Clint Eastwood westerns are the most iconic western films since the early efforts teaming John Wayne with director John Ford. As both a director and actor, Clint Eastwood has helped shape the genre into what it is today, something entirely darker, more reflective, and more violent—likely more realistic—than the escapist fare that tended to precede him. His big break came as the star of a trilogy of spaghetti westerns from director Sergio Leone; these are the first true Clint Eastwood westerns. He continued to define the genre with later directorial efforts, culminating with "Unforgiven," the epitome of Clint Eastwood westerns. Here are some highlights of the man's career, great Clint Eastwood westerns.

  1. "A Fistful of Dollars" - The first film starring Eastwood and directed by Italian director Sergio Leone, this spaghetti western homage to Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" stars Clint as the Man With No Name, a wandering gunfighter who enters a town full of warring factions. He seeks to play all sides against the middle, to his advantage, and everything ends in an iconic gunfight. This film set the standard for Clint Eastwood westerns to come.

  2. "For a Few Dollars More" - The sequel to "Fistful" is a superior film, teaming Eastwood's Man With No Name with a bounty hunter played by Lee Van Cleef, each man having his own motivations to bring down a gang of Mexican bandits. Gunfights, trickery, and silent cool dominate this stylish film, one of the best Clint Eastwood westerns.

  3. "High Plains Drifter" - Eastwood directed himself in this film, in which he plays a variation on his Man With No Name character, a drifter come to a town, where his toughness and skill with a gun endear him to a populace scared of the return of some hardened criminals to down. The drifter has his own reasons for coming to town, though, revealed in a shocking and bloody conclusion that reveals the innocent townspeople aren't so innocent, and that they deserve everything they get.

  4. "Unforgiven" - This Oscar-winning film is the culmination of all Clint Eastwood westerns. The aged Clint plays William Munny, a long-retired killer who returns to the only business he was ever good at when approached by friend Morgan Freeman to collect the bounty on a man who mutilated a small-town prostitute. The town's sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman, in a terrifying performance) has other ideas. The film concludes with an idea of destiny, that a man good at killing can do nothing but. It's a dark film, powerful, and one of the best films ever in the genre.