Critic’s Picks: Harrison Ford’s 10 Best Performances

8:00 AM 10/6/2017

by Stephen Dalton

THR film critic Stephen Dalton ranks the ‘Blade Runner 2049’ star’s best work, including iconic ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ turns, an against-type performance in a Robert Zemeckis thriller and his Oscar-nominated role in ‘Witness.’

  1. 10
    10

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    2015

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    Ford’s remarkable autumnal resurgence has been fueled by nostalgic returns to three of his most iconic roles, none more beloved than Han Solo. Disney’s blockbuster Star Wars reboot allowed Ford to portray a very different Solo, estranged father and tender ex-lover, stoically facing his own mortality. His elegiac scenes with Carrie Fisher lend the film an extra emotional kick.

  2. 9
    10

    Air Force One

    1997

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    Taking on a role written for Kevin Costner, Ford brings grizzled authority to Wolfgang Peterson’s pulpy action blockbuster as U.S. President James Marshall, a two-fisted family man who fights back when rogue Russian terrorists hijack his personal airliner. Praised by both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Ford’s kick-ass commander in chief topped a 2016 Wall Street Journal poll of fictional presidents.

  3. 8
    10

    What Lies Beneath

    2000

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    Playing a rare shady role, Ford reveals the dark duplicity behind the craggy charm as a New England college professor whose younger wife suffers ghostly echoes of past crimes in their idyllic new lakeside home. Director Robert Zemeckis falls short of his Hitchcockian ambitions, but Ford and co-star Michelle Pfeiffer lend class to a schlocky supernatural plot.

  4. 7
    10

    The Mosquito Coast

    1986

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    Ford reunited with Witness director Peter Weir to star in this modern-day cautionary fable as an arrogant inventor dragging his family to a remote South American backwater to build their own self-sufficient paradise. Based on a Paul Theroux novel, the film earned a lukewarm reception both commercially and critically, but it features one of Ford’s most subtle and layered performances.

  5. 6
    10

    Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

    1980

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    Three decades and multiple sequels later, the second chapter in the ever-expanding Lucasfilm saga is still widely considered a franchise peak. One key reason is Ford’s increased screen time and greater depth as roguish space cowboy Han Solo. Director Irvin Kershner wisely allowed Ford to improvise some sassy lines, casually quipping “I know” to Princess Leia’s declaration of love.

  6. 5
    10

    Presumed Innocent

    1990

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    Directed by conspiracy thriller veteran Alan J. Pakula from a best-seller by Chicago lawyer turned author Scott Turow, this upmarket courtroom suspense drama stars Ford as Rusty Sabich, a hotshot prosecuting attorney whose extra-marital affair with a colleague lands him in the dock for murder. The dense, twisty plot allows Ford a pleasing degree of moral ambiguity and guilty tension.

  7. 4
    10

    The Fugitive

    1993

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    In this blockbuster reboot of the cult 1960s TV series, Ford stars as Richard Kimble, a Chicago doctor wrongly framed for his wife’s murder. While director Andrew Davis orchestrates some superb action sequences, including a dramatic waterfall jump and a spectacular train wreck, Ford balances adrenalized action chops with the shell-shocked demeanor of a desperate man caught in a Kakfa-esque nightmare.

  8. 3
    10

    Witness

    1985

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    Ford earned his only Academy Award nomination to date starring in Australian director Peter Weir’s debut U.S. feature. He plays John Book, a big-city detective assigned to protect a remote Amish community after one of their younger members witnesses an underworld murder. Portraying a man of action forced to disavow violence, Ford gives a performance seething with suppressed rage and slow-dawning wisdom.

  9. 2
    10

    Raiders of the Lost Ark

    1981

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    Tom Selleck was first choice to play swashbuckling tomb raider Indiana Jones for Spielberg and Lucas, but his TV commitments to Magnum allowed Ford to step in, confirming his leading man credentials and future superstar status. Affectionately modeled on vintage B-movie adventure serials, the billion-dollar franchise gave Ford free rein to play a sardonic, square-jawed, old-school anti-hero in the Bogart or Mitchum mold.

  10. 1
    10

    Blade Runner

    1982

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    As soul-weary android-hunter Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s visionary future-noir masterpiece, Ford stepped outside his wise-cracking action-man comfort zone to give a haunted, moody, melancholy performance. He battled with Scott over the character, but the end result was screen gold. Deckard becomes our tour guide in hell, a flickering beacon of humanity, the ghost in the machine.

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