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Film / Dirty Harry

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

"I know what you're thinking: 'Did he fire six shots? Or only five?'"

A series of five films starring Clint Eastwood as San Francisco Police Department inspector "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.

The eponymous first film, directed by Don Siegel and released in 1971, is credited with inspiring the tone and themes of many modern-day cop films and TV series. Eastwood portrays Callahan as an Anti-Hero — a blunt, cynical, "the buck stops here" kind of law enforcer who's constantly at odds with his indifferent, incompetent, strictly-by-the-book superiors, and whose relentless pursuit of justice frequently leads him to kick, stomp on, and blast gaping holes through constitutionally protected rights. These traits led many critics to accuse the film of carrying a fascistic, or at least authoritarian, undertone (anticipating complaints leveled against such later works as the thematically similar Judge Dredd comic and movie franchise). In response to 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.

Films in the series:

  • 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.

There's also a 1990 NES game based on the films.

Tropes used in the first film:

  • Accidental Pervert: "Now I know why they call you Dirty Harry."
  • Actor Allusion: In the bank robbery scene, the movie theater across the street lists Play Misty for Me, a movie Clint Eastwood also starred in, and the first feature film directed by him, released earlier in 1971, on its marquee.
  • Adaptational Self-Defense: 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 gots to know". By adding another shot, the confrontation was turned into a bluff.
  • 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 as No Name Given with no explanation of his background or motives.
  • Anti-Hero: Dirty Harry himself is a cop, but a particularly violent one who's not afraid to use lethal force.
    Don Siegel: "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."
  • Arch-Enemy: The Scorpio Killer to Dirty Harry.
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: One of the most notable examples comes when Harry Callahan is playing Russian Roulette when confronting a wounded bank robber:
    Harry: 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 kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk? [After the thief gives up trying to retrieve his shotgun, Dirty Harry cocks his revolver's hammer]
    Thief: Hey! I gots to know! [Harry turns around, aims and pulls the trigger, with the gun clicking on an empty chamber, and Harry laughs as he walks away]
    Thief: Son of a bitch!
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: The famous "Do I feel lucky?" scene, specifically after the suspect has surrendered and asks if Harry's gun indeed had 0 shots left. Pointing a weapon for fun at someone is a huge violation of gun handling protocol as one must always presume the weapon is loaded. Harry sure got lucky that his superiors didn't read him the riot act or severely discipline him for playing games with a hand cannon.
  • BFG: This film 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 and high recoil, it's a very poor choice for countersniper duties, but fits his personality perfectly. The police armorer even notes the rifle is much more powerful than required and chalks it up to Harry wanting an edge over the opposition.
  • 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. Scorpio enters a liquor store, buys some booze, and gets the owner into a conversation about how the owner has shot several people who attempted to rob him. The owner shows him the gun and now knowing where it is, Scorpio smashes him in the face with the bottle of booze he just bought, takes the gun and another bottle, and runs away.
  • Batman Cold Open: All the films have a scene where Harry stops a crime unrelated to the main plot. Here, he foils a bank robbery while enjoying a hot dog.
  • Beat It by Compulsion: A mundane version occurs. Having been foiled in his attempt to snipe a Catholic priest from a rooftop, Inspector Callahan stakes out the same rooftop, knowing the Scorpio killer will be compelled to come back and finish what he started.
    These sick guys have behavior patterns. We know they'll rob the very same store 3, 4 times in a row. Must appeal to their superego or something. Scorpio strikes again. They like that feeling.
  • Big Bad: The Scorpio Killer.
  • Bit Part Bad Guys: The bank robbers were basically there so Harry could show off his skills with the .44 Magnum and deliver his famous "Do you feel lucky?" speech.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Theoretically we should be feeling triumphant that Callahan has finally blown away Scorpio. Instead we get a muted, melancholic soundtrack and Callahan disgustedly tossing his badge into the river. Although given that he remains a cop in all four sequels, there may be something to Clint Eastwood's theory that there was a long rubber band attached to the badge.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Scorpio is a irredeemable monster, but Harry uses some rather questionable methods to defeat him.
  • Bond One-Liner: The famous "Do you feel lucky?" speech.
  • 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: De Giorgio 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.
  • Briefcase Blaster: Scorpio carried his disassembled sporterised Arisaka rifle and an MP40, plus several spare magazines, in a suitcase.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: A good part of the second arc is Harry running around San Francisco with a handbag containing $200,000 in ransom money looking for Scorpio's exchange point.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Chico is smart enough to wear one when he engages Scorpio in a shoot-out.
