Don Siegel was an American film director and producer who is best known for his work in the crime and thriller genres. Siegel had a long and prolific career in Hollywood, directing over 40 films in a variety of styles and genres.

He was known for his economical and efficient directing style, his ability to create tension and suspense, and his use of practical effects and stunts.

Some of Siegel’s most famous films include “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), a science fiction classic about a small town taken over by alien pod people; “Dirty Harry” (1971), a crime thriller starring Clint Eastwood as a tough San Francisco cop; and “Escape from Alcatraz” (1979), a prison drama based on a true story.

Siegel also directed several films in collaboration with actor Clint Eastwood, including “Coogan’s Bluff” (1968), “Two Mules for Sister Sara” (1970), and “The Beguiled” (1971).

Other notable films by Don Siegel include “The Lineup” (1958), a crime drama set in San Francisco; “Charley Varrick” (1973), a heist film starring Walter Matthau; and “The Shootist” (1976), John Wayne’s final film in which he played an aging gunslinger.

Best Don Siegel Movies

Don Siegel’s films are characterized by their tight pacing, gripping storytelling, and strong performances from his actors.

His contributions to the crime and thriller genres have had a lasting impact on cinema and continue to inspire filmmakers today.

1. Dirty Harry (1971)

Dirty Harry is a crime thriller film released in 1971, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood as the eponymous character, San Francisco Police Department Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan.

The film follows Harry as he tracks down a psychopathic serial killer known as Scorpio, who is terrorizing San Francisco with a string of brutal murders.

As Harry investigates the case, he clashes with his superiors in the police department, who are more concerned with protecting Scorpio’s rights than capturing him.

Harry takes matters into his own hands and employs his own brand of vigilante justice to stop the killer.

Dirty Harry is known for its gritty, realistic portrayal of crime and its portrayal of Harry as a tough, no-nonsense law enforcement officer who is willing to bend the rules to get the job done.

The film was a commercial success and spawned several sequels, including Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool.

Dirty Harry has since become a classic of the crime thriller genre and is celebrated for its iconic portrayal of Clint Eastwood as a tough and uncompromising hero.

The film’s memorable catchphrases, such as “Go ahead, make my day,” have become cultural touchstones and are still referenced in popular media today.

Dirty Harry [DVD]
  • Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director) - Dean Riesner (Writer)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

2. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

“Escape from Alcatraz” is a drama film released in 1979, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood.

The movie is based on the true story of the escape attempt from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison located on an island in the San Francisco Bay.

Eastwood plays the role of Frank Morris, a hardened criminal who is transferred to Alcatraz after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

Morris soon befriends two other inmates, brothers John and Clarence Anglin, and together they begin to plan their escape from the seemingly inescapable prison.

The film is known for its suspenseful pacing and gritty realism, as well as the strong performances from Eastwood and his co-stars.

It portrays the harsh conditions of life in a maximum-security prison, as well as the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the prisoners who attempted to escape.

“Escape from Alcatraz” was a box office success and has since become a classic in the prison escape genre.

It is widely regarded as one of Eastwood’s best performances and has been praised for its compelling storytelling and atmospheric cinematography.

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Escape From Alcatraz [DVD]
  • Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director) - J. Campbell Bruce (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

3. Charley Varrick (1973)

“Charley Varrick” is a crime thriller film released in 1973. The film was directed by Don Siegel and starred Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, and Felicia Farr.

The story centers around Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau), a small-time crop duster who robs a small bank in New Mexico with his accomplice, Harmon Sullivan (Andrew Robinson).

However, they soon discover that the bank is a front for the local Mafia, and they have stolen much more than they bargained for.

As Charley and Harmon attempt to evade the ruthless mobsters who are now after them, they must also contend with a determined and unorthodox sheriff named Bill Horton (Joe Don Baker).

“Charley Varrick” is known for its gripping story, tense action sequences, and strong performances by its cast.

The film is notable for its exploration of themes such as greed, betrayal, and the consequences of criminal activity.

It is also considered to be a classic example of the crime thriller genre, with its well-crafted plot twists and suspenseful pacing.

Charley Varrick [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Felicia Farr (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

4. The Lineup (1958)

“The Lineup” is a 1958 film noir directed by Don Siegel and starring Eli Wallach, Robert Keith, and Warner Anderson.

The film follows two hitmen, Dancer (Wallach) and Julian (Robert Keith), who are hired to transport a cache of heroin across the United States.

When the heroin is inadvertently mixed up with a tourist’s luggage at the airport, Dancer and Julian embark on a violent and dangerous mission to retrieve it.

The film is notable for its gritty depiction of violence and its use of real-life locations in San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was also one of the last films to be shot by legendary cinematographer Hal Mohr, who had won an Oscar for his work on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1935.

“The Lineup” was well-received upon its release and has since become a cult classic among fans of film noir. It was later adapted into a television series of the same name, which ran from 1959 to 1960.

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5. The Beguiled (1971)

“The Beguiled” is a psychological drama film directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, and Elizabeth Hartman.

