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The Biggest Clint Eastwood Movies Of All Time

It's hard to imagine a modern American movie landscape without Clint Eastwood. Initially the performer who changed the way cowboys and crooked cops were depicted on the big screen, Eastwood soon became a filmmaker who was just as well-known for delivering prestige pictures that could snag Oscar glory without missing a beat. With all these accomplishments under his belt, or even just his decades of acting and directing credits, it becomes easy to understand why Eastwood is so inextricably tied to the world of American cinema. However, Eastwood's strengths also extend to his box office track record as a director. Even when he's not starring in his filmmaking efforts, Eastwood has shown a remarkable ability to deliver consistently solid box office results for his long-time home of Warner Bros.

These box office hits range from a 1990s reflection on the Westerns that set Eastwood on the path to movie stardom to recent efforts that chronicle notable figures in modern American history. Through examining the success of the biggest Clint Eastwood directorial efforts of all time, one finds further evidence of just what a sizeable impact this one man has had on the state of American cinema as we know it.

12. Hereafter

Typically, Clint Eastwood movies make the majority of their money in North America. That's not really surprising given that Eastwood's biggest films traditionally deal with genres (like Westerns) or real-world figures (like Chris Kyle) that typically only people on that continent are really knowledgeable about. A major exception to this rule, however, was his 2010 film "Hereafter," a supernatural drama focusing on a trio of people, including a construction worker played by Matt Damon, who all have some sort of connection to the dead.

The broader spiritual premise of "Hereafter" had a greater chance of catching on with people worldwide. Though it failed to leave a significant impact domestically by grossing just $32.7 million, "Hereafter" did score $75.9 million overseas, bringing it up to a $108.6 million haul worldwide. To date, "Hereafter" is the seventh-biggest Eastwood directorial effort in international markets, while its overall global gross was slightly more than double its $50 million budget. While not a runaway smash, "Hereafter" did prove to be an okay performer as well as a sign that Eastwood's films could subvert box office norms and overperform internationally.

11. Changeling

Throughout the 2000s, Angelina Jolie scored her biggest box office hits with action movies like "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and "Wanted." However, just because she was famous for the way she could throw a punch, that doesn't mean it's the only genre she regularly called home during this era of her career. Jolie also found time to explore grounded dramas more interested in dissecting the human condition rather than blowing up big buildings. Among these forays was 2008's Eastwood-directed "Changeling."

In its theatrical run, "Changeling" grossed $113.8 million worldwide, which included only $35.7 million in North America. This lower domestic sum can be attributed to the darker premise — concerning a kidnapped child — alienating moviegoers, as well as the marketing just not grabbing people. "Changeling" didn't become a box office sensation domestically, but its challenging story material meant that distributor Universal was apparently pleased with what it did manage to earn. It did help that this wasn't the only place on the planet where "Changeling" made coin. That worldwide sum included a notable $78 million haul in international markets. That hefty total was a testament to just how much appeal Jolie has in those countries. It was a situation much like the one for the 2010 film "The Tourist," where international dollars saved the day for a Jolie vehicle that didn't appeal to domestic moviegoers.

10. Invictus

Released in December 2009, "Invictus" couldn't help but get overshadowed in its initial theatrical run by "The Blind Side," another inspirational sports movie released by Warner Bros. just three weeks earlier. With its lighter tone and focus on the American version of football, "The Blind Side" had a lot more appeal to moviegoers looking for soul-stirring holiday sports fare at the movie theater. But "Invictus" still managed to fare decently on its own terms during its global box office run.

Unsurprisingly for a movie focusing on a soccer team in South Africa, "Invictus" made much of its worldwide gross from international moviegoers, with that segment of the planet providing 70% of its eventual $124.5 million haul. While that wasn't a substantial sum, "Invictus" has still earned more worldwide than other, more costly Matt Damon titles such as "Downsizing" and "The Brothers Grimm," while also making more than several other Eastwood directorial efforts such as the preceding year's "Changeling." Competition from features like "The Blind Side" may have tripped it up, but "Invictus" still managed a solid box office run.

9. Space Cowboys

Though the title may make it sound like a comedy about Jim Varney and Jeff Foxworthy heading out into the cosmos, "Space Cowboys" was a Clint Eastwood-directed drama that allowed a star-studded quartet to all work together for the first time. Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner all toplined the production in addition to Eastwood. Such a jam-packed cast helped "Space Cowboys" soar to a $128.8 million worldwide total, including $90.5 million from North America. The only problem with such a haul was that overseas territories only brought $38.4 million to the table, ensuring that "Space Cowboys" came up just short of doubling its $65 million budget to break even. 

