Underrated Films by Clint Eastwood

In honor of Clint Eastwood’s 80th birthday I’d like to take a look at some of his films that flied a bit under the radar. Full disclosure: This is actually an update on an earlier post I wrote which included other actors’ overlooked efforts as well. Nevertheless, here are his “lesser” works still well worth viewing.

The Beguiled

WHO (else):
Geraldine Page

WHAT: A Southern girls’ school idyllic, if not anachronistic, existence is shattered by wounded Union soldier Eastwood who’s been given refuge.

WHY: Released in the same year as Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me, the film was perhaps destined to be overlooked. Even so, it confounded critics and moviegoers alike with many unpleasant scenes and its ending outraged even its own studio boss. Pay no attention. This slightly surreal gothic tale keeps viewers off balance, ever questioning the characters’ motives and intentions.

Kelly’s Heroes

WHO (else):
Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod

WHAT: The mission isn’t a man; its 14,000 gold bars in a bank vault behind enemy lines during WWII. Private Kelly, along with his disillusioned scruffy band of brothers, decides to pay a visit to make a withdrawal.

WHY: It’s not so much the plot as it is the cast who seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. This may have started out as a star vehicle for Eastwood but it’s quickly evident that the rest of the ensemble gets away with a hilarious hijacking. The characters Oddball, Big Joe, Crapgame, Moriarty and General Colt constantly toss off one-liners and are a hoot to watch.

A Perfect World

WHO (else):
Kevin Costner, Laura Dern

WHAT: This Eastwood-directed tale has escaped prisoner Costner kidnapping a young boy and then going on the lam, staying one step ahead of Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Dern.

WHY: Costner’s convict “ain’t a good man…ain’t the worst neither.” He’s been dealt a bad hand in life but doesn’t wallow in pity. Costner shares a kinship with his young new companion/victim, and tries to impart what he’s learned from his hard-bitten life upon the boy. Damaged relationships, conflicted feelings, misguided decisions, and unanswered questions are all part of this imperfect world.

Thunderbolt And Lightfoot

WHO (else):
Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy

WHAT: Years after pulling a heist where the money went missing, Eastwood and Kennedy are convinced by young turk Bridges that second time’s the charm. And it is…until a botched getaway leads to a downward spiral of tragedy.

WHY: Happy-go-lucky Bridges breathing life into the cautionary phrase “be careful what you wish for.”


WHO (else):
Geneviève Bujold, Dan Hedaya, Alison Eastwood

WHAT: A serial killer is preying on prostitutes in New Orleans’ red light district. A divorced, loving father-of-two detective is assigned the case. But the cop also has an affinity for the seedier side of life—one that which eerily compares to the killer’s kinky tastes. Coincidence?

WHY: Clint takes a walk on the wild side. Unlike his macho self-assured characters (Man with No Name, Harry Callahan, Philo Beddoe, etc), Clint plays a flawed man put in the uncompromising position of investigating (and dealing with) his own unsavory proclivities.

Cast your vote in this weeks Movie Poll: Who’s Your Favorite Clint Eastwood Cowboy?

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    In addition to these (great Clint flicks all), I add his sorely underrated “White Hunter, Black Heart” — looking back, the accent he puts on isn’t nearly as distracting as people claimed, and it’s terrific movie-about-the-movies (a thinly veiled account of the making of “The Affican Queen,” for those who don’t know it, with Eastwood playing John Huston).

    • Nicolas

      I agree with you about that film. It is really a very great underated movie with Eastwood. On reflection, I think it is also a critique about being a movie director. I also thought about this that perhaps it is also Eastwood appolgizing about his making of THE EIGER SANCTION, and what happened on that film, it is a critique of himself. . The cinematographer on the Eiger Sanction said he would never work with Eastwood again. Another flim that I also see as a critique of himself is the BRIDGES OF MADISION COUNTY, playing a man who has somewhat lived the ‘Free love lifestyle’, which I think Eastwood did, With the films that critique himself, I would also of course add his masterpiece, and not underated, UNFORGIVEN.

