Although it may be true that Harrison Ford hasn’t done (aside from Indiana Jones 4) a good film in over 10 years, there is no denying that the man has had one of the best careers Hollywood has ever seen. Up till the end of the 1990’s Ford was the preeminent Hollywood movie star. Consider some of the following:
1994 - ShoWest “Box Office Star of the Century”
1999 - Peoples Choice Awards “All Time Favorite Movie Star”
2000 - AFI “Lifetime Achievement Award
2002 - Golden Globe Awards “Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achivement Award”
And many many awards and nominations for individual films he’s done
Now you’d be forgiven if all you instantly thought of was “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones” films when Harrison’s name is brought up. After all, they are two of the single most important and popular franchises in film history. But Ford’s film resume and legacy go beyond the names Han Solo or Indiana Jones, and as the years pass on, I’m finding there are more and more film fans out there who have never seen some of his best work.
So with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opening, I thought this would be a good time to highlight 10 Harrison Ford films that you absolutely must see where Ford’s character isn’t named either “Indy” or “Han”. Here we go:
Also Starring - Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear
Quite possibly my favorite romantic comedy of all time and one of the pieces of evidence that remakes can be just as good or even better than the original. Ford was nominated for Best Actor and the Golden Globes for his performance. This movie is gold. And guys… it’s also a great date movie… trust me.
Synopsis: ” Sydney Pollack directs this whimsical remake of the 1954 romantic comedy by Billy Wilder. Greg Kinnear and Harrison Ford deftly portray the two wealthy Larrabee brothers, who end up fighting over the affections of their chauffeur’s daughter. When Sabrina (Julia Ormond) originally attempts to win over David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear), the younger of the two brothers, and the notorious playboy whom her father works for, he barely even knows she’s alive. To help get her mind off David, Sabrina’s dad sends her on a trip to Paris, where she trains to become a fashion photographer. In Europe, the mousy young girl blossoms into a beautiful woman before returning to the Larrabee estate on Long Island. At first David doesn’t recognize the altered Sabrina. Once he does, however, he falls hard, which jeopardizes his impending marriage to Elizabeth, a wealthy doctor. This turn of events greatly concerns his older, more serious brother, Linus (Harrison Ford), who’s counting on the marriage to cement a merger between his company and a business owned by Elizabeth’s rich father. So Linus decides to woo Sabrina, hoping she’ll fall for him and forget his brother. However, the scheme backfires when Linus himself begins to find the charming Sabrina irresistible.”
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Also Starring - Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
I’ll admit that while I myself and not a big fan of this film, there is no denying the huge following and massive influence this movie has had. Considered by many to be one of the very best Sci-Fi films of all time and a visionary piece of work by director Ridley Scott. To be a part of any sci-fi discussion it’s a prerequisite that you watch this film.
Synopsis: ” Director Ridley Scott’s hauntingly prescient vision of the not-too-distant future stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a retired police assassin, or “blade runner.” The Los Angeles of 2019 is a dark, polluted, overcrowded dystopia dominated by cloud-piercing buildings and looming neon… Director Ridley Scott’s hauntingly prescient vision of the not-too-distant future stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a retired police assassin, or “blade runner.” The Los Angeles of 2019 is a dark, polluted, overcrowded dystopia dominated by cloud-piercing buildings and looming neon billboards, the air dense with acid rain and flying traffic. World-weary Deckard has been called out of retirement to liquidate four escaped “replicants”–genetically derived androids of great strength, intelligence, and nearly-human emotion who serve as slaves and prostitutes in the off-planet colonies. Led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), they’ve come to Los Angeles to confront their designer, Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), with their unhappiness about the brevity of their four-year life span. In the course of his search, Deckard becomes romantically entwined with Tyrell’s lovely assistant, Rachael (Sean Young), and must eventually confront Batty in an unforgettable rain-soaked sequence. A highly influential fusion of the science fiction and noir genres based on the novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by Philip K. Dick, this postmodern film boasts astonishingly rich art direction, juxtaposing ingenious technological gadgetry with yellowing photographs and fetishistic objets d’art as it touches on questions of time, memory, identity, and mortality. Different from Scott’s 1992 director’s cut, this widely released edition of the film, which features Ford’s narration and an ending culled from footage of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING, remains the most well known version of this stunning cinematic landmark.”
