Film / Dirty Harry
Ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do you, punk?

"Go ahead. Make my day."

This is a series of five films starring Clint Eastwood as San Francisco Police Department detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan. He is one of the earliest examples of the Cowboy Cop. His main weapon is the Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum revolver.

Dirty Harry, the first film, is credited with inspiring the tone and themes of modern cop films. Clint Eastwood portrays the iconic blunt, cynical, "the buck stops here" kind of law enforcer constantly at odds with his incompetent, strictly-by-the-book bosses. The hero's relentless pursuit of justice kicks, stomps on, and blasts gaping holes through constitutionally protected rights, causing many to accuse the film of carrying a fascist, or at least authoritarian, undertone (compare, for example, with the thematically similar Judge Dredd comic and movie franchise). As a result of the controversy surrounding the first film, the sequels tried to balance out the ideology, having Harry's bad guys span the length of the political morality spectrum.

  • Dirty Harry (1971): Callahan tracks down a Serial Killer who goes by the name Scorpio.
  • Magnum Force (1973): Callahan goes up against some renegade cops who have formed a death squad.
  • The Enforcer (1976): Callahan and his new female partner go after a terrorist group that has kidnapped the mayor.
  • Sudden Impact (1983): Callahan investigates a series of killings done by a rape victim on her quest for revenge.
  • The Dead Pool (1988): Callahan investigates a series of celebrity deaths who had been predicted to die in a dead pool racket — and finds that his own name is on the list.

Tropes used:

  • Accidental Pervert: "Now I know why they call you Dirty Harry."
  • All There in the Manual: In the original script, and the novelization, the Scorpio's name is Charles Davis and he's an escaped mental patient from Springfield, Massachusetts. In the film he remains The Nameless with no explanation of his background or motives.
  • Anti-Hero: Dirty Harry himself. From the words of Don Siegel himself:
    "I was telling the story of a hard-nosed cop and a dangerous killer. What my liberal friends did not grasp was that the cop is almost as evil, in his way, as the sniper."
  • Artistic License Law: See Off on a Technicality.
  • Asshole Victim: Scorpio at the hands of Harry.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Scorpio Killer, in spades.
    • Mick the Rapist as well.
  • Badass: Harry. Who else? He's portrayed by Clint Eastwood.
  • Badass Boast: After Scorpio pays a man to beat him severely as part of a frame up, Harry defends himself from Scorpio's claim that Harry beat him, saying that "(Scorpio) looks too damn good" to have been beaten by Harry.
    • There is also the now-famous "Do I Feel Lucky" quote, since during the first instance he says it, he is effectively making a man surrender with an unloaded gun and verbal intimidation alone.
  • Ballistic Discount (variant)
  • BFG
    • Dirty Harry sees Harry using a Winchester Model 70, chambered in the massive .458 Winchester Magnum cartridge to try and kill Scorpio in a rooftop shootout. Because of its parabolic trajectory, it's a very poor choice for countersniper duties, but fits his personality perfectly.
    • During the final showdown in The Dead Pool, the Big Bad takes Harry's Magnum. Harry settled for a HARPOON GUN.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Scorpio in the first film is a monster, but Harry uses some rather questionable methods to defeat him.
  • Bond One-Liner
  • Book Ends: The first film begins and ends with Harry delivering his famous "Do I feel lucky?" speech, first to a bank robber and second to Scorpio himself.
  • Boomerang Bigot: DiGeorgio claims Harry to be one, considering that he names honkies as one of several specific races he hates.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Subverted. If you count how many rounds Harry expends in a scene, you'll notice he almost never shoots over his six-bullet limit and you almost always see him reload.
    • The Winchester Model 70, in .458 Winchester Magnum, that Harry uses, has a maximum capacity of 3+1 chambered, yet Harry fires six rounds without reloading.
    I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
  • Briefcase Blaster: Scorpio carried his disassembled sporterised Arisaka rifle and an MP 40, plus several spare magazines, in a suitcase.
  • Bus Full of Innocents
  • California Doubling (for itself): Averted since almost everything in movies 1, 2, 3, and 5 was filmed on location in San Francisco and in the surrounding Bay Area, though there are a few exceptions:
    • In Dirty Harry, the only thing that isn't an on-location shot is the entire bank robbery scene, which was done on a Hollywood set.
  • Clint Squint
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's safe to assume any ridiculously powerful weapon introduced at the beginning of a Dirty Harry movie will be used later. The best example would definitely have to be the enormous Harpoon Gun used to impale Rook at the end of The Dead Pool.
