And now we arrive at the most recent 21 years of The Mighty Clint Eastwood‘s unprecedented career, those decades where he won some more Oscars and aged from 70 to 91 without losing a step as a star and top-shelf director.
I have to admit that I was no great fan of Eastwood’s output during the aughts. Space Cowboys and Million Dollar Baby (which won Best Picture and Best Director) are pretty good, but other than those two and the top title on this list, I can pass on the rest from that decade. It wasn’t until Eastwood turned 84 that he got his mojo back with American Sniper and the others listed here.
- Sully (2016)
Eastwood directs but allows Tom Hanks to star in a solid drama that works one of Eastwood’s favorite themes about the dehumanization of government bureaucracies.
Hanks portrays Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, a real-life commercial airline pilot who saved hundreds of lives (in the air and on the ground) by landing his doomed plane safely in the Hudson River. Sully’s everyday heroism, which was borne of experience, sound judgment, and steel nerves, is then questioned and second-guessed by an NTSB eager to persecute a man who didn’t do things the way the government says you should do things.
One of Eastwood’s great accomplishments is that although we know the outcome, the flight itself is still suspenseful.
- Richard Jewell (2019)
The media went to war against this film with almost as much gusto as they went to war with Richard Jewell, a real-life security guard who selflessly saved countless lives at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
People ridiculed Jewell, called him overzealous, a pain, a wannabe cop, and a stickler for the rules, but it was all of those qualities that pushed him to push law enforcement to take a mysterious package seriously — which, in turn, saved all those lives.
What’s more, without knowing when that package might explode, Jewell remained in the blast zone to guide people to safety.
Paul Walter Hauser is a revelation as Jewell, and as his crusading attorney, Sam Rockwell is a true moral force.
Richard Jewell is a timely reminder that the media and the F.B.I are indeed the enemies of the people.
- The Mule (2018)
Clint once again directs himself in a very entertaining movie based on the true story of Leo Sharp, a 90-year-old man who became a mule for a drug cartel.
Yet another Eastwood parable, this one is about two vital things: the importance of family over everything else and that it is never too late to realize that and make up for it.
Eastwood’s Earl Stone might believe he’s been given a second chance to enjoy a lot of money and threesomes with sexy prostitutes, but this is really a journey about accepting responsibility and discovering what matters.
- American Sniper (2014)
Only Clint Eastwood would have the moral courage and the weight in Hollywood to tell the true story Chris Kyle without judging him or his cause. This is Chris Kyle’s movie, it’s based on his autobiography, and Clint lets him tell the story his way, including his ideas about the War on Terror and Islamic terrorism.
The results are stunning, moving, unforgettable, and more than a half-billion dollars in ticket sales from a hungry public eager to hear directly from these men as opposed to Hollywood assholes who believe they should speak for them.
- Gran Torino (2008)
Eastwood’s most entertaining and important parable since Bronco Billy (1980), this one about what it means to be a man. And like all parables, the moral is a simple one: don’t be a bigot, don’t be thin-skinned, pay your own way through life, stand up for yourself, and it’s better to pay for your sins here on earth than in the afterlife.
A timeless masterpiece that becomes richer with each viewing.