High Plains Drifter

Critics Consensus

Clint Eastwood's sophomore outing as director sees him back in the saddle as a mysterious stranger, as the result is one of his most memorable Westerns.



Reviews Counted: 26

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 35,882


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.8/5

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Movie Info

"Who are you?" the dwarf Mordecai (Billy Curtis) asks Clint Eastwood's Stranger at the end of Eastwood's 1973 western High Plains Drifter. "You know," he replies, before vanishing into the desert heat waves near California's Mono Lake. Adapting the amorally enigmatic and violent Man With No Name persona from his films with Sergio Leone, Eastwood's second film as director begins as his drifter emerges from that heat haze and rides into the odd lakefront settlement of Lago. Lago's residents are not particularly friendly, but once the Stranger shows his skills as a gunfighter, they beg him to defend them against a group of outlaws (led by Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis) who have a score to settle with the town. He agrees to train them in self-defense, but Mordecai and innkeeper's wife Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) soon suspect that the Stranger has another, more personal agenda. By the time the Stranger makes the corrupt community paint their town red and re-name it "Hell," it is clear that he is not just another gunslinger. With its fragmented flashbacks and bizarre, austere locations, High Plains Drifter's stylistic eccentricity lends an air of unsettling eeriness to its revenge story, adding an uncanny slant to Eastwood's antiheroic westerner. Seminal western hero John Wayne was so offended by Eastwood's harshly revisionist view of a frontier town that he wrote to Eastwood, objecting that this was not what the spirit of the West was all about. Eastwood's audience, however, was not so put off, and an exhibitors' poll named Eastwood a top box-office draw for 1973. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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Clint Eastwood
as The Stranger
Verna Bloom
as Sarah Belding
Marianna Hill
as Callie Travers
Mitchell Ryan
as Dave Drake
Jack Ging
as Morgan Allen
Ted Hartley
as Lewis Belding
Billy Curtis
as Mordecai
Stefan Gierasch
as Mayor Jason Hobart
Geoffrey Lewis
as Stacey Bridges
Walter Barnes
as Sheriff Sam Shaw
Paul Brinegar
as Lutie Naylor
Richard Bull
as Asa Goodwin
Robert Donner
as Preacher
John Hillerman
as Bootmaker
Anthony James
as Cole Carlin
John Quade
as Freight Wagon Operator
Jane Aull
as Townswoman
Dan Vadis
as Dan Carlin
James Gosa
as Tommy Morris
Jack Kosslyn
as Saddlemaker
Russ McCubbin
as Fred Short
Belle Mitchell
as Mrs. Lake
Carl C. Pitti
as Teamster
Chuck Waters
as Stableman
Buddy Van Horn
as Marshal Jim Duncan
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News & Interviews for High Plains Drifter

Critic Reviews for High Plains Drifter

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4)

  • As a director, Eastwood is not as good as he seems to think he is. As an actor, he is probably better than he allows himself to be.

    Oct 26, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Eastwood's second directorial effort is mechanically stylish.

    May 21, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • This was supposed to be Eastwood's fond adieu to the worlds of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel; and indeed he cuts the operatic excess of the former with the punchy economy of the latter.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Part ghost story, part revenge Western, more than a little silly, and often quite entertaining in a way that may make you wonder if you have lost your good sense.

    May 10, 2005
  • Mysterious, sporadically comical, and classically Eastwood, High Plains Drifter is a wholly satisfying revenge saga that's askew enough to surprise as it exercises known elements.

    Nov 23, 2013 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • A shaky sophomore effort ... Eastwood would direct a far superior Western, The Outlaw Josey Wales, three years later.

    Oct 31, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for High Plains Drifter

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.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


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.

Sajin P A
Sajin P A

Super Reviewer

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.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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.

Jacob Ethington
Jacob Ethington

Super Reviewer

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