Harrison Ford: Top 7 Death-Defying Movie Scenes

hfAs a production company learned last week, Harrison Ford is pretty indestructible. However the lesson cost them dear – after accidentally breaking his ankle during the filming of Episode VII, they’ve been fined over a million and a half in terrestrial pounds. Ford weathered the injury and went on to wipe the floor with The Force Awakens.

With the cosmos’ favourite hard man in the headlines this week, this article takes an action-packed backwards glance at all those times the Teflon-coated Mr Ford nearly met his mortal end in the movies. And what better number to focus on than lucky number seven, surely the star’s favourite digit?

We’ll go to a galaxy far, far away of course, but also further afield back in time, as well as coming back down to earth with a bump… or is it a splash? So without further a-derring-do, let’s pay tribute to a man who has stared real life calamities such as plane crashes in the face and not blinked first.

7. RETURN OF THE JEDI

Let’s start things off on a slow burn with a less obvious example of Ford’s balls-to-the-wall onscreen bravery. This entry comes direct from Star Wars Episode VI: the Sarlacc sequence, where master criminal and slug-for-brains Jabba The Hut planned to feed his Rebel captives to the ultimate sandpit.

It’s easy to be distracted by Luke doing Jedi acrobatics and swishing his lightsaber about, Leia in “that” bikini and the double whammy of Jabba and Boba Fett’s respective demises. But Han Solo is easily the bravest and coolest of the lot. Not only is he fresh from a carbonite freezing and blind for his trouble, he also manages to ice Fett without even trying.

However it’s mere seconds before our hero is caught up in a yet greater peril, risking life and limb by dangling upside down to retrieve pal Lando Calrissian, who is about to be consumed by the pit. Relying on his wits, Solo must blast the Sarlacc’s tentacle, allowing Lando to break free. He may not be the flashiest participant in this scene, but Ford is definitely the star traveller with the biggest kahones.

6. FRANTIC

The next choice goes from a galaxy far, far away to a capital city closer to home and all too familiar. It was in Paris that Ford faced his next brush with death, courtesy of Hitchcockian thriller Frantic. Before Liam Neeson got mean and moody looking for his missing wife under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Taken, Ford lost his spouse in France’s premier metropolis.

Whilst getting mixed up with wild girl Emmanuelle Seigner he was forced to venture out onto the rooftops to evade some Gallic nasties, almost plunging to his end in the process. If that wasn’t enough he was walking on the tiles in moccasins and had to remove his massively impractical shoes and socks so he could crawl to safety.

Like Hitchcock, director Roman Polanski wasn’t known for giving his actors an easy time of it. The controversial helmer took full advantage of Ford’s trademark hangdog bewilderment as he pushed himself to extremes to keep himself alive in order to solve the riddle of his better half’s disappearance.

5. THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

It’s no surprise to see Ford’s battered adventurer Indiana Jones on the list, though the selected scene for pulp instalment no.2 The Temple Of Doom might not be what you expect. Say “death-defying” in this context and the mine car chase or rope bridge nail-biter spring to mind.

But for a key example of Dr. Jones sticking two fingers up to the Reaper, look no further than the opening minutes. A suited and booted Indy was poisoned by devious crime boss Lao Che at Club Obi-Wan and had to get his hands on the antidote. Unfortunately there were an assortment of obstacles in his path, including gun-toting gangsters, screaming patrons, a sea of ice cubes and even balloons for him to contend with first.

That’s all without mentioning feisty singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who gave the hero earache as he desperately tried to flush out his innards. Steven Spielberg crafted a mind-boggling and creative sequence for Ford to fight his way out of. Impromptu skydiving, child labour and human sacrifice were just some of the delights to follow after this thrilling scene-setter.

4. BLADE RUNNER

The clue’s in the title. Though he spends a fair amount of time skulking about the streets of a future LA eating sushi and pointing guns, replicant hunter Rick Deckard (Ford) is chasing along a sharper blade than most. He got a pounding from amoral yet aesthetically-pleasing robots Pris and Roy Batty. Yet for the most shocking attack he received during the course of Ridley Scott‘s movie, gangly assassin Leon’s took the bionic biscuit.

