Clint Eastwood's Birthday: His Best 10 Movies Ranked

Clint Eastwood Sudden Impact
Clint Eastwood stars as the legendary Dirty Harry in a scene from the film 'Sudden Impact', 1983. Warner Brothers/Getty Images

May 31 marks Clint Eastwood's 89th birthday. Famous for movies such as Dirty Harry, Escape from Alcatraz, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Eastwood made his name as an actor and then a director.

Born Clinton Eastwood, Jr., on May 31, 1930, he grew up during the Great Depression in America. Leaving high school, he served in the U.S. Army, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, before moving to Hollywood, Los Angeles. He entered into acting after a successful screen test, holding down small parts in movies such as Tarantula (1955) and Revenge of the Creature (1955). In 1959, he was cast as Rowdy Yates in television western Rawhide(1959–65).

08 Clint Eastwood
8. Clint Eastwood. Total gross: $1.85 billion. Number of movies: 35. Average gross: $52.9 million. Highest grossing movie: ‘American Sniper’ ($350.1 million). Theo Wargo/Getty Images

At the same time as Rawhide, Eastwood gained international success as "The Man with No Name" in a trilogy of westerns: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).

He then went on to star in Hang 'Em High (1968) and Coogan's Bluff (1968), forming his own production company, Malpaso. Working with Don Siegal, whom he admits taught him most of what he knows about directing, he made western Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), The Beguiled (1971), and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

However, the most well-known collaboration is Dirty Harry (1971), with Eastwood taking the lead character, Harry Callahan. The film was such a success that four sequels followed it.

As a director, Eastwood made films such as Play Misty for Me (1971), High Plains Drifter (1972), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), and The Eiger Sanction (1975), all films in which he also played leading roles. He then went onto make The Gauntlet (1977), Bronco Billy (1980), Firefox (1982) and Honkytonk Man (1982), and then a fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact (1983) and neo-mythic Pale Rider (1985).

In the 21st century, Eastwood has made films such as Space Cowboys (2000), Blood Work (2002), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004) - which won Oscars for best picture, best actress (Hilary Swank), best supporting actor (Morgan Freeman) and best director.

His next blockbuster was Changeling (2008), starring Angelina Jolie, which was followed by Gran Torino (2008), and then Invictus (2009). American Sniper (2014) was another box-office success, which depicted both the violence of the Iraq War and the difficulty of a soldier's adjustment to civilian life.

He then made Sully, about the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson River. Movies The 15:17 to Paris (2018) and The Mule (2018) followed, touching on topics such as terrorist attacks and drug dealing respectively.

03 The Mule
Warner Bros

What is interesting about Eastwood is how he tells a story, which has contributed to his success as a director, as Our American Stories host Lee Habeeb wrote for Newsweek: What Clint Eastwood Can Teach The Modern Media About Storytelling.

In celebration of his birthday, Newsweek has analyzed data from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to create a guide to Eastwood's top ten films.

10. Honkytonk Man (1982)

Clint Eastwood Honkytonk Man
Clint Eastwood wears a had and stands holding a cigarette in a scene from the film 'Honkytonk Man', 1982. Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Score: 71.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 93 / Metacritic: 50

Plot: An amateur country singer/songwriter dreams of singing success in Nashville. Fearing he's running out of time, he announces to his family that he plans to head off to Nashville and try to make it to the Grand Old Opry.

Also starring: Kyle Eastwood, John McIntire and Alexa Kenin

What critics said: "It is a guileless tribute not only to plain values of plain people in Depression America, but also to the sweet spirit of country-and-western music before it got all duded up for the urban cowboys," TIME Magazine

9. Pale Rider (1985)

Pale Rider Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood firing a gun in a scene from the film 'Pale Rider', 1985. Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Score: 76.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 92 / Metacritic: 61

Plot: Caught in the middle of the growing conflict, Preacher rallies the miners into a combative group and then goes on to final showdown in true "high noon" style.

Also starring: Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef and Luigi Pistilli

What critics said: "Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing," Chicago Times

8. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Score: 81.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 98 / Metacritic: 65

Plot: A cynical gunfighter who comes to a small border town and offers his services to two rivalling gangs.

Also starring: Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch and Sieghardt Rupp

What critics said: "A Fistful of Dollars has a cult, comic-book intensity. It is the punk rock of westerns," The Guardian

7. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Outlaw Josey Wales Clint Eastwood
Bill McKinney and Clint Eastwood battle each other in a scene from the film 'The Outlaw Josey Wales', 1976. Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Score: 82 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 95 / Metacritic: 69

Plot: With fresh memories of his family's slaughter, confederate Josey Wales refuses to join his captain Fletcher and the rest of his comrades in surrender to a U.S. Army regiment.

Also starring: Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke and Bill McKinney

What critics said: "[Eastwood] gets to the heart of the matter briskly, orchestrates his confrontations intelligently and gets off without lingering unduly over the resultant ugliness," TIME Magazine

6. High Plains Drifter (1973)

Score: 82.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 96 / Metacritic: 69

Plot: Lago's residents ask a stranger to defend them against a group of outlaws.

Also starring: Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill and Mitchell Ryan

What critics said: "Part ghost story, part revenge Western, more than a little silly, and often quite entertaining in a way that may make you wonder if you have lost your good sense," New York Times

5. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Score: 85 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 96 / Metacritic: 74

Plot: Psychotic Mitch Leary is stalking a president running for re-election and only one agent can stop him.

Also starring: John Malkovich, Rene Russo and Dylan McDermott

What critics said: "Generously exciting, In the Line of Fire is mercifully free of that artificial energy that makes so many new movies look as if they were created with steroids," Newsweek

4. Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Clint Eastwood Escape To Alcatrez
Clint Eastwood ponders his fate in a scene from the film 'Escape From Alcatraz', 1979. Paramount/Getty Images

Score: 85.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 95 / Metacritic: 76

Plot: No one can escape from Alcatraz, right? Try telling that to lifer Frank Morris.

Also starring: Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom and Jack Thibeau

What critics said: "Escape from Alcatraz is relentless in establishing a mood and pace of unrelieved tension," Variety

3. Unforgiven (1992)

Score: 90.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% / Metacritic: 85

Plot: Disgusted by Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett's decree that several ponies make up for a cowhand's slashing a whore's face, Big Whiskey prostitutes, led by fierce Strawberry Alice, take justice into their own hands and put a $1,000 bounty on the lives of the perpetrators.

Also starring: Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris

What critics said: "Unforgiven gives us something to think about—and something to answer for—and Eastwood was just the man to make it," Boston Globe

2. Dirty Harry (1971)

Score: 91.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 93 / Metacritic: 90

Plot: "You've got to ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" Enough said.

Also starring: Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino and John Mitchum

What critics said: "Seminal law-and-order cinema," Time Out

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

Score: 93.5 / 100

Rotten Tomatoes: 97 / Metacritic: 90

Plot: A lone rider searches for a cache of stolen gold against rivals; a ruthless bounty hunter and a Mexican bandit.

Also starring: Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef and Luigi Pistilli

What critics said: "Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing," Chicago Times