Underrated Harrison Ford Performances That Prove He’s Not Just A Geek Icon

List Rules

Vote up the best Harrison Ford performances in movies with no lightsabers, lost treasures, or replicants.

Harrison Ford is a talented, accomplished actor who has worked steadily for decades. One of the interesting quirks of his career is that he's also become a “geek icon.” That's due to playing characters in not one, not two, but three beloved sci-fi/fantasy franchises: Han Solo in the Star Wars saga; the titular hero in the Indiana Jones series; and Rick Deckard in Blade Runner and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Most actors are lucky to get a single defining role like that.

Take away Solo, Jones, and Deckard, and pretty much any Harrison Ford movie can be considered underrated. The actor has, however, done fine work in many genres, including drama, romance, comedy, and even horror. If you want to see what else he can do, check out any of the following films you may have missed. You'll be glad you did. 

  • Ford received his only Oscar nomination to date for the 1985 drama Witness. He's John Book, a Philadelphia detective assigned to protect a young Amish boy who witnessed the murder of an undercover officer. Going undercover in the community, Book finds himself forced to live by Amish rules. He promptly breaks one of those rules when he starts an affair with the boy's mother, Rachel (Kelly McGillis). 

    Amish country is an original setting for a thriller, and Witness has several first-rate action sequences, including a harrowing finale set inside a corn silo. Ford handles those typically well. He also strikes up real chemistry with McGillis. Watching the character fall in love with someone who is, essentially, forbidden to him gives the movie a human element. Aside from the star's nomination, Witness was up for best picture. It didn't win, but this is definitely one of the best thrillers of the 1980s, as well as a love story that's impossible to forget.

  • When Regarding Henry was released in 1991, audiences were used to seeing Ford as a tough, strong man in control. It was therefore a shock to see him play a character who's the complete opposite. In the film, which was written by J.J. Abrams, he plays Henry Turner, a shark of a lawyer who gets shot in the head during a robbery. Upon awakening from a coma, he has to relearn how to do virtually everything in life.

    The movie is a classic “second chance” story where the self-absorbed hero gets the opportunity to fix the mistakes of his past. Playing someone with brain damage allowed Ford to show a more vulnerable side than he was known for. The actor is up to the task, expertly conveying how Henry's clean slate allows him to reconsider who he wants to be as a person.

  • What Lies Beneath is an anomaly in Harrison Ford's career: It's a flat-out horror movie. He and Michelle Pfeiffer star as Norman and Claire Spencer, a married couple who have just sent their daughter away to college. Claire becomes convinced that the beautiful Vermont home they share is being haunted by the spirit of a deceased young woman who previously attended the university where Norman teaches. 

    Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the movie is a good old-fashioned ghost story. But there's a deeper level, too. Norman was unfaithful to Claire, and you have exactly one guess who his mistress was. After a long career playing mostly good guys, seeing Ford cast as someone with a dark secret - and an evil willingness to keep that secret hidden - is a kick. Finding out that Norman isn't a good dude could have just been a cheap plot twist, but Ford potently suggests the rage and narcissism inside. He, not the ghost, gives What Lies Beneath its chills.

  • Ford often has moments of humor in his performances, yet he rarely makes flat-out comedies. That makes Working Girl an especially notable entry on his resume. This 1988 Mike Nichols film, which was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, stars Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill, an ambitious receptionist who is betrayed by her stockbroker boss Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). After Katherine is temporarily decommissioned due to a leg injury, Tess takes the opportunity to get revenge.

    That entails overstepping her bounds and starting a business deal with investment broker Jack Trainer, played by Ford. Jack and Tess not only do a business dealing, but start some romantic dealings, as well. He's also involved with Katherine, which adds a layer of intrigue. Portraying a hunky businessman gives the actor a chance to show a humorous side, but also to take on the kind of dashing role that someone like Cary Grant would have played decades prior. Working Girl is a smart, funny movie about moving up the corporate ladder. Ford's supporting performance adds immeasurably to its impact.