By: Cam Sully
Time to rank everyone’s favorite wise-ass and instantly likable everyman persona in his ten best and most agreeable Action movie ventures!
10-8. Indiana Jones trilogy
While his previous George Lucas collabs were better known, the title adventurer is easily Harrison’s best franchise character to date. He easily fit into the determined, brave and vulnerable archeologist while rolling along with what exciting content the filmmakers gave him to do. And by taking on this demanding role, he also showed that movie heroes didn’t have to have capes, superpowers or even abnormal muscles to have a seat in Action movie history. By tipping its hat (pun intended) to classic serial stories and cinematic escapades while creating its own story arc, it became instantly clear that Rambo, John McClane and MacGyver were all going to have some serious competition. Why did I rank these lower you ask? Because after years of rewatches and on closer inspection, the films themselves carry Harrison rather than the other way around, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Either way, we needed him in these movies and he gets to showcase some of his best quotes, fights and dramatic moments- but wait there’s more!
7. The Fugitive
A surprise hit that sweeped not only critic’s circles but also audience and awards related ones as well, this was not only the rare mix of mystery and action/adventure but also a solid, intelligently made adaptation of the beloved ’60s classic show. Not at any point does one have to rely on any outside knowledge of the other version and the whole film treats the audience the way most blockbusters don’t nowadays: relay the the info quick, urgently and properly without feeling like we’re just sitting back but never involved in the various set pieces. From the very first frame, we’re treated to Harrison’s portrayal of the framed Dr. Kimble and he makes it easily his role much like his predecessor David Janssen did but also a totally different character altogether. While Kimble was all about putting the pieces together, Ford’s portrayal should be noted for how slightly out for blood he gets in the final moments while also never becoming a hypocrite or unlikable persona.
This is also a lovely role in showing that Ford didn’t need any signature weapons or effects to add anything to his film characters, and his whole “My wife, my family” typecasting dilemma doesn’t apply here either. He runs but this time it’s more stealthy when he’s not jumping and forcing a run for once. Much like the adaptation, it’s a miracle that Ford was able to expand as this is not an opportunity that any other beloved star gets a chance at as much these days.
It would be funny if I had put Six Days, Seven Nights on this spot but I’m here to talk not troll so that prank will have to wait another day… In the meantime, let’s embrace one of Roman Polanski’s finest action-mysteries to date. Five years prior to The Fugitive, Ford plays yet another surgeon named Richard on the run but it’s also a way different role (as his wife is alive and missing as opposed to murdered by culprits who frame him). Mainly a contained Mystery-Thriller before having a Rio Bravo type shoot-out near the end and some occasional car chases, viewers will see how films like Ronin, Kiss of the Dragon, The Bourne Identity and Taken definitely took some inspiration from with all the various on-foot running throughout Paris. This film has been likened to the best work by Alfred Hitchcock and who can deny that influence, let alone how this film’s best moments are the consistently slow pace and the brooding moments where characters are searching to what feels like what’s all in vain. But the film itself is not in vain and anyone who wants to see how a film can be made where the tone is the true star and everyone else turns out excellent as a result of such craftsmanship, then this is the one that you SHOULD see, esp. for Ford’s sake (and as to why this deserves to be on the list).
5. Air Force One
Alright, it was inevitable that President James Marshall was going to get some love here. Yes, we’ve quoted it to death and it’s barely escaping his Tom Clancy type adventures. Yes, he’s playing an overblown American hero cliche but he gives it much more backstory with his body language while also being noted that he’s not just any Vietnam era veteran but a Medal of Honor awarded Air Force copter pilot. It’s all enough for anyone to buy into that this is just not a famous movie star playing a Commander-in-Chief but one previous talents that have come back into play at the most unusual time: Russian terrorists taking over his 747 with only those skills and other elements of surprise that he has to cook up.
Despite being just another excuse for Die Hard/Under Siege tropes and being better known as another film which Gary Oldman steals the show in, the film is well-shot and does allow (or should I say “afford”?) Ford some shocking fight scenes, slightly creative suspense (which is good because a plane disaster film should never be dull like real life) and is still easily one of the few American Action movie presidents that even the film’s critics would be darned to say that he didn’t bring something different to the table. He’s def not a cheesy type like Bill Pullman in Independence Day or an obvious choice like Morgan Freeman and Martin Sheen, he was the uncommon yet beyond appropriate choice for this genre film, and EVERY American would’ve voted for him if he were real!
4-3. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan film’s
We’re not here to state who played the book adapted character the best. No, not at all as that will take all day. But Ford being in two entries and holding his own against scene-stealing deceptive villains and providing dramatic reactions that you can take seriously, he once again proves that he’s always a capable leading persona. In terms of the action handling, Ford gets to be in scenarios that propel the story conflicts onward and he gets some notable fights and cat-and-mouse games to display which deserve this higher ranking.
Ford also does great here at displaying natural chemistry with all of his co-stars from Anne Archer as Mrs. Ryan to trading intellectual private discussions with CIA head and mentor Admiral Greer, with Star Wars co-star James Earl Jones sharing some awesome lines with Ford. Further on, Ford also instantly clicks with Willem Dafoe’s John Clark, a Delta Force type who is less trustworthy of the all the nimrods in D.C. than Ford’s Ryan is. The two are barely together on-screen or in the same shot but you instantly see how they respect and know that they’re perfect allies the minute they are in the same room, and they furthermore make for a rather underrated fighting duo in the explosive finale.
2-1. Blade Runner films
Ford, no stranger to SciFi, really did truly bite into this Cyberpunk role in a way that any other actor might’ve had trouble interpreting the material (and this was years before everything was digitally inserted amongsts 90% green screen too!). I’m not going to use too many behind-the-scenes stories to prove my point (as you’ve likely heard them all) but I will note that the fact that Ford was willing to explain the inner conflict of the character let alone prove the screenwriter’s point that Ridley Scott in incorrect on his interpretation of the role HE brought to life is all you need to know that this was an investment by the actor.
Skipping the criticized Special Edition narration, Ford is very grounded for a role that’s about more than just a detective’s perplexing mystery and all about making sense of all of these findings and murderous androids. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t have to be sarcastic like Han Solo and he had to once again play against classic movie themes with the SciFi aspect being mainly the setting and not the main star. Speaking of Star Wars, Ford really feels way more involving in the second Blade Runner, which is something I can’t say about The Force Awakens, which while not a cash-in, still doesn’t feel like his best hour. And in Blade Runner 2049, he manages to get a cool fight as well as seem less grumpy like his typical roles have often forced him to be, and instead encompass a caring man who’s been trying to get away from the previous pain he’s endured since the last film.
The fact that Ford brought a consistent performance with both the role, the badassery we love to see in any kind of scifi/detective character and display said character’s evolution I think is enough to merit these two gems being in the first two portions of this list.
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