Harrison Ford enters his ninth decade (he turned 80 in July), and everyone seems to be getting considerably older. However, part of his on-screen attractiveness stemmed from his innate ability to appear a little bit slyer, cooler, and more sophisticated than everyone else in the room, at the dig site, on the Death Star, or on the presidential jet.
It’s possible that he’s actually been around eighty-something his whole life. Even his supporting appearances in blockbusters like American Graffiti and The Conversation helped him breakthrough, and since then, he hasn’t flubbed a toe in the roles or movies he’s chosen.
Who else can lay claim to having portrayed three of the most well-known figures in movie history? Here are some of his best and most classic performances.
The film Blade Runner received mixed reviews upon its initial release; some considered its technological special effects were overdone, while others thought the pacing was molasses-like. The dreary, foggy urban sprawl and Rick Deckard’s (Ford) solemn voice, however, are trénoir (read: future LA).
The best part is that while Blade Runner poses certain standard sci-fi concerns (Can robots love, etc.), it responds to them with a gesture evocative of Harrison Ford: a shrug.
It wasn’t a novelty or spectacular effects that made Star Wars a cultural phenomenon (though they totally helped). The latter is partly due to its outstanding cast, particularly Han Solo (Ford). He particularly strikes a chord with Americans, who enjoy novels that feature outlaws, scoundrels, and rebels.
Additionally, he provides some comfort: No matter how far away a galaxy is, someone, is still hitting on your sister, owing people money, and not taking anything too seriously (sorry, Luke).
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Ford) basically works as a treasure hunter, which is a very glamorous job. We witness him navigating dangerous environments in search of priceless relics, dodging both serpents and Nazis, and still managing to find time to woo a female hostage, despite his insistence to his students that his work is essentially mindless monotony. It truly does give the impression that being an archaeologist is the best profession ever.
4. Witness (1985)
Ford received his first (and only) Academy Award nomination for this detective thriller for his performance as Detective John Book. Book has been sent to investigate a murder; he discovers the victim was an undercover police officer.
It soon becomes clear that the Amish youngster who witnessed the murder has now become a target of unknown evil forces. Book blends into the Amish society in order to protect him and discovers that these close-knit communities have their own system for dealing with crime and punishment—one that answers to no one.
5. The Fugitive (1993)
Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) is sought for the murder of his wife, which he did not commit. However, the police don’t believe his account of a one-armed man, so he is detained and later found guilty.
But Dr. Kimble eventually gets off the bus carrying him to the execution chamber. (It, fortunately, crashes into a train.) Ford expertly captures the hopeless situation of a man with nothing to lose and just one thought in his mind: retribution.
Being so cool finally catches up to Han Solo. The ever-swaggering Han is imprisoned in carbonite shortly after saving Luke from an alien ice creature because of his debt to Jabba the Hut. Princess Lea proclaims her love for Han as he prepares to enter his immobile cage, and Han responds with the best response: “I know.”
In this film, Sean Connery plays Professor Henry Jones, Jones’ father, who uses humor to subdue Indy’s seductive nature, such as when he admits that he called the dog Indiana rather than his son.
Although this is the romp-best of the Indiana Jones trilogy due to the dimension introduced by Indiana having his father along for the journey, it’s still worth seeing for the Connery-Ford chemistry alone.
President James Marshall (Ford) applauds the recent capture of political extremists by Russian and American Special Forces while at a diplomatic dinner in Moscow.
However, he has a surprise when he boards Air Force One to return to America: members of the terrorist organization he offended are on board, and they’re not happy. The flight is then hijacked, followed by a scene showing how reassuring it would be if Ford were the president.
This is the tale of Allie Fox (Ford), a brilliant inventor who has grown weary of the American way of life and is loosely based on the novel by Paul Theroux. He relocates his family to South America to live in the humid jungle in search of some kind of tropical heaven.
Fox, though, starts to fall apart, as is common for men in the jungle, and he grows more obstinate and erratic in his actions. Ford uses irrational superstition and indiscriminate brutality to depict a man’s degeneration in paradise.
Harrison Ford’s melancholy, worn-in charisma may not be the focus of this long-gestating Blade Runner sequel, but it is nonetheless perfect for the neon-lit world of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic.
He takes on the legendary role of Rick Deckard again, this time a little grumpier and a lot greyer, as if he had been hiding out in that dusty Las Vegas high-rise for the previous 35 years, nursing a Scotch and a few deep-hewn sorrows.
When Ryan Gosling’s next-generation Blade Runner shows up, he is grumpily forced out of his hiding place and into a new world of corporate intrigues, and the slick sequel then feels like an actual Blade Runner film.