Clint Eastwood's latest film is American Sniper, which is based on Chris Kyle's memoir about his service in Iraq. Bradley Cooper stars as the Navy SEAL. The movie will open December 25th in select major cities and January 16th all over the USA.
Most folks think about Clint as an actor but American Sniper represents his 34th feature film as a director. As we count down the days until Sniper hits theaters, here are five great military films directed by Eastwood.
1. Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
It's hard to fathom that it's been almost thirty years since Eastwood perfected his cranky old man character in a film where he plays old-school USMC Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway. As his last assignment before retirement, Highway is tasked with training a recon platoon full of modern, undisciplined Marines with a bad attitude. Spoiler: old school wins.
Young Marines who are tired of hearing how much more disciplined things were back in the old days will especially appreciate this, since today's senior brass are the terrible recruits who need Eastwood to teach them the true path.
2. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Eastwood again directs himself as the title character. Most people think of this as a western, but Clint plays a Missouri farmer who joins a Confederate guerrilla unit after Union troops murder his family. The Union promises amnesty at the end of the war, but Wales escapes as his unit is executed. Then Eastwood extracts his revenge.
The Oscar-winning Unforgiven is generally recognized as Eastwood's best western but this one might be even better.
3. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Eastwood doesn't appear in this film recounting the life stories of the men who raised the United States flag at Iwo Jima during World War II, a moment captured in an iconic photo that later inspired the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA.
It's a great meditation on the myths the government tells civilians about war and warfighters versus the realities faced by the men who fought the war.
4. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
Further complicating the story he told in Flags of Our Fathers, this movie tells the story of the same battle from the Japanese perspective. Both films were made at the same time and they're really best watched as a double feature.
Eastwood humanizes the Japanese men who fought for their country during that era, a powerful decision from a director old enough to remember the virulent anti-Japanese propaganda from the WWII years.
5. Firefox (1982)
Eastwood directs himself as Mitchell Gant, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who's sent on a secret mission to the USSR to steal a prototype Soviet fighter jet.
This one is full-on '80s action picture, with loud music and borderline special effects. Clint doesn't look totally comfortable with the enterprise and he never made this kind of mainstream action picture again, but Firefox deserves to be included with Stallone and Schwarzenegger flicks in your Reagan-era movie nights.