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Ten Deep 07.28.11: Top Ten Harrison Ford Performances
Posted by Mike Gorman on 07.28.2011

" Top Ten Harrison Ford Performances"

First things first, I know that we all love Indiana Jones and Han Solo. I feel like they are two of Ford's best performances across a myriad of films but they are also the easy answers when this topic is broached so I decided that they would not be included on this list. Instead this week I will look at Ford's other work, some of which is well known and some may be new to you.

Tomorrow, Ford will again be in theaters across the country with one of the starring roles in the film Cowboys and Aliens. Time will only tell if that performance will deserve a spot on this list of his best. Before we get to see his latest outing let's reflect on what has come before. Harrison Ford is a definite leading man type when it comes to how he is cast but it is the nuances he brings to each roll that sets him apart. The ten performances you will see here definitely represent the full spectrum of his work. Let's get deep!

10. Henry Turner in Regarding Henry

Henry Turner survives a shooting, much to the joy of his family. There was a loss though, his memory. An amnesiac rediscovering his life could have ended up a trite, scenery chewing performance but in the hands of Harrison Ford it became so much more. He brought forth an earnest innocence that drew in the audience and made them truly care about what would happen to this broken man.

9. Jack Trainer in Working Girl

Any other actor might have gotten lost in this film as he attempted to stand between Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver, the leads of Working Girl. Harrison Ford used simplicity to ensure he stood out. He turned Jack Trainer into a willful foil for each of these powerful women. He infused Trainer with a masculine charm that made it believable that each of these women would take risks to have him.

8. Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive

The challenge here for Ford was to bring to life a known character. One that had existed before on television and was now expected to leap from the big screen. A reviewer of this film mentioned that Ford succeeds in breathing life to the everyman that is Richard Kimble and I completely agree. Kimble is clearly innocent and must find the man who actually killed his wife. Ford puts you in Kimble's shoes and generates a true sense of urgency for resolution.

7. John Book in Witness

In John Book Harrison Ford portrays a fish out of water that must become the beacon of hope for an Amish child who has born witness to a murder. Ford's Book is forced to immerse himself in the Amish culture, a world he is completely unfamiliar with while maintaining his wits about him. Simply put, he succeeds.

6. Bob Falfa in American Graffiti

They say there are no small roles, just small actors and Harrison Ford proves this with his performance as the car and drag racing obsessed Bob Falfa in American Graffiti. The part is not big at all but Ford infuses such intensity into it that remains one of the film's most memorable to this day.

5. Rusty Sabich in Presumed Innocent

Harrison Ford has made a career out of planning the common man wronged by circumstances but in Presumed Innocent we get something similar yet entirely different, ambiguity. Ford's Rusty Sabich asserts his innocence from the beginning in this film about a man whose co-worker and lover is murdered but it is not so clear to the audience if he is telling the truth. Ford is able to bottle his usual intensity in such a way that we do wonder if he might be lying throughout the film. His work here keeps you on guard and off kilter in the best way possible.

4. Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast

When one examines Harrison Ford's body of work, the word "likeable" is often applied to his roles. In The Mosquito Coast, Ford breaks free of the likeable portraying a man who is driven, intense, and completely misguided. Allie Fox disdains what has become of American society and takes his family to a remote tropical location in order to break them free of this path, because as we see him express often in the film, he knows best. Ford walks a fine line with Fox making us want to see him redeemed but throwing himself so deeply into the madness we learn it is not possible. Ford crafts a narcissistic disaster that is unsettling and captivating at the same time.

3. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner

It seems pretty straightforward, Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard, a detective charged to track and terminate four replicants who have escaped from an off world colony. The film itself is over the top, posing questions about what it means to truly be human and alive, encouraging the audience to determine their own answers. Ford is our guide as we enter this new world and instead of becoming over the top himself he keeps Deckard small and focused. He is able to bring us along on his journey through this world of ambiguity of both the literal and moral sense.

2. Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger

Here we see a role that Harrison has visited more than once, much like Indy and Han, but it is on a different level than those two iconic performances. Ford's Ryan is a man of honor who gets thrown into circumstances beyond his control far too often yet always seems to rise to the challenges. I included Ryan on this list to give Ford props for his quintessential performance of a role that has been taken on by others. Ford's Ryan kicks ass with class and rises above Affleck and Baldwin's attempts.

And lastly…

1. President James Marshall in Air Force One

Could Han Solo be our President? You will believe so once you catch Ford's turn as President Marshall in Air Force One. When terrorists take over Air Force One it comes down to Marshall to save the day and he does so in a way that makes you cheer. Harrison Ford brings to life a president who does not stay silent when he sees a people threatened by bullies nor does he sit by idly when his staff and family are threatened. Ford's work here is brilliant in his ability to present an inner strength and balance that an audience yearns for from their president. You cannot doubt Ford's conviction when he bellows "Get off my plane!" When you start to ponder the idea of Ford actually serving as president you know that you have seen one hell of a performance.

Ford's Marshall is a man of strong beliefs and action, which is evident in this scene for the film when he introduces the USA's new policy of "zero tolerance" for terrorism.

Are these the roles that deserve our praise or would you like to nominate another? Bring me your best shots for Mr. Ford in the comments section below.

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