In the best Harrison Ford movies, you’ll see why Hollywood had such a tough time finding a new actor to play a young Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars sequels—the suave gravitas of this man is not easily replaced or even matched. Just look back at Ford’s prolific career in some of the best movies of all time to get a sense of the titanic impression he’s left. (If one of the most iconic Star Wars characters isn’t enough for you, may we introduce a certain Indiana Jones?) From thrillers to action movies to not-so-great romantic comedies (ahem, Morning Glory), his portfolio is full of unforgettable films.
Best Harrison Ford movies
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Henry Turner (Ford) is a cold Manhattan attorney guided by a single principle: ambition. But his rocket to success is stalled when a gunshot wound leaves him severely disabled. Ford portrays a man thrust into a new perspective—one that leads to a new appreciation for his life and new determination to be a better man.
Being so cool finally catches up to Han Solo. Shortly after the ever-swaggering Han saves Luke from an ice-monster alien, his debt to Jabba the Hut gets him frozen in a carbonite prison. Before entering his immobile imprisonment, Princess Lea shouts that she loves him, and Han offers the best reply to such a declaration: “I know.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.