Best & Worst: Harrison Ford

From Indy to, well, Indy

Best: American Graffiti (1973)

George Lucas’ seminal teen flick is rightly feted for launching the careers of a host of Hollywood heavyweights, with Harrison Ford getting his big break alongside the likes of Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Kathleen Quinlan. The end of an era feel is intoxicating, with the device of a graduating high-school class mirroring the wider context of post-Vietnam America.

Ford’s role may be slight, but his obnoxious drag racer hints at the charisma he would go on to trade upon throughout his career. Alongside a similarly tiny role in 1974’s The Conversation , this was the part that made Hollywood sit up and take notice.

Worst: Crossing Over (2009)

Ford plays a gruff (naturally) immigrant-buster in this knock-off version of the Oscar-hogging Crash . Post-9/11 angst is the order of the day, as heart-of-gold idealists vie with foul-mouthed bigots in the battle to see who can learn the biggest life lesson.

None of it really comes off, and the murder mystery plot strand seems little more than an afterthought chucked in as a makeweight for the wealth of earnest emoting on show. Harrison, as was his wont for most of the decade, simply looks bored.

Best: Witness (1985)

Peter Weir directs Ford to one of his finest performances in this romantic thriller. The usual swagger is nowhere to be seen as Ford imbues Detective John Book with loneliness and self-doubt in equal measure.

His tentative, longing relationship with Kelly McGillis is utterly believable, whilst the otherworldliness of the Amish way of life provides an unusual canvas upon which their affair plays out. A triumph for Harrison Ford the actor, as opposed to the Movie Star we’re more familiar with.

Worst: Random Hearts (1999)

Harrison stars opposite Kristen Scott Thomas in an on-screen relationship that shows initial promise before degenerating into unadulterated slush. Having initially displayed intriguingly dark and brooding tendencies, Ford’s character ends up as something akin to a loveably sappy martyr.

Scott Thomas comes out of it even worse, veering from ice queen frostiness to giggling schoolgirl in the blink of an eye. Neither extreme is particularly charming, a criticism that could also be levelled at the picture as a whole.

Best: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Spielberg and Lucas join forces to create one of the greatest adventure series ever made, based around the frankly improbable premise of a whip-cracking, fist-fighting, ladykilling archaeologist.

Raiders is probably the finest of the three films (sorry, four films, but more on that later), balancing a string of heart-pounding set-pieces with the franchise’s now signature wit.

Ford is peerless in his finest role (Indy just edges out Han for us), and is party to one of the coolest moments in cinema when he blows away a swordsman with his pistol. The set-up is brilliant, but its Ford’s expression of languid contempt that really makes it.

Best: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)

Ford dons the fedora once more in this underrated second installment of the Indiana Jones series. Granted, Kate Capshaw makes for a profoundly irritating love interest, whilse the character of Short Round demands a particularly high tolerance for comedy sidekicks.

However, when assessed in its entirety, Temple Of Doom more than measures up to most comparable adventure movies.

From the nightclub scuffle to the rope bridge showdown, the film can boast more than its fair share of jaw-dropping action. And in the fiendish Mola Ram, Indy is up against a truly memorable adversary.

Worst: The Devil's Own (1997)

The Devil’s Own is on many levels a perfectly competent thriller. Ford is as watchable as ever, as is Brad Pitt give or take a slightly iffy accent. The action comes thick and fast, and the climactic chase scene makes for a suitably pulse-quickening finale.

Where it falls down spectacularly is in its decision to stage all its explodey mayhem against the background of Northern Ireland. Its take on the political motivations behind the terrorism is naïve in the extreme, whilst Pitt's eventual redemption is a slightly bitter pill given the contemporary nature of the atrocities portrayed.

Best: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

Part three of the Jones chronicles is unquestionably the funniest entry, with the addition of Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr providing a wealth of comic interludes. His chemistry with Ford is one of the series’ greatest pleasures, the two bickering like a pair of old maids, whilst managing to convey a depth of feeling behind the antipathy.

The scene at the Cliffside sums their relationship up perfectly. As Indy’s tank goes ploughing into a fiery end, his father stands distraught at the precipice, only to be joined by the son he has just begun to mourn. From trembling top lip to belly laugh in the blink of an eye, it’s a scene that sums up everything that’s great about the film.

Worst: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What can we possibly say about this one, that hasn’t already been said many times over? You’d have been hard pushed to find anyone that thought the original Indiana Jones trilogy could be improved upon, but equally, not many could have anticipated just how bad Crystal Skull would turn out to be.

From the nuclear fridge debacle onwards, it’s less a summer blockbuster and more an exercise in finding out just how many misfires can been squeezed into a single film. As for the worst moment, there are almost too many to choose from (Shia and the monkeys, anyone?), but we’ll stick our neck out and go for the grand finale. Aliens? Seriously?

Best: Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott’s mean and moody sci-fi is the perfect showcase for Ford’s patented brand of world-weary sexiness. As Rick Deckard, Ford is the battle-hardened focal point of Scott’s dystopian fable, his downtrodden ballsiness perfectly in sync with his nightmarish surroundings.

Visually spectacular, ethically probing and above all, cracking entertainment, Blade Runner is everything a successful sci-fi should aspire to be. We were initially flabbergasted by the decision to remake/reboot/generally tamper with a great, but as Ridley Scott's will be directing , consider us intrigued…

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