High Plains Drifter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

High Plains Drifter Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 18, 2008
Eastwood at his most nihilistic and vicious. He comes out like an avenging ghost, a supernatural gunfighter collecting the souls of coward men for his return to the underworld. A feeling accentuated by an eerie musical score and strange oniric passages. An extremely satisfying cross between western and horror, well learnt craft from his masters Leone and Siegel.
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2011
The Stranger fails to match up to The Man With No Name.
But still it's a solid enough western flick. With a pinch of super-natural tone, High Plains Drifter is a gruesome blood-bathed ride, quite eery at times.
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2011
There's not many western/ghost stories in the movies despite the rich american tradition of the same ... and this tale of ominous revenge (a precursor to "pale rider") never fails to chill, time after time.
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2011
This isn't your standard western in the slightest, which is why it works so well. I can't say too much beyond that without spoiling one of the coolest western plots ever written. Highly re-watchable thanks to a very clever script (without saying too much, when the Stranger speaks, take his words seriously). This is probably my favorite western film, so give it a shot.
Super Reviewer
½ February 7, 2011
A stranger rides into town. With no name and seemingly no agenda but pure barbarism, he is given carte blanche to fight off a band of invaders who have their sights set on the town. He steals, rapes, and upsets the social hierarchy for his own pleasure. Yet, the town accepts this type of upheaval for their safety from the foreign invaders. While I will not bore you with the obvious parallels that can be made between this film and modern America, I will implore you to watch this film. Eastwood's sophomore directorial effort is one of his finest. Armed with the knowledge he garnered on the sets of Leone's spaghetti westerns, he weaves together a western that touches on the high price of security, social responsibility, and dare I say reincarnation.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2010
Stylistically, this is Clint Eastwood's greatest directorial effort. It just spares no expense at looking and acting cool, much like it's protagonist. Anyone who's a fan of The Man With No Name will find themselves in familiar territory, but in no way does this have the same message as Sergio Leone's westerns. This is extremely dark and ultraviolent, being a morality tale above all. Some of the sequences in this are almost unbelievable, especially The Drifter's entrance into the town. This has an intensity than not many movies share. To say it's a classic is unfair because it tries so hard to be a different kind of western. However, I can say that it's my favorite Western that Clint Eastwood directed.
Super Reviewer
April 25, 2009
A small frontier town is worried and scared for it's future. Three men who murdered the sheriff in front of the whole town have been released from jail and are heading back to take revenge on the town. When a stranger comes into town, he is offered anything he wants if he will help defend them against the men. The stranger accepts but both he and the townsfolk have hidden agendas.

High Plains Drifter stands out from Eastwood's many good westerns simply because it is a lack darker than many others I've seen and also possesses a weird supernatural quality to it. The plot is immediately dark, although it starts with Eastwood being who we expect him to be, an early rape sets him out with a more morally complex character than I had expected. This darker, cruel strand continues as it is clear that, although hired to protect them, the stranger also seems to be taking pleasure from harming the town itself.

Those who have seen it will know the ending, although it is evident from the first flashback what the film's twist is. Knowing it doesn't make the film less enjoyable but it is probably better to figure it out yourself. The film also has a good streak of humour going through it and is enjoyable ? the twist of the stranger punishing the townsfolk easily filling the time.

Eastwood is as good as always but the support cast is also full of well known faces. The direction is good and adds to the weird feel to it, the music makes it feel other worldly and the flashbacks to the whipping stop it all getting too light. By the time the town literally becomes hell, the film has always won me over.

Overall this is maybe not the best western Eastwood has ever done but it is certainly one of the most different! The supernatural twist and the streak of cruelty running through the film make it very interesting to watch.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
Fantastic film from Eastwood. Brutal, honest and entertaining.
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2006
Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this obvious homage to Sergio Leone as he resurrects the man with no name character, as an enigmatic gunslinger rides into the town of Lago and promptly kills the gunmen hired by the townsfolk to protect them against a trio of vengeful outlaws. They offer him the run of the town to replace them, but it soon emerges that he has a hidden agenda of his own. Another fine western from Clint, and laced with a healthy dose of the supernatural, this film is unusual in it's complete absence of a "good guy". The morality is not even grey; virtually every character is a self centred immoral hypocrite! Clint himself hasn't the slightest interest in justice, just bloody retribution which he gets in a great climax which sees him shooting it out in the blood red painted, flaming wreckage of the town. Stylish, gritty and an obvious inspiration for fantasy revenge flicks such as The Crow and Eastwood's own Pale Rider.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2007
many consider this to be eastwoods fourth film as the infamous "man with no name". this is the first film that he did with this sort of character that was not directed by sergio leone, and there are enough differences between the man with no name from leones trilogy and eastwoods character in this film to believe that the character is similar, but not the same. eastwood directed this film, and in it a few of the "man with no name's" trademarks are missing and the explination for this character is probably ore supernatural. pay attention to the final 2 minutes of the film, and you will see that eastwood is actually probably playing a ghost in this film. it was a decent film but there really was no character that you could root for. even as the hero, eastwood was more of an antihero with some terrible characterisitics, like a scene when he rapes a woman. this was a decent flick and worth a watch, but doesnt stand up to the man with no name trilogy that it is often compared to.
Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2007
A great western with a theme of revenge....as a mysterious man comes through town to help fight off the local gang making their lives hell. Has some quality scenes and good shoot-outs!
Super Reviewer
½ November 20, 2006
Picture a western version of The Crow, except not gay and way better.
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2006
Really mystery about the Stranger who rode into the guilt-ridden town and I found out at the final scene that he was a ghost. It should be the first supernatural western film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2012
If there's ever an actor that would sell me in watching a western, that man would be Clint Eastwood.