    • Lt. Briggs mentions that he has never once taken his weapon out of its holster. When he does, it's to give The Reveal that he's the Big Bad.
  • Cool Shades: Harry's.
  • Counting Bullets: The infamous "Do I feel lucky?" Well do yah punk? scene.
  • Cowboy Cop: An Unbuilt Trope example in Harry himself.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Scorpio.
  • Da Chief: Every one of Harry's superiors to varying extents. Lt Briggs from Magnum Force is a subversion in that he's the Big Bad.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry Callahan himself.
    The Mayor: I don't want any more trouble like you had last year in the Filmore district. Understand? That's my policy.
    Harry Callahan: Yeah, well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy.
    The Mayor: Intent? How did you establish that?
    Harry Callahan: When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for The Red Cross.
  • Dead Partner: Pretty much all of Callahan's partners end up dead or in the hospital, as he notes.
  • A Degree in Useless: When Chico tells Harry that his college major was in Sociology, Harry sarcastically tells him that he'll go far.
  • Description Porn:
    Harry Callahan: "I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Now, to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
  • Distracted by the Sexy: On a stakeout, Harry decides for a moment that a undressing woman is more interesting to watch, and he nearly misses the crook.
  • The Dog Shot First: Harry only fired five shots in the theatrical version, but a sixth shot was added in the DVD. Originally, he fires five shots in single action, cocks the hammer to confront the surviving bank robber, lowers the hammer when the robber backs down, then cocks the hammer (rotating the cylinder to a previously fired chamber) and pulls the trigger - clicking the hammer on a spent case - when the robber says "I got's to know". By adding another shot, the confrontation was turned into a bluff.
  • Double Standard: In the fifth movie a female journalist blackmails Harry into going to dinner with her. Imagine what would happen if a male journalist did that to a female cop.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock
    • Justified since firing .44 Magnum rounds with a double-action pull would be highly inaccurate.
  • Exalted Torturer: Possibly the trope maker.
  • Fanservice/Fan Disservice: The first movie opens with a lovely young swimsuited woman going for a swim... who's Scorpio's first victim.
    • Plus we get to see poor Mary Ann's nude corpse being disinterred.
  • Finger in the Mail: Scorpio in Dirty Harry kidnaps a 14-year-old girl, sending the police her bra, a lock of hair, and a bloody tooth "pulled out with a pair of pliers".
  • Foreshadowing: Dirty Harry warns the police that the Scorpio Killer is going to kill again after they decide to let him go. Not too long afterwards, he decides to kidnap a whole bus of children.
  • For the Evulz: Scorpio seems to just be killing for the sake of it. Women, children, priests, it doesn't seem to matter to him. Even when Harry brings him the ransom money, he tells him that he's decided to let the girl die anyway.
  • Freudian Excuse: Invoked in the first film: the chief of police asserts that it is likely Scorpio will return to the scene of the crime because of the compulsive behaviour criminals tend to exhibit, muttering that it must be to "feed their superego or something". Averted insofar as no clues are given as to Scorpio's backstory, motivations or even his name.
  • Good Is Not Nice and Soft: A major theme of this series, since the title character is portrayed as frequently doing cruel but necessary things. Summed up with a remark he made after punching in the face someone who was trying to commit suicide: "Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry. Every dirty job that comes along..."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In Dirty Harry, the 10-year-old's injuries are not shown, though Harry is noticeably Squicked about it, and Harry's partner Chico turns away disgusted.
  • Hand Cannon: .44 Magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world". note 
  • Hollywood Silencer: Scorpio attaches a Hiram Maxim 1900's style suppressor to his rifle, but it both doesn't make a "fwip" noise, and is attached with screws Scorpio is seen screwing in at the beginning, thus making this an aversion, though a suppressor that size might burst from the pressures of a .30-'06.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • An interesting aversion: When Harry notes that he was justified in shooting a man he was sure had intent to rape, and his superior reacts skeptically, Harry replies, "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for The Red Cross." This would be considered a legally justified shooting, under "Plain Sight", which says that if a cop sees a crime in the process of being committed right in front of him, he's allowed to take down the perpetrator, without a warrant. Said rule also is applicable to Harry's takedown of the bank robbery crew, which is why he's cleared of that so quickly. The mayor even notes that Harry's got a point.
