Clint Eastwood’s 6 Best Cowboy Roles in Film

There are certain performers who become synonymous with not so much a character but rather an archetype. Bruce Lee? Martial artists. Gerard Butler? Cops, Secret Service agents, the like. Toshiro Mifune? The greatest screen samurai of all time.

And when it comes to cowboys, there’s one name at which the subject begins and ends. With zero disrespect meant to John Wayne, Clint Eastwood is and has always been the ultimate screen cowboy.

His films, and the characters he’s played in them, have long defined the Western genre. He brought allure and nuance to a well-trodden archetype and his imprint can still be felt today in everything from Deadwood to Logan.

At one point, Eastwood even seemed to have called it a day for his time on horseback wearing boots and spurs, but 2021 saw him return to the genre in Cry Macho. However, looking back toward the classics, here are some of the best cowboy performances Clint has to offer.


Eastwood redefined what a cowboy could be with The Man With No Name, the mysterious and infinitely badass protagonist of Sergio Leone’s genre-defining Dollars Trilogy.

Throughout A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, The Man moves through a brutal Western landscape of memorable characters, moral ambiguity, and of course a whole lot of gunfights. Every screen cowboy who has come since — including those played by Clint — lives in his shadow.


If you want to start at the real beginning, Eastwood’s breakout role was playing the young, rambunctious Rowdy Yates on the long-running TV Western Rawhide. Eastwood played the wildcard to Eric Fleming’s Gil Favor.

The show was a hit back in the day and while you might not find the same visceral thrills in it that a Leone Western provides, it’s still got its charms that hold up to this day. More importantly, it’s ground zero for Clint’s foray into the world of Westerns.


If the Dollars Trilogy and a yet-to-be-discussed film on here make up Clint’s A-tier of Westerns, put Hang ‘Em High firmly in the B-tier — it may not be as iconic as the others but damn if it ain’t a good time.

Eastwood’s Jed Cooper bridges the gap between Western and revenge film in this number about a Marshal who survives a lynching and hunts down the gang responsible. It’s a great time and well worth spending two hours with.


The protagonist of the eponymous film, Eastwood’s turn as ex-bounty hunter Joe Kidd isn’t quite as esteemed as his other cowboy performances. The film was met to middling reviews at the time and definitely isn’t a part of the modern Western canon.

However, there’s still a good reason to bring this one up: Joe Kidd is written by the legendary author/screenwriter Elmore Leonard, meaning it’s an opportunity to hear Eastwood recite dialogue written by one of the greatest dialogue-writers of all time.


It’s difficult to put into words why The Stranger from High Plains Drifter warrants mentioning here without spoiling why that is. If you’re a Western or Eastwood fan who’s yet to take this one in, best to do it blind.

Just take our word for it.


Eastwood’s masterpiece both in front of the camera and behind it, Unforgiven sees the Western legend tie a bow on the genre and his career as a drifter at large. It’s a stunning meditation on violence and the weight that men who trade in it must carry with them.

Eastwood has never been better — due in no small part to it effectively functioning as a spiritual ending for The Man With No Name, the cowboy legend Eastwood made his name playing.


If you’re looking to celebrate famed actor Clint Eastwood’s cinematic history in your collection with the Clint Eastwood Legacy Collection.

Who is your favorite cowboy brought to screen by Clint Eastwood? Share your thoughts with other fans at, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!