A gunfighting stranger comes to the small settlement of Lago and is hired to bring the townsfolk together in an attempt to hold off three outlaws who are on their way. The best thing about western is that they have good story, and this one is no different. I was mostly satisfied by the story as the more it went on the more I got interested. The small supernatural elements made it more interesting in my opinion as it added a more unique feel as I was watching this. One thing about the story that's bad is that the town people are represented as cowards for the whole movie and they don't exactly improve though the at the end either.

As always, Clint Eastwood performance is spectacular as "the stranger" or nameless cowboy as he known for. Whenever Clint Eastwood is given a unnamed Cowboy you better expect nothing but the best. The direction was great, the cinematography was great, and cast fit well into there characters.

Now this may not be as good as some of Clint Eastwood other western, especially Unforgiven, but it's still a nice alternative and a unique take on the western genre from the man who is the best in that genre.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ June 30, 2011
You know, the rhythm of this title really makes me think of "Catch Scratch Fever", and you know, I'll run with it, because it's better than getting the Beastie Boys song stuck in my head. At any rate, Ted Nugent fits better here, because you know that there is going to be some serious hard rocking when Clint Eastwood takes on this role, and I specifically mean "this" role. So, for the first big western he makes himself, Eastwood plays a charismatically quiet, yet intimidatingly dangerous stranger with no name; now that's new. Well, the big difference with this particular "man with no name" character is that no one dubs Eastwood in Italian, and there is way more weird stuff surrounding him then there ever was in a Sergio Leone western. Yeah, I'm thinking that this guy doesn't so much drift the high plains, as much as he drifts the regular plains, while high, which would be appropriate, considering he is the prince of sin. Naturally, they never say this guy's name, but we all know who he is, so this is pretty much Eastwood's big answer to all of those rather annoying religious references that Hollywood had been throwing in all of their westerns prior to this one. I suppose that would be cooler if this film was more exciting, because even though it is decent, it does indeed drift, more so than it ought to.

I don't suppose the film, running only a little over 100 minutes, is too draggy, but there are a few overdrawn set pieces, some of which are a little forceful in a manner which makes the implied twists sort of obvious sooner that they ostensibly should be, or at least leaves the plot to outstay its welcome enough to hit formulaic moments. I joke about the obvious influence from Sergio Leone, but the genuinely unique aspects of this "supernatural" western go punctuated by the taking of story and storytelling notes from Leone, if not other western filmmakers, which reflect a lack of certainty to Clint Eastwood's storytelling. This uncertainty is kind of understandable, as Eastwood must work hard to transcend natural shortcomings to this minimalist narrative, which is still meaty, yet would have seemed meatier if style didn't also come with its own immediately questionable elements. This particular revisionist western is characterized by trippy, almost abstractionist artistic touches that are admirable as unique, and not even all that overwrought, yet the occasions in which the offbeat meditations are overplayed stand, distancing subjective value with artistic non-conventions to storytelling. Even when the film is traditional in structure, it's often distancing, for Eastwood's quiet directorial intensity is often more quiet than intense, and therefore more dry than Eastwood can handle as a sophomore directorial storytelling, resulting in dullness that is the biggest issue of the final product. Yes, there are subtle problems throughout the film, but there are also considerable strengths, and they stood a real chance of taking a small-scale narrative and molding it into a rewarding thriller, only to go overpowered by the cold spells which, when combined with those subtle missteps, ultimately secure the final product shy of its potential. Still, the film comes close enough to rewarding to endear adequately as a thriller, and a stylish one at that.

