For a guy who often seemed like he wasn’t terribly interested in acting, Harrison Ford has had quite the career. He’s been in some of the biggest franchises in film history, and he’s played multiple indelible characters. Ford is definitely one of the biggest movie stars ever, and over his career, he’s put together a litany of memorable performances. These are the 25 that stick with us the most. We aren’t sticking to one film per franchise, either. How could we with Ford’s career?
Ford had a few small roles prior to “American Graffiti,” but this was his first real work of note. The story is well known. Ford was working as a carpenter in LA when he and George Lucas crossed paths. Lucas put Ford in a small, but pivotal, role in his coming-of-age dramedy as a drag racer and a career was born.
Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola were good friends, and they probably shared notes on actors. “The Conversation” is a very good film, but it’s Gene Hackman’s movie. Ford has another brief role, and maybe it’s only memorable because when you watch now you realize you’re watching a young Harrison Ford. Still, he sticks out in a classic film.
This is where it all began. Ford went from a carpenter with a few acting roles to his name to a bona fide superstar. “Star Wars” changed the movie landscape. It changed the world. And, of course, playing the daring rogue Han Solo changed Ford’s life forever.
“Star Wars” was so successful that his small role in “Apocalypse Now” is considered a notable cameo as opposed to a working actor’s gig. Ford plays Colonel Lucas, a name given to him by Coppola as a shout-out to his buddy George. It’s definitely a memorable role, as Ford delivers the famous line, “Terminate, with extreme prejudice.”
We’re back to the “Star Wars” realm. Maybe the biggest movie franchise ever went from one big blockbuster to an ongoing series that also influenced movies going forward. Would we have the MCU without the “Star Wars” franchise? Also, this is definitely a big movie for Han Solo, though it doesn’t end well for him.
One iconic role, not enough? Why not get a second one? Steven Spielberg, also a friend of Lucas and Coppola, was not taking a chance on Ford. He was already a star. However, he hadn’t really carried a movie as the true star yet. Playing Indiana Jones was his chance. Clearly, it worked out. “Raiders” isn’t just a hit blockbuster, but a movie that was nominated for Best Picture.
Apparently, Ford was just churning out iconic movies in the early ‘80s. “Blade Runner” was more of an acquired taste. It’s headier science fiction than “Star Wars.” Ridley Scott’s film has gone through a few machinations, but it’s considered a classic by many regardless. Ford plays Rick Deckard, a man who is in charge of tracking down renegade replicants…or is he a man?
With this, the original “Star Wars” trilogy ended. Some don’t like this one as much. The Ewoks were a little cheesy. Still, you can’t call “Return of the Jedi” anything but memorable. It’s an iconic film. Plus, Han Solo got out of the frozen carbonite and got to be a hero once again.
This film is a bit of a step down from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Spielberg has said he was going through some things, which left the film a little dark. Plus, Short Round and Willie Scott are both a little annoying. Even so, this is Indiana Jones. Every Indiana Jones movie is memorable, and Ford is always good in the role.
A lot of this list has been science fiction or adventure films. It’s a litany of blockbusters. “Witness” is decidedly different. It’s a chance for Ford to do something a little more serious. “Witness” is a drama that sees Ford as a police detective who has to head into an Amish community to protect a witness.
Maybe Ford wasn’t interested in romantic comedies. Maybe filmmakers thought he wasn’t right for those kinds of roles. “Working Girl” showed that he was more than capable, though. Ford and his developing situation with Melanie Griffith is only a part of the film’s story. It’s as much about Griffith trying to rise in the workplace as an ‘80s lady in a world that isn’t always rooting for her. Still, Ford is able to make a big impact, even though he didn’t really end up going the romantic comedy route all that often.
After the step down with “Temple of Doom,” “The Last Crusade” was a return to the quality shown in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The addition of Sean Connery as Indiana’s father was a nice touch, as he and Ford had a fun give and take. There’s always something to enjoy in Indiana’s adventures. Yes, always, and we’ll get to that.
OK, so Jack Ryan isn’t quite on the level of a Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Still, the Tom Clancy character has shown up in several films, so it’s another successful and notable role for the actor. Ford wasn’t the first Clancy – that was Alec Baldwin – but he played the role twice, starting with “Patriot Games.”
