One time carpenter to the stars, Harrison Ford got his big break playing cocky, drag racing, hoodlum Bob Falfa in 1973s ‘American Graffiti.’ He had already made appearances on TV and had even been in a couple of films, but it was this role that was set to propel him into the stratosphere. The film itself is not one of his best and his part was small, but it was this movie that saw him first work with George Lucas, who would be integral in his early career.
Harrison Ford, although not a prolific actor, has racked up a large number of features over his career. He has played parts in sci-fi films, adventure movies, war movies and has even tried his hand at psychological horror. The following are some of his best films.
The role that made him famous and launched his career in the eyes’ of the movie going public was that of Han Solo in the original trilogy of the Star Wars franchise. Beginning with ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’ in 1977, Harrison played a roguish smuggler who is coerced by his conscience into helping a rag tag bunch of rebels fight the might of the evil Empire. The first film was followed by ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980) and ‘The Return of the Jedi’ (1983) all of which were massive successes.
It was due to his performance as Han Solo, as well as George Lucas’ friendship with fellow director Steven Spielberg, which led to the creation of and his being cast as Indiana Jones. To this date he has played the part of Dr Jones in four movies though only three of them can be considered amongst his best films. They are, of course, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981), ‘Temple of Doom’ (1984), and ‘The Last Crusade’ (1989). For that tiny percentage of the population who don’t know, Indiana Jones was a whip toting, artefact seeking archaeologist, with a penchant for upsetting the Nazis.
In 1982 Harrison Ford toyed with the darker side of science fiction when he played the part of Rick Deckard, a Replicant bounty hunter in the film Blade Runner. Based on a short story by Philip K Dick and directed by Ridley Scott it was film that asked the question ‘What makes us human?’ A cult hit that at times is misunderstood it was butchered, against Scott’s wishes in the editorial suite, though a more recent director’s cut has seen it restored to it’s original vision.
In 1992 he starred in the tense political thriller ‘Patriot Games’ that pitted CIA analyst Jack Ryan against a fanatical splinter group of the IRA. Not just an action packed thriller this film also highlighted some of the realities of the troubles in Northern Ireland that are sometimes glossed over by Hollywood film making machine. It is a shame that he also starred in one such film himself ‘The Devil’s Own’ (1997).
Although not a major role, Ford’s portrayal of Colonel Lucas in 1979’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ deserves a mention as the movie is considered by many to be the greatest war film ever made. The film is based on ‘The Heart of Darkness’ which was written by Joseph Conrad which comments upon imperialism and the duality of man. You can draw your own conclusions between Imperialism and America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Possibly one of Harrison Ford’s most popular non Lucas/Spielberg roles was that of Dr Richard Kimble in 1993’s ‘The Fugitive’. The character in question is a doctor who is framed for the murder of his wife and must embark upon a search for the one armed man in an effort to clear his name before being caught by the authorities. The film was actually a remake of a television series of the same name from the 1960s.
In 1985 Ford played the part of John Book, a cop who goes undercover in an Amish community to protect the sole witness to a murder. ‘Witness’ was the film for which he received his only Oscar nomination to date, although the film did win two Oscars, for best writing and best film editing.
Roman Polanski’s ‘Frantic’ saw Harrison Ford take the role of Dr Richard Walker, who leaves the shower in his Paris hotel room to find that his wife has vanished. The film follows his attempts to find her amidst a web of intrigue.
In 1991 he starred as Henry Turner, a rich man whose family was starting to break apart under the weight of his and his wife’s infidelities. One night he is shot in the head during a robbery and awakes with no memory of who he is. It turns out that the shooting was a blessing in disguise as it gives his family a second chance at happiness.
Harrison Ford has made many films and I’m sure he will make many more and as long as he continues to make use of the roguish charm he first exhibited as Han Solo he is sure to have continued success with any project he undertakes.