    • Played painfully straight when it came to Scorpio getting released from prison. Basically the only thing that would be ruled inadmissible in real life would be his confession, due to the fact that he hadn't been read his rights and had been tortured into giving it. Nothing else would be thrown out. Scorpio could've been arrested for assault, possession of a deadly weapon, and attempted murder. The evidence they found would be admissible under an "exigent circumstances" standard today, but in the 1970s, this had yet to be enacted by the courts.
      • On a related note, Scorpio may not have had a constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures, given that he was squatting (the groundskeeper let him live in his shed, which isn't legal without permission by the stadium's owner). However, courts have held that even homeless people squatting in public parks have the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures-the key is whether it can be considered their "house", even if they're squatting there, so that part's unclear.
  • Honor Before Reason: From the first film in reply to Harry's "feelin' lucky" speech:
    Bank Robber: "I gots to know."
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. "He was only eight years old."
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: At the end of the movie, after finally stopping the Scorpio killer and finding that the only way it was possible was in direct opposition of the system he worked for, Harry throws his badge into a body of water in disgust.
  • Internal Affairs
  • Interrupted Suicide: Harry Callahan disgusts a jumper by saying how much blood and guts are going to be on the floor and how he doesn't want to go down with him, eventually Harry tricks him onto a fire truck.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique Callahan performs this on Scorpio on the football field.
  • MAD: "Dirty Larry" (which ends with the thing he throws away at the end ("Besides, after what I just did, they'd never let me back in, anyway...") turning out to be Clint Eastwood's Screen Actors Guild card!).
  • Meaningful Name: Might not be intentional since it is a common surname, but one possible origin of the name Callahan is an old Irish word for "strife and trouble", ceallach, which fits Harry very well.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Andy Robinson plays the gleefully bigoted, murderous psychopath Scorpio in Dirty Harry. Whereas the vegetarian, liberal pacifist Robinson is a gentle and, by all accounts, sweet-natured guy who'd never even held a gun before this role (for which he had to be coached out of his habit of screwing his eyes shut and flinching whenever he fired it). He absolutely hated filming the school bus scene as well.
    • What makes this disturbing is that Robinson actually received death threats after the movie was released.
    • Presumably goes for Eastwood himself, too, given the actor has a reputation for being a fairly nice guy, whereas Harry is... well, Harry.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge In his initial meeting with Gonzales in the first movie which was more hazing the new guy than real bigotry:
    Di Georgio: Ah that's one thing about our Harry. Doesn't play any favorites! Harry hates everybody. Limeys, Micks, Hebes, Fat Dagos, Niggers, Honkies, Chinks, you name it.
    Gonzales: How does he feel about Mexicans?
    Di Georgio: Ask him.
    Harry Callahan: Especially Spics.*winks at Di Georgio*
  • No Name Given: We never learn Scorpio's real name (though IMDb lists it as "Charles Davis").
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Under pressure to rescue a girl Buried Alive, Detective Callahan breaks into the home of serial killer Scorpio on a tip and tortures a confession and the hostage's location out of him. The confession and the murder weapon he collects are inadmissible, see below, Scorpio walks, and on top of it all, he is too late to save her.
  • Off on a Technicality: None of the evidence Harry gets from Scorpio in the first movie can be used, since he used torture getting it. Still, he should have been able to charge him with assault, attempted murder and kidnapping-on himself. Plus, the only evidence that would have been excluded is Scorpio's initial confession. Everything else was perfectly admissible.His partner could also have laid charges; he was close by and saw the whole thing, and Scorpio shot at him, too. The very fact that Scorpio has a fresh knife wound exactly like the one Harry (legally) gave the guy in the balaclava and the same voice would be enough for a conviction. Semi-justified with the rifle, a sporterised Japanese Arisaka (rechambered in Springfield .30-'06), which, as a war prize, could easily have no paperwork at all. In Scorpio's case, while exigent circumstances would certainly apply (someone's life was in imminent danger), his residency is Kezar Stadium, and it is under the consent of the groundskeeper. The trouble with this is the groundskeeper, most likely, does not have the legal standing to grant such permission, which therefore makes Scorpio a squatter and thus his rights are not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
  • Oh Crap!: The wounded bank robber (also played by Albert Popwell - see You Look Familiar) when he thinks Harry is about to shoot him.
  • Once an Episode: Harry will run into someone committing a robbery and stop them.
  • One Steve Limit: Broken, with Lt. Briggs (Magnum Force) and Captain Briggs (Sudden Impact) being entirely different characters played by very different actors.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: Pulled by Scorpio in the first movie. Harry can tell immediately that it isn't him. How? "'Cause he looks too damn good, that's how!"