THE FUGITIVE (1993)
Also Starring - Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pantoliano
Who says all movies based on old TV shows can’t work? The Fugitive proves that theory wrong. Ford nabbed himself a Best Actor nomination at the Golden Globes for his role in this film… which also happens to be the second best critically reviewed film in his career (something like a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and is also probably my favorite film of his outside Indy or Han. Tommy Lee Jones is also un-freaking-believable in this movie.
Synopsis: ” In this near-perfect suspense movie adapted from the popular 1960s television series that starred David Janssen, renowned vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) has been falsely accused and convicted–on circumstantial evidence–of his wife’s (Sela Ward) murder. While… In this near-perfect suspense movie adapted from the popular 1960s television series that starred David Janssen, renowned vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) has been falsely accused and convicted–on circumstantial evidence–of his wife’s (Sela Ward) murder. While Kimble is being transported to prison, another convict stabs an inattentive guard, causing a massive wreck. Kimble escapes but is hunted by tough U.S. marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). The fugitive from injustice attempts to set the record straight: He transforms himself into a jack-of-all-trades and a man of a thousand faces in a desperate attempt to uncover the truth about his wife’s murder and track down the real killer. Spectacular special effects and a pulse-pounding performance by Ford turned Andrew Davis’s thrilling film into a blockbuster at the box office, leading to a sequel, U.S. MARSHALS.”
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994)
Also Starring: Anne Archer, James Earl Jones
One of the Jack Ryan films where Ford picked up the role from Alec Baldwin (who did a great job with it himself in Hunt For Red October). This film also featured one of the very BEST screen bad guys of the 90’s with actor Joaquim de Almeida as a Columbian Drug Lord.
Synopsis: ” Patriotic American Jack Ryan’s (Harrison Ford) just been promoted to Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA. But before he can adjust to the demands of his position as advisor to the President, Jack’s got to investigate a massacre that took the lives of several dignitaries. Probing relentlessly, Jack uncovers the disturbing truth about criminal activities involving an international drug cartel and a close friend of the United States President. Based on Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel.”
AIR FORCE ONE (1997)
Also Starring - Gary Oldman, Glenn Close
Just a good, solid, slightly cheesy “rah rah USA USA” type of film with Ford as the President who doesn’t take crap. A very fun film that had a lot of potential to be terrible but ended up being a really great movie. Sadly, this film also marked that last good movie Ford would do, and the last good performance he would give up until Indy 4.
Synopsis: ” President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is one of the most respected leaders in the history of America. When Kazakhstanian separatists commit atrocities on their own people, Marshall authorizes a guerrilla mission to take their leader, General Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), into custody and restore the democratic regime. In his speech afterward, the president vows never to let America hesitate again when dealing with terrorists. However, that’s before a group of them, led by the ruthless Korchunov (Gary Oldman) take over his own flight on Air Force One, with his wife and young daughter also on board. President Marshall, a decorated Vietnam veteran, becomes a one-man vigilante force in his efforts to free his family and the other hostages, retake the plane, and thwart the hijackers. Director Wolfgang Petersen’s thrilling film is supported by an excellent ensemble cast, which includes William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, and Glenn Close as Kathryn Bennett, the vice president who must hold the Cabinet together in Marshall’s absence.”
PATRIOT GAMES (1992)
Also Starring - James Earl Jones, Sean Bean
These Jack Ryan films are all great (yes, I even liked the one with Ben Affleck), and once again they come up with a fantastic bad guy. Sean Bean as the disgruntled Irish terrorist was just amazing in this film. It had everything you could possibly want from a political thriller. It was intense, exciting and all with great performances. The funny thing about this movie was that I didn’t even realize it was a sequel to Hunt For Red October until James Earl Jones showed up on screen the first time I saw it! :P
Synopsis: ” Ex-CIA agent Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is forced back into service when he saves the lives of the English minister to Northern Ireland and his family from a terrorist attack, killing one of the perpetrators in the process. The dead man’s brother, also a member of an IRA splinter faction, vows revenge on Ryan and his family and pursues them to the United States. Ryan knows it is only a matter of time till he comes face to face with his nemesis… and that only one of them will come out alive. Based on Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel.”
