No. 5: Clint Eastwood — Top Action Movie Stars
Clint Eastwood is obviously a legendary cinematic figure both in front of and behind the camera, with four Oscars in his collection. At one point in time, his image was synonymous with the western genre, but my sense is that his turn as Harry Callahan in the ‘Dirty Harry’ franchise really widened the public’s perception of Eastwood as an action hero.
As a matter of fact, before ‘Dirty Harry,’ Clint already directed ‘Play Misty For Me’ and starred in the World War II actioner ‘Where Eagles Dare.’ But ‘Dirty Harry’ was an uncontested worldwide phenomenon and Clint’s rule-breaking cop became a cop movie standard, which has since become a cliché. But look, if you were popular enough to make something so ubiquitous that it becomes cliché, then certainly you were very popular indeed.
One could probably stop right at the ‘Dirty Harry’ series when justifying Clint’s placement on a Top 25 Action Heroes list, but placing him this high might require noting that without the Westerns of an earlier era, we absolutely would not have the action film template that we love today. Clint’s early work with Sergio Leone in ‘The Man With No Name Trilogy’ vaulted a relatively unknown Eastwood into the international market and those films, perhaps moreso than the ‘Dirty Harry’ movies, continue to stand the test of time and be revered by generation after generation of movie geek.
It should also be noted that Clint has aged very gracefully and has chosen wise characters to play in order to maintain his gruff and ornery image in such greats as ‘A Perfect World,’ ‘In The Line of Fire’ and ‘Gran Torino.’
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” –- Harry Callahan, ‘Dirty Harry’