best film:  Blade Runner (1982) feels like the best answer because Harrison Ford is only in about five (5) minutes of Apocalypse Now (1979) and he is the fourth (4th) most important/impressive actor during that scene. However you slice it, this means Harrison Ford is in two of the best ten (10) films of all-time – even if a detractor would point out that neither are a big add to his resume. Blade Runner is one of the greatest artistic achievements in set design and mise-en-scene in cinema history. From an acting performance standpoint, Ford’s achievement is not the size of Rutger Hauer’s achievement (despite Hauer being support – roughly 30 minutes of screen time, and Ford lead). Ford’s performance is not transcendent, but it is is not outwardly bad either. He is doing Humphrey Bogart here – meeting with seedy club owners and falling for the damsel in distress. Beyond Blade Runner, Ford is a more significant part of the artistic success of films like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and even Blade Runner 2049. So, even if his best two films are not a big help for Ford’s case – this is not a category of weakness for him. Lastly, The Conversation (1974) is a stunning film of course and Ford has a small part in it – it falls into the same category of Apocalypse Now above.


best performance:  Raiders of the Lost Ark. Along with Steven Spielberg (at the helm obviously), Harrison Ford invented (and really surpassed) a James Bond for the 1980s. Ford can animate (the screaming finale, the sequence where he thinks Marion has passed away) and he can do supreme lead heroic stoicism (the opening set piece in particular). This is a confident leading man performance in the lineage of Bogart, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.


from Raiders of the Lost Ark – Ford is perfect in the lead.  This is his best work and he has been very good before (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back) and after (Witness, The Fugitive). The best portions work as a silent film with John Williams bombastic music coming in over the top to compliment Ford’s stoicism and Spielberg’s set piece brilliance.  The map room sequence is entirely silent, so is Ebert’s favorite chase scene as Ford goes from Nazi car to car in a row, and the shot of Ford drinking after Marian’s supposed death.


stylistic innovations/traits:  Many cinephiles are going to argue Harrison Ford should be closer to the top ten (10) because of all of the great films he has been in and iconic characters he has brought alive from Han Solo to Indiana Jones. For many movie buffs of a certain age, Harrison Ford has been in like 50% of their favorite 10-20 films growing up. Still other cinephiles are going to argue he is just not talented or gifted of an actor (range, skill) and this is supposed to be a list of the best actors.  Both arguments have some merit.  Still, working with the right directors at the right time (call it luck, call it what you will) is a big part of the game and the fact is these performances and films and collaborations with George Lucas and Spielberg did happen and they happened to Harrison Ford. Try playing the game where Ford is replaced in these franchises with another so-called better actor – it is not a pretty what if  alternative world scenario and cinephiles should end up being thankful for Ford and his filmography. That stretch from 1977 to 1981 with the first Indiana Jones and the first two Star Wars films is quite the impressive section of any career. There is more depth there than one may think as well with The Fugitive and some intriguing collaborations with Peter Weir (including Witness in 1985 – Ford’s only Oscar nomination) in the 1980s.


The original Star Wars in 1977 was a cultural, artistic and financial phenomenon – but it was not until the 1980s (starting with Empire here) where it became clear Harrison Ford was not a sort of one-hit wonder (with no offense meant to Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher). He would be become perhaps the preeminent action star and Hollywood movie star for the remainder of the decade.


directors worked with: Steven Spielberg (3), George Lucas (2) – this number a bit misleading as Lucas was, by all accounts, largely in charge of every frame of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi which would give them four (4) films together, Francis Ford Coppola (2), Peter Weir (2), Phillip Noyce (2), Michelangelo Antonioni (1) Ridley Scott (1), Roman Polanski (1), Mike Nichols (1), Alan Pakula (1), Denis Villeneuve (1)


It is 47 minutes before Harrison Ford shows up and as introduced as Han Solo in Star Wars (1977). If George Lucas was influenced by Akira Kurosawa and Kurosawa was influenced by John Ford, then Harrison Ford here is a science fiction version of a gunslinger in a saloon or a samurai warrior with enough energy and swagger to lift the entire film up a level.


top five performances:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Star Wars
  3. The Empire Strikes Back
  4. Blade Runner: 2049
  5. The Fugitive


archiveable films

1970- Zabriskie Point
1973- American Graffiti
1974- The Conversation
1977- Star Wars
1979- Apocalypse Now
1979- More American Graffiti
1980- The Empire Strikes Back
1981- The Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982- Blade Runner
1983- Return of the Jedi
1984- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
1985- Witness
1986- Mosquito Coast
1988- Frantic
1988- Working Girl
1989- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1990- Presumed Innocent
1992- Patriot Games
1993- The Fugitive
1994- Clear and Present Danger
2015- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2017- Blade Runner 2049
2019- Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker