"A man's got to know his limitations,” Clint Eastwood famously said as Dirty Harry Callahan in Magnum Force. Yet over the course of his career, Eastwood has continually stretched beyond what seemed like his limits.
Initially considered an actor with a narrow range, he was tagged with the nickname “Clint the Squint’ for what seemed like his only facial expression. But he moved past his speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-gun roles as Dirty Harry and the spaghetti Western's Man With No Name and became an actor — and director — of uncommon sensitivity and moral complexity.
As he celebrates his 90th birthday May 31, we rank (in descending order) the top 10 times that Eastwood made our days on the big screen.
10. Play Misty for Me (1971, actor and director)
A decade and a half before Fatal Attraction, Eastwood pulled off an impressive directorial debut with this chilling thematic precursor about a DJ who's stalked by a former one-night stand. If you thought Jessica Walter was a nightmare as mother-from-hell Lucille Bluth on the cult-favorite sitcom Arrested Development, just wait until you see her as the murderously obsessed fan. Eastwood gives what could be a generic potboiler a personal touch, casting filmmaking mentor Don Siegel as a bartender and providing viewers with breathtaking glimpses of his beloved Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where he later served as mayor.
Stream it now: Play Misty for Me
9. Bird (1988, director)
Eastwood's profound love of jazz permeates every frame of this biopic of Charlie “Bird” Parker (Forest Whitaker), the bebop saxophonist who revolutionized music before he died at the age of 34. Yet the film doesn't get bogged down in tragedy, taking flight as it depicts the often joyful connections between Parker and fellow pioneer Dizzy Gillespie (Samuel E. Wright) as well as the love of his life, Chan Berg (Diane Venora). Bird deservedly gave Eastwood his first taste of awards cred, as he won the Golden Globe for best director, and Whitaker took home the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Stream it now: Bird
8. In the Line of Fire (1993, actor)
In an impressively vulnerable performance, Eastwood plays an aging Secret Service agent who's still haunted by that 1963 day in Dallas when he failed to save JFK. He's pitted in a cat-and-mouse game against a psychopath (John Malkovich) who's taunting him with threats to assassinate the current president. Directed with pinpoint precision by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot), In the Line of Fire earned Academy Award nominations for Jeff Maguire's deftly crafted screenplay, Anne V. Coates’ expert editing and Malkovich's terrifying turn as Eastwood's most formidable on-screen adversary ever.
Stream it now: In the Line of Fire