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5 favorite Harrison Ford performances

By Christy Lemire

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 28 2011 5:35 p.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — We're going to cheat a little bit with this week's Five Most list. Because any discussion of Harrison Ford's best performances has to include the iconic roles of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. They're just a given. So we're revisiting five other performances that have stood out over his varied, 40-year film career.

His best days may be behind him, but moments still shine through when he proves he's still got "it": that mix of superstar charisma and everyman relatability, heroism and irony. With Ford co-starring in "Cowboys & Aliens" this week, here's a look back at some of his finest work:

— "Witness" (1985): It's sort of baffling, but this is only film for which Ford has earned an Oscar nomination; maybe he's just so good at what he does, he makes it look effortless. In director Peter Weir's thriller, he plays a police detective who goes into hiding in Amish country to protect a young boy who witnessed a murder. He's tough and he's smart, but as he grows more comfortable in this foreign community, he also proves he can milk a cow and raise a mean barn. And as we know from the "Indiana Jones" movies, Ford can wear a hat — any kind of hat — and make it look sexy. He also reveals a tender and understated side in the smoldering chemistry he enjoys with Kelly McGillis as the boy's mother.

— "The Fugitive" (1993): This is one of those regular-guy-in-danger roles that are Ford's bread and butter. Based on the 1960s TV series, the film stars Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, who was wrongly convicted of killing his wife. When the bus he's riding in crashes on the way to prison, he makes his escape. His intensity, paranoia and fear are palpable. But Ford also functions as the straight man here compared to Tommy Lee Jones as the quick-witted lead investigator on his tail. Both performances give the film a depth beyond the usual summer chase thriller. But that contrast also sets up this classic exchange once their paths cross: "I didn't kill my wife." ''I don't care."

— "The Mosquito Coast" (1986): Working with Weir again, Ford takes on a very different role. He plays an eccentric inventor who's so fed up with contemporary society that he packs up his wife (Helen Mirren) and kids (including River Phoenix) and moves them to the rain forests of Central America. Unhinged yet unshakable, he's obsessed to the point of shunning reality in his pursuit of utopia. It's to Ford's credit that he's so believable in playing a character who becomes supremely unlikable, even to the family that's supposed to love him. Then again, the script was adapted by Paul Schrader, an expert in the mind of the tormented man.

— "Blade Runner" (1982): Ridley Scott's film is a sci-fi classic, and Ford anchors it with stoic, film-noir cool. He stars as Rick Deckard, a retired Los Angeles detective in the year 2019 who's called back into duty to seek out and terminate rebel replicants. Based on a Philip K. Dick novel, "Blade Runner" is all about mood and production design — a dank, futuristic dystopia that's since become hugely influential. But Ford brings a much-needed sense of complex humanity to this dark spectacle.

— "Working Girl" (1988): A great example of Ford's capacity for romantic comedy. Yes, Mike Nichols' film is all about powerful women, with Melanie Griffith coming into her own as a big-haired secretary at a major Wall Street firm who takes over for her ailing boss (Sigourney Weaver). But the relationship she forges both professionally and personally with Ford's character, an investment banker who thinks she's really in charge, helps her confidence blossom. He's steady but also passionate, amusing and bemused, an imperfect Prince Charming. That may all sound like a contradiction, but it's that kind of versatility that makes Ford so enduring.

Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire.

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