In honour of the great man’s 75th birthday this week, have a look at my Top 10 films starring Harrison Ford. Having been a fan of his since I first realised as a kid that he was Han Solo and Indiana Jones, this was a much harder task than I bargained for. He has been in a few duffers, but they are greatly outnumbered by his successes, and narrowing them down to just 10 was a struggle, but I think I managed it (with a few honourable mentions). Let me know if I’ve missed any….
1 The Empire Strikes Back
OK, I admit it. The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite film of all time, and so was always going to be number 1 on this list. After Star Wars introduced us to the characters and the universe they inhabit, Empire did what all great sequels do: it developed the characters and deepened their relationships. By isolating Han and Leia from the rest of the rebels as they fled the Empire, the film allowed their bickering/flirting to grow into a romance. The carbon freezing scene saw the realisation of their love for each other as they are forcibly separated, giving us one of Ford’s greatest performances as he simultaneously shows Han’s outer arrogance and inner fear. Wonderful.
Classic Ford quote: “I know.”
2 Raiders Of The Lost Ark
The first of many adventures for the world’s coolest schoolteacher, Raiders gave us a hero in Indiana Jones who was not only relentless and determined in the pursuit of his goal, but also vulnerable and human. He suffers, he bleeds, he complains about having to fight yet another Nazi, but he won’t stop until the Ark is his. There is a strong argument that if he hadn’t gone after the Ark, the outcome would have been the same, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun….
Classic Ford quote: “I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”
3 Star Wars
Ford’s breakout role came in Star Wars, the story of a young farmboy who dreams of leaving his life behind to find adventure among the stars and join the fight against the Evil Galactic Empire™. But Ford’s performance as the cocky, arrogant space pirate Han Solo stole the film from its intended star. From his entrance (arguably the best character introduction since Dr No) to his triumphant return to save the day at the end (whoops.. spoiler alert) Ford shows the star power that enabled his career to flourish post-Star Wars while his co-stars struggled to escape their typecasting.
Classic Ford quote: “Boring conversation anyway…”
The film that gave Ford his only (to date) Oscar nomination is a gritty cop thriller that sees Detective John Book forced undercover in the Amish community to protect his only witness to a murder, a small boy. Ford’s performance as the fish-out-of-water cop as he integrates into the community and gradually falls in love with the boy’s mother, played by Kelly McGillis, is by turns serious, funny and touching, and shows him at the peak of his acting and box office powers. A wonderful film.
Classic Ford quote: “Lady, you take my picture with that thing and I’m gonna rip your brassiere off… and strangle you with it! You got that?”
5 Blade Runner
Not a success on its cinema release, but having grown a cult following with the rise of the home video business, and then with several re-edits and director’s cuts, this is perhaps the most divisive of Ford’s back catalogue. On the trail of four renegade replicants, blade runner Rick Deckard is on a collision course with replicant leader Roy Batty, played with relish by Rutger Hauer. One of the most atmospheric sci-fi films ever made, the ending is open to interpretation: is Deckard a replicant himself? His presence in this year’s sequel would seem to answer that question in the negative, unless they’re going down the Terminator Genisys/old robot route. God I hope not.
Classic Ford quote: “I have had people walk out on me before, but not… when I was being so charming.”
6 Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
The third Indiana Jones film, while second best in the series, is by far the funniest, largely down to the fantastic chemistry between Ford and Sean Connery, perfectly cast as his father Professor Henry Jones Sr. They spark off each other constantly and their relationship gives the film its heart. An exhilarating opening sequence featuring the late River Phoenix gives some back story to the Jones mythology, opening the floodgates for all those “how he became the man he is” prequels that followed, and the pace doesn’t let up until our heroes ride off into the sunset. The perfect ending to a great trilogy. (What fourth one..?)
Classic Ford quote: “I told you… Don’t call me Junior!”
7 The Fugitive
In this update of the 60s TV series, Ford plays Dr Richard Kimble, wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and on the trail of the real culprit, while himself avoiding the clutches of dogged US Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). While Jones bagged the showier part, all the best lines and an Oscar, it is Ford’s quiet intensity that carries the film. He spends most of the running time (no pun intended) on his own, perfectly expressing the desperation and determination his character is feeling through his facial expressions and body language. And the swan-dive off the dam has to be one of the best getaways in cinema.
Classic Ford quote: “Well, I am trying to solve a puzzle. And I just found a big piece!”
8 Working Girl
Ford finds himself caught between Melanie Griffith’s ambitious secretary and Sigourney Weaver’s bitchy boss as Griffith tries to climb the greasy pole to success in this 80s rom-com. Having shown some light comedic touches in previous films, Ford gamely plays it for laughs as he and Griffith fall in love across a crowded boardroom. Stand-out moments include gatecrashing a wedding and a quick change of clothes while being watched by an office full of people, Ford sending up his macho image with great results. Also notable for featuring Alec Baldwin – Ford’s Jack Ryan predecessor – and Kevin Spacey in early supporting roles.
Classic Ford quote: “You’re like one of those crazed cops that no one wants to ride with, aren’t you? Whose partners all end up crazy or dead.”
9 Air Force One
Ford goes presidential in this 1997 Die-Hard-on-a-plane action thriller as the titular vehicle is hijacked by Russian terrorists led by Gary Oldman, who hadn’t bargained on a war veteran President fighting back. Following a run of misses including The Devil’s Own, Six Days Seven Nights and Sabrina, Ford was back doing what he does best: taking out the bad guys. Oldman makes for a truly menacing villain, threatening the first family with assassination (has any Ford film family been safe..?), but his plans are outwitted at every turn by the most powerful man in the world hiding in the luggage compartment. Imagine that in real life….
Classic Ford quote: “GET OFF MY PLANE!” (What else?)
Ford puts in a great performance in this highly underrated film about an American doctor whose wife is kidnapped while on a second honeymoon in Paris. We see the whole film through Ford’s eyes as he stumbles around a city he doesn’t know and that speaks a language he doesn’t understand, railing against the apparent apathy of the French police as he desperately searches for any clue to his wife’s whereabouts. The city locations are used to fantastic effect, as Ford zigzags between the seedier side of Paris and his “base” at his hotel, becoming ever more dishevelled and, well, frantic, as the film goes on. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth a look.
Classic Ford quote: “Don’t mess with me, man. I’m an American and I am crazy!”
Cowboys And Aliens – gets a bad rap but it’s a fun mix of Western and sci-fi, Daniel Craig making a much better cowboy than secret agent (in my opinion)
Morning Glory – Ford comes close to stealing this rom-com in a supporting role as a “serious journalist” languishing in a breakfast television double act with Diane Keaton
Patriot Games/Clear And Present Danger – taking over from Alec Baldwin, Ford’s two films as CIA analyst Jack Ryan are tight thrillers, even if the first does take some liberties with British geography
The Mosquito Coast – another underrated gem of a performance from Ford as the inventor who drags his family (including wife Helen Mirren and future Young Indy River Phoenix) into the jungle for a new life away from civilisation