Clint Eastwood's birthday was yesterday, and it prompted me to take a look at his contribution to the antihero in film. I've been meaning to do an Eastwood list for ages, but it's easy to take him for granted. As far as anti-heroes go, Eastwood is practically the role model. He is one of the most distinctive actors in American film and is as talented a director, although I'm only looking at his roles here. His craggy features, menacing squint and gravelly voice have always ensured he won't be playing any pretty boy parts. He can produce more fear with his glare than most tough guy actors can with days of prep time. Ever since Leone's Dollars trilogy, it would be tough to figure out what the difference is between the Man with no Name and Eastwood himself, as most of his parts make full use of those elements he's known for.
Where John Wayne is the wholesome Western hero, Eastwood is the meaner more contemporary version, free of the old idealism of the white hat. The Eastwood anti-heroes just do what they have to do, which can often be unsettling to the squeamish. I have no trouble believing that his character in "High Plains Drifter" for example could set out to humiliate and destroy a whole town without changing his expression once. However, as tough, mean, and unyielding as he is, he typically ends up on the side of the angels, lucky for us all. We admire him because beneath it all is a fierce and unyielding integrity. Unlike Wayne's larger than life heroes, Eastwood's characters really hurt and really hurt back. He's used to high stakes but you won't see him give up. Picking a definitive top ten would be impossible, but here's a stab at it. Let me know if there's one I missed that you would have included. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Happy Birthday Clint, and thanks for so many years of amazement!
10) Frank Horrigan, In the Line of Fire
9) Dave, Play Misty for Me
8)Frankie Dunn, Million Dollar Baby
7)Walt Kowalski, Gran Torino
6)The Stranger, High Plains Drifter
5) Frank Morris, Escape from Alcatraz,
4)Josey Wales, The Outlaw Josey Wales
3)Blondie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
2)Dirty Harry, Harry Callahan
1)William Munny, The Unforgiven,