Which Dirty Harry Sequel is Best?
Dirty Harry (1971) is a classic movie, but it spawned four sequels, some standing out more than others. I don’t believe there were supposed to be any sequels to begin with, as Harry throws away his badge at the end of the first movie, but they came out anyway. Harry doesn’t develop all that much over the course of the movies, but he does remain a vigilant police officer who continues to enforce his brand of justice.
I think Magnum Force (1973) has the most engaging plot. This is thanks to the characters. Of course, the rogue cop story has been done before, but the police conspiracy presented in this movie is pretty good and has decent action. It also features a young Robert Urich, who would also go on to star in his own TV crime drama. It has some memorable dialogue, although perhaps not as memorable as in other sequels. The film is a by the numbers sequel and doesn’t grow beyond its generic plot, but what it delivers is pretty good. It has action, chases, dialogue zingers, and Clint squinting annoyedly at some young punks. What could be better?
The Enforcer (1976), the second sequel, is a mixed bag. It has a varying tone that borders on comedy and nothing stands out, except the performance of Tyne Daly. She does a good job with what she’s given, but steals some of the spotlight from Eastwood. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does draw comparisons between the two, unfortunately for worse in the case of Eastwood. Daly’s character is a bit annoying in places and I don’t think I could take a whole movie of her acting the way she does. I think she later took the same character to television on the show Cagney & Lacey.
Sudden Impact (1983) is probably the best of the sequels in my opinion. It has stand-out performances and Eastwood is given some great scenes, along with good dialogue to make him more memorable than in the previous movie. Sondra Locke is not the best actress, but she does compliment Eastwood pretty well, unlike Daly in the previous sequel, who was in more of a starring role. Wikipedia states that Eastwood earned 60 percent of the profits from this movie, which is highway robbery, but I can’t blame him. If you can put up with Sondra Locke, you’ll like this film.
The Dead Pool (1988) is forgettable. However, Roger Ebert praised his film as better than the original, which I cannot see myself. But it does have a great car chase and most of the scenes are well done. It also has a fairly original plot, perhaps more-so than the other sequels. It also features Jim Carrey in a small role, but he is killed off quickly.
The Dirty Harry sequels have aged somewhat, but I think they are still enjoyable to watch. You can pick all of them up for a bargain really and I think there’s a double-disk collection on Amazon for cheap. There is also an “Ultimate” edition now for sale. The Dead Pool probably has the most original plot and moves at a good pace, but Magnum Force has more action and some great dialogue. You pretty much get the same Dirty Harry in each movie and the same performance each time from Eastwood, which takes the Man With No Name and gives him a heroic image.