  • Buried Alive: Scorpio demands ransom from the city of San Francisco after he kidnaps a teenage girl. He claims his prisoner only has enough air to last until 3:00 a.m. the following morning. When he gets the ransom, he says "I changed my mind. I'm going to let her die." When Harry Callahan catches up to Scorpio on a football field, he uses the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique to make him give up the girl's location, but when the police dig her up, it turns out the poor girl's already dead.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: In the climax, Scorpio holds a busful of children hostage as our hero chose to disobey orders to pay him his ransom and simply leaps on the school bus himself.
  • Celebrity Paradox: During the bank robbery scene, the theatre is playing Play Misty for Me, which was Clint Eastwood' directorial debut.
  • Central Theme: How crime and law enforcement are hideously intertwined.
  • Clint Squint: Dirty Harry naturally always wears one of these.
  • Cool Guns:
    • The .44 Magnum, of course.
    • Scorpio uses an MP40 alongside his Arisaka sniper rifle.
  • Cool Shades: Harry sports a shiny black pair, which make him seem like even more of an Implacable Man.
  • 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. He thoroughly enjoys taunting Harry over the phone and screwing with the police.
  • Da Chief: Lt. Bressler, though he's more straight-laced than most.
  • 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 in the hospital or dead, as he notes.
  • Death of a Child: Two youngsters die throughout the film - a ten-year-old boy and a fourteen-year-old girl. A bus full of children even younger are put in danger by Scorpio but they survive.
  • 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. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being 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 a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
  • Distracted by the Sexy: On a stakeout, Harry decides for a moment that an undressing woman is more interesting to watch, and he nearly misses the crook.
  • Double Entendre: When Scorpio meets Dirty Harry for the first time, he comments on how big Harry's gun was. This was adlibbed by Andy Robinson and his deadpan delivery caused the crew to bust out laughing.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: The famous "do you feel lucky?" scene has Callahan telling the punk in front of him that, at that moment, the main thought going through his head was "did he fire six shots or only five" from his .44 Magnum revolver, and sarcastically telling him that he'd lost track himself in all the excitement. He had, in fact, fired all six. At the end of the film, he repeats the speech to the Scorpio Killer, who isn't so lucky.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Justified since firing .44 Magnum rounds with a double-action pull would be highly inaccurate.
  • Especially Zoidberg:
    De 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?
    De Georgio: Ask him.
    Harry Callahan: Especially Spics. [winks]
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • "You gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well do you, punk?"
    • Scorpio is introduced assembling his rifle and shooting a woman taking a swim. And he only gets worse from there.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Andy Robinson is decidedly... unsubtle as the Scorpio Killer.
  • Evil Laugh: The Scorpio Killer has a sort of gibbering, intensely self-satisfied laugh that is in no way appealing. His final moments are even characterized by one last split-second of this laugh when he decides that yes, he does feel lucky.
  • Exalted Torturer: Possibly the Trope Maker for film depictions in the U.S., and something of an Unbuilt Trope, at that. He gets an admission of guilt out of Scorpio by pressing a foot on his injured leg, but Surprisingly Realistic Outcome happens and Harry is informed by his superiors that the confession can't be used in court because he obtained it through illegal interrogation means.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Callahan has already served long enough on the force to earn himself a reputation as an infamous Cowboy Cop before the film begins.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Andrew Robinson was chosen because he had a "face like a choir boy". Scorpio is a murdering psychopath.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The movie opens with a lovely young swimsuited woman going for a swim... who then becomes Scorpio's first victim.
    • We get to see poor Mary Ann's nude corpse being disinterred.
  • Finger in the Mail: Scorpio 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".
  • Firing One-Handed: Dirty Harry fires his famous .44 Magnum one handed. He must be pretty strong, considering that it's "the most powerful handgun in the world." Though, in the original film, he shoots two handed.
  • Flyaway Shot: Every film in the series ends like this.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Scorpio's reaction to seeing Inspector Callahan's .44 Magnum revolver for the first time. "My, that's a big one." Reportedly actor Andrew Robinson ad-libbed that line, which made the crew laugh. One of many allusions to Scorpio's stereotypical "gayness", along with the hair and the whiny, murderous hissy fits.
  • 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: 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.