The film is set during the Civil War and follows the story of a wounded Union soldier named John McBurney (Eastwood), who is taken in and nursed back to health by a group of young women at a Southern girls’ boarding school.

As McBurney begins to recover, he charms the women with his good looks and smooth talk, and a twisted and tense battle of wills ensues as the women compete for his attention and affection.

However, as McBurney’s true intentions become clear, tensions escalate and the women are forced to confront the harsh realities of war and the dangerous consequences of their actions.

“The Beguiled” is a dark and compelling film that explores themes of desire, manipulation, and betrayal.

The film is notable for its stunning cinematography and atmospheric score, as well as its strong performances from the talented cast. Clint Eastwood delivers a nuanced and complex performance as McBurney, while Geraldine Page shines as the stern and calculating headmistress of the school.

Although “The Beguiled” was not a commercial success upon its release in 1971, it has since become a cult classic and is widely regarded as one of Don Siegel’s best films.

The film was remade in 2017 by director Sofia Coppola, with Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Colin Farrell in the lead roles.

The Beguiled (1971)
  • The Beguiled - DVD Brand New
  • Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director) - John B. Sherry (Writer) - Don Siegel (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

6. Death of a Gunfighter (1969)

“Death of a Gunfighter” is a western film that was released in 1969 and directed by Robert Totten and Don Siegel (who was uncredited).

The film tells the story of Marshal Frank Patch (played by Richard Widmark), a lawman in a small Texas town who has maintained order for many years.

However, when a young gunslinger named Lot McGuire (played by John Saxon) comes to town and starts causing trouble, Patch finds himself in a difficult position.

On the one hand, he wants to maintain his reputation as a tough lawman and keep the peace. On the other hand, he realizes that he may be getting too old for the job and that his methods may be outdated.

As Patch struggles with these conflicting feelings, tensions in the town continue to rise, leading to a violent confrontation between Patch and McGuire.

“Death of a Gunfighter” is notable for its unusual production history. The original director, Robert Totten, was fired from the film midway through production, and Don Siegel was brought in to complete the project.

However, due to guild rules, Totten was given sole credit as director, while Siegel was credited as a “creative consultant.”

Despite the behind-the-scenes drama, “Death of a Gunfighter” received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Widmark’s performance and the film’s nuanced exploration of themes such as aging and the changing nature of the West.

7. Coogan’s Bluff (1968)

Coogan’s Bluff is a crime thriller film released in 1968, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood as an Arizona deputy sheriff named Walt Coogan.

The film follows Coogan as he travels to New York City to extradite a prisoner named James Ringerman (played by Don Stroud) back to Arizona.

However, Coogan soon discovers that Ringerman has escaped from custody and is hiding out in the city. As Coogan tries to track down Ringerman, he clashes with the local police department and finds himself caught up in a dangerous criminal underworld.

Coogan’s Bluff is known for its exciting action sequences, tense atmosphere, and Eastwood’s portrayal of a tough, no-nonsense law enforcement officer.

The film was a commercial success and helped establish Eastwood as a leading actor in Hollywood.

Coogan’s Bluff has since become a cult classic and is celebrated for its memorable scenes, thrilling car chases, and impressive stunt work.

The film’s influence can be seen in later action films, and it remains a favorite among Eastwood fans and lovers of the crime thriller genre.

Death of a Gunfighter
  • Richard Widmark, Lena Horne, Carroll O'Connor (Actors)
  • Allen Smithee (Director) - Joseph Calvelli (Writer) - Richard E. Lyons (Producer)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

8. The Big Steal (1949)

“The Big Steal” is a film noir released in 1949, directed by Don Siegel and starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer.

The movie follows the story of U.S. Army officer Lieutenant Duke Halliday (Mitchum), who is accused of stealing a large sum of money from the army and is pursued across Mexico by a fellow officer, Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix).

Along the way, Halliday teams up with the beautiful and mysterious Joan Graham (Greer), who has her own reasons for helping him evade the authorities.

The two of them become embroiled in a complex web of deceit and double-crosses, as they try to clear Halliday’s name and uncover the truth about the stolen money.

“The Big Steal” is known for its suspenseful plot, snappy dialogue, and strong performances from its lead actors.

Mitchum and Greer had previously starred together in the classic film noir “Out of the Past,” and their chemistry is on full display in this film as well.

The movie is also notable for its portrayal of Mexico as a backdrop for the action, with scenes filmed on location in various Mexican cities and towns. Overall, “The Big Steal” is a stylish and entertaining entry in the film noir genre.

The Big Steal
  • Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director) - Daniel Mainwaring (Writer) - Jack J. Gross (Producer)
  • French (Subtitle)

9. Private Hell 36 (1954)

“Private Hell 36” is a crime film noir released in 1954. The film was directed by Don Siegel and starred Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, and Howard Duff.

The story follows two Los Angeles detectives, Cal Bruner (Steve Cochran) and Jack Farnham (Howard Duff), who become embroiled in a case involving counterfeit money.

When they stumble upon a large sum of cash during a routine investigation, they decide to keep it for themselves. However, their actions soon lead them down a dangerous path, as they are forced to confront the consequences of their greed and deceit.

