Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

The 13 best Harrison Ford movies

The best Harrison Ford movies prove that he can embody multiple iconic characters with ease. Here’s what to watch

Phil de Semlyen
Contributor: Phil de Semlyen
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Suddenly, Harrison Ford is in his ninth decade (he turned 80 in July) and everyone feels a whole lot older. Then again, part of his on-screen appeal came via his natural gift for seeming that bit slyer, cooler and more savvy than everyone else in the room, archeological dig site, Death Star or presidential airliner – so perhaps he’s always been eighty-something on the inside. Since breaking through with bit parts in American Graffiti and The Conversation (even his minor roles are in masterpieces), he’s rarely put a foot wrong in the roles he’s taken and films he’s picked. Who else can lay claim to playing three of the most iconic characters in cinema history? Here’s his finest, most evergreen performances to revisit. 

Best Harrison Ford movies

  • Film
  • Science fiction

The original release of Blade Runner yielded mixed reviews—some said its techy special effects were overwrought, and some thought it was paced like molasses. But Rick Deckard’s (Ford) gravely voice and cynical detachment are trénoir, as is the dank, foggy urban sprawl (read: future LA). Best of all, while Blade Runner fields some questions typical in the sci-fi genre (Can robots love, etc.), it answers them with a gesture characteristic of Ford himself: a shrug.

  • Film
  • Science fiction

Novelty and special effects were not what turned Star Wars from a film to phenomenon (though they totally helped). The latter is largely thanks to its stellar cast of characters, especially Han Solo (Ford). He touches a nerve with Americans in particular—we like the outlaw, the scoundrel and the rebel in our stories. He also offers some assurance: No matter how far away a galaxy is, someone out there is not taking anything too seriously, owing people money and hitting on your sister (sorry, Luke).

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones (Ford) has a mighty glamorous gig—he’s a treasure hunter, basically. While he insists to his students that his work is mostly mind-numbing tedium, we see him braving exotic locales in pursuit of precious artifacts, dodging both serpents and Nazis, and still finding time to romance a female hostage. It really does make being an archeologist seem like the greatest job ever.

  • Film

This detective thriller earned Ford his first (and only) Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Detective John Book. Book has been assigned to investigate a murder; he discovers the victim was an undercover police officer. It quickly becomes apparent that the Amish boy who witnessed the slaying is now himself a target of malevolent forces unknown. To protect him, Book ingratiates himself in the Amish community and learns that these tight-knit enclaves have their own system for dealing with crime and punishment—one that answers to no one.

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  • Film

Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) is wanted for his wife’s murder—a murder he did not commit. But the cops don’t buy his story of a one-armed man, and he’s arrested and later convicted. But Dr. Kimble eventually escapes from a bus taking him to death row. (It smashes into a train, conveniently.) Ford deftly portrays the desperate plight of a man with nothing to lose and one thing on his mind: vengeance.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

In this movie, Jones’ father, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery), quells Indy’s sultry personality—like when he reveals that he named the dog Indiana, not his son—to great comedic effect. Indeed, the dimension added by Indiana having his dad along for ride makes this the romp-iest of the Indiana Jones trilogy, but it’s worthwhile for the Connery-Ford chemistry alone.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

When President James Marshall (Ford) attends a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, he praises the recent capture of political extremists by Russian and U.S. Special Forces. But when he boards Air Force One to head back to America, he’s met with a surprise: Agents of the terror group he offended are aboard, and they’re not happy. What follows is a white-knuckle hijacked flight juxtaposed against how comforting it would be if Ford were actually president.

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  • Film

Loosely based on the novel by Paul Theroux, this is the story of Allie Fox (Ford), a successful inventor who has grown tired with the American way of life. Seeking some form of tropical utopia, he moves his family to South America to live in the steamy jungle. However, as often happens to men in the jungle, Fox begins to unravel, and he becomes stauncher in his stubbornness and more erratic in his behavior. Ford portrays a man’s decay in paradise with paranoid superstition amidst indiscriminate violence.

  • Film
  • Science fiction

He may not be the main attraction in this long-germinating Blade Runner sequel, but Harrison Ford’s moody, lived-in charisma remains tailor-made for the neon-splashed universe of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi landmark. A little growlier, a lot greyer, he re-inhabits the iconic role of Rick Deckard like he’d spent the past 35 years hiding out in that dusty Las Vegas high-rise, nursing a Scotch and a few deep-hewn sorrows. The arrival of Ryan Gosling’s next gen Blade Runner drags him grumpily out of his hideout and into another world of corporate conspiracies – and suddenly this slick sequel feels like an authentic Blade Runner movie.

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  • Film
  • Thrillers

Rozat "Rusty" Sabich (Ford) is a hardnosed prosecutor and the DA’s favorite weapon. When a colleague is found raped and murdered, he’s assigned to the case before being dismissed when it’s discovered he had an affair with the victim (a conflict of interest). Ultimately, it’s a story about the shortcomings of our court system when protocol inhibits real justice. It’s easily the best courtroom drama without Jerry Orbach’s piercing blue eyes.

  • Film
  • Comedy

Jack Trainer (Ford) is a slick finance honcho on Wall Street. But the smooth sailing SS Trainer runs aground when it crashes into rocky romance. Working Girl is a fast-paced tale about making it in Manhattan and what happens when wheeling and dealing in business gets entangled with the wooing and cooing of love.

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