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.



Total Count: 26


Audience Score

User Ratings: 35,891
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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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Critic Reviews for High Plains Drifter

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (1)

  • 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

  • Jun 25, 2017
    If you can look past the dated sexual politics, this is a deeply cynical deconstruction of the romanticized western. No one looks good in the end . . . not the townspeople, not the villains, not even the "anti-hero" at the center.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 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.
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 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.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 14, 2011
    One of my absolute favorites. Powerful and timeless. Haunting.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer

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