Harrison Ford’s Best Movie Performance Isn't What You Think

Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and Rick Deckard are icons, but none are Harrison Ford's greatest role.

Harrison Ford Witness
Paramount Pictures

When we look back on cinema in the latter half of the 20th century, Harrison Ford must surely go down as one of its most enduring icons. Ford, who broke into Hollywood after working as a carpenter, made brief but impactful appearances in films like George Lucas' American Graffiti and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation before exploding with the very first Star Wars in 1977, taking on the role of the roguish Han Solo.

Ford followed this up with arguably his most iconic performance, as archeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, a role he has reprised for one final time with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Ford is, quite simply, an icon - if not the icon of the Hollywood age Lucas and Spielberg ushered in with their formative seventies blockbusters.

But as much as Han Solo and Indiana Jones will likely define Ford's career, there are other performances nestled within his filmography that, while less iconic, are no less deserving of praise. In some ways, they better reflect his strengths as an actor, with Ford finding great success in the late eighties and nineties with roles that emphasised his onscreen vulnerability. We can see this in films like Andrew Davis' The Fugitive, where Ford portrays Dr. Richard Kimble, and also in the Phillip Noyce Jack Ryan movies, where, while still in an action setting, Ford as Jack Ryan isn't shooting guns and commanding the space like an action star.

Although obviously still a masculine presence, there's a sensitivity to these performances that exemplify Ford's range as an actor. Sure, he'll punch you in the face, but we're going to have to see him muster up the strength to do it.

At the top of these performances is Ford's turn as Detective John Book in Peter Weir's neo-noir masterpiece, Witness. I don't just say this because it is Ford's sole Oscar-nominated performance (he should've surely earned one for The Fugitive), but rather because I think it does something that none of his other acting roles did - benefit from the direction of a filmmaker who truly grasped the myriad features of his screen presence.

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Content Producer/Presenter

Resident movie guy at WhatCulture who used to be Comics Editor. Thinks John Carpenter is the best. Likes Hellboy a lot. Can usually be found talking about Dad Movies on his Twitter at @EwanRuinsThings.