Harrison Ford's 10 Best Characters, Ranked In Order

For a guy who is still recovering from crashing a plane on a golf course, Harrison Ford is having a pretty solid week. His latest movie, Age of Adaline hits theaters this weekend, and just a few days ago we got our first look at the 72-year-old actor returning to one of his most beloved roles, as we saw him show up, with Chewbacca in tow, at the end of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

Riding high on this wave of nostalgia and the chills that moment sent down our spine, as well as the fact that he has a new movie on the way, this seems like a perfect time to countdown our favorite roles of Harrison Ford’s career. With a resume as long and distinguished as his, this is no easy task, but we’ve wracked our brains and come up with what we think is a strong list. Let us know if you agree or disagree and what your choices would be.

10. Bob Falfa, American Graffiti

1950s hot rod enthusiast Bob Falfa isn’t a major player in American Graffiti, but he is notable for a couple of reasons. It shows off what a young Harrison Ford can do when it comes to playing a charming rogue, as well as playing a guy with a dubious relationship with both the law who may not always play nice with others. He’s not on screen for very long, but certainly shows off an outlaw flair that comes to fruition a few years later in Star Wars, not to mention the fact that he has a pretty good grip on how to handle a fast, powerful vehicle. Graffiti also marks the first collaboration between Ford and a little filmmaker named George Lucas, and their teamwork over the years would go on to, at least in large part, define Ford’s career and help launch him into the stratosphere.

Regarding Henry

9. Henry Turner, Regarding Henry

Working from a script by future Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, and under the eye of helmer Mike Nichols, 1991’s Regarding Henry didn’t get the greatest marks overall. Harrison Ford’s performance as the lead Henry Turner, however, garnered much more praise than the picture at large. Henry is a narcissistic, workaholic, morally questionable Manhattan lawyer who does things like cheat on his wife and win malpractice suits for shady doctors. His world changes forever when he gets shot interrupting a convenience store robbery, which leaves him with brain damage and a case of amnesia. Ford plays both sides of the character—the earlier jackass and the vulnerable, damaged man trying to rebuild himself and his life—with a deft, subtle touch. While some of the events are contrived, his performance showcases the scope and breadth of his dramatic range.


8. John Book, Witness

In Peter Weir’s 1985 thriller Witness, Harrison Ford plays Philadelphia detective John Book who must travel to Amish country to protect the young eye witness to a brutal murder. Not only was the movie well received—it still holds up well in case you’re wondering—but it garnered Ford a ton of acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination. Witness is a movie about the choices we make and the consequences of those inherent in those decisions. There’s a star-crossed lovers element between Ford and Kelly McGillis’ small-town Amish character, and the film never falls into easy choices as two very distinct cultures collide and clash. Ford’s performance embodies these elements, helping elevate Witness above just another cop movie. And you get to see him win over new Amish friends by helping raise a barn, which is fun.

Working Girl

7. Jack Trainer, Working Girl

As intense as he is, you don’t usually associate Harrison Ford with romantic comedies, even dramatic leaning ones, but his stern demeanor is part of what makes his turn in Mike Nichols’ 1986 Working Girl so damn much fun. His Jack Trainer is no nonsense businessman, the kind of stony, suit-wearing executive that makes business rivals quake in terror and pee a little. That seems like a walk in the park for Ford, but on the other hand, especially during the scenes with costar Melanie Griffith’s Tess, Jack exudes a youthfulness, a boyish charm you don’t often get to see from the actor. Indiana Jones and Han Solo both have it to a degree, but this a much more refined, subdued, realistic touch.

Patriot Games

6. Jack Ryan, Patriot Games/Clear and Present Danger

Over the years, three other actors have played Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan—Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine—but it was Harrison Ford who most owned the role of the reluctant hero who repeatedly keeps getting pulled into hairy situations. First in 1992’s Patriot Games, then in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, Ford brought a near perfect combination of intelligence, grit, and heroism to the character, imbuing Ryan with a grim determination as well as a level of relatable humanity. After all, though he may be a trained government agent, doing the right thing and insuring that his family is out of harms way, despite the fact that it’s usually because of him that they’re in danger in the first place, is what drives him.


5. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive

The role of Dr. Richard Kimble may not have originated with Harrison Ford, but he took the part of the man wrongly accused of killing his wife, on the run, scouring the countryside for a one-armed murderer in 1993’s The Fugitive and owned it (sorry, David Janssen). More action heavy than the original series, Kimble gives Ford the chance to play both the action hero, as well as the lead in a tense mystery. Watching him bounce off Tommy Lee Jones’ dogged Federal Marshall—one man representing justice, the other the law—is the relationship that drives the whole movie, and both men are more than up to the task. Kimble is a mixture of desperate, righteous, and whip smart, and Ford infuses his character with an urgency that keeps you chewing your fingernails the entire time, his performance elevating what could have been a standard cat-and-mouse chase movie.

Air Force One

4. President James Marshall, Air Force One

If only all American Presidents were as badass Harrison Ford’s President James Marshall in Air For One, real life would be a lot more like an action movie. Not only does Marshall run the most powerful nation on the planet, he kicks a lot of ass to boot. When Gary Oldman’s Russian terrorist takes over the titular plane, Marshall shows that he’s not just some namby pamby politician content to sit back and let others save the day. No, he’s most definitely a man of action, and he flies the titular craft, battles with armed goons, rescues his family, and gets to say one of the toughest lines anyone ever uttered before offing a bad guy (He says, "Get off my plane," then releases the villain’s parachute, which leads to the dude’s neck getting snapped).

Blade Runner

3. Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

After Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford was looking for a role with "dramatic depth," and he certainly found it as Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir classic Blade Runner. Deckard is a Blade Runner, a futuristic cop tasked with tracking, identifying, and "retiring" replicants, rogue synthetic humans. His character embodies many of the themes of the film, the moral ambiguity, the pain, the ideas of what it means to be human—and has inspired an endless is-he-a-replicant-or-isn’t-he debate ever since. It may have taken time to really catch on with the public consciousness, but Ford’s nuanced, textured performance and his empathy in what could easily have been a one note role, is a huge reason why the movie still resonates with audiences more than 30 years later.

Indiana Jones

2. Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones Trilogy

Indiana Jones is one of the greatest characters in movie history, and it’s really hard not to put him in the number one slot. That fact more than any other illustrates just how epic a career Harrison Ford has had over the years. Based on the classic serials that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg loved as kids, the character perfectly captures the high adventure of his inspiration, and Ford is spot on as the dashing hero full of swagger and a devil may care attitude. Way cooler than any archeology professor you’ll ever meet in real life, he has a brain full of obscure, arcane knowledge, is a man of action who isn’t afraid to take on the entirety of Nazi Germany, and oh how he has a way with the ladies.

Han Solo

1. Han Solo, Star Wars Trilogy

Maybe we’re riding high on the nostalgia of that Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, but we have to go with Han Solo in the number one slot. It was a hard choice (cards on the table, I have a Temple of Doom tattoo, so it went back and forth many, many times), but one that we’re ultimately confident in. Harrison Ford had a solid career up to this point, but it was 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope and a scruffy looking nerf herder named Han Solo that really put him on the map and launched him to stardom. Cocky and full of swagger, Han is a smuggler and career criminal with the proverbial heart of gold beating under his trademark vest. He’s a rogue, a lover, a friend, and a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless.

Brent McKnight