Skip to main content

Celebrate Harrison Ford Turning 80 With The Definitive Career Retrospective

One of the most iconic actors of all time turns 80 years old today. We celebrate Harrison Ford's greatest moments and roles.

Harrison Ford is 80 years old today. My favorite actor of all time has now been on earth for eight decades. We celebrate the greatness of Ford today by talking about his best roles and a few easter eggs in between.

What Lies Beneath

Robert Zemeckis' 2000 supernatural horror film "What Lies Beneath" is often overlooked, maybe because of the era, but it's a good one. What's unique about this one (spoiler alert for a 20-year-old movie) is Ford plays the bad guy. It's a pretty decent film, which is carried by performances by Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ford's twist as the villain shocks.

Air Force One

This 1997 film would not hit in 2022 as it did in the late 90s. Ford's charisma is what made movies like these entertaining. Ford plays President James Marshall as Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists. Any other film where the plot hinges on the President going 'full Rambo' on Air Force One would sound like a straight-to-video, Steven Seagal film. "Air Force One" is entertaining because Ford is a movie's ultimate "good guy" and he kicks just enough ass that you believe it. This movie also succeeds because of Gary Oldman's performance as the villain but Oldman succeeds at every villain role he has ever played.

Six Days, Seven Nights

This choice may be unpopular, but this movie is so much fun. Ford plays a personality that I have always suspected is closest to his own—brave, knowledgable, and smart, but also relaxed and grumpy. Anne Heche is fun and her career suffered from absurdity because she is very talented. If you did not see this movie before, you should.

Working Girl

If anyone ever thinks that Ford did not have a Clark Gable/Cary Grant type of charisma, they never saw this movie. This is Melanie Griffith's best work, but Ford rocks in this movie, too.

Blade Runner

This movie was so ahead of its time. It is so lauded for its set pieces and effects of the era, for good reason, but Ford's performance as Rick Deckard is wholly underrated.

Easter Egg!

Before we hit the top five Harrison Ford movies, check out these fun YouTube clips of Harrison Ford.

I don't know how staged this video is. David Blaine's reputation as a magician is complicated (and lauded) but it doesn't matter whether it's staged. Ford's reaction to finding his card and the way he tells Blaine to get out gets me every time.

This interview with Ford on Conan is hilarious. There's no way Ford didn't have an interaction with an herb before this interview.

Harrison Ford's Top 5 Roles

5. The Mosquito Coast

I don't know exactly why this film flopped. I suppose in 1986 people were accustomed and used to seeing Ford in roles that he is infamous for, and not a darker film about dystopia and family dysfunction. The film was directed by Peter Weir, whose Ford collaborations we will see later on this list, and it is just a dark film about the American dream, toxicity, imperialism, and even narcissism. "The Mosquito Coast" may honestly be Ford's greatest acting performance of all time, but when it was released it was not popular.

4. Witness

Ford's first and only academy award nomination came from this 1985 film. This movie really put Ford's career on the map in terms of his acting chops and not just his ability to be a movie star. Ford's acting prowess in this film is heavily in the subtext and not in the words on the screen. His chemistry with Kelly McGillis saturates every scene they are in. The plot is a simple but well-written one, and the ending is both tense and fulfilling.

3. The Fugitive

Tommy Lee Jones may have won the Oscar for this film, but Ford equally dazzles. While Jones channels his inner Javert, Ford plays the wrongfully convicted surgeon. Ford has fewer lines and a lot of the film is a physical performance, which Ford does beautifully. Physical performances often go underrated, and Ford's performance in "The Fugitive" should be the template for it. The cat and mouse film is a perfect classic.

2. Star Wars (Han Solo)

Any male born in a large era will cite Han Solo as one of the most influential characters in their young life. Solo was cool, he was brave, and he was funny. The world has changed since the years of early Star Wars, and characters like Han Solo can age poorly in terms of their sexism. Han Solo was also sensitive and caring. His ego is not what held him back, it is what kept him alive and also kept his friends alive. Ultimately, love is what makes Han Solo find his true moral heart. Harrison Ford embodies Han Solo. Alden Ehrenreich actually did a terrific job playing Han Solo in "Solo: A Star Wars Story" but filling the shoes of Harrison Ford in any role is an impossible ask. Han Solo is all of our childhood male idols (other than our fathers) more than any character except one.

1. Indiana Jones (Four Films)

When I was growing up, the manliest men I knew was my father and Indiana Jones. I often conflated the two, anyway. Indiana Jones is Ford's most iconic role. Even in the two "worst" Indy films, Ford owns the screen and is film charisma personified. In "Temple of Doom," a film that has not aged well, Ford's physical performance is as impressive as the farcical scenes and impressive set pieces. In "Crystal Skull" he still looks like the same old Indiana Jones. The great Roger Ebert once said of Ford that "he doesn't age, he just frowns more." That describes that fourth Indy film perfectly. In the best two, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Last Crusade," Ford gives us the greatest action star in film history. I stand by that statement and I don't think it's that controversial or close, to be frank. Indiana Jones is swashbuckling and strong, but also human and vulnerable. They are perfect films.

Harrison Ford's performance as Indiana Jones is the most irreplaceable role in film history. Only time is going to tell if Hollywood is going to make the mistake of trying to make the character live on and re-cast Indiana Jones. In my opinion, the role of Indiana Jones should forever stay with Harrison Ford.

Last Thoughts

I am sure Harrison Ford fans will disagree with my list or feel I left off a few great ones. I most certainly did, but I could not fit all his good roles into one piece. If you have strong opinions, let us know on Twitter at @EnFuegoNow and @AJontheguitar!