For starters he ambushed Deckard right on the street, at a point when he was most vulnerable. Ford’s face said it all, expressing an almost child-like surprise and fear as the vengeful android laid brutally into him like a cat with a ball of yarn.

Having been beaten to a pulp, he then almost got his eyeballs poked out. If gorgeous rescuer Rachael hadn’t intervened with a bullet his last view on earth would have been Leon’s dirty fingernails. A grim fate indeed. It’ll be intriguing to see how much rough-housing an ageing Ford does in the upcoming sequel. Knowing this tough guy, I’m sure Scott has a slice of action specially reserved for him.

3. A NEW HOPE

Arguably the defining entry on Han Solo’s resume of Reaper avoidance occurs during his introductory scenes. Mos Eisley cantina was the perfect setting to find the space-based scoundrel, and while the roguish charmer felt at home he also knew the smoky bar was festooned with enemies.

Having made a sweet deal with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his friends to get them to Alderaan, Ford’s Solo prepared to blast off in the Millennium Falcon. However rubbery foe Greedo had other ideas, forcing Han at gunpoint to a table where he was determined to settle his score with the mercenary for hire once and for all.

We could have been saying goodbye to Ford before we’d even got halfway through the flick. Thankfully you can’t deal with a slippery customer by simply grabbing hold of him. Different edits have caused controversy over who shot first, but it’s safe to say Han was ready to stare death in the kisser, blowing Greedo away before the bug-eyed henchman had the chance to carry out his dastardly plan.

2. THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

The last time we saw Indiana Jones, it was in disappointing fourth chapter The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Sure, it was fun seeing the gang again but overall the project suffered from a mish-mash of elements that never quite gelled. One of the movie’s major achievements in the process was to bring us the whip-cracking wonder’s most epic escape from the bony fingers of his ultimate opponent.

You can see Ford’s Indy maybe beating the Nazis, or the primal forces of the Temple Of Doom. A nuclear explosion on the other hand? That’s a tough nut to crack and no mistake, and the very predicament he found himself in when trapped on a test site populated by homespun furnishings and shop window mannequins.

Never underestimate the resourceful Dr. Jones though. Hardy to the last, he hid inside a lead-lined refrigerator, emerging with more bruises than a supermarket nectarine and several miles away from where he started, yet alive and kicking for more adventure.

  1. THE FUGITIVE

Playing a beleaguered doctor named Richard in Frantic clearly rubbed off on Ford, for almost a decade later he repeated the same trick for big screen reboot The Fugitive. Here he became Dr. R Kimble, who was wrongfully accused of his wife’s murder thanks to a mysterious one-armed man.

The real pleasure of Kimble’s pursuit lay in the cat and mouse antics between him and Federal Marshal Sam Gerard, brought to life by Tommy Lee Jones, an actor who put the blood into bloodhound. Their awkward relationship came to the mother of all heads when Gerard cornered Kimble at the exit to a water pipe. Well I say cornered. There weren’t many corners involved in the death plunge which lay before Ford.

Of all the entries on the list, this is the one where the chiselled star was seriously nose to nose with the undiscovered country. That face was as readable as John Le Carre: Ford can’t quite believe he’s going to jump, yet he does. It seems this is one stunt too many for the desperate escapee. However this is no ordinary man on the run – this is the unbeatable screen presence of Harrison Ford. Endanger him at your peril.

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Dem Bones In Da Movies

JA 2We’ve all got them. We just don’t like to think about them. Nevertheless bones are everywhere in the movies. Most commonly they’re used in horror flicks to get a quick and easy shock reaction. Nothing reinforces the grim reality of death better than a skull, or spectral finger pointed in the audience’s direction.

Dig a little deeper however and you’ll find bones have been employed creatively throughout cinema history. Whether entertaining children or even hinting at the nature of the universe, there’s a lot more to the matter than meets the eye… well, ocular socket anyway.