Still, a $128.8 million gross was nothing to sneeze at, especially since the film was headlined by old-timers rather than big-name young stars. Plus, domestically, "Space Cowboys" provided a bright spot in the summer of 2000, with The New York Times dubbing it and "What Lies Beneath" as rare examples of significant sleeper hits during the season. While certain blockbusters that summer couldn't be counted on to deliver massive box office, the prospect of Clint Eastwood and three other famous veteran actors going to space was something that easily drew in crowds. Clearly, these performers still appealed to moviegoers and that helped it enormously at the box office.

8. Mystic River

The premise of "Mystic River" is not the most palatable. Following the death of his daughter, the ex-con father (Sean Penn) of the deceased young girl grapples with whether or not to engage in vigilante justice. It's heavy material that one could imagine would easily turn off moviegoers just looking for surface-level escapism. Surprisingly, though, "Mystic River" turned into a notable hit in its 2003 theatrical run thanks to a variety of helpful factors.

For one thing, "Mystic River" was based on a best selling, award-winning 2001 novel by Dennis Lehane. It helped, too, that the film adaptation of the novel scored widespread acclaim and awards buzz, particularly for the performances of Penn and Tim Robbins. Plus, while the premise was darker, "Mystic River" was an investigative drama built around a murder mystery, which has proven enduringly popular at the box office. Thanks to these and other elements, "Mystic River" proceeded to gross $156.8 million despite, and even because of, its bleak story.

7. Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood has made a number of movies across several genres, but thanks to his work with director Sergio Leone in the 1960s, he'll always be associated with Westerns. Eastwood used that close connection for introspective purposes on the 1992 Best Picture winner "Unforgiven." Despite its dark, melancholy tone and deconstruction of classic Western archetypes, "Unforgiven" managed to become a big hit even before it scored Oscar gold.

"Unforgiven" amassed $159.1 million worldwide, including a whopping $101.1 million in North America. Not only did this make "Unforgiven" a substantially profitable affair on just a $14 million budget, but it also became only the second Clint Eastwood star vehicle to crack $100 million in North America following "Every Which Way But Loose." Playing off Eastwood's iconic image from those seminal 1960s Westerns gave "Unforgiven" an established fan base that was excited to see Eastwood return to the genre that made him a movie star in the first place. Plus "Unforgiven" stuck around long enough — eight months — to get a major surge at the domestic box office thanks to a quartet of Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. This achievement reflected just how enduringly popular "Unforgiven" had already become, as well as how financially reliable Eastwood could be in Western mode. 

6. The Mule

In December 2018, you couldn't throw a stone without hitting a major blockbuster title attached to some famous franchise. "Mary Poppins Returns," "Aquaman," "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," and others were all crowding multiplex screens. But providing some low-key adult-skewing counterprogramming against all these sequels and spin-offs was none other than "The Mule." This film was extra special in that it also saw the director stepping in front of the camera for the first time since "Trouble with the Curve" six years prior.

The appeal of seeing Eastwood acting again, not to mention benefiting from extended end-of-December holidays and serving as counterprogramming for a barrage of family-skewing titles, teed "The Mule" up for a successful box office run. Surpassing pre-release expectations, "The Mule" managed to crack $173.4 million globally, which includes a sizeable $103.8 million domestic haul. The latter gross prompted outlets like The Hollywood Reporter to pen pieces remarking on the staying power "The Mule" had. Not only did this financial endurance make "The Mule" one of his more lucrative directorial efforts, but it also became Eastwood's third highest-grossing film ever in North America as an actor. Even a crowded schedule of expensive blockbusters couldn't keep "The Mule" down.

5. The Bridges of Madison County

With "The Bridges of Madison County," director and star Clint Eastwood would not just be leaning on his own name to get audiences into the movie theater. Co-lead Meryl Streep — the star of two prior Best Picture winners, "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Out of Africa" – would also be a major draw, as would the massive success of the 1992 best selling novella on which it was based.

"The Bridges of Madison County" started modestly, with a North America opening weekend that was dubbed "respectable" but not outstanding by the Los Angeles Times. But audiences here and in other countries liked what they saw in "Madison County," inspiring strong word-of-mouth that kept the film in theaters for a good long while. In the end, that positive buzz ensured a $175.5 million global gross. At the time, this was the second-biggest movie ever for Meryl Streep at the worldwide box office. It was also more than enough to make "Madison County" a profitable venture given its $22 million budget, while the fact that this film took in $104 million internationally made it the rare Eastwood directorial effort to earn more overseas than in North America. All these feats made "The Bridges of Madison County" a tearjerker with real box office power, a testament to the combined appeal of Eastwood, Streep and the book itself.