  • Friendly Target: Harry's partners tend to get seriously injured or killed. Chico does make it, though... because he was smart enough to take Harry's advice to heart, and wear a bulletproof vest.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns:
    • Harry carries a S&W Model 29 in .44 Magnum, then the most powerful handgun in the world. While more powerful guns are typically "bad", this started a trend of Hand Cannons ending up in the hands of Anti Heroes and Cowboy Cops just like Harry.
    • Harry's partner, Chico, carries a classically "good" Colt Detective Special, a standard issue police revolver of that era. It helps to establish him as a By-the-Book Cop in comparison to Harry (though he later goes against orders to aid Harry, getting shot in the process).
    • Conversely, Big Bad serial killer "Scorpio" uses a modified Arisaka rifle (a Japanese WWII weapon often brought home as souvenirs), a Nazi MP40, and in the climax, a stolen Walther P38, yet another Nazi weapon.
  • 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: Even if the 10-year-old's injuries are not shown to the audience, Harry's partner Chico turns away disgusted, and even Harry is noticeably Squicked about it.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Scorpio hits a liquor store owner across the head with a bottle he just bought and takes his gun (and another bottle).
  • Hand Cannon: .44 Magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world". note .
  • Hate Sink: Scorpio is obviously meant to be despised by the audience, to ensure that we're on Harry's side. He's a twisted, cowardly, double-dealing Serial Killer and rapist who slaughters cops, women, and children alike.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Harry, according to De Giorgio.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Harry wants to go after the Scorpio killer after he hijacks a bus full of children. The mayor reminds Harry that he gave his word that the killer wouldn't be "molested" in any way. Now of course, in this instance he means "molest" in the context of "to bother", but...
  • High Turnover Rate: It's mentioned that Harry works alone because he tends to go through partners at an alarming rate; this trend holds true as the series progresses through 5 movies (3 dead, 2 seriously injured). On the positive side, it's mentioned in the first film that only a few of his partners actually get killed, with most only being seriously injured or simply finding his Jerkass Cowboy Cop attitude difficult to work with and transferred to other responsibilities.
  • Hollywood Density: Two hundred grand in tens and twenties would weigh somewhere between twenty and forty pounds depending on the ratio of denominations. Yes, a man can lift that and Harry is established as being in good shape and physically formidable, but lugging a bag with that much weight in it in one hand while running around the hilly streets of San Francisco in the middle of the night for an hour or more would not be easy.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted, partially. After being stabbed and later shot in the leg by Harry, Scorpio has a limp for the rest of the movie. His paid beating leaves him only with a bandage on his nose after he's discharged from hospital, though.
  • 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 engage 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 coerced by torture into giving it. Harry should have been able to charge him with assault, attempted murder and kidnapping of a police officer. Everything else was perfectly admissible. His partner could also have laid charges as a witness; 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. 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 is unclear.
    • Scorpio is in possession of an MP40 submachine gun, presumably not registered under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (since he's not shown with it again after his arrest, it can be assumed it was confiscated along with the rifle). Possession of an unregistered full-auto firearm is punishable by up to twenty years in federal prison, meaning they could have at least charged him for that, even if the murder, kidnapping, assault and attempted murder charges wouldn't stick.
  • 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: The bank robber in the beginning of the film asking Callahan to confirm whether or not he fired 6 or only five shots because he "gots to know".
  • Human Shield: Scorpio uses a boy as a human shield. Detective Callahan simply shoots him in the shoulder (given the range and the fact that the boy was too small to provide a lot of protection, Callahan could've put a bullet in Scorpio's chest or his head). Callahan then proceeds to give Scorpio one last chance to surrender, and then puts a bullet through him.
  • Iconic Item: Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world, that would blow your head clean off." Also his dark sunglasses.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Harry shoots Scorpio in the leg.
    Scorpio: [crying with reason] You tried to kill me!
    Harry Callahan: If I tried that, your head would be splattered all over this field.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Scorpio's rifle, which he keeps disassembled in a briefcase until he's about to make a shot.
  • 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 tosses his badge away in disgust.
  • Internal Affairs: The D.A. takes this role, complete with indignant "what about the rights of that little girl?" demand from Harry. In point of fact, Harry's is probably the trend-setter here.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Harry Callahan disgusts a jumper by saying how much blood and guts are going to be on the pavement and how he doesn't want to go down with him, eventually Harry tricks him onto a fire truck.