“The Fugitive” took an old TV show that a lot of people had probably forgotten and turned it into a film. What’s impressive is that they managed to both create a populist thriller but also a movie that got Oscar support. In fact, Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting Actor for his role in “The Fugitive.” Of course, it’s Ford that is the titular fugitive, a man wrongly convicted for chilling his wife. Not that Jones cares.
After “The Fugitive,” Ford went back to the Jack Ryan realm. Interestingly, this is a direct sequel to “Patriot Games.” That hasn’t happened otherwise in the Ryan films, because Ford is the only actor to play the CIA operative more than once on the big screen.
In some ways, “Air Force One” feels like Jack Ryan as President. This is a silly action movie, as it’s about terrorists taking over the President’s plane, but they messed with the wrong President. Ford growls, “Get off my plane!” That’s a classic action movie catchphrase.
Deserted island movies have kind of gone by the wayside, huh? Did “Cast Away” put an end to that? Perhaps, but Ford got in on the genre before its popularity waned. “Six Days, Seven Nights” isn’t as good as “Cast Away,” but it definitely felt like a movie of the moment at the time. Maybe that’s because Ford was one of the stars. He plays a pilot who crash lands on an island with Anne Heche as his only passenger. You may be able to guess where things go from there.
Speaking of “Cast Away,” it was directed by Robert Zemeckis. He also directed “What Lies Beneath.” Interestingly, Zemeckis directed “What Lies Beneath” after directing the beginning of “Cast Away” but waiting for Tom Hanks to lose weight and grow out his hair for the part of the movie where he’s on the island. Yes, while on pause from one film, Zemeckis put together a solid thriller starring Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. That’s making good use of your downtime.
Look, we know a lot of you can’t stand “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Is it good? No, but it’s not as bad as its reputation. It’s a perfectly decent adventure movie. It’s just not up to the standards of the other Indiana Jones films. That being said, it’s Ford back as everybody’s favorite archaeologist. That will always be memorable. Also, you can’t say that it wasn’t memorable when he survived a nuclear bomb in a fridge.
Ford decided to go a little light with this romantic comedy about a morning show. He gets to do what he’s done best over the last couple of decades of his career, which is playing gruff and grumpy. It’s still pretty fun to see Ford in a frothier movie like this, especially when he can seem like quite the curmudgeon at times.
“Cowboys & Aliens” was a flop, but it was a famous flop. The buzz for the movie was so high. It was directed by Jon Favreau post-“Iron Man” and starred Ford alongside Daniel Craig. Han Solo and James Bond in one movie! Also, it’s called “Cowboys & Aliens!” While it all went wrong, we will always remember the hype, and the disappointment, of this movie.
“42” is a solid-enough biopic about the legendary Jackie Robinson. The late Chadwick Boseman excels as Robinson, but since this is a biopic a lot of famous people show up. That includes Branch Rickey, who gets credit for bringing on Robinson to break the color barrier in baseball. Ford is the one who was cast to play Rickey.
After many years away, Ford returned to the “Star Wars” universe. Now, this will be a spoiler, but it’s been a few years now. The actor famously asked Lucas to kill him off in the original trilogy. That didn’t happen, but Ford finally got his wish in “The Force Awakens” in a moment that really kicks things up a notch in the movie.
It took many years, decades even, but “Blade Runner” got itself a sequel. “Blade Runner 2049” proved a bit polarizing, and Ridley Scott did not return to direct. Plus, Ryan Gosling is the protagonist in this one. That being said, Ford does return as Rick Deckard, and it’s interesting that all these years later Deckard has become yet-another iconic Ford character.
The dead do more than speak in “The Rise of Skywalker.” They also appear as visions to their sons. While force ghosts are common in the “Star Wars” world, people lacking the force don’t tend to show up after they die. Don’t tell that to Han Solo, though. He returned in what seemed to be a hallucination to his son Ben, aka Kylo Ren. It’s an important moment in Ben’s arc, which ends with him helping to save the day, much like his grandfather before him.