Clint Eastwood was already on his way to becoming an action star for a new generation with The Man With No Name trilogy in the '60s. The first Dirty Harry movie from 1971 accelerated that rise and crowned the 41-year-old San Francisco native the biggest new movie star of the young decade.

It's hard to picture anyone else in the role today, so closely tied are perpetual hard-ass Eastwood and Harry Callahan, the steely San Francisco Police Department inspector who doesn't let little things like laws get in the way of his singular way of dispensing justice.

From the start, Harry was all about breaking rules to cut through the web of bureaucratic paperwork that got in the way of his job. In the first movie, he famously quipped to a bank robber while pointing a .44 Magnum at him, "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?" The line instantly became a movie classic and posited Harry Callahan as a new breed of street cop.

Dirty Harry's success spawned four more movies through the late '80s, each more violent than the one that came before it. There have been tons of controversies along the way -- the movies have been called racist, misogynist and fascist, and have inspired more than one real-life copycat killing. And some of them seem way out of step with the times, even in their own eras.

But there's no denying the cultural pull Dirty Harry -- the character and the movies -- has had on crime and action films over the past half-century, for better or worse. An entire subgenre has been formed and influenced by them. Here's how those five industry-shaking movies rank.






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