Few actors have been as successful as Clint Eastwood when it comes to making the transition from acting to directing. From classic Westerns to gritty crime thrillers to rousing biopics, these are the most impressive movies in Eastwood's long career as a director.
12. 'High Plains Drifter' (1973)
It's not quite as highly regarded as the most iconic of Eastwood's many Western movies (in part because of the controversial rape scene early on), but "High Plains Drifter" served as an early sign that Eastwood had as much promise behind the camera as in front of it. It's also a Western that pushes the boundaries of the genre. It's as much a ghost story and a revenge thriller as anything else.
11. 'Bronco Billy' (1980)
While Eastwood once again cast himself as a gruff cowboy in "Bronco Billy," this movie is -- tonally -- a complete departure from his usual fare. It's an unexpectedly charming look at a traveling circus and its main attraction, a trick-shooting cowboy trying to hold it all together. "Bronco Billy" is a nice reminder that Eastwood can be a great comedian when he puts his mind to it.
10. 'Bridges of Madison County' (1995)
Even a guy like Eastwood feels the urge to try his hand at a romantic drama now and then. While a bit sappy in the way so many of these films are, "Bridges of Madison County" is a top-notch adaptation of the novel that benefits greatly from the chemistry only Eastwood and Meryl Streep can provide.
9. 'Gran Torino' (2008)
Eastwood has a well-honed reputation for playing some of the toughest, crabbiest heroes in Hollywood. "Gran Torino" stands out because it turns that reputation on its head. Eastwood plays one of his most memorable characters here, an old rabble-rouser and Korean War veteran drawn into a neighborhood conflict involving Hmong American gang members. It's easy to picture a lot going wrong given the movie's racially charged elements, but instead the result is arguably Eastwood's best film of the 21st Century.
8. 'Mystic River' (2003)
"Mystic River" is one of those films we can't help but wonder if Oscar voters went a little overboard in honoring at the time. Still, it's a worthy addition to the Eastwood canon by any measure. The performances are uniformly terrific, and the film offers a sobering look at the lingering impact a terrible crime can have on a group of lifelong friends.
7. 'Pale Rider' (1985)
For the most part, audiences were pretty well burnt out on Westerns in the 1980's. But there's always room for another good Western directed by and starring Eastwood. With its religious undertones and its commentary on America's consumer-driven mania of the mid-'80s, this is a Western with a lot of meat on its bones.
6. 'Bird' (1988)
A lot of "Jersey Boys" fans were underwhelmed by Eastwood's take on the popular stage musical. Luckily, he found far more success with this biopic about jazz legend Charlie "Bird" Parker. Sure, it plays a little fast and loose with history, but it's a fascinating (and underrated) glimpse into the life of a true artist, an artist played with gusto by the excellent Forest Whitaker.
5. 'Million Dollar Baby' (2004)
Every year, it gets a little harder for boxing movies to make their mark. It's one genre that has been done to death over the years. Yet that didn't stop Eastwood from crafting what many regarded as the best movie of 2004 with "Million Dollar Baby." The dynamic between Eastwood's gruff trainer and Hilary Swank's ambitious boxer is a highlight, and more than enough to make up for the somewhat unsatisfying ending.
4. 'A Perfect World' (1993)
Perhaps Eastwood's most underrated film, "A Perfect World" stars Kevin Costner as an escaped fugitive who befriends a young boy and Eastwood as the Texas Ranger hellbent on bringing them in. Basically, Eastwood's take on "Les Miserables." Costner's terrific performance -- and Eastwood's deft hand behind the camera -- work to deliver a truly compelling drama on par will Mallick's "Badlands."
3. 'Letters From Iwo Jima' (2006)
This companion piece to 2006's "Flags of Our Fathers" opted to explore the infamous Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective for a change. In the process, it wound up far surpassing its companion. Everything here, from the acting to directing to cinematography, is top-notch Eastwood. This film also proves that Eastwood can succeed just as well even when directing a script that's mostly non-English.
2. 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' (1976)
The Western genre was past in prime by the time the '70s rolled around, but Eastwood proved he had plenty more to say by strapping on his boots and six-shooters. "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is a true Western for the Vietnam era, despite being set during the Civil War. It's a staunchly anti-war film that reflects on America's deeply troubled past and the importance of family.
1. 'Unforgiven' (1992)
You'd think after a career that includes timeless classics like "The Man With No Name Trilogy," "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Hang 'Em High," Eastwood would have nothing left to contribute to the Western genre. Instead, he saved his best effort for "Unforgiven." This haunting tale of an ex-bandit dragged back into the hard life easily ranks among the best Westerns of all time. It abandons the romance and adventure of classic Westerns for a more frank, even bleak look at life on the frontier. "Unforgiven" truly earned its Best Picture Oscar that year.