Sudden Impact is a 1983 American thriller film and the fourth film in the Dirty Harry series, directed by Clint Eastwood (making it the only Dirty Harry film to be directed by Eastwood himself), and starring Eastwood and Sondra Locke. The film is notable for the catchphrase, "Go ahead, make my day", which is uttered by Clint Eastwood's character in the beginning of the film. That phrase, although in its Italian localization "Coraggio... fatti ammazzare", was also chosen as title for the Italian version of the film.
Artist Jennifer Spencer and her sister were raped by a group of young men 10 years ago, after being betrayed by a female friend, Ray Parkins. The brutal rape left Jennifer's sister permanently catatonic. Spencer seeks revenge, and begins by killing George Wilburn with two shots from a .38 snubnosed revolver, one in the groin and one in the head. She leaves San Francisco for the town of San Paulo because of the police investigation, and begins restoring its boardwalk's historic carousel near the beach where the rapes occurred. Meanwhile, San Francisco Police Department Homicide Inspector Harry Callahan is frustrated when a judge yet again dismisses a case due to unreasonable search and seizure. At his favorite diner, the inspector interrupts a robbery and kills most of the criminals. When the surviving robber takes a hostage, Callahan challenges him to "Go ahead, make my day"; the criminal surrenders.
Callahan causes powerful crime lord Threlkis to suffer a fatal heart attack at his granddaughter's wedding. Lieutenant Donnelly and other angry superior officers cannot fire or suspend the notorious inspector because, as the police commissioner admits, his "unconventional methods ... get results", albeit with tremendous physical destruction and bad publicity for the department. They order him to take a vacation, which Callahan spends with his .44 AutoMag. Four of Threlkis's hitmen attack the inspector; only one escapes alive. The suspect from the dismissed case and his friends also attack, throwing two Molotov cocktails into Callahan's car. He uses one of the bombs to cause them to drive into the bay, killing them. Donnelly sends the inspector to San Paulo to investigate the murder of the man Spencer killed. While the victim is from there, it is also to protect both Callahan and civilians; as Donnelly notes, "people have a nasty habit of getting dead around you."
While jogging in San Paulo with his bulldog "Meathead", Callahan meets Spencer. He is hunted by the surviving Threlkis hitman, but kills him after being warned by Meathead. Meanwhile, Spencer kills a second rapist, Kruger, at the beach; although Callahan recognizes the modus operandi, police chief Lester Jannings refuses to work with the famous "big city hotshot" inspector. Callahan realizes that the victims and Parkins are friends of Jannings' son, Alby, while Parkins realizes that the rapists are being targeted and warns two others, Tyrone and Mick. After fighting Kruger's uncooperative brothers-in-law Eddie and Carl, Callahan meets Spencer again and learns that she shares his emphasis on results over methods when seeking justice, although the inspector adds the caveat "'til it breaks the law."
Callahan visits Tyrone's home and finds him dead, another victim of Spencer. Parkins and Mick are staying at her home to protect themselves. When the inspector visits them for questioning, Mick attacks him. After Callahan takes Mick to the police station, Spencer comes in and kills Parkins. Callahan and Spencer meet again and sleep together, but on his way out he notices Spencer's car, which he had seen earlier at Parkins' house. He goes back to Parkins' house and finds her body. Eddie and Carl bail Mick out, and they find Callahan, beat him up, and throw him into the sea. Spencer visits Alby Jannings, who now is also catatonic after his guilty conscience caused him to attempt suicide in a car accident. Chief Jannings admits that to protect his reputation and his only child he "fixed" the crimes but promises that Mick, whom he does not know is free, will now be punished. Mick and the others, however, capture Spencer and kill the chief with her .38.
Callahan survives and retrieves his AutoMag. Mick's group brings Spencer to the beach for another rape, but she escapes to the carousel. They recapture her, but are startled by the inspector's apparent return from death. After killing the others, Callahan chases Mick, who has taken Spencer hostage atop a roller coaster. The inspector again challenges Mick to "make my day"; when Spencer escapes, Callahan shoots him. Mick falls to his death on a carousel unicorn. The police find Spencer's .38 with Mick; ballistics, Callahan states, will find that "his gun … was used in all the killings." He and Spencer leave the crime scene.
- Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
- Sondra Locke as Jennifer Spencer
- Pat Hingle as Chief Lester Jannings
- Bradford Dillman as Captain Briggs
- Paul Drake as Mick
- Audrie J. Neenan as Ray Parkins
- Jack Thibeau as Kruger
- Michael Currie as Lt. Donnelly
- Albert Popwell as Horace King
- Mark Keyloun as Officer Bennett
- Kevyn Major Howard as Hawkins
- Bette Ford as Leah
- Nancy Parsons as Mrs. Kruger
The screenplay was initially written by Charles B. Pierce and Earl E. Smith for a separate film for Sondra Locke, but was later adapted into a Dirty Harry film by Joseph Stinson. Filming occurred in spring 1983. Many of the film's scenes were filmed in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California. The scene where Harry chases a bank robber in the downtown business district offers a rare glimpse of the area before it was devastated by the Loma Prieta earthquakeof October 17, 1989. Footage for the robbery in "Acorn Cafe" was actually shot at Burger Island (now a McDonald's) at the corner of 3rd Street and Townsend in San Francisco. At this point in his career, Eastwood was receiving a salary that included 60% of all film profits, leaving the other 40% for the studio. Estimates had Eastwood earning $30 million for Sudden Impact.
Sudden Impact received mixed reviews from critics, scoring 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was a box-office success. In its opening weekend the film took $9,688,561 in 1,530 theaters in the US. In total in the US, the film made $67,642,693, making it the highest grossing of the five films in the Dirty Harry franchise.
Sudden Impact is best remembered for Harry's catchphrase, "Go ahead, make my day". In 2005, it was voted in a poll by the American Film Institute as the sixth most memorable line in cinema history. United States President Ronald Reagan used the "make my day" line in a March 1985 speech threatening to veto legislation raising taxes. When campaigning for office as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, in 1986, Eastwood used bumper stickers entitled "Go Ahead — Make Me Mayor".