  • I Surrender, Suckers:
    • Subverted. The bank robber Harry confronts at the start pretends to surrender, but the reason he doesn't follow through with it is because he was curious to know if Harry's gun really did have one bullet left. Much to his bemusement, it didn't.
    • A rare heroic example happens right before the ending. Harry pretends to be slowly lowering his .44 Magnum to spare a hostage being used as a human shield, but then quickly raises his revolver and lands a crack shot, incapacitating the hostage taker.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Harry uses his famous speech to intimidate an opponent.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Callahan performs this on Scorpio on the football field.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The various What the Hell, Hero? speeches by the D.A., the Judge and other authority figures spell out explicitly that Harry's actions while apprehending Scorpio are not only cruel but explicitly illegal, and effectively ruin any case the city could bring against him. Harry doesn't really have a response beyond accusing them of not caring about Scorpio's victims.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Subverted. Despite how depraved Scorpio may be, Harry’s torture of him is portrayed as horrific and he is justifiably called out for it.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Harry is very gruff and aloof, despite being a good guy with the best intentions.
  • Meaningful Echo: Early in the film Harry gives his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" speech in a jokey manner to an inept bank robber. In the film's climax, Harry gives the exact same speech to Scorpio, this time his delivery is full of venom and deadly serious.
  • 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.
    • To anyone who knows anything about astrology, Scorpio is this. As well as being an allusion to the real-life Zodiac Killer, Scorpios tend to be on the dark and ruthless side, making a serial killer named Scorpio very appropriate. (Charles Manson was a Scorpio)
  • Mugging the Monster: A group of muggers making the mistake of setting upon Callahan while he's running around with Scorpio's ransom money.
  • Nausea Dissonance:
    • Harry tells someone who is considering jumping off a building that he wants the guy's name, because the mess of a splattered body often makes people hard to identify. The guy says he thinks he's gonna puke, and Harry, who doesn't seem nauseated at all, says "don't do that, not with all those people down there looking up."
    • Later, Harry and Gonzales are called to investigate the murder of a 10-year-old black boy whose face was "half shot off". Harry lifts the cover, we don't see the damage, but Gonzales excuses himself to vomit. Harry's partners in the next two movies would follow suit.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: In Harry's initial meeting with Gonzales, though this was more hazing the new guy than real bigotry:
    De Giorgio: 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?
    De Giorgio: Ask him.
    Harry Callahan: Especially Spics. *winks at De Giorgio*
  • No Name Given: We never learn Scorpio's real name (though IMDb lists it as "Charles Davis", like the script).
    • The ending credits for the film simply identify him as "killer".
  • Not Helping Your Case: Scorpio falsely accuses Harry of savagely beating him up. Harry didn't but he does admit to following him and his only defense is that he couldn't have done it to Scorpio because "he looks too damn good".
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Under pressure to rescue a girl Buried Alive, Harry 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, Harry is too late to save her.
  • Oh, Crap!: The wounded bank robber when he thinks Harry is about to shoot him.
  • Once an Episode: Harry will run into someone committing a robbery and stop them.
  • One Bullet Left: Apparently the Scorpio Killer did feel lucky, that punk... he wasn't.
  • Outside Ride: Harry jumps from an overpass onto the roof of a school bus taken hostage by the Scorpio Killer.
  • Phallic Weapon: "My, that's a big one."
  • Police Are Useless: The San Francisco Police are seen as being extremely bureaucratic to a point where it interferes with justice and causes murderers like Scorpio to get away with their actions. Even the title character has to break the rules in order to get anything done, to the point where at the end he throws away his badge as a symbol of his disgust with the system. The novelisation raises the point that kidnapping is a federal crime and the Mayor could have asked for FBI assistance, but he panicked and passed that panic right down the police bureaucracy.
  • Police Brutality: Harry roughs up the Scorpio Killer while in custody to learn where he's hidden a kidnapped girl, and gets called out on it. After Scorpio gets let out of custody because of it and other red tape issues, the killer pays a guy to beat the crap out of him so he can blame the beating on Harry, whose only defense is that it couldn't have been him, cause if he was the one who beat him, the guy would look a lot worse.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: Pulled by Scorpio. 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." He follows through on the latter (then the former later on). In another scene he stalks a pair of gay men with his rifle, though ultimately decides not to shoot them. 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!"
