Indiana Jonesin': The Best of Harrison Ford

We count down his best roles outside of the Indiana Jones franchise.

by | May 12, 2008 | Comments

Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Rick Deckard. Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford has carved himself a niche by excelling in roles as the handsome rascal, the man on the run, the humble protector of American ideals. Few other Hollywood stars have launched as many franchises as Ford and soon, at the sprightly age of 65, he’ll return to one of the most iconic roles of his career: the fedora-wearing, bullwhip-cracking, dashing archaeologist Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones.

Here, we count down Harrison Ford’s best-reviewed films outside of the Indiana Jones franchise and the memorable characters that he played in each celebrated film. And while he had small roles in such lauded films as American Graffiti (97%), The Conversation (98%), and Apocalypse Now (98%), we’re focusing here on his starring roles – the characters that helped make Ford one of Hollywood’s most enduring leading men. And don’t forget to check out Harrison Ford’s full celebrity profile.



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10. Jack Ryan in Patriot Games

Tomatometer: 78%

Although he took over the role of Jack Ryan from Alec Baldwin, who portrayed the history professor-turned-CIA agent in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, Ford assumed the character for two sequels — and arguably stole the character from Baldwin in the process. In Patriot Games, the newly retired Ryan thwarts an IRA attack while in London, unwittingly provoking the…ire of an Irish terrorist.

Best quote: Jack Ryan to IRA member Paddy O’Neil (Richard Harris), after his family has been attacked: “I don’t give a s— whether you did it or not, and neither will anyone else. But I will put such a stranglehold on your gun money that you’ll be out on the street throwing rocks. I will f—ing destroy you. I will make it my mission in life.”

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9. President James Marshall in Air Force One
Tomatometer: 78%

Introducing Hollywood to Kazahkstan long before Borat was unleashed on the world, Wolfgang Petersen’s airborne thriller pitted hijackers from the former Soviet republic against the President of the United States. Unfortunately for those hijackers (and for one turncoat Cabinet member), that President is Harrison Ford, and he’s got an Executive Order or two to deliver — with his fists!

Best quote: Pushing Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman) to his death from Air Force One: “Get off my plane!”

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8. Jack Ryan
in Clear and Present Danger

Tomatometer: 80%

Ford reunited with director Philip Noyce two years after Patriot Games to resume the character of Jack Ryan, who is now moving up in the CIA. However, moving up means becoming embroiled in shady dealings between the U.S. government, Cuban drug cartels, and some of his fellow agents; when blood is shed on both sides of an unsanctioned black ops mission, Ryan puts ambition aside to blow the whistle on the President’s dirty deeds.

Best quote: Jack Ryan to President Bennett (Donald Moffat), who’s just proposed he take part in a government cover-up and sully his dead mentor’s name — the “Potomac two-step”: “I’m sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”

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7. Jack Trainer in Working Girl
Tomatometer: 81%

Even in his lighter films, Ford played it straight. As Jack Trainer, the male object of desire in Mike Nichols’ corporate climbing romantic comedy, Ford is a man stuck between two women: Sigourney Weaver’s power broker, and Melanie Griffiths’ working class beauty. With a roguish charm, he fends off Katharine’s advances and succumbs to Tess as every leading man should: by deferring to her brilliance.

Best quote:

Jack Trainer: “I’ve been looking for you.”
Tess McGill: “Why, do you know me?”
Jack Trainer: “No, but I promised myself that when I saw you, I would get to know you.”

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6. Rusty Sabich in Presumed Innocent

Tomatometer: 91%

Prosecutor Rusty Sabich has gotten beyond a recent affair with a co-worker (Greta Scacchi) — until she winds up dead. Investigating her murder leads to a whole mess of city-level politics and scandal… but the real shock is waiting at home in a final act twist, courtesy of novelist Scott Turow and conspiracy flick director Alan J. Pakula.

Best quote: “I’m going to need a lawyer, a very, very good lawyer, an expensive lawyer.”

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5. Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive

Tomatometer: 93%

In the thick of his most prolific and successful period, Ford took on the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, a surgeon wrongfully accused of killing his wife. On the lam from a U.S. Marshall (the Oscar-winning Tommy Lee Jones), he follows the trail of a mysterious one-armed man in order to prove his innocence — and makes us believe the good doctor is as resourceful, canny, and elusive as MacGyver himself.

Best quote: “It wasn’t me. It was the one-armed man.”

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4. Han Solo in Star Wars

Tomatometer: 95%

How do you describe the innate coolness of Han Solo? The loner space cowboy with a Wookie for a BFF epitomized an unruffled, rascally spirit that came to define Ford”s most memorable youthful roles. Sparring with Jabba the Hutt (and with his own conscience), Han ditches the smuggler’s life to join Luke and Leia in the rebel cause in Episode IV — and becomes one of the most-worshipped heroes in pop culture history.

Best quote: “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!”

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3. Captain John Book in Witness

Tomatometer: 96%

Ford’s lone Oscar nomination came thanks to this 1985 undercover cop-in-Amish-land thriller. Go figure. As police Captain John Book — who’s not above laying into a few punk kids on the behalf of the Pennsylvania Dutch — Ford is many things: brutish, protective, handy with a hammer. Plus, his romance with Kelly McGillis is the right kind of wrong.

Best quote: Eli Lapp, on Book’s impending smackdown of local toughs: “It’s not our way.”
John Book: “It’s my way.”

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2. Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back

Tomatometer: 97%

Han Solo, one of Ford’s major career-defining roles, had plenty of his own character-defining moments in Episode V. Three years after helping the Alliance destroy the Death Star, Han is getting antsy — and plans to take off on his own again. But there’s that pesky problem of his… increasing loyalty to the cause and to his friend, Luke Skywalker, who he saves from freezing to death only to get trapped in a double-cross by Lando Calrissian. All of which leads to two of Han Solo’s most memorable achievements: heating things up with Princess Leia, then getting frozen in a chunk of carbonite.

Best quote: Princess Leia: “I love you.” Han Solo: “I know.”

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1. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Tomatometer: 97%

In the year 2019, ex-cop Rick Deckard (Ford) is summoned out of retirement to hunt and kill a group of rogue “replicants” — bioengineered androids who’ve proven unstable and deadly — and so begins one of Harrison Ford’s most celebrated, if decidedly darker, roles. He filmed Blade Runner directly after playing Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and resumed those characters immediately after, in Return of the Jedi and Temple of Doom. But it was a smart departure for Ford — and, decades later, earned him enduring cult status.

Best quote: “All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.”

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