San Francisco police detective Harry Callahan (Eastwood) is out-of-step with the times. By being particularly ruthless in apprehending dangerous criminals, he annoys a City Hall mired in red tape, and aggravates a dysfunctional justice system that releases violent felons on technicalities. However, when the Zodiac Killer buries a young girl alive, then starts shooting people at random, the brass still puts Harry on the case, since the cop who does things his own way offers one key advantage: he gets results.
Why we love it
After the tight, graphic, and brutal "Dirty Harry," TV's "Dragnet" would seem forever quaint. Director Don Siegel's gritty realism works to reincarnate the classic John Wayne hero image — a tough, independent, two-fisted good guy — to a funkier, more turbulent period. Thus Eastwood's taciturn, squinty-eyed protagonist became the new rugged individualist, who, in a more complex, bureaucratic world, cuts through everything to get the job done. Kudos also go to Andrew Robinson, who makes a particularly creepy psychopath. For a classic, down-and-dirty cop movie, check out "Harry."