Dirty Harry, Top Ten

The Dirty Harry Franchise: The Definitive Ranking

This is one of those franchises that probably shouldn’t exist because its first film was so obviously built to be a stand-alone film. The story of a cop who becomes so jaded by the institutional rot around him that he kills the bad guy and throws away his badge probably shouldn’t have been followed up with a sequel where he, you know, still has his badge.

Still, for what it was, a hodgepodge of a series of films made over almost 20 years, there was a surprising amount of connective tissue to hold most of them together. There really did seem to be an effort to try and understand what Harry Callahan represented and not to just replicate the cool lines that made him famous (though the opening of Magnum Force with a voiceover of the famous “Do you feel lucky” moment over a red background and the Magnum pistol is probably the most embarrassing moment in the whole franchise). There were the traffic cops who took things one minor step further than Callahan. There was the female cop facing the rise of the revolutionary group. There was the woman in the small town needing to find her own justice. These were all variations on the ideas from the first, and I appreciate that.

And then there’s The Dead Pool which probably shouldn’t even be a Dirty Harry movie at all.

Still, it was at least an interesting little journey, even if it wasn’t always all that successful.

Once again, here is my ranking of the franchise, definitively put together, of course, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the rankings I’ve done. You’ll love the definitiveness of them all.

5. The Dead Pool

“So, it’s not really a Dirty Harry movie, but it’s a perfectly functional mystery cop movie. It raises an interesting question about media responsibility before kind of forgetting that it asked it. The mystery works in the most basic of terms, but there’s little to grasp onto narratively while it seemingly knowingly descends into silliness with a particular car chase. It’s the least of the Dirty Harry films, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bad.”

4. Magnum Force

“For about forty-five minutes of this film, I was pretty engaged. The rest of the film left me largely bored, though.”

3. The Enforcer

“Is it good? I wouldn’t quite go that far. The noncommittal approach to all of its actual ideas combined with the generic nature of its antagonist holds it back enough, but that comic tone and solid foundation of Harry and Kate works well enough.”

2. Sudden Impact

Sudden Impact is barely a Dirty Harry movie, but it’s still a pretty good movie.”

1. Dirty Harry

“It’s a star making film for a man who was already a star, evidence that he was really one of the biggest men in Hollywood at the time and really understood his own star power, surrounded by other creatives who understood it as well as he did. There’s some roughness that gets me, but otherwise, this is an intelligent, tense thriller that builds on what came before and really provides a great twist on well-worn formula.”

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