Fun Facts

12 No-Nonsense Facts About Dirty Harry

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He became one of the most iconic action characters in movie history, and who else could play this role to perfection than Clint Eastwood?

The no-nonsense cop who changed action movies forever was called Harry Callahan, so let’s take a closer look at some fun facts about Dirty Harry.

1. The main characters were loosely based on real people

The story of the first Dirty Harry movie revolves around a psychotic killer referred to as “Scorpio” who terrorizes the streets of San Francisco. Harry Callahan is the hardened police officer who has to stop the madman from killing people.

The two main characters are loosely based on real people and events. Scorpio was based on the “Zodiac Killer,” a serial killer who terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s and who sent encrypted messages to the police.

Harry Callahan was based on the main detective of the Zodiac Killer case, David Toschi.

Dirty Harry and Scorpio
Dirty Harry and Scorpio – Picture credit to Warner Bros

2. It features a line that became movie history

In the early part of the movie, we can instantly see what kind of a cop Harry Callahan really is as he can stop a robbery. During this epic scene, he utters the words:

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’ve 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 one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?

Dirty Harry during the robbery.

Watch the complete scene below:

3. The famous quote almost didn’t happy

The famous quote by Dirty Harry really became movie history and made the character of the bad cop an absolute symbol. It went so far that the movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012.

One of the most remarkable facts about Dirty Harry is that the line that made him world-famous nearly didn’t happen!

After Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel joined hands to work on the project they hired Dean Riesner to finetune the script. He made the strange choice of not letting Dirty Harry point his gun at the bank robbers but his own temple instead, shortly before simply walking away from the scene.

Luckily, both Eastwood and Siegel didn’t like this and changed the scene to the classic it would become.

facts about dirty harry

4. It originally had a different title

The story of the movie was written by the husband and wife team Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink. They didn’t give it the iconic name that’s world-famous now though, as it was originally called “Dead Right.”

Let’s just say we’re happy they changed it!

5. San Francisco wasn’t the first choice of location

The original story written by the Finks was set in New York City. The original plan after Eastwood joined the project was to move the setting to Seattle.

This plan was shelved and San Francisco eventually became the setting.

6. Frank Sinatra almost became Dirty Harry

One of the most interesting facts about Dirty Harry is that movie history nearly looked completely different! When Warner Bros acquired the rights to the script, they originally did so with the idea that Frank Sinatra would play the role of Dirty Harry.

There was a huge problem though. Several years earlier, Sinatra had broken his wrist during the shooting of “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). Because of this, he demanded the gun Harry Callahan be much smaller as he was unable to properly handle it.

That didn’t fly with Warner Brothers and another star was found in Clint Eastwood, who loved his really, really, big .44 Magnum gun!

dirty harry gun

7. Clint Eastwood was both actor and stuntman

Another one of those fun fact about Dirty Harry is that Clint Eastwood performed all the stunts in the movie himself. After all, he was still young and able in 1971!

This includes one cool stunt when he jumps onto the roof of the hijacked school bus from a bridge as it passes by.

Just watch closely, you can clearly see it’s Clint jumping:

8. The movie has 4 sequels

Because Dirty Harry became such a success eventually, it has a total of 4 sequels, all in the same style with Dirty Harry being the bad cop.

These are:

  • Magnum Force in 1973
  • The Enforcer in 1976
  • Sudden Impact in 1983
  • The Dead Pool in 1988

Do you know which one was directed by Clint Eastwood himself? Yes, that’s right, Sudden Impact!

Dirty Harry sudden impact

9. Dirty sparked criticism as soon as it was released

One thing we need to make clear is that Dirty Harry wasn’t an instant success among the critics at the time. While the movie itself received an overall positive rating, its content sparked multiple debates.

The most important were topics that are still very prominent today involving police brutality, victims’ rights, and the nature of law enforcement.

At the 44th Academy Awards, several groups of feminists held up banners reading things such as “Dirty Harry is a Rotten Pig.”

Let’s just say they didn’t like how Harry Callahan did his job and leave it at that!

10. It created a whole new genre of movies

Dirty Harry became an icon in the movie industry. Over time, numerous movies have included characters that were derived from Dirty Harry Callahan.

The blunt and cynical police officer created a whole new genre of movies revolving around loose-cannon cops.

dirty harry movie facts

11. Real crimes have been based on the story of Dirty Harry

In October 1972, a real-life crime based on the Dirty Harry story was committed called the “Faraday School kidnapping.” This happened in Faraday, Victoria, Australia, and revolved around armed men who kidnapped a teacher and 6 school children.

The children were able to escape, even though the government agreed to pay the $1 million ransom they had demanded.

Another incident happened in 1981 in Germany and revolved around a ten-year-old girl, Ursula Herrmann, who was buried alive in a box and held for ransom. The girl died 48 years later as she suffocated in the box and a couple was tried and sentenced to prison in 2009 for this horrible crime.

Both events were claimed to be based on the Dirty Harry movie.

Dirty Harry on the bus

12. The movie was a major financial success

The year is 1971, Dirty Harry cost about USD 4 million to produce, and the result at the box office was a return of nearly USD 36 million.

That’s a profit of USD 32 million which is the equivalent of over USD 204 million today!

This not only made Dirty Harry the 5th-highest-grossing movie in 1971 but also a huge financial success!