Harrison Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Raiders of the Lost Ark actually was extremely well received by the academy winning 5 Oscars and being nominated for four more including best director and best picture. Harrison Ford despite leading the film was ignored completely, and the academy would not recognize him for leading a picture until Witness. Witness, although is a fine performance by Ford, is not the the very best Ford had to offer. Ford already broke out in a big way through his performances as Hans Solo in the Star Wars film. Ford avoided being stuck as that role in the public mindset though, unlike his Star Wars co-stars, by his next major role being a character even more iconic than Hans Solo.
As Hans Solo Ford actually technically was secondary to the main story that involved Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. Ford would show up and do Solo's routine but he would only come in and out of the film. Ford as Indiana Jones must lead the film rather than being a side hero in the piece, Ford is more than up to the task as he brings his very best qualities as an actor to life in the role of Jones. Although when you sum them up in a fairly simple way Solo and Indiana Jones seem like Ford would just be repeating himself. It never feels that way at all as Ford makes Jones very much his own man, even if many of the ideas behind the character are shared in terms of conception.
One of the major differences between Solo and Jones comes in the idea of Ford taking on the role of guiding the audience through the adventure exclusively. Ford shows a growth in maturity as an actor. Although he definitely was good in the Empire Strikes Back, Ford brings another level of confidence here as Jones and takes a different approach with the character. As Solo there was a certain slight pompousness to him, yes he was good but not quite as good as he thought. Indiana Jones also thinks he is pretty good at what he does, but really he is as good as he is. There is a humble quality actually within the character that Ford plays very nicely, as there is never an off putting ego even with the great assurance of his own ability.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a wonderful adventure to go on in the film, and Ford deserves a great deal of the credit for making the great film it is for his portrayal of Indiana Jones. He is a great guide to follow through the film as he so perfectly goes along with any action scene. Ford is superb because he never turns Jones into a super hero in the action scenes, even though some of his feats are rather extraordinary, because there is always an effort shown. Ford shows that Jones is often an inch from failure and he really has to push himself to fight the villains. There is a humility and humanity in his performance by making Jones a man who gets tired through all the mayhem, and doing so makes every victory harder earned and much sweeter.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is thrilling, but there is more to it than just that. It is also a very funny movie with some brilliantly placed gags throughout. Ford does not lose any footing with his performance as he handles the quick comedic moments with as much ease as he does the intense scenes. Ford really knows how to sell the moments and makes them hit their mark all the better. The best comic moment in the whole film is of course the gun sword duel where Jones, instead of getting into a likely drawn out fight, just shoots a man who is brandishing a sword. The idea is funny in itself, but Ford makes it pure gold through his deadpan shrug as Jones dispatches the man with barely a second thought.
There is one other element of the film that is not as often mentioned which is the grandeur of the mystery behind the Ark of the Covenant. The film makes it more than just something to be found and there is something appropriately otherworldly about it. Ford once again adds so much with his performance as he is also creates an investment in the mystery. Ford would later falter in his later performances by seeming so disinterested in his films frankly, but here he brings such an investment into the film. Ford is fantastic in bringing the power of every part of the unfolding story and in this he also shows more in Indiana Jones than the action hero. Jones is an archeologist, and Ford brings the sense of discovery in his performance showing that Jones is absolutely fascinated by the idea of the Ark.
This is Harrison Ford's greatest performance, and there is no question to why the film propelled him to super stardom. All the best qualities of Harrison Ford as a leading man are present here, his incredible physical presence, his charm, his confidence, and even an unassuming humorous side. Ford is a perfect fit for the film. Every tone the film takes Ford matches and only amplifies whatever the scene is going for. If the scene wants to funny, Ford makes it funnier, if it needs to be exciting Ford makes the scenes burst with energy. The Academy made a very foolish mistake in ignoring Harrison Ford's work here, especially since they seem to have loved the film otherwise, as Ford was essential to the film's success and he managed to make Indiana Jones one of the unforgettable characters of cinema.