Both Unforgiven and Million Dollar baby rank amongst Clint Eastwood's finest films and although, unsurprisingly, they both share lots of superficial similarities - both have Eastwood, an 'out-of-shape' but previously expert master teaming up with a completely disposable Morgan Freeman (included for the sole purpose of explicating Eastwood himself), taking on a new, nobler challenge that rekindles the spirit of his previous line of work while redeeming himself for the crimes he committed under it - they actually reflect how the director's world-view changed radically in those 12 years.

The key question of both films is, “What if God does not exist?” Like a lot of westerns, Unforgiven uses a disturbing amount of Christ imagery, but it puts these allusions to the service of a nihilistic theme, rather than a theme of salvation Bill Munny is a former bounty hunter who left his life of killing behind when he married a decent woman; however, he’s a widower now, and he needs money, so he takes a job killing two men who beat and cut a prostitute. At one point, Munny is beaten by the sheriff’s men, and he remains unconscious for three days; his awakening (resurrection?) is witnessed by the prostitute, and at the film’s end, Munny proves that all the legends about him were true, as he takes out the sheriff and all his men in a shoot-out that is witnessed by a storyteller who will go on to spread Munny’s vindictive gospel.

In Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood takes what appears to be a conventional boxing-melodrama plot about a crusty old trainer whose heart is melted by a spirited young fighter and turns it into a somber meditation on faith, redemption & death. There's a stark duality with which Frankie relates to the two women in his life (His daughter whom he's abandoned & Maggie). It seems that Frankie did something to his daughter that he needs to be “forgiven” for. And it seems that Frankie sees an opportunity to redeem himself by being good to Maggie and making her dreams come true.

In Million Dollar Baby, I believe Maggie says she wants Frankie to kill her because she cannot go on living in her quadriplegic state, hooked up to a respirator, precisely because she has had all her dreams come true and she doesn’t want that taken away from her - but in Unforgiven, Munny says, "Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have." So in one film, killing a person takes everything away from a person (at least in Munny's eyes), and in the other film, letting a person live takes everything away from a person (at least in Maggie's eyes).

What does this say about Eastwood's philosophy of life? It doesn’t matter whether you have been good or bad to the people you love, you will still be abandoned. Act or don't Act, it makes no difference, Death is the only redemption in a man's life.