Clint Eastwood, who turns 87 today, has had one of the most storied careers in Hollywood history. As an actor, he’s given iconic performances and as a director, he’s he’s been just as successful, winning Oscars for both Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven. Chronicling the impact he’s had on Hollywood would be a titanic task, so I decided to focus on the impact he’s had on me as a movie fan. Here are my favorite Clint Eastwood movie moments:
“My mistake, four coffins.” – A Fistful of Dollars
In the early 2000s, I was not yet a fan of Clint Eastwood. I had seen him in a few flicks but was not a fan of westerns in general, so I hadn’t seen his best work. At the time, I thought of westerns as hokey, with corny music and stilted characters. Then, I read about the so-called “Man with No Name” trilogy (Eastwood is actually credited as Joe, Monco, and Blondie in the three films) and was intrigued. We’re only a few minutes into A Fistful of Dollars when the clip above takes place. The combination of humor and badassery was all it took. By the time Joe tells the undertaker he’ll need four coffins, I had become a fan of Eastwood, director Sergio Leone, and westerns as a genre.
“I killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another” – Unforgiven
Unforgiven, Eastwood’s tribute to the genre that made him famous, is the story of William Munny, a reformed killer who is trying to live a better life for his wife. When she dies, he is forced into becoming a bounty hunter again to support his children. It doesn’t go well for him, but when he seeks vengeance we the audience get to see Eastwood at his devilish best (apologies to Pale Rider). Munny walks into a saloon full of “lawmen” and unleashes hell, knowing that vengeance will probably cost him his life and definitely cost him his soul. On top of being one of the most badass scenes ever filmed, this one has a special place in my heart for being one of the primary inspirations behind one of my favorite comic book characters of all time, The Saint of Killers.
“What are you peddling today, Padre?” – Gran Torino
Years ago on Saturday Night Live, there was a game show parody titled Who’s More Grizzled, with Robert Duvall, Garth Brooks, and Darrell Hammond competing to find out who’s the “roughest, toughest, most hard-bitten old-timer around”. Eastwood’s movie roles could easily form a whole Tournament of Champions for that game, but I think Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino would likely win that tournament. Here we see Eastwood at his most curmudgeonly: a retired auto worker and war veteran who refuses to adapt to the changing world around him. No one moment encapsulates the film, which is an engrossing character study all the way through, but Walt’s dismissal of the young priest who is trying to help him is probably my favorite. Walt Kowalski isn’t someone to be emulated, he’s violent, racist, and unable to accept help, but despite all his flaws, he is able to find a new family to protect, and thereby seek redemption. Maybe the most honest of the Eastwood movies I’ve seen, Gran Torino takes the machismo and hard-assery present in so many movie heroes and shows the negative impact they would have in a real-world setting.
The Final Showdown – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
No quote for this one, since the most important parts of the scene happen without any dialogue at all. Maybe my favorite climax to a movie ever, the movie ends with the three-man showdown between Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. The wide shot of the three in the middle of the cemetery contrasts so beautifully against the quick shots of each participant. The film score (shout out Ennio Morricone) supports the whole scene, building tension to the moment of first fire.
What is your favorite Clint Eastwood moment? Let us know in the comments.