We will always know Harrison Ford as Han Solo. That cocky grin, that glint in his eye, that determined finger point that lets you know he means business.
It’s impossible to separate the actor from the character that made him famous. However, Ford has gone on to be one of the most successful Hollywood actors of all time, starring in dozens of movies over the past several decades, and while Han Solo will always be our favorite, there are some other roles that offered Ford the chance to do some really incredible on-screen acting.
These are the top five Harrison Ford performances that aren’t from a Star Wars movie.
1. President James Marshall – Air Force One
Action movies in the 90s were all about copying the Die Hard formula of one man in an enclosed location outnumbered, and taking down all of his opponents one by one. We had Die Hard on a Bus (Speed), Die Hard on a Boat (Under Siege), Die Hard on a mountain (Cliffhanger) and Die Hard on a plane twice (Passenger 57 and Executive Decision).
But probably the best take on the “Die Hard on a…” formula was 1997’s Air Force One. Upgrading the plane setting in question and upgrading the actor starring in the movie gives Air Force One a unique feel despite its similarities to other action movies of the time. Harrison Ford deserves a lot of credit for that, as his role in the movie has topped multiple polls as the best fictional president of all time.
Plus, Ford’s climatic line, “Get off my plane!” is probably one of the non-Han Solo lines that he’s most famous for.
2. Dr. Richard Kimble – The Fugitive
Harrison Ford has played presidents, and generals, and all sorts of larger than life characters, but one of the things that he really excels at is playing an everyman character. A normal guy who is thrust into an extraordinary situation and forced to adapt. It’s one of the things that makes Han Solo work so well as a small-time smuggler getting thrust into the middle of the biggest conflict of the galaxy and having to try and keep up.
This side of Ford is probably best on display in The Fugitive, where he plays a man who comes home to find his wife dead, and is accused of murdering her. On the run, he must simultaneously solve the murder of his wife while avoiding those who are trying to bring him in for the same crime. There’s a lot that happens around Ford, and to Ford in this movie, and he has to play someone constantly adapting to each new situation. It’s a role that he really shines in and is able to carry the movie through a nonstop sequence of events from beginning to end.
3. Sergeant John Book – Witness
Of all the movies that Harrison Ford has made in his career, this is the only one where he’s ever been nominated for an Oscar. While it’s a shame, because it’s easy to think of at least another half dozen movies where he should have gotten a nomination, that doesn’t mean that his one nomination here isn’t any less deserving. It’s a quieter performance than some of the ones that he’s best known for, but it allows Ford’s character work to really shine in this performance.
The movie is classified as a thriller, though it could easily be categorized as a romance as Ford’s scenes with Kelly McGillis are some of his best romantic work on the screen. While Ford’s nudge and wink attitude that defines some of his other roles isn’t present here, it proves that he doesn’t need them to be able to deliver a performance for the ages.
4. Rick Deckard – The Blade Runner series
Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Rick Deckard in the 1982 movie Blade Runner, was already an interesting enough performance to make the list, but it’s his work in the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, that really elevates his work in both movies.
Without spoiling too much, there are famously several different cuts of the original Blade Runner, and a key difference between them has to do with information that you get that changes how you view the character of Deckard and his relationship with the world. Because that reveal is only present in some versions of the movie, Deckard from the theatrical cut, and Deckard from the director’s cut are functionally two different characters.
When it came time for a sequel to be made, as it was revealed that Harrison Ford would be reprising the role, there was much speculation as to which version of Deckard we would get, the original or the director’s cut version. In Blade Runner 2049, Ford somehow manages to thread the needle and give us a performance that works with both versions of Deckard.
It feels like it shouldn’t have been possible, but it works so well, and shows how Ford is able to delicately provide the audience with all the information that they need to get the satisfactory performance they were looking for.
5. Indiana Jones – The Indiana Jones series
Really, could the last one be anything other than this? The only performance that even comes close to Han Solo is Harrison Ford’s work on the Indiana Jones movies. What would have just been a hat and a whip in the hands of another actor, becomes a theme park ride with Ford in control. From the moment Indy is revealed in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we get a fully formed character unique and exciting to follow through his adventures. Everything that works so well with Han Solo, is polished to perfection in Indiana Jones.
The charm, the resourcefulness, the confidence (sometimes earned, sometimes not), the twinkle in the eye that lets you know you’re in for something special. It’s easy to see why this character is the one that gets to stand alongside Han Solo as Harrison Ford’s career-defining roles.
Follow Dork Side of the Force for all your Star Wars news, reviews, and more!