WORKING GIRL (1988)
Also Starring - Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver
This was really Melanie Griffith’s movie, but Harrison was the male lead. In incredibly hilarious film that surprisingly still stands up today after 20 years. The immortal words “I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that? ” were uttered in this flick and let me tell you… truer words were never spoken. Yet another example of Ford’s diversity as an actor.
Synopsis: ” A young secretary (Melanie Griffith in an Oscar-nominated performance) with dreams of moving up the corporate ladder thinks that her brains will help her achieve her goals. And when she finds a job with a seemingly helpful and sympathetic boss–who’s also a woman (played by Sigourney Weaver)–it looks as if she’s on her way. But it turns out the executive is slimy and duplicitous, stealing the secretary’s clever ideas to further her own career. Now the furious secretary’s determined to get revenge–and her plan may not only propel her to the top of the heap but get her a husband too (Harrison Ford). Mike Nichols directed this workplace comedy with a light, smart touch, getting terrific performances from his excellent cast.”
Also Starring - Kelly McGillis, Alexander Godunov
The single highest critically rated film on Ford’s resume… I’m actually surprised this movie doesn’t get mentioned more in various “all time greatest movies” discussions. Ford was nominated for both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for this brilliant film that has been spoofed, mimicked and flat out ripped off by several other films since. It’s not just a crime mystery… it’s also a great character study in its own way. Touching, thrilling and great tension all toped off with a couple of solid character dilemmas throughout the movie. MUST SEE!
Synopsis: ” Australian Peter Weir’s first Hollywood film tells the story of John Book (Harrison Ford), a Philadelphia cop whose life is altered while trying to help Rachel (Kelly McGillis), an Amish woman, and her son Samuel (Lukas Haas), who witnesses a murder in a Philadelphia train station bathroom. After discovering that the murder was committed by a member of his force, Book travels to Lancaster County with Rachel and Samuel and poses as a member of the Amish community to hide from his murderous police peers. While there, love blooms between Rachel and Book, and he finds himself drawn in by the honesty and simplicity of the old-world Amish lifestyle. Fine performances and beautiful cinematography are prevalent throughout.”
REGARDING HENRY (1991)
Also Starring - Annette Bening
Certainly not the most well recieved or critically acclaimed film on Ford’s impressive list… I nonetheless really loved this movie and think it’s the film that Harrison Ford really showed what he was capable of as an actor. Not an action flick, not a comedy, not another character where he gives you a wink and a smile… this was some great stuff from Ford and a performance he simply doesn’t get enough credit for in my opinion. If you appreciate Ford, you really owe it to yourself to see him in this one.
Synopsis: ” Henry Turner (Harrison Ford), a wealthy, high-powered, highly successful Manhattan lawyer, seems to have everything — a perfect wife (Annette Bening), a perfect daughter, a perfect life. In fact, Henry is completely cold, rigid and unable to experience love or joy in his day-to- day existence. Everything changes, however, when Henry is gunned down in an act of random violence, and must undergo a slow, difficult recovery. In the process of relearning the most basic skills — walking, reading, getting dressed in the morning — Henry discovers something even more important: how to love his family and friends again and how to find true happiness in life.”
THE MOSQUITO COAST (1986)
Also Starring - Helen Mirren, River Phoenix
Another one of those films where Ford shows he’s more than just a handsome face with a scoundrel smile and seductive charm. Ford acts his heart out in The Mosquito Coast and it really come across in every single scene. Ford got Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for his performance as well. Of interesting note… see this and you get to see a younger Helen Mirren (The Queen). Damn this woman has aged so fricking well!
Synopsis: ” A brilliant and obsessive inventor, fed up with capitalistic and consumeristic modern society, picks up and moves his family to an isolated Caribbean island, where he puts his ideas into practice. Under his guidance, his new home at first becomes a paradise, but bit by bit, both his mind and his world begin to fall apart. ”
CONCLUSION - It’s a shame that with the success of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, many new film fans (say… 25 or younger) haven’t seen some of the films on this list… even some of us older fans haven’t seen a few of them. I recommend them all. Run out to Blockbuster and grab 2 or 3 of them you haven’t seen and treat yourself this weekend!