So make sure you’ve drunk your milk because I’m taking you on a rattling good tour of the various ways in which moviemakers have made us aware of what lies just under the skin…

INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

IJ CS​​Harrison Ford may find his next foray with a fedora and bullwhip rather poignant, as the pensionable adventurer excavates yet more danger and derring do for Indiana Jones 5. Spooling back to 2008 though, his last outing featured the remains of an ancient civilization, but one of the like he’d never seen before.

Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull brought Indy face to face with a bonce of unimaginable power, in a belated tale of father-son bonding, flesh-eating ants, Cate Blanchett going the full smoked ham and the important advice that you can avoid a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge.

The big finale, set in an Amazon temple, saw the crystal artefact’s true purpose revealed – in a first for the series Dr Jones got introduced to aliens, and director Steven Spielberg wasn’t in the mood to make them cuddly. The producers put all their eggs in one basket for a climax that had something for everyone… and at its centre was that eerie, all-knowing skull.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE RED SKULL ​                                                            RS

The star-spangled shield slinger is really up against it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at present. Having battled Ultron, he’s locking horns with former friend Iron Man for his third movie, Civil War. But there’s only one true nemesis for Captain America – old war foe The Red Skull.

His terrifying appearance was due to an attempt to become a supersoldier like Chris Evans’ title hero, an experiment which went ever so slightly wrong. Cap then took on Skull over possession of the fearsome Tesseract, a relic capable of giving its user unlimited energy.

This bald bad ass has the full complement of evil credentials. He’s a Nazi. He has an insatiable thirst for power. And above all he’s only got half a face. Woe bedtide the underling who suggests he needs a nose job.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK: TOOTH FAIRIES

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Mad Mexican helmer Gullermo del Toro has a tendency to take established ideas and give them his own warped spin, to great critical and commercial effect. An obscure TV movie about goblins became a passion project for him forty-odd years after it first aired – 2010’s Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.

Handsome yet haunted couple Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes moved into a perilous pile of prime real estate that unbeknownst to them had a history of carnage, care of some child-seeking tiny creatures. The dark dynamo reworked these as tooth fairies, though left the directing honours to comic book guy Troy Nixey.

Why tooth fairies? Because they liked to feast on your pearly whites of course! The monsters enjoyed getting their teeth into your teeth, a concept del Toro had previously explored in Hellboy sequel The Golden Army.

ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING: APATOSAURUS SKELETON

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​While you’re marvelling at the rampaging skinless T-Rex at the centre of the Night At The Museum franchise, spare a thought for the movie that came first in that predatory respect –  1975’s One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing.

The Disney classic featured the Natural History Museum as the venue for slapstick-fuelled mayhem. The multi-boned Apatosaurus exhibit was chosen as an unlikely place to hide a microfilm by crusading Brit Lord Southmere (Derek Nimmo). From there ensued a battle of wits between the Chinese government and, erm, some nannies.

The film is well-remembered for the spectacle of the former flesh eater being driven around London on the back of a steam lorry. The presence of Peter Ustinov as ethnically questionable character Hnup Wan – alongside Carry On stars Joan Sims and Bernard Bresslaw – also raised eyebrows.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: JACK SKELLINGTON

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One of the most famous onscreen skeletons of all wasn’t made of calcium but modelling clay. Tim Burton proved the perfect candidate to create a heartwarming family tale based on his dark verse, which made Jack Skellington the all-singing, all-dancing focus. Henry Selick sat in the director’s chair, moulding the movie’s plasticine legs.

The story is as well-known as a Grimm’s fairy tale, but in case you’re out of the loop, here it is. Skellington was the toast of Halloween Town, until he stumbled upon Christmas Town, and his whole attitude to life changed as he attempted to bring the two sides of the coin together for a bizarre and brutal festive experience.

Jack had quite a pedigree behind the scenes – his elegant vocals came courtesy of regular Burton composer Danny Elfman, but his lines were delivered by Chris Sarandon, better known as vampire hunk Jerry Dandrige in the original Fright Night.

JURASSIC PARK: RAPTOR CLAW

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​Sometimes the smallest things can be the most powerful, an idea ably demonstrated by Steven Spielberg in 1993 game changer Jurassic Park. It wasn’t all giant scaly horrors running around the place gobbling up lawyers and giving Newman from Seinfeld a venom facial.

