Eastwood co-starred with Marsha Mason in the military drama Heartbreak Ridge (1986), about the 1983 United States invasion of Grenada. He portrays a United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War who realizes he is nearing the end of his military service. Production and filming were marred by internal disagreements between Eastwood and long-time friend and producer Fritz Manes, as well as between Eastwood and the United States Department of Defense who expressed contempt for the film. At the time, the film was a commercial rather than a critical success, and has only come to be viewed more favorably in recent times. The film grossed $70 million domestically.
The Dollars trilogy was not released in the United States until 1967, when A Fistful of Dollars opened on January 18, followed by For a Few Dollars More on May 10, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on December 29. All three were commercially successful, particularly The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which eventually earned $8 million in rental earnings and turned Eastwood into a major film star being ranked for the first time on Quigley's Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in 1968 in fifth place. All three received poor reviews, and marked the beginning of a battle for Eastwood to win American film critics' respect. Judith Crist described A Fistful of Dollars as "cheapjack," while Newsweek called For a Few Dollars More "excruciatingly dopey." Renata Adler of The New York Times said The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was "the most expensive, pious and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre." Time magazine drew attention to the film's wooden acting, especially Eastwood's, though a few critics such as Vincent Canby and Bosley Crowther of The New York Times praised his coolness. Leone's cinematography was widely acclaimed, even by critics who disparaged the acting.More Info
Eastwood directed and starred in Honkytonk Man (1982), based on the eponymous Clancy Carlile's depression-era novel. Eastwood portrays a struggling western singer Red Stovall who suffers from tuberculosis, but has finally been given an opportunity to make it big at the Grand Ole Opry. He is accompanied by his young nephew (played by real-life son Kyle) to Nashville, Tennessee, where he is supposed to record a song. Only Time gave the film a good review in the United States, with most reviewers criticizing its blend of muted humor and tragedy. Nevertheless, the film received a more positive reception in France, where it was compared to John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, and it has since acquired the very high rating of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Around the same time, Eastwood directed, produced, and starred in the Cold War-themed Firefox (also 1982). Based on a 1977 novel with the same name written by Craig Thomas, the film was shot before but released after Honkytonk Man. Russian filming locations were not possible due to the Cold War, and the film had to be shot in Vienna and other locations in Austria to simulate many of the Eurasian story locations. With a production cost of $20 million, it was Eastwood's highest budget film to that time. People magazine likened Eastwood's performance to "Luke Skywalker trapped in Dirty Harry's Soul".More Info
Stardom brought Eastwood more roles. He signed to star in the American revisionist western Hang 'Em High (1968) alongside Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle, Dennis Hopper, Ed Begley, Alan Hale, Jr., Ben Johnson, Bruce Dern, and James MacArthur, playing a man who takes up a Marshal's badge and seeks revenge as a lawman after being lynched by vigilantes and left for dead. The film earned Eastwood $400,000 and 25% of its net box office. Using money earned from the Dollars trilogy, Eastwood's advisor Irving Leonard helped establish Eastwood's own production company, Malpaso Productions, named after Malpaso Creek on Eastwood's property in Monterey County, California. The 38-year-old actor was still relatively unknown as late as a month prior to the film's release, as evidenced by a July 1968 news item by syndicated columnist Dorothy Manners: "The proverbial man in the street is still asking, 'Who's Clint Eastwood?'" Leonard arranged for Hang 'Em High to be a joint production with United Artists; when it opened in August 1968, it had the largest opening weekend in United Artists' history. Hang 'Em High was widely praised by critics, including Archer Winsten of the New York Post, who called it "a western of quality, courage, danger and excitement."More Info
Dirty Harry (1971), written by Harry and Rita Fink, centers on a hard-edged New York City (later changed to San Francisco) police inspector named Harry Callahan who is determined to stop a psychotic killer by any means. Dirty Harry has been described as being arguably Eastwood's most memorable character, and the film has been credited with inventing the "loose-cannon cop" genre. Author Eric Lichtenfeld argues that Eastwood's role as Dirty Harry established the "first true archetype" of the action film genre. His lines (quoted above) are regarded by firearms historians, such as Garry James and Richard Venola, as the force that catapulted the ownership of .44 Magnum revolvers to new heights in the United States; specifically the Smith & Wesson Model 29 carried by Harry Callahan. Dirty Harry, released in December 1971, earned $22 million in the United States and Canada. It was Siegel's highest-grossing film and the start of a series of films featuring the character Harry Callahan. Although a number of critics praised Eastwood's performance as Dirty Harry, such as Jay Cocks who described him as "giving his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character," the film was also widely criticized as being fascistic. After having been second for the past two years, Eastwood was voted first in Quigley's Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in 1972 and again in 1973.More Info
Before Hang 'Em High's release, Eastwood had already begun working on Coogan's Bluff (1968), about an Arizona deputy sheriff tracking a wanted psychopathic criminal (Don Stroud) through New York City. He was reunited with Universal Studios for it after receiving an offer of $1 million – more than double his previous salary. Jennings Lang arranged for Eastwood to meet Don Siegel, a Universal contract director who later became Eastwood's close friend, forming a partnership that would last more than ten years and produce five films. Shooting began in November 1967, before the script had been finalized. The film was controversial for its portrayal of violence. Coogan's Bluff also became the first collaboration with Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin, who scored several Eastwood films in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Dirty Harry films.More Info
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