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The Forgotten Clint Eastwood Western That's Heating Up On Netflix

Both as a director and actor, one of Clint Eastwood's ambitions has always been to interrogate the myths of the Old West, messing with the "lone rider" image he created in his early Westerns like "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." Films like "High Plains Drifter" and "Hang 'Em High" made a point of questioning the conservative ideology of American politics, even if Eastwood still got to look tough and pull a pistol when necessary.

One of his best, most subversive films of this period is "The Outlaw Josey Wales," a 1976 actioner. It's one of the few critically acclaimed and financially successful Westerns of the period, as the genre was seen as in decline.

Eastwood directs and stars as the title character, an ex-Confederate guerilla who becomes an outlaw after the end of the war. Pursued by Union soldiers and bounty hunters, Wales only wants to be left alone but accidentally picks up several traveling companions, and in the process starts an odd found family of sorts.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is one of Eastwood's best movies

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" was co-written by Sonia Chersus and Phil Kaufman, the latter of whom was the original director until Eastwood infamously fired him and took over the production. The debacle caused the Director's Guild of America to install the "Eastwood rule" thereafter: No one involved with a production can just get the director fired and take their job.

The result, whether because of Eastwood's considerable directing abilities or a brilliant script that wrestles mostly successfully with some dense Civil War politics, is still a pretty great movie. Eastwood smartly focuses on Wales not as some symbol of noble Confederates but as a man exhausted by war who wants to live in peace. By the end of the movie, the character isn't a lone warrior anymore but has built a life with friends and family — the opposite of the traditional Western hero seen in "The Searchers" and "Shane."

Eastwood said in 2011 that he always intended "Josey Wales" to be an anti-war Western: "As for Josey Wales, I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends." (Wall Street Journal)

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" is currently streaming on Netflix if you want to see one of Eastwood's great 70s Westerns for yourself.