  • Pragmatic Hero: Harry is perfectly willing to defy his superiors to keep the people of San Francisco safe. Late in the film, he abandons the department and hunts down Scorpio on his own time, and in the end, throws his badge in a pond and walks off.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Dirty Harry has his famous speech, which is actually an offer for his enemy to surrender. The second time he gives it, at the end of the film, is very much in keeping with this trope, as Harry Callahan is in no mood to let Scorpio live after all he's done.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: The Scorpio Killer grabs a boy as a hostage; Callahan responds by shooting him in the shoulder (the boy escapes unscathed) and delivering his "'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya', punk?" line before finally taking him out.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Scorpio's dead, but Harry had to forsake everything about due process to make him so.
  • Ransom Drop: After kidnapping a young girl, Scorpio demands a $200,000 ransom to be delivered to him by one man holding a yellow bag. Inspector Callahan volunteers to be the courier, and is given instructions to race from one public phone booth to another so Scorpio can see if he's being followed. Problems encountered by Callahan include an attempted mugging, and the wrong person picking up the payphone before he reaches it. Callahan wears a Hidden Wire and sends instructions to his partner Gonzales which is just as well as Scorpio has no intention of letting Callahan or his kidnap victim live.
    Scorpio: If I even think you're being followed, the girl dies. If you talk to anyone, I don't care if it's a Pekinese pissing against a lamppost, the girl dies...No car. I give you a certain amount of time to go from phone booth to phone booth. I ring four times. You don't answer by the fourth ring, I hang up and that's the end of the game. The girl dies.
  • 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; Scorpio is stated to have raped the 14 year-old he kidnapped (off-screen.)
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": The Scorpio Killer does it right before Callahan tortures him on the football field.
  • Rated M for Manly: The entire franchise, as with pretty much anything starring Clint Eastwood.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: To various degrees, considering that most of them border on Straw Character.
    • 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 Jerkass 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.
    • Similarly, while the Judge damningly lays out Harry's illegal actions and abuse of Scorpio's rights, he does point out to the D.A. that Harry was trying to save Scorpio's victim within a limited timeframe and that a jury might well sympathize with him because of that. He also doesn't like Scorpio getting off any more than Harry or the DA does.
    • Police Chief Daccanelli is also one. He listens to Harry and Chico respectfully and encourages Chico to speak up when he's uncertain. When Harry is accused of beating up Scorpio, he calmly but firmly asks Harry if it's true and makes clear he doesn't want any more surveillance, standing by him but also making clear he has his limits and won't tolerate harassment.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Dirty Harry famously uses a gigantic Smith & Wesson Model 29, which chambers .44 magnum bullets. The gun is extremely powerful, and the long barrel plus adjustable sights make it basically a pocket-rifle. Around the time the movie was filmed, some police actually did carry such large revolvers, but they eventually proved excessively powerful.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Before each of Harry's three combative encounters with the Scorpio Killer, there is a cross and or a reference to Christ:
    • At the rooftop stakeout, the "Jesus Saves" neon sign.
    • At the park ransom location, the giant, cement cross.
    • At the pivotal moment when Harry is spotted by his nemesis from the school bus, a cross extending up from the streetlight. The Scorpio Killer even exclaims, "Jeeeesssus!"
    • Additionally, in the scene where Harry confronts the Scorpio Killer on the field of Kezar Stadium, in one of the close-ups, perpendicular lines painted on the football field resemble a cross in one of the close-up shots of the Scorpio Killer whimpering in fear and pain.
  • Sadist: The Scorpio Killer is completely Ax-Crazy and very sadistic as well, his worst act being kidnapping and burying a teenage girl alive.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The Scorpio Killer when wounded.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Harry breaks the law several times to protect The Scorpio Killer's victims.
  • Serial Killer: Scorpio, who was based on the Zodiac Killer.
  • 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!
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: According to Andrew Robinson, Scorpio is this.
  • Shirtless Scene: Harry during an After Action Patch Up after Scorpio beats him up.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Scorpio takes a young boy hostage. Harry simply shoots him in the shoulder and the boy escapes.
  • Sissy Villain: The Scorpio Killer is a slight young man with long hair, and is always moments away from a hissy fit. The contrast is made more blatant by the fact that Harry Callahan is played by quintessential "man's man" Clint Eastwood.
  • Shout-Out: Harry tossing his badge in the end is one, to High Noon.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Harry is held at gunpoint by Scorpio, who plans to kill him after a good bit of Evil Gloating, but before he can get the chance, Harry stabs Scorpio in the leg. And for added humor, Scorpio lets out a huge girly scream.