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  • albertmovie

    Josy Wells is still one of th best but rarely included in the list of great movies.

  • movieirv

    I am a big fan of Bronco Billy. It had an awful trailer from what I recall, but the movie featured Eastwood poking fun at his macho image and showing off his sweet side in a good way.

  • BarbinOK

    Happy Birthday, Clint! Maybe not an under-rated movie, but a very much lesser known one is his first, “The First Traveling Saleslady”. made in 1956 at RKO with Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing. While not a truly amazing film, it is quite interesting and kind of fun for Clint as an historical piece. He was pretty cute! Check it out.

  • dirkwrestler

    THE BEGUILED is such a trip — you feel just like him trapped in that bed. what is real and what is drug-induced imagination?
    A PERFECT WORLD is great for all the acting; not only Clint, but Laura Dern and Kevin Costner, too. You try to eat a Mustard Sandwich!
    And of course the great PLAY MISTY FOR ME. Wicked Jessica Walter and the gorgeous Donna Mills, but the smooth stylings of FM jazz DJ Clint is the Best when he is reciting Edgar Allan Poe poems to his listening audience!

  • Kokr Spanielesko

    “Bronco Billy”

  • Capoman

    I saw most of these in theaters. except for Tightrope & A Perfect World. Kelly’s Heroes is one of my favorite Eastwood movies.

  • Cara

    Good choices. I would add Bronco Billy and his orangutan comedies. Eastwood has a surprisingly deft comedy touch. After reading some of the other entries, I would add White Hunter, Black Heart. Very underrated and an insightful look at one great, eccentric director by another.

  • IceStormer

    Two Mules for Sister Sarah was really good. But then it had Shirley MacLaine for Eastwood to play off of. Still, Kelly’s Heroes is my all-time favorite Eastwood comedy.

  • speedle24

    I’ve seen Kelly’s Heroes about 8 times, and I get a kick out of it every time. This movie is without equal in a genre containing only movies like “Catch 22″, “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Dirty Dozen”.

  • Lorraine M.

    It is far from his best western, but I’ve always had a soft spot for 1972′s “Joe Kidd,”
    which boasts a great Laslo Schifrin theme. Another favorite, a better western made around the same time, was the spooky “High Plains Drifter.”

  • Michele Wood

    Two Mules for Sister Sarah was great!

  • Doctor Doom

    Kelly’s Heroes underrated? Really? By who? The Beguiled is however. Very slick film and a truly captivating story line. I have recommended that title to many people.

  • McLeanne

    They FLEW, not “flied”.

  • Charles M Lee

    I have to agree with Doctor Doom, everyone I know loves Kelly’s Heroes. Not sure who you are saying is underrating this masterpiece. If I am in a crowd all I have to say is “there you go hittin me those negative vibes” and the majority will immediately know what I am talking about. Before “Saving Private Ryan” it was my top rated war movie. Now it is number two, but that is still up there.

  • Nicolas

    Well, Kelly’s Heroes was one of Eastwoods biggest disappointments, and it would be one of the last times, if not the last that he really did not have control of his movies. One could call the film with George Clooney, FOUR KINGS a far better remake. this film was a interesting idea, but just for me is not pulled off well. The casting of Donald Sutherland as a 1960′s type hippie in a 1940′s plot makes the film far more dated today than it was then. Coming off his success in MASH, I guess they thought that they would get the teenagers to come out and see it. Also, I think that the people who produced the film were in a quandary at the time. the film was made at the height of the Viet Nam War protests, and I don’t think they were sure how they should make it. A far more underated film for me is THE EIGER SANCTION. today Jack Cassidy’s performance would not be performed that way. however the film really speaks to today’s audiences and makes more sense for todays audiences than perhaps it even did in 1975. It is a truly cynical film which back then perhaps spoke to our cold war with communism, but holds up today with our war on terrorism. .