‘NCIS:’ Why Most Mark Harmon Movies Were Critically Panned

Mark Harmon plays the title character on the most-watched show on television and has become a figurehead, so to speak, for the entire NCIS franchise; however, his on-screen career hasn’t always been met with the same degree of adulation that his hit CBS show receives.

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon | Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Harmon has become one with Agent Gibbs; from the charming smile to the minimal conversational tendencies, the parallels between the actor and the character are often at the center of fan discussions (even fellow cast members have chimed in to comment on the likeness, as Michael Weatherly once did). However, has climbing into character always been so effortless for Harmon?

Aside from Summer School, which received mixed reviews, slightly favorable ones, at best, most of Harmon’s blockbuster movies were critically panned.

Why have Mark Harmon’s past movies opened to widespread negative reviews? Is the actor to blame, or has he been dealt more than his fair share of poor scripts and inadequate directors? Let’s dive into his most famous films and take a look.

Mark Harmon in ‘The Presidio’ (1988)

Mark Harmon starred alongside Sean Connery and Meg Ryan in the 1988 crime thriller The Presidio. The Presidio currently holds a 53% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, and though boasting quite the stellar cast and the star power needed to bring in viewers, the movie failed to hit the high note that a Sean Connery film is expected to attain.

While many critics praised Sean Connery and his “magnetic performance” in the role as the substantiating factor keeping this movie from the rubbish zone, Mark Harmon’s acting was not met with the same degree of appreciation.

Many critics and fans alike considered the on-screen chemistry between Harmon and Meg Ryan weak and unconvincing. The romance plotline between the two actors was an integral part of the movie’s development and vital to the transforming character dynamic between Harmon and Connery’s characters, but, because the chemistry between the two supposed lovers fell flat, so did much of the movie.

However, it’s important to note that the chemistry between Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan was not the sole problem. The movie also suffered from a lack of narrative direction and uninspired thriller tropes.

Mark Harmon in ‘Stealing Home’ (1988)

Stealing Home currently has a 20% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, despite boasting an 80% according to audiences. What does this mean? The film retained entertainment value but failed to succeed on the technical fronts critics assess. In other words, as some would say, it wasn’t pretentious enough.

Critics condemned Stealing Home as a movie that should have been emotionally stirring but just failed to hit the mark. However, audiences definitely felt all the emotions at play in the film starring Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster as former childhood sweethearts. The movie operates in flashbacks after Mark Harmon’s character discovers that Foster’s character committed suicide.

So, when it comes to Stealing Home, Mark Harmon delivered on the audience front and failed to satisfy critics. Meaning, this movie’s negative reception likely falls in the hands of someone behind the production. You always have to be careful going for the melancholic, for critics often look beyond the heartwrenching factor to see if there’s more at play.

Mark Harmon in ‘Chasing Liberty’ (2004)

Chasing Liberty has an 18% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was criticized for its lack of depth and overly typical nature. One critic described the movie as “vanilla,” while another argued that Mandy Moore failed to reach the level needed to succeed in the role.

Many felt that neither Harmon nor Mandy Moore’s characters were captivating or fully-fleshed out, leaving most people wanting more. This time, it seems like a lack of quality writing played into the downfall. And, according to critics, Mandy Moore was not the best actress to star opposite of.

Was the star of ‘NCIS’ Mark Harmon a movie mess?

Mark Harmon has starred in several other movies; however, many lack enough critical reviews to form a consensus, and they were much smaller, lesser known projects.

So, when it comes to Mark Harmon’s movies, several were critically condemned for different reasons. However, it’s fair to say that a mix of poor writing, weak acting/chemistry, and cliche formulas were the downfall of most significant films Harmon starred in. However, Harmon is a strong actor, and likely, moreso than not, picked a few rough films in a row. He may be a man better built for TV, as the actor is also known for starring in Chicago Hope and St. Elsewhere.