When I was a child my favourite actor was Harrison Ford. I mean, how could he not be? This was before I knew of Blade Runner, Frantic or any number of great Ford performances. My opinion was based on two sets of films: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Star Wars was the huge monolith of space opera sci-fi perfection and Indiana Jones was the ultimate hero from the past – fighting Nazis, battling evil cults and outsmarting his enemies. It is rare than an actor gets such an iconic role, Harrison Ford has two (let’s leave Rick Deckard for another article). Such was the cultural might of these characters both were brought back for more adventures but which is the more iconic character?
SPOILER WARNING – It’s hard to imagine someone reading this who isn’t fully up to date but there will be spoilers for Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.
Han Solo is the lovable rogue of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker may have been the lead character but Han Solo was cooler, funnier and far more handsome. Introduced as little more than a dodgy freighter captain with a bad-ass best friend he becomes one of the heroes of a rebellion and wins the love of a princess (and senator, general and many other awesome things). I think for a lot of people Solo is the most identifiable character in Star Wars – he doesn’t have magic powers, he’s not a princess or emperor and he’s not an alien. He was an ordinary guy trying to make the best of living through a bad time but couldn’t just do nothing when confronted with evil.
Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones is a prominent archaeologist and professor known to be popular amongst his students. He is also a ravine-jumping, Nazi-punching, evil-defeating hero. I always loved the combination of intellectual and action-hero and while it has been done before and since nobody did it better than Indiana.
Both have a plethora of iconic moments, ranging from the funny to the brave to the romantic. Han Solo’s frantic conversation on the Death Star intercom trying to explain away a gun battle is hilarious but does it beat Indiana posing as a ticket inspector who promptly throws a Nazi off of a zeppelin?
The moment where Han shows up to save Luke at the end of A New Hope is the defining image of the hero riding in at the last minute to save the day. For romance, Han wins easily – he has a moment that is arguably the most well-known in all of Star Wars: Leia- “I love you”, Han- “I know.”
Indiana Jones has at least two of the greatest action sequences of all time – the first is in Raiders of the Lost Ark where he races after the truck carrying the Ark and takes it over. He jumped on vehicles, fought soldiers and at one point was hanging onto the front of the truck while the metal he was desperately holding onto snapped off. The second being Indiana rescuing his father from a tank in The Last Crusade which is another all-round amazing sequence.
Han Solo also has something Indiana doesn’t have (not yet anyway) – an iconic death. Being murdered by your own son while you try to reach any goodness still within him is brutal and heartbreaking. Han already seemed to feel like he had failed his son and there was no way he was going to try and fight him (I do love that just after Kylo Ren kills Han, Chewbacca shoots him, as he had no qualms about fighting him).
Both characters are instantly recognisable and have surely been used millions of times as cosplay and fancy dress. Han Solo’s simple black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat is so good that when everyone else wore full camouflage on Endor he chose to wear his normal stuff with a camouflage coat. As for Indiana, again simple but it’s the hat that makes it and because of Indiana Jones, the fedora is officially the world’s coolest hat. What’s amazing about Indiana is not only the default treasure seeker outfit, he also has the default old-fashioned professor look too.
There are a lot of similarities between the two – both are charming risk-takers who like doing things their own way. Both started out as mainly being concerned for themselves but their innate goodness takes over. Both are people who fight the bad guys, even when they outnumbered and almost certain to lose. They differ in background – Indiana’s parents were both academics and had a better life than young Han Solo, who even before his past was filled in a bit more in Solo was safely assumed to be fairly tough. Indiana has a respectable side – as well as an adventurer he is an esteemed academic, while Han does become a general this is part of a rebellion and as The Force Awakens showed he fell back into his old and more questionable life.
The Winner Is…
Which is the more iconic role? And which did more for Ford’s career? It’s an incredibly tough choice but I’d have to go for Indiana Jones, the clinching argument is the film isn’t called Han Solo and the Return of the Jedi. In acting terms, the success of the Indiana Jones films rests entirely on Harrison Ford.
Also Read: Star Wars: Course Correction