Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ Movies Defined The Modern Detective Character


When you see Clint Eastwood take charge as “Dirty Harry” Callahan, you realize that a new kind of detective is here. Callahan, when the character first premiered back in 1971, was new to people in the theaters. His methods are not by the book. Dirty Harry takes on a case and will get to the bottom of it but in his style. He’s liable to inch his way toward breaking a rule or law. That doesn’t keep him from solving a crime.

Clint Eastwood gives Callahan a tough exterior. He’s not letting too many people get close to him. He’s pretty focused on his detective work. As long as there are criminals out on the streets, then Dirty Harry will be running them down. Yes, he will also show no shame in pulling out his Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum. Let’s run through the Dirty Harry movies and see what Callahan faces.

‘Dirty Harry’ (1971), the Start of Clint Eastwood’s Fictional Detective Career

San Francisco is put on edge by the “Scorpio Killer,” who is leaving a trail of victims behind him. The killer also leaves ransom notes, calling forth his own desires after killing someone. The case falls into the hands of Callahan who, along with Inspector Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni), gets busy with their search. Callahan doesn’t take any gruff from people. He will get his way…or else. Clint Eastwood starts Harry’s journey with this flick.

‘Magnum Force’ (1973)

This movie finds Callahan along with his partner Early Smith working out of Stakeout Duty. A rash of killings by a group of unknown assassins puts the public on edge. The case looks and smells right up Callahan’s alley. Another one of Dirty Harry’s traits is his stubbornness. That takes center stage as he starts to investigate these killings. He’s been ordered not to do this. Still, who can really stop Callahan when he gets going? No one. Again, Clint Eastwood brings out his best in this movie.


‘The Enforcer’ (1976)

Threats to blow up the entire city of San Franciso are bearing down on the police department. They come from a terrorist group made up of Vietnam veterans. Callahan finds himself not on a case due to his own style and attitude during a robbery case. Still, he gets sent to get in touch with this group. In addition, Dirty Harry has to work with his new partner, Inspector Kate Moore (Tyne Daly).

‘Sudden Impact’ (1983)

This movie lets Dirty Harry fans see him cut down criminals left and right. Yet he finds himself chasing down a serial killer. This one happens to be a woman who is out for vengeance on her aggressors. She and her sister were raped. Of course, the string of killings concerns police. Callahan, on ice for his usual crappy attitude, gets shipped out to Sao Paulo, down the Pacific Coast. It’s there that Harry starts his quest to solve the case.

‘The Dead Pool’ (1988)

For his work, people look at Dirty Harry as a hero and celebrity. Could becoming a celebrity in San Francisco bounce back in his face? It’s possible. Callahan just made headlines by sticking a mobster behind bars. Yet he’s part of a list of celebrities on a death watch. Deaths start to pile up, getting more violent one after the other. Finding out who is behind “the Dead Pool” game keeps Harry busy. But he’s dogged and determined to find that person. Just like people figured he would be.