Clint Eastwood's 5 Most Memorable Performances (and No, the RNC Doesn't Count)
Regardless of your political affiliation, the general consensus on Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night seems to be that his address was … strange.
Twitter exploded during and after Eastwood’s speech with reactions from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. and points of interest in between.
Chris Rock joked, “Clint Eastwood on the phone with Obama now: ‘It all went according to plan, sir.’”
Film critic Roger Ebert Tweeted, “Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him.”
And Rachel Maddow at MSNBC probably echoed the sentiment of many when she Tweeted, “Looking at Rubio & Romney but all I can see is the Clint Eastwood performance art that just happened on that stage. What were they thinking?”
I’m not sure I completely understand the backlash. Content aside, Eastwood is taking heat for interviewing an imaginary Barack Obama in an empty chair. And while it’s a hacky bit, Eastwood tried to sell it with the same homespun delivery he uses every time he speaks in public. He’s not "Dirty" Harry in real life (despite the fact he was goaded into reciting his trademark catchphrase for the umpteenth time). He’s an 82-year-old actor – and former politician – who spoke from the heart. It wasn’t nearly as effective as his patriotic halftime spot at the Super Bowl. But it didn’t strike me as the disaster the Internet’s trying to make it out to be.
Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC – and the overwhelmingly negative response – did get us thinking about the actor-director’s undisputed best performances in front of the camera, though. We’ve narrowed our list down to five … nearly impossible given the depth and breadth of Eastwood’s acting career. What did we miss? Let us know your favorite Eastwood performances in the comments section below.
1. William Munny, Unforgiven
Eastwood’s quintessential Western role … which is saying a lot, given the fact that there are two other cowboy outlaws on this list. The part of retired gunslinger Munney – lured out of slumber for one last job – arrived at a point in Eastwood’s career where he, too, was surveying the cinematic landscape and figuring out where he fit in. Of course, he has gone on to direct and star in several films since Unforgiven came out in 1992, but few were as incisive and riveting as this fascinating throwback to a genre Eastwood helped define.
2. Blondie, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
By the third “Man With No Name” film, Eastwood and his director, Sergio Leone, had their best grasp on the mysterious characters who had populated this archetypal spaghetti Western series. And while it’s important that you see A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More to better understand the dominant points of Ugly, the final 20 minutes of this drama are so riveting, it earns the No. 2 slot on our list. Until Unforgiven, this was Eastwood's most iconic role.
3. Robert Kincaid, The Bridges of Madison County
Ah, the sensitive side of Mr. Eastwood, who breaks hearts alongside the equally fabulous Meryl Streep in this touching, deftly balanced adaptation of Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel. Thanks to roles such as “Dirty” Harry and his collaborations with an orangutan, Eastwood rarely was thought of as a traditional romantic lead. But while the time photographer Kincaid had with Streep’s Francesca was short, the impact of their on-screen pairing for Bridges is everlasting.
4. Josey Wales, The Outlaw Josey Wales
Few probably thought Eastwood could top the rugged portrayal of Western life he brought to Leone’s trilogy. Yet in typical Eastwood fashion, he bested himself not once but twice in both Unforgiven and this, his 1976 revisionist Western in which he directs and stars. Some have argued that Eastwood’s character -- an outlaw fleeing the Union soldiers during the Civil War – is a carbon copy of his “Man With No Name.” But it’s the hint of sympathy earned by Eastwood that sets this anti-hero apart from the pack, and makes The Outlaw Josey Wales one of the actor-director’s finest efforts.
5. Harry Callahan, Magnum Force
What’s an Eastwood list with “Dirty” Harry Callahan? But I’m not going to make your day by going with the original film, the 1971 police thriller that introduced San Francisco’s top law enforcer. I’m pointing you toward its sequel, Magnum Force. It's Eastwood’s second turn in the part, and he's far more comfortable with the heightened confidence that comes with playing Callahan this time out. If you want to get a good sense of why Callahan has survived for generations as one of Eastwood’s iconic roles, rent Magnum Force.
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Sean O'ConnellFandango Bloggers
Sean is a film reviewer for The Washington Post and daily contributor to Fandango.
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