Harrison Ford’s recent plane crash reminded me of what a giant presence in my cinematic life experience this star has been. He is so much more than three of the most iconic characters in movie history (yes, one actor has played Han Solo, Indiana Jones and the true Jack Ryan)—he is arguably the ultimate movie star of my generation, and the slight panic I felt at losing him (which was eerily similar to the heartache I felt when we lost Robin Williams last year) has made me want to go back and look at his catalog and appreciate again all that he has given us over the years—-and will continue to give us for many years to come, I hope (including this December’s highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the planned Indiana Jones 5 and Blade Runner sequel).
First of all, let’s run down the titles of Ford’s movies, and I guarantee you’ll be astonished—you may have forgotten how prolific he actually is. He is so much more than Han Solo.
American Graffiti (1973)
The Conversation (1974)
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Force 10 from Navarone (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1978)
Hanover Street (1979)
The Frisco Kid (1979)
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1979)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1980)
Blade Runner (1981)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1982)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1983)
The Mosquito Coast (1985)
Working Girl (1988)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988)
Presumed Innocent (1989)
Regarding Henry (1990)
Patriot Games (1991)
The Fugitive (1993)
Clear and Present Danger (1993)
The Devil’s Own (1995)
Air Force One (1997)
Six Days Seven Nights (1997)
Random Hearts (1998)
What Lies Beneath (1999)
K-19: The Widowmaker (2000)
Hollywood Homicide (2002)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2006)
Crossing Over (2008)
Extraordinary Measures (2009)
Morning Glory (2010)
Cowboys & Aliens (2010)
Ender’s Game (2013)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
The Expendables 3 (2013)
To choose my favorite Harrison Ford movie would be like trying to choose my favorite song: it depends on my mood. Off the top of my head, the basic cable Hall of Famers Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games and Air Force One always feed my need for the popcorn action flick—Ford is at his tough-but-vulnerable best, getting the suit dirty only when he has to, kicking butt to protect family and country. Then, of course, when I want the action (and my hero) not as clean-cut, but much cooler (and snarkier), the sure and obvious bets are Raiders of Lost Ark and any of the original Star Wars movies, which are not just in the basic cable Hall of Fame, but in the All-Time Cinema Hall of Fame. And as for the characters of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, I mean, come on. There was a time—long before anyone heard of James Cameron—that, between Star Wars and the Raiders movies, Harrison Ford starred in five of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. Now THAT’S a movie star.
But then, when I am in the mood for something a bit darker, a little less movie-starry, I love to watch Frantic, Presumed Innocent or The Fugitive—three movies that add the genre of thriller to Ford’s resume. Frantic, made in 1986, came right on the heels of Witness (1984) and The Mosquito Coast (1985)—a dramatic and serious trilogy of films which certainly proved that Ford was out to prove that he wanted more of a career than summer sequels or blockbusters. Witness is probably remembered as his most dramatic and best role, playing Detective John Book, opposite Kelly McGillis, directed by Peter Weir, for which Ford earned his only Oscar nomination, for Best Actor, losing to William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman. It is a delicate and layered performance, and rightfully deserved all the accolades.
It’s easy to think of Harrison Ford for his action, thriller and dramatic roles, but he’s often forgotten for his light-hearted, romantic and comedic roles. One of my favorite Harrison Ford movies is Working Girl. Yes, Harrison Ford can be charming, endearing, cute, funny and even a bit dorky, as he proves in this wonderfully-cast role against type in the classic Mike Nichols ‘80s workplace comedy co-starring Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver. He gets into romantic comedy in the 1995 remake of Sabrina, co-starring Julia Ormond, directed by Sydney Pollack, which may have been a bit off, but he was still totally endearing. He even made the unbearably sappy Regarding Henry tolerable.
In recent years, he’s continued to work, and I loved seeing him in Anchorman 2 and Cowboys & Aliens and he came very close to getting an Oscar nomination for his role as Branch Rickey in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 two years ago. And, of course, he’s rumored to have a significant role in the upcoming, highly anticipated seventh Star Wars movie, due in December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, where his career will be coming full circle as he will be playing Han Solo yet again.
Harrison Ford has never been one to jump on couches or revel in the tabloid life, it’s been easy to forget how much of a superstar he really is and all that he has given to those of us who love movies. Let’s be grateful for that eighth green, for his skills as a pilot and, well, for the movies. And here’s to many more to come.