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Scorpio says he would consider it a pleasure to "kill a Catholic priest or a nigger."
    • Also, he follows through on the latter (then the former later on). Needless to say, the black guy Scorpio pays to beat him up so he can frame Callahan for it sure seems to enjoy the job. He kicks Scorpio again after throwing him out the door, saying "this one's on the house!"
  • Pyrrhic Victory - Part 1 and 3.
    • Arguably, also Part 2. Just imagine the fallout of Briggs' conspiracy, even if it remained contained.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Harry responds to the mayor's policies on police brutality with the fact that he "shoots the bastard" when it comes to intent to rape. Also, he lets Jennifer off the hook with her revenge killings of her rapists when Mick is found with the murder weapon on his person.
  • Rare Guns: Scorpio's rifle, an Arisaka No. 2 Paratrooper takedown rifle, but rechambered in .30-'06 and given a sporter stock. Ironically, this makes it virtually worthless from a collector standpoint after the value of Imperial Japanese militaria exploded in the 1990s, since, being one of the rarest rifles in World War II, it would be worth thousands unmodified.
    • In "Sudden Impact", Harry's backup gun is an AMP Auto Mag 180 (made by the designer himself from parts he had in his basement). AMP was bankrupt by the time the film was made, and very few Auto Mags were made during production.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lieutenant Bressler is easily the only one of Harry's superiors that is actually anyway sympathetic towards him and isn't either an Obstructive Bureaucrat, a glory-grabbing Jerk Ass or a Dirty Cop.
    • The D.A. who informs Harry that Scorpio's walking because of Harry's torture also comes across as this, as following his What the Hell, Hero? on the Constitution, he makes it a point to emphasize how much he hates Scorpio walking too, as he has a family, himself. For his part, Harry reassures him he'll be watching Scorpio for the next crime.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Harry starts Magnum Force in the Stakeout Squad, and in The Enforcer gets reassigned to Personnel after ram-raiding a liquor-store robbery turned hostage situation.
    Harry: Personnel? But that's for assholes!
    Harry: Yeah...
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Although Harry's not above settling for a semi-auto Hand Cannon should he lose his trusty Model 29.
    • Supposedly Enforced in Real Life: It's been claimed that the Auto-Mag jammed so often that they kept a diver on set to retrieve the pistol every time Clint got pissed and threw it off the pier.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Dirty Harry fought obvious stand-ins for the Zodiac Killer (in Dirty Harry) and the Symbionese Liberation Army (in The Enforcer). This is lampshaded in the 2007 movie Zodiac, where David Toschi, the detective who served as the inspiration for Dirty Harry (as well as Bullitt), sees the movie and has to face the fact that Real Life crimes can't be solved by just shooting someone.
  • San Francisco: All five movies, although in Sudden Impact the location moves to fictional seaside town farther south called San Paolo (which is Santa Cruz as a fictional version of itself).
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right
  • The '70s: The films don't indulge in the groovier aspects of the decade, but it's wide neckties, ugly dun-colored suits and giant sedans for everybody!
  • Shoot the Hostage "Go ahead, make my day."
  • Shout-Out: Here's a weird one: Corrupt Cop "Red" Astrachan is named after a variety of apple. Weirder still is that he's not the only guy in an action series to have that distinction, and he isn't even the most famous.
    • Harry tossing his badge in the end is one, to High Noon.
  • Straw Character: One of the most common criticisms of the first film's politics is that it uses an almost cartoonishly evil and one-dimensional villain (and, similarly, a preposterously weak-willed and ineffectual local government and police force) in order to make Harry's rather extreme methods seem reasonable and even necessary by contrast. Roger Ebert observed this in his original review:
    The movie clearly and unmistakably gives us a character who understands the Bill of Rights, understands his legal responsibility as a police officer, and nevertheless takes retribution into his own hands. Sure, Scorpio is portrayed as the most vicious, perverted, warped monster we can imagine — but that's part of the same stacked deck. The movie's moral position is fascist. No doubt about it.
    • The Judge brought in to analyze Harry's actions teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, the surest way in that era of painting someone as an over-permissive liberal. Pauline Kael, a former native of San Francisco, noted how unlikely this would be in real-life and suspected the filmmakers included this specifically to tweak conservative viewers.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Harry's .44 Magnum is his main sidearm and the most powerful pistol used in the films unless you count the Automag as being higher powered or a sawn-off shotgun as a pistol.
    • Subverted with the bazooka: it was the right weapon to deal with someone placed in a tower.
