Clint Eastwood the Director - What the Figures Show us

Clint Eastwood the Director - What the Figures Show us

Clint Eastwood's 50-year career as a director is marked by his unique style, diverse filmography, and critical acclaim. He has made many influential films, earning many awards and nominations. Join us in The Rewind Zone as we examine the finances of his legendary career and see which films shine above the rest.

If you prefer a visual format, check out our video below.

How we calculated it

To compare all films equally, we have had to use inflation-adjusted figures. This means adjusting figures from all past movies to reflect 2023 values using an inflation calculator.

Before we begin, I think it’s important to state that these figures are in no way a true reflection of the film's full financial results. We can only use the information provided, like budgets and revenues, to submit our findings.

To give you some context of the scale of Clint Eastwood's portfolio, we have calculated his stats as both a director and an actor. According to these figures, Clint ranks as the 11th most successful director in Hollywood for the US box office.


Technically, Clint has only 39 films to his name, as he is listed as an uncredited director for 1984’s Tightrope.

This is an overview of Clint Eastwood's career as a director. It began with "Play Misty for Me" in 1971, when Clint was 40 years old. He directed a further 39 films, with his last film being "Cry Macho," released in 2021 when he was 90 years old.

The Results

There is so much information that we have gathered that we have decided to break this video into three categories. In this first segment, we will delve into the Highest and Lowest for Budget, Profitability and Return on Investment (ROI)

Of all Clints films, Space Cowboys from 2000 takes the title for the highest adjusted budget of $100 million. It’s easy to understand why, with the ensemble cast, the special effects, and the blockbuster nature of this film. It is an unusual film in Clint’s repertoire, but it was a financial success nonetheless.

The lowest of Clint’s budgets came in 1973’s Breezy. This was Eastwood’s third film at the Helm, soon after the successful High Plains Drifter had been released earlier in the same year. In 1973, the original budget was just $1.5 million.

An interesting summation for me was to see which films were Clint’s most profitable. 2014’s American Sniper made a whopping $525 million profit! The film starred Hollywood A-listers Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. On the other end was the poor performance of 1999’s True Crime, which made a $60 million loss. This crime mystery starred Clint in the main role, alongside Isaiah Washington, James Woods, and Dennis Leary in supporting roles.

Interesting Side Note

Eastwood's financial adviser, Irving Leonard, created his production company with the earnings from the successful Dollars Trilogy. Clint wanted to start his own production company because he saw other studios wasting money unnecessarily. Eastwood is known for finishing his films on schedule and on budget, or earlier and under budget, typically in less time than most production companies. With this in mind, we thought it would be fitting to see his best and worst ROI’s.

Return On Investment

Award-winning revisionist Western Unforgiven in 1992 came out trumps with an incredible ROI of 91.33%. The film had an adjusted budget of just $25.6 million and returned $295.20 million! The underappreciated and undervalued film in Eastwood's catalogue is the 1990 White Hunter Black Heart.

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The film was sadly a box office bomb, generating only $4.5 million from its budget of $47.7 million, leading it directly to last place with a ROI of -960%.

Over the five decades Clint has been directing films, we wanted to know which decades stood out for certain categories. We deduced a winning decade from the information gathered, and the 70's, in our opinion, win out over the rest. Being new to directing, we think his stats speak for themselves. With a massive ROI, he himself acted in the lead roles for 83% of the films, with some true classics like “High Plains Drifter” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales” under his belt. This was followed closely by the 2010’s + with the highest profit (Albeit it mainly from 2 films that starred Bradley Cooper and Tom Hanks as draw cards).

As we approach the announcement of our winners and losers, we've compiled some top 5 lists to delve further into which films succeeded and which failed. We've already discussed the films in first and second place. Interestingly, Gran Torino takes the third spot, followed by The Bridges of Madison County and Million Dollar Baby.

1st to 3rd place have been mentioned previously, but Cry Macho takes 4th and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes 5th spot for the least profitable films.

It’s interesting to see the Top 5 ROI’s don’t match the Top 5 Most Profitable. Play Misty for Me and The Outlaw Josey Wales was developed on a minimal budget yet returned great box office figures.

The worst ROI’s stay in line with the least profitable films, just in a slightly shuffled order.

Final Result

With all this work, you have to have a winner and a loser! If you’ve made it this far, then that time is now. We took all factors involved with the finances and added in one more very important aspect to ultimately determine our winner and loser: ratings! Without the satisfaction and engagement of your audience, the figures don’t mean anything. Our final results are:

Well, there you have it, folks. In our humble opinion, 1992’s Unforgiven, for it’s amazing ROI, high profits, high ratings, and critical acclaim, has taken the top spot. Sadly, 2021’s Cry Macho, with it’s poor showing and generally mixed reviews, lands at the bottom of the pile.

With the announcement that Clint Eastwood is set to direct his 40th and final film, Juror #2, later in 2023, we truly hope he is able to end what has been a phenomenal career on a high note.

Thanks, Mr. Eastwood, for sharing your stories with us for so long. You are a legend of the screen!