While he's appeared in any number of iconic movies, Every Which Way But Loose remains Clint Eastwood's biggest movie as an actor. Clint Eastwood first broke through with Western TV series Rawhide, but it wasn't until he appeared as the Man With No Name in the Fistful Of Dollars trilogy that he became a cinematic icon. He soon followed the success of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly with Dirty Harry, which was a huge success; Eastwood would reprise the title character in four sequels.
Clint Eastwood is just as famous for his directorial work and made his directing debut with 1971's Play Misty For Me. His most successful film as a director was 2014's American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper. This biopic of real-life Chris Kyle grossed nearly $550 million worldwide, with the film also earning six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director.
While American Sniper is his most successful movie as a director, his biggest hit as an actor may come as a surprise. In 1978 Eastwood took a risk appearing in his first comedy Every Which Way But Loose. This script was previously rejected by several production companies, and it was presented to Eastwood in the hope he would pass it on to friend Burt Reynolds (The Cannonball Run), who seemed like a good fit for the lead. Eastwood liked the script, however, and despite being advised against it, decided to star.
Every Which Way But Loose features Eastwood as Philo, a down on his luck bare-knuckle fighter who lives with his brother and an orangutan named Clyde. Philo and Clyde soon set off on a madcap adventure as he chases after a singer he's fallen for. While the movie received mostly weak reviews, it was a shock success. A big part of this probably came down to the hijinks of Clyde, who Eastwood allowed to steal the movie from him. Every Which Way But Loose was produced for a relatively modest $5 million but ended up grossing over $100 million. According to Box Office Mojo, adjusted for inflation, its gross stands at $320 million. The movie was also the first surpass $10 million in its opening weekend.
The film was so successful it spawned a sequel with 1980's Any Which Way You Can, which was another hit. The follow-up grossed over $230 million adjusted for inflation, with the duology forming Eastwood's biggest hits as a star. For contrast, the biggest Dirty Harry movie was sequel Magnum Force, which made over $200 million when adjusted. While the Clint and Clyde movies are probably the most dismissed among his work critically, it's a gamble that certainly paid off for the star.
Box-office grosses are now a big topic of conversation among fans, such as Avengers: Endgame recently surpassing Avatar as the most successful movie of all time, but this wasn't always the case. Few fans of Clint Eastwood would have known or cared about the gross of Every Which Way But Loose during its initial release, and while the movie itself rarely gets mentioned now, it proved to be one of the highest grossers of 1978. Maybe it proves Dirty Harry could have been even more successful if Harry had Clyde for a partner - but its probably best the series didn't go that route.