8 Milestones in the Evolution of Harrison Ford

Assuming you count Hollywood Homicide, Harrison Ford makes his return to comedy after a seven-year absence in today's Morning Glory. But how did Ford get to this point after his big-screen debut wayyyy back at the tender age of 24? You can always trace a direct line through a handful of roles (not necessarily his best roles, mind you) to illustrate what led to an actor's current success, and with Ford, though still well respected, that line has had a bit of a downslope as of late -- well, until today. Let's look at eight performances -- including his very first -- that trace the evolution of one Harrison Ford.

Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)

Harrison Ford made his first big-screen appearance as a bellhop in this little-known -- except for the fact that it's Harrison Ford's first movie -- James Coburn film. Funny, if you watch his mannerisms, Ford already has perfected that look of bewildered astonishment. Right at 22 seconds in, picture Han Solo being told by Leia in Return of the Jedi that Luke is her brother. Only in this case it involves a mix-up in the delivery of a hotel message. (Fun fact: A month after Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round is released on October 12, 1966, his future wife, Calista Flockhart, will turn 2 years old.)

American Graffiti (1973)

Ah, yes, George Lucas's tale of youth on the streets of early-'60s Modesto, California. The film featured Ford's breakout role as arrogant street racer Bob Falfa -- kind of like a less laid-back (or high) David Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. It's interesting to note how Ford already seems to be playing a small-town version of Han Solo.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The movie that absolutely made Harrison Ford a star. I know, I know -- What about Star Wars? -- but that can be deceiving. Though the most memorable character from the Original Trilogy, Ford's Han Solo nets a surprisingly low amount of screen time compared to the other principals. (During the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, Ford was by far the first of the principles to wrap his character.) Also, look at the films that Ford had a major role in between Star Wars and Empire: Heroes, Force 10 from Navarone, The Frisco Kid and Hanover Street. After the blockbuster leading-man success of Raiders, however, Ford would film Blade Runner, Witness, The Mosquito Coast and Frantic. Oh, not to mention...

Return of the Jedi (1983)

Why Jedi and not Star Wars? Because Jedi is more of a milestone in the arc of Ford's career: Jedi was the movie where Ford officially decided to start phoning in roles that he wasn't happy with. Not under contract for Jedi, Ford certainly didn't have to return. He made it no secret that he wanted Han Solo killed off, but, because of his relationship with Lucas, Ford -- a bit begrudgingly -- returned. It shows in his performance, and it's no surprise the Jedi is Ford's last science fiction film until next summer's Cowboys and Aliens.

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  • Citizen Bitch says:

    What about Get Offa My Plane?

  • Dimo says:

    I've always felt that the best thing for Ford's career would have been crashing in one of his airplanes right after "The Fugitive" He would had forever been the ultimate hero, instead of a washed up, bumbling old man. Oh...and no Indy 4 either! Too harsh?

  • Mike Ryan says:

    Yeah, that was considered. It was between that and The Fugitive.

  • Scraps says:

    Bob Falfa a break out role? Really? He isn't in the film that much and though Falfa was a fun character, I think the only reason we look back on it now is because Ford played him. But I'll allow it...

  • epochd says:

    If you watch empire strikes back, he is already SERIOUSLY phoning in han solo. every line reading has only enough effort behind it to make the words audible.

  • casting couch says:

    I'd say half phoning, half acting in TESB. But Jedi turns it up to 11.
    I don't think I've liked any of Ford's roles since The Fugitive in 1993.

  • Denise says:

    He is one of my all-time, all-around favorite actors. Harrison Ford made so many terrific movies. Of course, I loved the adventures of Indiana Jones and with Sean Connery as his father, simply hilarious! The Fugitive and Air Force One were two of my all-time favorite films, and I like him as Jack Ryan. Do not know if I am going to like him in Morning Glory, but I have been Harrison Ford-starved so I guess I will find out.

  • suredoshine says:

    If I had to choose between The Fugitive and Air Force One. It would be The Fugitive, an excellent job.

  • anonymous says:

    I don't think that's true at all, but to each his own

  • there's no business like show business

  • pete says:

    what about YOU crashing and burning,so i did not have to read you're retarded post

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  • Zoe says:

    Very good article.Really thank you! Really Cool.