Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Harrison Ford

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a look at some of our favorite filme from one of the stars of this weekend's "42"Harrison Ford. Ford, who was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, did not get interested in acting until college. He took some acting classes while attending Ripon College in Wisconsin, and eventually dropped out to sign a Hollywood contract with Columbia. However, his first roles, mainly in television, were uninteresting and discouraging to him, so he decided to quit the business. He opted instead to become a professional carpenter, and even became known as one of the best cabinet makers in Los Angeles. But after four years (and this time frame will become a theme below), his friend George Lucas persuaded him to return to acting and appear in his upcoming film, "American Graffiti" (1973).


Four years later, Ford appeared as Han Solo in George Lucas' next feature, "Star Wars" (1977). What's interesting about this role is that Lucas originally wanted all new actors for the film's lead roles. Ford was helping out as a friend, reading with actors who would audition for the part. But after hundreds of applicants, Lucas found no one who embodied the character more so than Ford, and he convinced him to be in the film. Four years later, it was another iconic picture that wasn't first meant for Ford, this time "Raiders of the Lost Ark". As many know by now, Tom Selleck was the first choice to play the archaeologist, but he had to pass due to scheduling conflicts. Ford again jumped in, and his Indiana Jones is now one of the most known movie characters across the world. We jump ahead four more years, this time to 1985, where Ford earned his first and only Oscar nomination for his performance in "Witness". He's also been nominated for four Golden Globe awards, but has never won.

Ford has appeared in dozens of other notable films over the years, but it's no doubt that his roles in two of the most iconic franchises in film history stand out here. Thank mostly due to the seven total films he's appeared in as either Han Solo or Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford's films have earned more than $6 billion worldwide at the box office, making him far and away the highest-grossing actor in history.

Another interesting facet of Ford's history are the films he did not appear in. As his career basically started with two of the most successful franchises in film history, it's no surprise that he was offered plenty of great roles in future years. There are more out there if you're interested, but among the most notable he passed up are Mel Gibson's role in "The Patriot", George Clooney's roles in "The Perfect Storm" and "Syriana", Tom Skerritt's role in "Alien", Sam Neill's role in "Jurassic Park", Kevin Costner's roles in "JFK" and "The Untouchables", Dustin Hoffman's roles in "The Graduate" and "Outbreak", Liam Neeson's role in "Schindler's List", Nick Nolte's role in "Cape Fear", and Viggo Mortensen's role in "A History of Violence". And keep in mind, those aren't just roles that Ford was considered for, but roles that were personally offered to him (some even specifically written for him) that he turned down. It's a good thing that both Star Wars and Indiana Jones became so popular because, as much as we love this actor, it seems he's made poor decisions with just about every other film since.

For now though, hit the jump to see which films from Ford's actual filmography made each of our lists!

Alex Schopp -
I generally dislike putting multiple films from a franchise onto the same list, but this is a rare circumstance. We're not usually dealing with two of the greatest sagas of all time.

     1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

While it's such a toss-up picking between Indiana Jones and Han Solo, for an individual character, I'll take Jones. They're very similar, but Jones has a bit more charm than Solo, and obviously this series focuses much more on this individual character. Plus, if I could be either in real life, I'd want to by Indy - as I grow older, I prefer the adventure archaeologist to the space fantasy storyline.
     2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
When I can avoid it, I still refuse to use the Episode numbers for the original trilogy. I think as time has passed, this film has been generally accepted as the best of the series, and for good reason. There's some great character development in this installment, and I think Han Solo really comes alive in this chapter as well. The entire saga is just opened up in this chapter.
     3. Star Wars (1977)
While I mentioned above why the second film from this franchise got top billing over this one, I still can't pass up detailing the film in which we were first introduced to this character. Han Solo isn't nearly as refined at this point, but I absolutely loved seeing this gun-slinging cowboy in a sci-fi film.
     4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
I just couldn't pass up taking another look at this character, one I consider the greatest of all time. This was my favorite installment of this franchise as a child, and it still holds up just fine today. I really love that there's a bit more "treasure map exploring" this time around, and Connery and Ford play off each other so well as father and son.
     5. Blade Runner (1982)
This film falls a bit lower for a couple of reasons. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I'm probably opting to watch either of the sequels above before this one. This is hardly a knock on this film, instead just incredibly watchable films that happen to be featured above. I absolutely love the style and designs of this film though - it's sort of the backbone of what my favorite sci-fi movies today stem from. On most other lists this winds up in a much higher position.

Ben Foutch -
I'm not a huge fan of Ford's filmography outside this list of films and some of their respective franchises. That being said, the guy has great screen presence.

     1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The quintessential adventure film and the birth of an icon.
     2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This installment benefits from the advances in special effects since its previous film and a more focused direction. One of the best movie sequels without a doubt.
     3. Blade Runner (1982)
Sort of clunky, but the cyberpunk neo-noir style and solid source material lend themselves to creating an unforgettable flick.
     4. The Fugitive (1993)
Competent Hollywood thriller that is more effective than it should be.
     5. Frantic (1988)
Like the the title suggests, the film has a powerful atmosphere and benefits from a score that has definite vibe. The pacing is a little on the slow side, but it's nice seeing Ford in a thriller that doesn't exactly play by a predictable rhythm.