  • 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, Berkeley, the surest way in that era of painting someone as an over-permissive liberal. Pauline Kael, a former native of San Francisco, noted in her review how unlikely this would be in real-life and suspected the filmmakers included this specifically to tweak conservative viewers.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Harry is a Cowboy Cop who happens to be a total arsehole with almost no friends; he's legendary but pretty much a Broken Ace. One of the film's most famous scenes involves him tracking down Scorpio and belting the shit out of him. Not only is Harry promptly the subject of justifiable rage by his captain, but Scorpio expresses a desire to sue.
  • Suspicious Ski Mask: Scorpio wears a ski-mask as he menaces Harry, mocking the police detective and saying that he plans to kill his hostage, a fourteen year old girl, anyway, despite receiving the ransom money. (In truth, the girl is already dead, but Harry doesn't know that when he stabs Scorpio in the leg, then tortures him for the girl's location.)
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: 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.
  • Television Geography:
    • Going from Forest Hills Station to Aquatic Park to Mount Davidson in under an hour would be a neat trick in a car (without sirens), let alone on foot.
    • Harry also is able to take the train directly from Forest Hills to Delores Park which is impossible in Real Life. You have to take a separate line.
  • That Poor Cat: During the spying scene, Harry accidentally knocks over a trash can, occurring a cat yowl.
  • 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: The Scorpio Killer gets a gun from a frequently robbed liquor store owner that carries one for protection.
  • Title Drop: His partner wants 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.
  • Torture Always Works: Harry presses down on the Scorpio killer's badly wounded leg (he was just shot with a .44 revolver) until he tells him where to find a girl he had kidnapped and left to suffocate. Naturally, he finds out where she is, only to discover that she has already died. The killer promptly walks away from the law by crying "police brutality", much to Harry's disgust.
  • 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.
  • Understatement: One that's acknowledged immediately.
    Harry: 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.
  • Urban Hellscape: The Ur-Example and Trope Maker. The eponymous character is a Cowboy Cop who has become disillusioned with by-the-book policework, and seeing criminals frequently get Off on a Technicality. He thus frequently takes the law into his own hands, and the films either explore the sort of conditions that justify his actions, or what happens when other police go to even more brutal methods from his example.
  • Villain Ball: Having been foiled in his attempt to snipe a Catholic priest from a rooftop, Callahan stakes out the same rooftop, knowing the Scorpio killer will be compelled to come back and finish what he started.
    "These sick guys have behavior patterns. We know they'll rob the very same store 3, 4 times in a row. Must appeal to their superego or something. Scorpio strikes again. They like that feeling."
  • Villain Opening Scene: The film begins with the first Scorpio murder. More accurately, it starts with a pretty girl taking a swim in a rooftop pool, then zooms out at length until we see the barrel of a sniper rifle...
  • 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: Chico is about to throw up after seeing Scorpio's second victim.
  • Weapon Specialization: Harry Callahan is famous for using a .44 Magnum revolver. Responsible for popularizing the revolver as the weapon of choice for badasses everywhere. The size of the weapon reflects his lack of subtlety.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Harry gets called out on the tactics that he used to bring Scorpio in, including his full-on Jack Bauer style interrogation on the football field. Granted, Harry was absolutely furious after Scorpio revealed himself as a complete sociopath (who didn't feel like revealing the location of his hostage after all), but it still qualified as What the Hell, Hero? in the eyes of Harry's superiors.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Scorpio is perfectly happy to slaughter children if it suits him.
    • He shoots a young African American boy, sniper style, to death.
    • Later, he kidnaps, brutally rapes and buries alive a young teen-aged girl. In the later case, he demands a huge ransom for her safe return. But when he gets his money, just for the fun of it, he refuses to reveal her whereabouts until Callahan tortures him during questioning. (Even after that, the girl is found dead inside her grave.)
    • 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 use him as a human shield if Callahan dares take a step closer.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Scorpio starts the movie off by sniping a swimming woman in her pool, and then later rapes and kills a teenage girl. 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).
  • 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, giving him a good kick at the end "on the house". Scorpio did call him a "black son of a bitch".
  • 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!
  • Zodiac Motifs: The psychopathic killer that Harry spends the entire movie trying to stop is nicknamed "The Scorpio Killer" by the press. His real name is never revealed.