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Summary

  • Eastwood’s Westerns revolutionized the genre, giving it darker, cynical tones and antiheroes.
  • The Spaghetti Westerns solidified Eastwood’s status as a Western movie icon.
  • Unforgiven was Eastwood’s farewell to Westerns, a deconstruction of the Western genre itself.

Though he appeared in a wide variety of movies across his long career, looking at all of Clint Eastwood’s Westerns in order showcases his impact on the genre and how the genre helped shape his journey in the movie business. Actors like Roy Rogers and John Wayne are also synonymous with Westerns, Eastwood’s career was an interesting look at how the Western genre was revitalized with new approaches and eventually fell out of favor with Eastwood himself playing a role in bidding farewell to the Golden Age of the Western movie.

Eastwood got one of his earliest breaks as an actor with the Western series Rawhide. Eastwood later became a movie star thanks to Sergio Leone and his popularizing of the Spaghetti Western. The actor followed up the Dollars movie trilogy with several more Westerns, only reinforcing his ties to the genre. Unlike John Wayne’s Westerns, Eastwood’s output was often much darker, cynical, and violent. The Spaghetti Westerns lacked the gloss and heroism of Hollywood’s output and Eastwood was not afraid to play antiheroes in these types of movies with his Western appearances creating an iconic image of the genre.

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Clint Eastwood Made 15 Westerns

He Became An Icon Of The Genre

Clint Eastwood as Blondie aims his revolver at unseen enemy forces in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

In total, Clint Eastwood has made 15 Western movies. This includes some he made very early in his career, including playing an uncredited ranch hand in Star In The Dust. It also excludes some of his later work like Bronco Billy or Cry Macho, which had many Western tropes and themes but featured more modern-day settings. However, when it comes to genuine Westerns set in the Old West, Eastwood not only starred in a number of them, but many of those Westerns became known as some of the best of the genre.

However, his big break in the movies came with his role in the Spaghetti Western classic,
Fistful of Dollars
.

Eastwood found fame with Westerns on the small screen, starring as Rowdy Yates on the series Rawhide. However, his big break in the movies came with his role in the Spaghetti Western classic, Fistful of Dollars. In this film, Eastwood originated his iconic role as The Man With No Name. He also established a Western persona that felt fresh in the genre, playing the soft-spoken protagonist who was darker and more of an antihero than the likes of John Wayne and Roy Rogers played.

Eastwood continued to become a star with the rest of the movies in Sergio Leone’s Dollar’s Trilogy, Few a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. With the success in those Italian-made movies, Eastwood’s career in American Western movies picked up. He continued to show a new side of the genre with the Revisionist Western Hang Em High. Eastwood cemented his status as a more cold-blooded and complex Western hero in movies like High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Pale Rider.

Eastwood’s career in Western culminated with his role in Unforgiven. While Eastwood was keen on playing darker characters in the genre, his character of William Munny was a retired outlaw who was known to have killed innocent people in his days. While he lives as a reformed widow and father of two children, the movie finds him lured back into the violent life. Eastwood’s performance as this haunted man perfectly plays on his icon status while showing something completely different in what would be his final Western role.

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Every Western Clint Eastwood Starred In

Eastwood’s Western Career Includes The Game-Changing Spaghetti Westerns And Revisionist Westerns

Eastwood may not have the volume of Western stars like John Wayne, but what he lacked in quantity he made up for with quality. Following the Dollars trilogy, many of his Westerns like The Outlaw Josey Wales or Unforgiven are considered genre classics.

Movie

Characters

Star in the Dust (1956)

Tom

The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)

Lt. Jack Rice

Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958)

Keith Williams

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)

Joe

For A Few Dollars More (1965)

Monco

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

Blondie

Hang ‘Em High (1968)

Jed Cooper

Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Pardner

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

Hogan

The Beguiled (1971)

John McBurney

Joe Kidd (1972)

Joe Kidd

High Plains Drifter (1973)

The Stranger

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Josey Wales

Pale Rider (1985)

Preacher

Unforgiven (1992)

Bill Munny

Eastwood Planned Unforgiven As His Farewell To Westerns

He Waited Nearly A Decade To Make The Film

Clint Eastwood aiming a gun in Unforgiven

While Clint Eastwood’s Western output was fairly consistent during the ’60s and ’70s, he slowed down significantly following The Outlaw Josey Wales. He only made one Western in the ’80s and the ’90s, with Unforgiven being his most acclaimed. Eastwood read this script in the ’80s and decided to wait nearly a decade to make it since he felt the character needed to be older.

The star had always pictured
Unforgiven
as his last word on the Western genre, with the film being a deconstruction and demystification of the West itself.

This paid off, with the film being both a financial success and winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. The star had always pictured Unforgiven as his last word on the Western genre, with the film being a deconstruction and demystification of the West itself. With Eastwood announcing that the upcoming Juror #2 will be his final movie, it now seems confirmed that Unforgiven will be the final Clint Eastwood Western. While the reality of that is sad, it is a brilliant entry into the genre to end on.

Clint Eastwood Also Directed Several Westerns

Eastwood Directed Four Western Movies

While Clint Eastwood started his career in acting, he is possibly just as famous as a director now, even directing a number of movies in which he did not even appear in, such as Bird, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima. He was also a prolific director of Western movies, which is not surprising given his love of the genre. Though his directing career began with the thriller Play Misty for Me, Eastwood didn’t take long to shift to Westerns.

The first Western movie Eastwood directed was High Plains Drifter, which was his second feature-length directorial effort. Eastwood’s directing style was noted to have similarities to some of the other acclaimed directors he had worked with earlier in his career, such as Don Siegel and Sergio Leone. Eastwood directed four Western movies in total, including Pale Rider, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and his final genre entry, Unforgiven.



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