by Nevin Hooper
Hello fans of classic movies, and now it is time to celebrate one of my all time favorite directors, Clint Eastwood. Because his newest film The 15:17 to Paris is coming out on February 9th, I thought I would cover the top five best films that he has directed. For this list I am only covering the films that he has directed, not the films he has soly starred in. Yes, he does star in most of the movies on this list, but every single movie on here was also directed by the one and only Clint Eastwood.
5. Gran Torino (2008)
I shall start this list of my favorite Clint Eastwood films with his 2008 film, Gran Torino. The film follows Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood, in a rather Oscar worthy performance), who believes that he is better than everyone else, and is extremely racist towards anyone and everyone he despises (which is practically everyone in the movie). One day, one of his new neighbors, Thao (Bee Vang), is caught trying to steal his Gran Torino car. As a punishment, Thao’s family demands he work for Kowalski. Then, over the course of the film, the two gather an unlikely friendship, and once Walt figures out about some of the troubles that Thao and his family are in, he is determined to help him get out of harm. Clint Eastwood does a phenomenal job directing this movie, and was one of the first Eastwood directed movies I saw where I recognized his amazing directorial style. Though, the best thing about this movie is by far the performances. Eastwood is the definite show stealer in this film. He is so, so good in this movie, delivering some of the most dramatic moments in the entire film, even Thao in the film did a really good job. But at times the writing for some of the supporting characters could have been better. Other than that, this is a fantastic film that I highly recommend just because of Clint Eastwood’s direction and performance.
4. Mystic River (2003)
This is a very intense film, and Clint Eastwood’s darkest (literally and figuratively). It tracks the death of Jimmy Markum’s (Sean Penn, in a fantastic performance that earned him an Oscar for Best Actor) daughter, and how that brings back his old childhood friends: Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), a cop investigating the murder with Lieutenant Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne), and the edgy Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins, in a phenomenal performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). The film shows their constant struggle of finding the killer, while also trying to get past the horrific events and grudges of their friends. This movie is the only slow-paced thriller I have seen that works. The slow pacing gives time to develop these broken characters and slowly builds up the dread, even with there already being an intense amount of it after the first scene of the movie. This film just keeps piling the dread on to you over, and over, and over, again in every single scene until the point where some of the characters that you thought you were sort of connecting with, or realized their problem, were completely flipped. By the end of the movie either their problem was way worse than when it started, and you feel more sad for them, or their problems were so intense to the point where the character choices changed completely into an even darker tone. For example, Tim Robbins in this movie…. Holy cow, Robbins blew me away and was easily my favorite part of the film, and definitely deserved him that Oscar-win. His character already started out pretty damaged and broken, but as the film continues, his character just continues to get more mentally twisted, and disturbing. Truthfully, it took me a few minutes to get into this movie, but there was a certain scene where Tim Robbins and Sean Penn were talking to each other, and after that conversation I loved the movie. I highly recommend this movie for it’s acting, directing, and writing, and is a fantastic character study.
3. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
I’m really not sure how to describe this film. It’s directed by an American, and is an American made film, but the entire film is in subtitles. So does that count it as a foreign film? But, it’s an American made movie. So, how does that work? I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking to much on it, but I’m not sure. Well, on that note, for people who are not interested in subtitled films, you will not like this movie, there is probably about five minutes of people talking in English in a movie that is two and a half hours long. On the other hand, for those who are trying to get into foreign and/or subtitled films, this could be a good starter. The film follows an army of Japanese soldiers who are ordered to defend until death the island of Iwo Jima from the American enemy. The troops are led by Lieutenant Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe, in one of his best performances) who is one of the people the film focuses on. The other is a soldier by the name of Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya). The film tracks these two characters horrifying experiences in trying to defend the island, and along the way, write letters to their loved ones. It is in these letter that you learn more and more about these wonderful characters, and you become more and more invested in them. I loved this movie. By a lot. The screenplay was by far the best part of this film. It was so good, and made me way interested in these characters and very much interested in the subtitles because every sentence felt like something these people would actually say. The direction is amazing, the acting is phenomenal, the cinematography is fantastic, everything is fantastic in this movie, so for that reason, it is one of Clint Eastwood’s best films.
2. Unforgiven (1992)
Being the first film in Clint Eastwood’s career to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, this film follows old-time outlaw William Munny (Clint Eastwood, in one of his best performances) in the Old West, who, after his wife’s death, has decided to quit drinking and killing. But the young “Schofield Kid” (Jaimz Woolvett) comes up to him and offers him a chance to avenge a young woman who was cut up by a man and his gang. Realizing that he is struggling on his farm, Munny agrees and partners up with the “Kid” and his old friend, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman, in one of his best roles), to find the outlaw. They then come across the town Big Whiskey, and run across the fierce sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman, in a fantastic performance that garnered him a worthy Best Supporting Actor Oscar), who everyone is afraid of in the town because of his dastardly treatment to those who don’t follow the rules of the town. His next targets are Munny and his gang, threatening their safety and possibly their lives. This is by far one of the best westerns I have ever seen. It’s best quality is replacing the smooth and always cool outlaws of basically every western before it, into these hardened, broken men, that had to suffer through the fact of killing another person, and the way that this film handles it is absolutely perfect. The Oscar-nominated screenplay deals with the dilemmas in these people’s minds and is handled perfectly. This is also helped by the performances, especially from Gene Hackman, that set the environment for these characters wonderfully, along with excellent cinematography, and great direction from Eastwood. Overall, a must see.
1. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
This Best Picture winner follows Frankie Dunn (Eastwood, in his most heartfelt performance), a boxing trainer who’s only friend is his associate, Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman, who finally won an Oscar for this film), One day, determined 31-year-old, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank, in a performance that got her a worthy Best Actress Oscar), wants to be trained by Dunn as a fighter. After many arguments, Frank finally agrees, and it shows their relationship as their fame grows and grows, until a certain tragedy happens that has to strengthen their relationship and trust.
That is all I am going to say, because this is such a surprising movie. Although, I must warn the audience and say that this is an extremely upsetting movie, so this is not a film for the light-hearted. Other than that, I found this such a great movie with deep themes about friendships, determinism, underdogs, and what people will do for their friends in great need. And all of that comes with spectacular Oscar-winning direction from Clint Eastwood that creates an astonishing tone and atmosphere. The brilliant writing and performances are what really carries this movie along beautifully. Of course, Morgan Freeman is fantastic, along with a phenomenal performance that blew me away from Hilary Swank, but Eastwood for me is definitely the show stealer with some of the best lines in the movie delivered from the old and gruff Clint, who I have always been a fan of, which is why it is Clint Eastwood’s best film.