April 21, 2008

Favorite Harrison Ford action films

I'd start this list with Star Wars (1977), but it was Harrison Ford's break out role. It wasn't his film the way these were:

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) had such a profound impact on me back when I saw it for the first time in May of 1980. To say I was "into it" would have been a gross understatement. I literally walked out of the theater thinking somehow Han Solo was out there somewhere, frozen in carbomite. I really did. And learning Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father was a complete surprise. I think I saw it either at the Houston Galleria, the Baybrook Mall theater, or most likely, the Galvez Mall theater (sadly, that theater and mall are long gone). It's hard to remember, because I saw the film in each of those theaters, seeing it five or six times, that summer. John Williams' musical score for the film is some of my favorite music, period. I will probably never be quite as moved by a movie ever again.

I was very excited about seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It was one of the movies (other than The Empire Strikes Back and others) in which I can remember people applauding and cheering in the theater. You knew you were watching an instantly classic film. Again, John Williams' soundtrack sealed the deal.
An interesting book made into one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. I love how footage from The Shining was used in the original release, which is when I first saw it in June of '82. Blade Runner blew me away. From the Vangelis soundtrack, to the special effects, and Rutger Hauer's performance, it's amazing -- strangely dreamy and realistic

By the time Return of the Jedi (1983) came out, I was just about too old to enjoy a Star Wars movie the way I had with the first one and Empire. But I, like nearly everyone else in America, wanted to see resolutions to the numerous cliffhangers of Empire. The entire segment involving the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba ranks up there with any of the best scenes in the original trilogy. A good film, but the entire Ewoks plot was a harbinger as to the type of filmmaker George Lucas would become.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) was another one of those big event films you just sort of had to see back in the 1980s. For one thing, it was another Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones movie. No brainer. He could do no wrong. Still, the whole "monkey brains" dinner scene is a bit much. I also remember being sort of irritated at the way it starts with the "Anything Goes" sequence. I appreciate it more now though.

Billed at the time (1986) as Harrison Ford's "greatest adventure yet," The Mosquito Coast (link goes to original trailer) was/is a very dark and depressing film. But the first hour is pretty riveting. Along with more dramatic roles like Witness (1985) and Presumed Innocent (1990, this is one of the Harrison Ford films where you can see he could actually act.

I never saw Frantic (1988) in the theater, so I've only seen it on a TV. It's one of my favorite Harrison Ford movies. It's director Roman Polanski doing a Hitchcock film. It may be my favorite Ford performance. He really pulls off the sort of character Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant used to do in those classic Hitchcock films -- a regular guy thrown into the middle of some kind of potentially disastrous international scandal/controversy. Ford's presence really serves as a believable anchor of stability in the middle of the unraveling, downward spiraling chain of events the plot serves up. Additionally, I love the Parisian setting. Obviously, the language barrier made Dr. Richard Walker's (Ford's character) search for his missing wife even more difficult. Definitely a film worth a second (or maybe first) look!

The Fugitive (1993) was the ultimate mix of what the movie going public had come to expect from Harrison Ford and a "Harrison Ford movie" - great acting and ass-kicking action from Ford. Tommy Lee Jones deserves a lot of the credit for the success of The Fugitive, but it was clearly Ford's vehicle. I see it as the end of an era, and the last of the big, blockbuster action flicks he would make (to date!).

Air Force One (1997) featured his "GET OFF MY PLANE!" line, and it gave moviegoers a reminder and a little charge of the old Harrison Ford electricity. But with films such as Patriot Games (1992), I think he is really just playing himself playing a cinematic action hero (not to mention he was taking over the role from another actor). I've always felt the Jack Ryan films were beneath him. And I'm not overlooking Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).


Dot said...

Don't forget his memorable part in American Graffiti--as the Han Solo-esque (actually the Milner character was the precursor to Han) Bob Falfa. But really he's at the height of his powers in "Empire". I swear that movie caused me to go through puberty.

Chris said...

Funny you should mention American Graffiti -- I just watched that a day ago. I can see how Milner was a type Lucas would use again. I would definitely agree that Empire was a puberty catalyst...or did it just coincide?