When you say western, then it’s definitely undeniable that you’d think of Clint Eastwood. The man is practically the face of the genre. From his iconic portrayal as the man with No Name in the Dollars Trilogy directed by Sergio Leone to his own directorial western films, he never fails to take his audience back to the untamed frontier of the Old West. Or, more recently, into a modern time filled with themes of classic westerns.
While he has received more critical acclaim for his acting performances, it is equally deserving to give this to his directorial efforts as well. So, here are 7 of his westerns that you should definitely watch, ranked from the good to the best.
7. Cry Macho (2021)
This upcoming movie ‘Cry Macho’ is scheduled to be released later this year in October and is set with high expectations. After all, it’s a Clint Eastwood film – the bar is always high. Top-billed by the actor himself, Cry Macho is a story of redemption of ‘a one-time rodeo star and washed-up horse breeder’ through an unexpectedly challenging journey with a young boy from rural Mexico to the US.
The neo-western film had already been passed fruitlessly back and forth countless times with different actors, including Burt Lancaster, Pierce Brosnan, Arnold Schwarzenegger. While this may not turn out to be at par with his classics, this will surely be something to look out for.
6. Bronco Billy (1980)
If we’re ranking the best western films that Clint Eastwood starred in, this would not make it to the top 10 of the list. But that’s because it’s not your typical rough cut western film. It’s comedic and contemporary with the main character played by Eastwood himself posing as a cowboy when he was, in fact, a shoe salesman from New Jersey who murdered his wife for cheating. And the role was definitely a refreshing change for the actor.
Bronco Billy achieved modest commercial success despite being a low-budget old-fashioned film. It was good, funny, and narrated so well that the details of the old and new West jived in perfectly.
5. Honky Tonk Man (1982)
Just like Bronco Billy, Honky Tonk Man is another atypical western film but is on the other side of the spectrum of feelings. The film told the story of Red Stovall, who was at the crossroads of life with an opportunity to make it big in Nashville as a country musician but on the verge of dying from tuberculosis. But with the help of his nephew (played by Eastwood’s son), he made it to his audition. And he got a chance to live out his dream even for just a while.
It received critical acclaim and deservingly so with its well-crafted drama that will surely touch hearts.
4. Pale Rider (1985)
Pale Rider was one of the highest-grossing Westerns of the decade, earning over $41 million in sales. And it was not surprising at all. While the story was not something fans of western films haven’t seen before, it was served with fine craftsmanship in storytelling. It will keep you hooked from beginning to end and leave you with more questions than answers – in a good way.
Because sometimes, it’s not all about the elaborate and unusual stories that drive a film to be the best. It’s the execution that makes it stand out. And this is what you get with Pale Rider.
3. High Plains Drifter (1973)
This Clint Eastwood film was his first entry into the western genre. And it is considered until now, one of his best directorial films, although it received a mix of positive and negative critic reviews, especially with its stripped moral fortitude that could be quite controversial today.
The story revolved around a stranger who mysteriously appeared out of a desert haze. He rides into a small town where he meets a trio of gunfighters who tried to scare him away, but unfortunately, the tide turns on them, and they end up getting killed. And then, in exchange for anything that he wanted, he was hired by the local council to protect their town from the outlaws.
High Plain Drifters has the same supernatural theme as Pale Rider. But what sets it apart from it was the successful establishment of a savagely haunting atmosphere that will truly keep you on your seat.
2. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
The Outlaw Josey Wales is undeniably one of his best films and certainly one of the highest points in his filmmaking career. Josey Wales was sort of a recreation of the archetype of his iconic role in The Dollars trilogy set in a post-Civil War western world. And just like his other films, Eastwood never failed to deliver an intelligent orchestration of the story.
It was violent, set in a carnage production, yet at the same time emotionally vulnerable, which perfectly balances the whole film.
1. Unforgiven (1992)
Unforgiven is a story about a notorious former outlaw who struggled living a normal life to the point that even though he was repentant for his past actions, he got back to it. The film explored the meaning and existence of redemption, and it was poignantly delivered.
This went to gross over $159 million and won four Academy Awards, with the whole cast receiving critical acclaim for their performance. No one can argue that this shouldn’t be at the top of Clint Eastwood western films ever.