Meanwhile, Cal becomes involved with Lilli Marlowe (Ida Lupino), a lounge singer who may have connections to the criminal underworld.

As tensions rise and secrets are revealed, Cal and Jack find themselves caught in a web of corruption and betrayal.

“Private Hell 36” is known for its moody atmosphere, sharp dialogue, and strong performances, particularly by Ida Lupino.

The film explores themes such as moral ambiguity, greed, and the destructive nature of temptation. It is considered a classic example of film noir, with its use of shadowy visuals and morally complex characters.

Private Hell 36
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, Howard Duff (Actors)
  • Don Siegel (Director) - Ida Lupino (Writer) - Collier Young (Producer)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

10. The Killers (1964)

“The Killers” is a 1964 crime film directed by Don Siegel and based on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway.

The film stars Lee Marvin as a professional hitman named Charlie, and John Cassavetes as a former race car driver named Johnny North who becomes embroiled in a heist gone wrong.

The film follows two hitmen, Charlie and Lee (Clu Gulager), as they track down and kill a former boxer named Ole “Swede” Andreson (Burt Lancaster) at a small-town diner.

This event triggers an investigation by an insurance investigator named Reardon (played by Ronald Reagan in his last acting role), who tries to uncover the reason behind the hit and its connection to Johnny North.

“The Killers” is notable for its use of flashbacks to tell the story, as well as its stylistic portrayal of violence and its performances by its ensemble cast.

The film was well-received upon its release and has since become a classic of the crime genre. It was remade twice, first in 1996 as a made-for-TV movie directed by Robert Mandel, and then in 2010 as a short film directed by Andrei Konchalovsky.

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3 Characteristics of Don Siegel Films

Here are three reasons why you should watch films directed by Don Siegel:

Master of suspense and action: Don Siegel was known for his skill in creating tension and suspense in his films.

He was also known for his ability to craft thrilling action sequences, often using practical effects and stunts rather than relying on special effects. Watching his films is a great way to see how a master filmmaker can build tension and excitement.

Variety of genres: Don Siegel directed films in a wide range of genres, from crime and thriller to western and science fiction. His films explore a variety of themes and topics, and offer a unique perspective on each genre. This makes watching his films a great way to discover new stories and perspectives.

Collaborations with iconic actors: Don Siegel had a longstanding collaboration with actor Clint Eastwood, directing several of his most famous films, including “Dirty Harry” and “The Beguiled”.

Siegel’s films also feature performances by other iconic actors, such as Richard Widmark, John Wayne, and Walter Matthau. Watching Siegel’s films is a great way to see these legendary actors at their best, and to appreciate the creative chemistry between director and performer.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Don Siegel Films

Here are three reasons why you should watch films directed by Don Siegel:

Master of suspense and action: Don Siegel was known for his skill in creating tension and suspense in his films.

He was also known for his ability to craft thrilling action sequences, often using practical effects and stunts rather than relying on special effects. Watching his films is a great way to see how a master filmmaker can build tension and excitement.

Variety of genres: Don Siegel directed films in a wide range of genres, from crime and thriller to western and science fiction.

His films explore a variety of themes and topics, and offer a unique perspective on each genre. This makes watching his films a great way to discover new stories and perspectives.

Collaborations with iconic actors: Don Siegel had a longstanding collaboration with actor Clint Eastwood, directing several of his most famous films, including “Dirty Harry” and “The Beguiled”.

Siegel’s films also feature performances by other iconic actors, such as Richard Widmark, John Wayne, and Walter Matthau. Watching Siegel’s films is a great way to see these legendary actors at their best, and to appreciate the creative chemistry between director and performer.

Best Don Siegel Films – Wrapping Up

Don Siegel was a prolific filmmaker who directed a wide range of films spanning several genres. Here are three of his best films:

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) – A sci-fi classic, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a chilling allegory for the Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s.

The film follows a small California town as its residents are slowly replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. Siegel masterfully builds tension and paranoia as the protagonist, a doctor played by Kevin McCarthy, tries to convince others of the sinister plot.

The film’s iconic final scene has become one of the most memorable in sci-fi history.

“Dirty Harry” (1971) – This action-thriller stars Clint Eastwood as the no-nonsense San Francisco detective “Dirty” Harry Callahan, who is tasked with stopping a sniper who is terrorizing the city.

The film is known for its iconic dialogue and memorable action sequences, and Eastwood’s performance as the tough-as-nails cop helped cement his status as a Hollywood icon. The film spawned several sequels and has had a lasting impact on the action genre.

“Escape from Alcatraz” (1979) – Based on a true story, “Escape from Alcatraz” follows a group of inmates as they attempt to break out of the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island.

Siegel’s direction keeps the tension high as the prisoners navigate the harsh conditions of the prison and plan their escape.

Clint Eastwood delivers a standout performance as the protagonist, Frank Morris, and the film’s final moments are both tense and poignant.

Overall, Don Siegel was a talented filmmaker who left a lasting mark on the film industry. His films continue to be celebrated for their strong storytelling, memorable characters, and iconic scenes.