Before we even saw a “living” dinosaur we were introduced to rebel paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who gave a mouthy young scamp an education on velociraptor hunting habits at a dig site. His illustrative tool? A rather nasty-looking claw. As the accompanying picture shows it wasn’t long before the kid was seeing those so-called relics in a whole new light.

It was in many ways a quiet scene, but one underscored by a playful bite. Neill’s laid back tones, contrasting with the vivid subject matter being described, set the scene for the theme park-based action horror fest to come. The actor returned for Jurassic Park III. Sadly the claw didn’t.

THE SKULL

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Though Hammer Studios made a lasting mark on the British horror film it’s easy to overlook the contribution of Amicus Productions, who specialized in gore-filled compendiums. These typically depicted several grisly chapters under the umbrella of one movie. In the mid-Sixties they had a go at beating Hammer at their own game in our next bony slice of terror, The Skull.

Based around the idea of the late Marquis de Sade’s noggin being detached, enabling the decapitator to use its evil powers, the story (by Psycho’s Robert Bloch) starred Peter Cushing as a supernatural anorak who came into possession of the title object, complete with terrifying telepathic abilities. This inanimate neck topper left a trail of death and destruction in its cranial wake.

The Skull has unfortunately not survived well against the likes of Dracula: Prince Of Darkness and The Devil Rides Out, but it carried a welter of talent both in front of and behind the camera: Christopher Lee and Michael Gough shared the screen with Cushing and Freddie Francis lined the lurid lenses.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY: BONE THROW

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​The most important bone on this list (stop sniggering) is also the most important in human history, according to Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 collaboration with Arthur C Clarke. Trying to get the story of 2001 down in one paragraph would be stupider than a neanderthal eating his own dung, but here are the basics.

Back at the dawn of intelligent life on Earth a monolith appeared, heralding a strange, ominous, mysterious and beautiful introduction into the world of an interplanetary power. Got that? Good. In a lengthy opening sequence we hung out with primitive humanity as they eked out their existence on the barren landscape.

One particular primate discovered the power of a bone as the way forward for his species – an emblem of Mankind’s capacity to create and destroy. He promptly chucked it into the air, where Kubrick cleverly cut from its spinning trajectory to that of a ship hanging in space. The scene straddled our primal past and hi tech future in one striking gesture.​

PREDATOR 2: XENOMORPH TROPHY

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This nod to the Dark Horse comic looked like a throwaway thing, but turned out to be the biggest blink and you’ll miss it moment of recent times. ​It was just a fleeting appearance, but the in joke of a xenomorph skull on a spaceship in the latter’s Arnie-free sequel created a momentum that led to a whole other horror franchise.​

Danny Glover felt too old for the shit of Lethal Weapon, but was the right age it seemed for this crock of urban action, which relocated the title monster from the great outdoors to the City of Angels. The climactic scenes saw Glover access the Predator’s crib where he stumbled on its macabre trophy collection.

Over a decade later the potential was capitalized on with Alien vs Predator. It didn’t receive a red hot reception, but gave rise to a bizarre follow up, in addition to the dreadlocked death dealer taking centre stage again for Predators.

JASON & THE ARGONAUTS: UNDEAD ARMY

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Animator Ray Harryhausen was one of the driving forces behind stop motion production. If he hadn’t sat there patiently manipulating and snapping all those fantasy creations we wouldn’t have had the spectacles of the Sinbad movies or Clash Of The Titans. From Minotaur to Medusa, he gave generations of kids nightmares.

Jason & The Argonauts, my final entry, was one of his crowning achievements. The bronzed and bearded Todd Armstrong went on a quest across the exotic and creature-strewn Colchis, in search of the fabled Golden Fleece. He encountered various fully-poseable beasties, but Harryhausen saved the best and indeed boniest for last.

The final section of the film showcased a massive swordfight between Jason’s men and a team of skeletal warriors brought up from the earth by the evil Aeëtes​. He even used the teeth of the fearsome Hydra as seeds from which to grow the menace. This sequence is so perfectly executed, blending actors and effects, that it still looks as impressive now as it did back in 1963.