    • To back this trope up the weakest gun ever used on screen by Callahan was a Smith and Wesson Model 10 in .38 special, used when he confronts some hijackers in a plane in Magnum Force and takes one from them. This results in him double tapping, just to make sure. In The Enforcer, he explains to Kate that he's seen .38 Special rounds bounce off car windscreens, hence why he carries a Hand Cannon in the first place.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Scorpio. Andy Robinson was cast specifically because Clint Eastwood said he wanted someone who looked like a "choirboy".
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: It was a liquor store and this was how the villain, an ex-con, was able to get a gun to battle with Dirty Harry.
  • Title Drop: His partner in the first film wanted to know why people call inspector Callahan, Dirty Harry. He gets mixed answers. It wasn't until after Harry talks a man out of jumping by insulting him, that he tells his new partner the real reason:
    Harry: Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry. Every dirty job that comes along...
  • Too Dumb to Live: Despite Harry already wounded him and had his gun trained on him, Scorpio still tried to go for the dropped gun in an attempt to kill Harry. He gets shot off the pier and killed for his troubles.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Harry's methods aren't actually shown all that positively. His interrogation of the Scorpio killer is downright horrific, and ends up doing no good anyway. And in the end, he throws away his badge after disregarding his orders and endangering innocents. He realized that he crossed the line, and was no longer fit to carry the badge.
    • Which is all of course cheerfully ignored for the sequels, where he's always right and somehow has his badge again.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Scorpio seems to suffer it every time his plans are thwarted, like when he is caught and shot in the leg by Callahan in the stadium.
  • Vomiting Cop: In the first film, Chico is about to throw up after seeing Scorpio's second victim.
  • What the Hell, Hero?
  • Would Hurt a Child: A major part of the criminal activities of one Charles Davis, aka the "Scorpio Killer," who freely and remorselessly romps about San Francisco. He shoots a young African American boy, sniper style, to death before later kidnapping, brutally raping and burying alive a young teen-aged girl. In the later case, he demands a huge ransom for her safe return ... but then, just for the fun of it, he refuses to reveal his whereabouts until Callahan tortures him during questioning. (Even at that, the girl is found dead inside her grave.) Later, after he is freed, due to claims of improper search and seizure on Callahan's part and that other Constitutional rights were violated, Scorpio redoubles his sadism. After robbing a liquor store and killing everyone inside, he hijacks a school bus full of children. Scorpio delights in slapping both boys and girls around, and forcing them to sing the children's song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and even threatens to shoot several of the kids. In the climatic scene (after Scorpio crashes the bus into a dirt embankment), Scorpio after engaging in a gun battle with Callahan grabs a boy who was sitting on a nearby pier and threatens to kill him if Callahan dares take a step closer. However, Callahan is able to see a brief opening, shoots and badly wounds Scorpio; he later kills him when Scorpio tries to grab his pistol.
    • Would Hit a Girl: See above, particularly with his rape and killing of the teenage girl and assaulting children on the school bus. He also holds a gun to the female bus driver's head and throws her out of the driver's seat (after Callahan tracks down the bus and jumps on its roof from a railroad bridge).
      • In the films, Callahan is never shown killing a female, however in one of the original novels based upon the character a female is revealed to be one of the big bads, and as a result Callahan shoots her to death as she tries to escape by swimming.
    • The sad thing is that Andy Robinson is actually a nice guy, contrasting with the ruthless nature of the "Scorpio Killer," and gave such a convincing performance he got several death threats from people who watched the movie, and had to get an unlisted telephone number.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Scorpio pays some black guy to beat him up, just so he could frame Callahan for it. Understandably, said black guy evidently enjoys the job.
    • To be fair, Scorpio did call him a "black son of a bitch".
  • You Look Familiar: Albert Popwell played mooks in most of the films. (The bank robber in Dirty Harry; the pimp shot and killed in his Cadillac at close range by a rogue cop in Magnum Force; The Muslim Brotherhood leader Mustafa in The Enforcer). This sets up a nice subversion of his typecasting as a red shirt in Sudden Impact when he creeps up on Harry with a shotgun only to be revealed as a colleague from the department. It's lampshaded briefly in The Enforcer when Harry asks Mustafa if he knows him.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: Harry tells Captain McKay, after McKay gives Harry a too close dressing down, "Your mouthwash ain't makin' it".
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: No, but Scorpio would hit children with glasses including at least two of the children he's holding hostage in the climatic school bus scene of the original film; this includes an 11-year-old girl he slaps (as hard as he possibly can) across the face at least twice and then after she's knocked to the floor kicking her!