Dee Barton's score is genuinely refreshing, capturing the supernatural feel of the film through a fusion of classic western themes and a whimsy which ranges from colorful to rather intense, while Bruce Surtees' cinematography, despite being not quite as playful as Barton's still-underused efforts, is also attractive in its bleakness, with a rugged palette over gritty art direction by Henry Bumstead. Storytelling style is questionable, but make no mistake, musical and visual styles are never less than solid, even when handled in the context of storytelling. Clint Eastwood's orchestration of subtle stylization begets subtle color that rarely allows entertainment value to slip too far, and when slow spells do enter, upon being met with a genuine sense of thoughtfulness, rather than the dryness which plagues this drama as much as anything, they bite, with high tension. Eastwood's direction is overambitious and undercooked at the same time, but when middleground is found, it's hard to deny the potential which has since gone on to be fulfilled more tightly by the talented filmmaker, who sells a fair bit offscreen here, though not as much as he does onscreen. Mostly asked to project a sense of corruption amidst a feeling of liberation from the shackles of morality, most everyone in this cast does fine, with Eastwood predictably stealing the show, with a formulaic, but still-effective portrayal of an intensely charismatic, yet chillingly enigmatic man with no name, or at least a name that is not said, just assumed. The narrative concept is minimalist in scale, and the interpretation gets flimsy, but this story of a stranger gracing, then growing to corrupt ad plague and strange land carries intriguing mystery, in addition to thought-provoking themes on temptation and placing faith in unpredictable features that are stronger than the film itself. If the film is memorable, it's for the themes and relatively gripping latter acts, and while I wish there was more inspiration throughout the film in order to make the final product rewarding on the whole, when the drama bites, it grips as an at least almost rewarding thriller.

Once the plains have peaked, a few draggy spots and conventional spots behind natural shortcomings that thin out dramatic value even more when accompanied by moments of overstylization and dull dryness winds the final product shy of rewarding, but through a neatly whimsical score, rugged visual style, some effective direction and some solid performances, all behind a story that, for all its thin spots, boasts intriguing thematic depth, "High Plains Drifter" stands as an effective, if improvable supernatural western and sophomore effort for Clint Eastwood.

2.75/5 - Decent
Super Reviewer
½ August 26, 2010
One of his better westerns from the 70's & 80's. Although Clint's character does just revenge-rape a lady in it. What was up with that? Oooooohhhh Weeeee... What Up Wit Dat?
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2014
Clint Eastwood's second film as Director, High Plains Drifter features Eastwood once again as a nameless hero but this time as one that is even more rough around the edges and clearly has his own secret mission within the guise of the city's savior. The film has many flashbacks and an artistic scope that tells the tale of revenge and retribution and how sin stains aren't so easy to wipe away. There are some great scenes showcasing Eastwood's gunslinger skills and enough humor, some silly and some dark, to really make for a complex albeit quite different western film.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2010
A brooding, thought-provoking dark western by star/director Clint Eastwood, It begins with a scorched plateau then suddenly a shadow of a man on horseback emerges out of the wary distant heat vapors galloping towards the lakefront town of Largo, the mysterious stranger slowly rides through town with a hardened look on his face and unknown intentions, the townspeople are cowering weaklings who look upon the nameless stranger with fear especially after he has killed three hired gunmen single-handedly, when they foolishly try to pick a fight with him, Clint Eastwood delivers a compelling and memorable performance as the stranger who the townspeople have now hired to protect them from three revenge-seeking criminals who get out of prison in a few days and are responsible for the murder of the town's sheriff who they bull whipped to death in front of all the townspeople, various indications throughout this film suggest that the unstoppable stranger is some sort of reincarnation of the murdered sheriff an embodiment of pure deadly retribution. Astute direction by Clint Eastwood and superb supporting performances by Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Mitchell Ryan, Jack Ging, Geoffrey Lewis, and Anthony James. Special kudos must go to Billy Curtis for his solid turn as Mordecai the town midget, the film is also accented by a haunting score by Dee Barton and excellent cinematography by Bruce Surtees. An exceptionally entertaning motion picture and one of Clint Eastwood's finest early directorial achievements. Highly Recommended.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2010
Clint Eastwood stars as a mysterious and nameless drifter who stumbles upon the town of Lagos and within the first twenty minutes of being in the town, he shoots three people and rapes another, rocking the entire town. But instead of trying to run him out of town, the townspeople hire him to protect them against three outlaws recently released from prison who are expected to arrive in a day or two. As time goes by Eastwood's demands become more and more troublesome and the cure truly becomes worse than the disease when he paints the town red and renames it Hell.

This is a brutal mystical western venturing into the supernatural which is not to be missed and will keep your mind busy for a while.
Super Reviewer
November 14, 2011
One of my absolute favorites. Powerful and timeless. Haunting.
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