With Blade Runner 2049 arriving this week, This marks the return of Harrison Ford to one of his most iconic roles. In a career spanning 50 years, Ford has taken on some of the most memorable roles in cinematic history. Here are a look at 5 such roles in the illustrious career of Harrison Ford.
Han Solo - Star Wars Franchise (1977 - )
Ken: Thus came the first line and introduction to the “tough James Dean style starpilot…a mercenary in a starship, simple, sentimental and cocksure of himself” as penned by George Lucas in his 1976 final draft of Star Wars (1977), Han Solo. From his introduction at the Mos Eisley Cantina all the way to his coming home in The Force Awakens (2015) (a re-introduction that literally induced cheers from audiences at premiere screenings), Han Solo has gone down in pop-culture as a character as iconic as the very film franchise he was born from and as one of the highest-rated characters in Science-Fiction.
It is not hard to imagine that if not for this part, and his ability to make it very much his own, Harrison Ford would not likely have become the household name that he is today. More surprising is in the fact that Ford was not even originally considered for the part; a detail based on George Lucas’ policy on never reusing actors for new projects (Ford already known for playing Bob Falfa in Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) at the time). It can however be thanks to, ironically, his involvement in the casting process that the role became his; rehearsing lines in numerous screen tests with actors originally selected for audition, practically creating his own unofficial audition tape impressive enough to convince Lucas he was the man for the part. In light of the upcoming yet-untitled Han Solo spin-off (expected in May of next year), many fans wait to see if actor Alden Ehrenreich will be able to bring the same roguish charm as Ford brought to the character over 4 decades earlier. But if successful then like Ford’s performance before him, it will certainly be “a great shot, Kid, one in a million”…and no, I’m not sorry; classics are classic for a reason.
Henry “Indiana” Jones - Indiana Jones Franchise (1981 -)
Michael: Truly one of modern cinema’s most iconic characters, Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones isn’t just a scholarly defender of antiquity but a full bodied bad-ass. Thus the creative genius of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s creation; he’s not just a good and noble educator committed to the preservation of history, but a great action hero unafraid to get dirty, throw punches, and take an active role in the field of archaeology.
Harrison Ford’s portrayal of this film icon is undoubtedly his most famous work. While a case for Han Solo can be successfully argued, Solo is a colorful character in a series full of many colorful ones. But Indiana Jones is the star of his films and it’s his journey that audiences follow. Ford’s embodiment of Dr. Jones remains a fun and thrilling experience to watch; coupled with the exotic locations, mysterious artifacts, dangerous quests, wondrous musical score, and great supporting characters (both villains and heroes), the Indiana Jones film series is indeed a wonderful time. Harrison Ford is both tough and vulnerable in the role, revealing a great humanity for a series often mired in far-fetched scenarios. Through his portrayal Indy becomes very relatable to us; sure he’s an academic and a tenacious SOB but he’s also emotional, funny, and determined. Great traits that elevate this Professor from being more then a typical teacher, Indiana Jones is a classic cinematic creation brought to vivid life by his alter ego Harrison Ford.
Rick Deckard - Blade Runner (1982-)
Nate: Coming back into the spotlight with the release of Blade Runner 2049. Ford’s turn as Rick Deckard the bounty hunter tasked with terminating the replicant threat may not be as famous as Han Solo or Indiana Jones but it is nonetheless an iconic role in Ford’s filmography. As one of the most highly regarded science fiction films of all time, Ford works with Ridley Scott to deliver a marquee performance at times lost within the film’s own visual mastery.
Playing a character not unlike Solo or Jones, Deckard is a grizzled man with an unclear past. His journey throughout Blade Runner carries so much power that the ending is still being debated to this day. What we know for sure though is that without Ford’s involvement- author Phillip K. Dick – who wrote the source novel – believes that Deckard would have never become the fully fledged character he envisioned. Based on the early rave reviews for 2049, it is clear to see that Blade Runner still strikes a cord with audiences and a large part of that is due to Harrison Ford.
Detective Captain John Book - Witness (1985)
Ken: The role to receive his first and to-date only Academy Award nomination for acting, Witness (1985) goes down as one of Ford’s most versatile performances. As Det. Captain John Book, Ford plays a Philadelphia homicide officer forced by circumstances into protecting a small Amish boy who witnesses the murder of another officer, eventually taking up residence with the boy’s family in an Amish commune in the Pennsylvania countryside. Blending into a community who have lived their whole lives without modern conveniences and where Book’s very identity as a police officer (one who takes the law into his own hands) is looked on as an offense to their personal beliefs.
Requiring absolute straightness for the film’s success, Ford was required to take on the difficult task of re-inventing a cliched kind of part, “the Cop”, and one that he approached through painstaking research with the Philadelphia Homicide division. And in appearance, John Book is almost comparable to that of the archetypical Dirty Harry/Popeye Doyle “super cop”, but because of Ford’s efforts, is portrayed with a combined sensitivity, humour and dramatic flair, giving him a refreshing layer of humanity in comparison. Showing that he never perceives himself as anything more than a man who, whether in the heat of action or dealing with people, sees everything as just part of the job and with the goal being to always competently do the right thing with the tools and the knowledge you are given. And while Ford would go on to play in many more police films of varying success, this certainly stands out as one of his best outside the genres he was best known for, and more than worthy for his one-time Oscar consideration.
Dr. Richard Kimble - The Fugitive (1993)
Nate: Of Ford’s non franchise roles, his portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble may be his most remembered. Playing a wrongfully convicted surgeon who has been framed for the murder of his wife; Kimble goes on the run evading law enforcement while setting out to clear his name. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Fugitive is a briskly paced action thriller where the cat and mouse game between Ford and Tommy Lee Jones’ Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard is a joy to watch.
Ironically Ford starred in a similarly themed movie Presumed Innocent (1990) just three years prior but that film has not aged nearly as well as The Fugitive in part because the pacing is not nearly as free flowing as it is in The Fugitive. In the years that have followed The Fugitive, Ford has appeared in numerous films but the majority of these roles have struggled to even come close to Ford’s performance as Dr. Kimble.