in the True Crime vein) in addition to still be current. The Gauntlet, to quote Dave Kehr, maintains a sort of formal perfection, within an idiom that was as important to the director at the time of his career (the battle-of-the-sexes narrative of Bronco Billy) as Million Dollar Baby's would later be.

So, the intention was less to underrate Million Dollar Baby than it was to point to a lesser known film that I think might just be every bit as good.

Mike Lyon said...

Pushing a less-recognized film is totally legit, as all this list-making is by its very nature agenda driven; I don't know a single one of us who doesn't use placement to introduce a pet favorite or shake things up a bit! (Such as your fondness for "Deja Vu", eh? Or perhaps my love of "Rambo" - will it make the top 100? Ha ha haaaa.) Even so, I'm not entirely certain that "Gauntlet" and "MDB" are on the same footing - time for some comparison viewing!

But now that the gauntlet (ha ha! HA! Oh, Jesus) has been thrown down to specify the Great American Director of the modern era, I may not jump immediately to Eastwood OR Scorsese. It's difficult to dismiss Robert Altman, though like Clint and Marty he has suffered his share of misfires. For sheer consistency, my dark horse candidate might be Mr. Terrence Malick... Come to think of it, my Exceedingly Dark Horse would be John Carpenter, who easily ranks as one of the most criminally underappreciated directors in Hollywood history!

But don't quote me just yet! Now I have to ponder...

Michael J. Anderson said...

I will concede that I might be wrong about "The Gauntlet" over "Million Dollar Baby"; in fact, the first incarnation of this post, as it was originally published, had the two reversed. I just felt like changing it.

On to your choices, of course Altman would be the third. No question. Though he is by no means a favorite of mine. In fact, I honestly couldn't name a half-dozen of his films that I even like, or find particularly interesting on an aesthetic level. (Especially loathsome to me is the fashionably cynical MASH.)

But enough of that, film for film Malick is the best, but four films really work against his claim for being the finest of his era. And Carpenter, consider me among the under-appreciators. I really need to go further into his work... immediately.

peter said...

I'm fond of Clint's "Blood Work".

Michael J. Anderson said...

I am as well, Peter. It's just a testament to Eastwood's greatness that it doesn't manage to make the top twenty.

John Shane said...

First off, Eastwood is one of the most over-rated directors of all time. There are about fifty directors better than him. However, since we're talking about him, Unforgiven is number 1 without a doubt and to even dare put Sudden Impact anywhere near the top is ridiculous. White Hunter Black Heart needs to be much higher, and Mystic River as well. How about Play Misty For Me? That's a great one too. And no Bird? Million Dollar Baby is truly one of the most over-rated movies of all time. Eastwood has become the Bob Dylan of directors. Anything he releases gets immediate and absolute praise, even if the product itself is usually mediocre.