4. Million Dollar Baby

Though not a surefire hit every time they step into the box office ring, boxing movies can make a pretty penny in theaters if they strike the right chord with moviegoers. The sport just looks so extra visceral on the big screen and can serve as a vivid and emotionally engaging metaphor for an assortment of real-world struggles. Clint Eastwood reaffirmed the enduring viability of boxing features in 2004 thanks to the success of the film "Million Dollar Baby."

One thing that proved both shrewd and successful for "Million Dollar Baby" was how distributor Warner Bros. refused to rush this one's theatrical run. Instead, "Million Dollar Baby" spent six weeks in limited release where it built up word-of-mouth. By the end of January 2004, it expanded into wide release and promptly capitalized on all that bubbling acclaim to become a smash hit. Once the dust cleared, "Million Dollar Baby" had thrown enough punches to crack $231.9 million worldwide, while earning Eastwood his second pair of Best Picture and Best Director Oscars. You can never dismiss the pull of boxing movies, even if the genre seems to be down for the count.

3. Sully

With "American Sniper" becoming a box office sensation, the only problem facing director Clint Eastwood was how he could follow it up. Anything he made in the wake of that Chris Kyle biopic was bound to be looked at as a disappointment, either critically or financially. Eastwood opted to swerve around that problem by making an adult-skewing drama about a famous figure adored by the public. This time, he'd helm "Sully," a feature based around the incredible story of retired fighter and commercial pilot Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger.

While not as big as "American Sniper," "Sully" still proved to be a box office hit largely based on the widespread likability of the man it was based on. Of course, it didn't hurt that the proceedings were anchored by Tom Hanks, a man already thought of as an American treasure by so many. Launching the film in a post-Labor Day weekend slot made it the first big drama of fall 2016, giving it little competition to immediately contend with. Grossing $238.5 million worldwide, "Sully" did roughly four times its $60 million budget and proved that Eastwood wasn't going to be stuck in the shadow of "American Sniper" at the box office.

2. Gran Torino

"Get off my lawn!" With those four words, the trailers for "Gran Torino" were seared into the brains of moviegoers. Clint Eastwood, who both directed and starred in this 2008 feature, was capturing the grim no-nonsense attitude Eastwood had cultivated in his silver screen persona. The marketing for this film told audiences one thing above all else: come to this movie and you'll get just what you want with regards to Eastwood. That appears to have been quite the enticing prospect since "Gran Torino" became a smash hit.

This is all the more impressive given that "Gran Torino" missed out on gathering up major Oscar nods like Best Picture or Best Actor. Unlike so many other adult dramas, though, "Gran Torino" did not need Oscar recognition to get the attention of audiences. In fact, the film proved to be a sleeper hit when it debuted atop the domestic box office once it expanded into wide release in January 2009. This impressive feat was followed up by solid legs in its subsequent weekends of play in North America. Success for "Gran Torino" was not limited just to this continent, though. In fact, "Gran Torino" managed to stir up $274.5 million worldwide largely based on the appeal of Eastwood as well as the reliably marketable plotline of neighbors from different backgrounds learning to get along. Oh, and delivering a memorable catchphrase like "Get off my lawn!" certainly didn't hurt either.

1. American Sniper

"American Sniper" wasn't just an unusually major hit for a Clint Eastwood directorial effort. It broke box office ground on a multitude of levels. For one thing, it was the rare pre-"Deadpool" R-rated movie to exceed $500 million at the worldwide box office. For another, it also became the first R-rated feature to top the yearly domestic box office since "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998. It also became far and away the highest-grossing Eastwood film ever globally, thanks to the massive $547.3 million "American Sniper" procured during its run.

With a sum like that, it becomes apparent that "American Sniper" did not just appeal to devotees to Eastwood's work. Focusing on famed sniper Chris Kyle, it opened up the doors for "Sniper" to tap into the man's massive following. Thanks to this, "American Sniper" wasn't just a sleeper hit, but became an outright pop culture phenomenon. The fact that it was able to score a slew of Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, only increased its must-see factor. It also gave director Clint Eastwood a new career high at the worldwide box office, an impressive feat for a man who had been in the film industry for decades at that point. But somebody like Eastwood never truly forgets how to tap into the zeitgeist and produce something that takes on a life of its own, as "American Sniper" can attest.