Derek Clem -

     1. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Han Solo is one of the coolest guys I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure I mean that literally.
     2. The Fugitive (1993)
It always felt like this movie was a huge deal with the adults I was surrounded by. Is that true? Was this the Tim Burton's Batman for adults? Everyone hyped to see it and always talking about it?
     3. Blade Runner (1982)
I always thought this movie was overrated until I rewatched it five-ish years ago. My new appreciation for it only continues to grow.
     4. American Graffiti (1973)
Bob Falfa is one of the coolest guys I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure I mean that literally.
     5. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
When it comes to top movie franchises, this one, I don't completely swoon over. I dig it, but I don't have the same reaction to it as I do Star Wars or Back to the Future. What I love about Crusade though, is the constant bickering between Indiana and his father.

Nathan Hinds -
If I were to make a Mount Rushmore with actors' faces on it, Harrison Ford would surely be on it. Hell, I'd put him on the real Mount Rushmore; he did play a President.

     1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

I wonder how it feels to know that you've played two of the most iconic characters in the history of film. Does Ford just stand in front of a mirror all the time going, 'God damn, I'm awesome'?
     2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Han Solo is easily my favorite character from Star Wars and this is the film in which he shines the most.
     3. Air Force One (1997)
This is the film of Harrison Ford's that I've watched the most. Any one of these first three films I listed could have been justified as being #1.
     4. The Fugitive (1993)
I think I'll just go ahead and say that Harrison Ford is the king of watchability. This film is another great example of a movie I can always watch and be entertained.
     5. Blade Runner (1982)
I've only seen this film once but that was enough to see what all the hype was about. The ending of this film is magnificent.

Tracy Allison -
I haven’t made my Top Ten List of my favorite movies of all time yet. But, I’m almost positive that at least two of the movies below would make the cut. All of these movies are within a ten year period and at least thirty years old. That is very strange.

     1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

We met Han in the first movie – cocky, selfish, yet likable. This is the movie from the original Star Wars franchise in which I really fell in love with Solo. His tension with Leia is palpable in every scene and the bizarre love triangle in this movie is a welcome element along with the other more sci-fi and rebellious themes. Honestly, this character is what I based my idea of what a man should be from a very young age. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.
     2. Blade Runner (1982)
Arguably one of my favorite movies of all time, this movie has everything that you want in a sci-fi movie. I love the creepy elements and especially that it's a futuristic film noir. I consider this the most beautiful film that I've ever seen as far as the imagery and cinematography are concerned. And, it's based on a Philip K. Dick novel (whom I love) and can be considered a cautionary tale to us about too much technology that’s too advanced.
     3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
I already spoke about this character of Harrison Ford’s above, but I’ll add one more thing. Han Solo is the anti-Luke Skywalker, in a good way. I love the way this movie throws these two opposites together and they balance each other so well. As a child, it was hard for me to choose a favorite.
     4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Generally accepted as the “best” of the Indiana Jones franchise, this one was actually my least watched as a kid. However, I do love it and whether I’m a kid or an adult, it doesn't matter. I love an adventure movie and with the rugged and shrewd character of Indiana Jones, this movie kept my siblings and I interested enough for countless viewings.
     5. American Graffiti (1973)
I absolutely love movies that are almost about an era, rather than a specific storyline or characters. This movie explores 1962 teens in California, and it’s funny/interesting to me that it takes place only ten years earlier than it was filmed. This movie inspires a feeling of nostalgia, even in someone as young as I am. It’s fun to see Harrison Ford in something other than his typical adventure movie fare. This film is a lot more low key than the others mentioned above as far as storyline and action.

There we have it, folks! It wasn't the widest variety of films we've seen before - only nine different titles this week (actually, quite possibly the least we've ever seen) - but let's try and sort through all of the various franchises depicted above. Overall we had seven of the nine films appear in multiple variety, a stat that's very unique to this post, as well. We can possibly assume that a few of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films split votes, because only one film, "Blade Runner", appeared on all five lists. In some ways, it seems rather amazing that of everything Ford has appeared in, this was the only one that was a consensus favorite.

That being said, two different Star Wars film and two different Indiana Jones films all showed up on at least three lists apiece. "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" was the only film to hit on four lists, while "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" each landed on three. Not surprisingly, these four films comprised all of the #1 selections.

Outside of "Blade Runner" and his two iconic franchises, two other films managed their way onto multiple lists. "The Fugitive" appeared on three lists, while "American Graffiti" was the only film that earned two selections this week. When tallying all of this up, one thing that really stands out is, outside of Nathan's pick of "Air Force One" (1997), "The Fugitive" (1993) is the most recent film to appear above, itself two full decades old. You can look to some of the roles Ford has turned down over the years as to why this might be the case, but it's obvious that his filmography hasn't been nearly as bright as it was in the 70's and 80's. Still, most all of us would consider him one of the most entertaining actors ever seen on film, and he definitely has plenty to offer viewers.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that Harrison Ford has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!