2. Sudden Impact (1983)
After a stint of two bad sequels, Magnum Force and The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood himself would take charge of the next Dirty Harry movie, producing and directing Sudden Impact, the fourth film in the series and certainly one of its best. Alongside The Dead Pool, Sudden Impact would come to ensure that the majority of the Dirty Harry movies would be worth watching alongside the original, and would save the iconic character from falling into the pit of many famous one hit wonders lost to poorly conceived second or third outings.
Eastwood would share the spotlight with Sondra Locke. Playing Jennifer Spencer, whom in revenge for a gang rape brought upon both her and her sister is killing the rapists off one by one, Locke is a notable step forward from The Enforcer’s Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), and the film’s split focus between her motivations and Harry Callahan’s tracking down of the killer makes for a dynamic and interesting movie.
Spencer and Callahan’s stories are not only compelling but are both intertwined incredibly well, with Spencer’s story working as a fantastic rape-revenge movie (similar to that of Ms. 45) and Callahan’s half of the movie working as a comedy-cop movie. Although the two completely contrasting styles seem jarring on paper, Eastwood pulls it off.
With excellent character work, great action sequences, a perfect balance between humour and the more serious elements of the film, plus the introduction of Callahan’s canine sidekick Meathead, Sudden Impact is the closest contender to the claim of being the best Dirty Harry movie, only ever-so-slightly missing out on the top spot to the one you’ve probably been waiting for…
1. Dirty Harry (1971)
Was there ever any doubt?
Although the series as a whole provides some serious contenders to the number one spot, there really is no beating the original.
The movie that would use the new Hollywood movement, and plenty of influence from the Man With No Name Trilogy, in order to reinvent the cop movie and introduce a unique character in Harry Callahan – a character whose morals are on full display yet constantly made ambiguous by how far he will go to uphold such morals – Dirty Harry changed the cop movie forever, offering a timely fictional take on the story of the Zodiac Killer in the process.
It’s easy to see why Callahan would go on to define Eastwood. His performance is terrific and has become iconic, with famous quotes, quips and moments littered throughout this 1971 hit, many of which are kept relevant through parody and homage to this very day.
Ironically, he is somewhat outshone in the movie itself by Andrew Robinson’s Scorpio Killer. The actor, who was making his feature film debut, provides a performance so disturbing that it remains chilling to this day, a testament to the performance, writing and direction that showcases the importance of Dirty Harry as a cinematic release.
Despite being 49 years old, Dirty Harry still holds up to this day as an incredible piece of filmmaking. It is, without a doubt, a masterpiece in every sense of the word; arguably an all-time great and important American film and certainly the best in the Dirty Harry franchise.
But what do you think? Would you have placed Dirty Harry as your number 1? Would you have chosen a different order? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more articles like this one.