It’s no secret that I am a huge Tom Hanks fan. He has been one of my favourite actors for as long as I can remember and there is a reason why he is so loved by everyone. An extremely talented actor and nice personality, Tom Hanks has built a reputation for being one of the most respected actors in history and it’s easy to see why. It was so difficult for me to pick a top 5 so I’ve gone ahead and done a top 10 instead. This list is only the tip of the iceberg for this man’s career and shows his range. We see him evolve from a kid adult to a prison officer working on Death Row to portraying Walt Disney himself.
Hanks is an actor who encapsulates his roles and is a constant draw for the box office. He’s worked with some of the best directors and actors around particularly Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away and The Polar Express) and Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can and Bridge of Spies). There’s no performance that he has done that I don’t love. Admittedly, the Dan Brown films are one of my guilty pleasures even though they are absolutely ridiculous but Tom Hanks brings such an enthusiastic performance that I find them so much fun to watch, especially Angels and Demons.
Here are my top 10 in chronological order:
Big is one of those films that I could watch time and time again and never get bored. Following Josh Baskin, a young boy who wishes to grow up and then does overnight. This film is made even better when he grows up into Tom Hanks. Hanks has so much fun as adult Josh in this role as he fills his apartment with everything a cool kid had in the 80s. He is the perfect mix of charming and hilarious. I mean, who doesn’t love the scene with the piano?
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
It wouldn’t be a true Tom Hanks list without featuring a classic Nora Ephron romcom with Hanks and costar Meg Ryan. My favourite of the bunch is Sleepless in Seattle which makes my heart melt every time I watch it. Hanks plays Sam, a grieving architect whose son calls into a radio show to tell their story. In true Ephron form this film is the true epitome of the romcom genre and is a delight to watch. The climactic scene on the observation deck of the Empire State building has me screaming at the TV every time.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Possibly the most famous Tom Hanks role, Forrest Gump sees Hanks play the iconic titular character who sees the world in a different way. Bringing Hanks the Best Leading Actor Oscar for the second year in a row after the previous year’s Philadelphia, Forrest Gump propelled Hanks into a global phonenom and landed him at the top of every director’s list. His performance is not condescending nor over the top as he places a heavy focus on Forrest’s naivity rather than his disabilities.
Toy Story Franchise (1995-present)
It would have been a crime not to include these but I couldn’t pick just one. Tom Hanks’ Voicework as Woody the toy cowboy is nothing short of extraordinary and really brings the toys to life. For over 20 years, Pixar have charmed us with the story about a group of toys who watch their owner grow up. Hanks’ performance is worked up and super stressed as Woody struggles to keep his control. He’s a brilliantly flawed character who constantly makes mistakes doing what he thinks is right. The fourth installment that was released this year was revolutionary for Woody as he finally embarks on a life that he wants.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Hanks’ first collaboration with Spielberg is probably the most dramatic and to that point, “blockbustery” of his career. Playing Captain John H. Miller who leads a small group of soldiers to find and rescue the missing Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), Hanks made his mark as the big leading man in cinema. It’s the film that should have swept the Oscars but was beaten by Shakespeare in Love in a huge misjustice for the Best Picture gong (don’t get me started). What separates this film from other war films is that Hanks between the heart of the film and shows the emotion behind the fighting.
The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is one of those films that brings me to tears every time I watch it. Following Hanks as head prison officer, Paul Edgecomb, working in the Death Row block. When a 6 foot black man, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), is jailed on the block, mysterious events begin to happen that cause Paul to challenge his morals and his faith. It’s a brilliant film that I don’t think receives the praise that it deserves, mainly due to it being the second prison based Stephen King adaptation after The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. Hanks is fantastic as Edgecomb. He is sharp, observant and has a strong moral compass. The scenes with him and Duncan make for some heart wrenching cinema as the truth behind Coffey’s imprisonment come to light.
Cast Away (2000)
If I had to pick one Tom Hanks performance to put at the top of my list, this would be the one. It’s iconic, it’s fantastic and it should have earned Hanks his third Oscar. Hanks plays Fedex driver, Chuck Noland, who survives a plane crash and becomes stranded on a desert island for year. The premise is simple but the film is anything but. Hanks goes all out to deliver a career best performance that sees Chuck removing teeth with an ice-skate blade, catching fish with a spear and finding companionship with a volleyball called Wilson. What makes this film truly standout is Hanks’ ability to keep the audience’s attention by himself for the film’s 143 minutes.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
This fun flick sees Hanks reunite with Steven Spielberg for the chase of a century as Hanks plays FBI agent, Carl Hanratty on the hunt for Frank Abagnale Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young conman across the globe. It’s a brilliantly entertaining film to watch as Hanks fails time and time again to capture Abagnale. Hanks and DiCaprio are an odd pairing for leads but it works really well and you can tell that both are having a good time.
Captain Phillips (2013)
This gem of a film is a stellar thriller that showcases Hanks’ timelessness as an actor. Playing the titular character whose cargo ship is overrun by Somali pirates, Hanks works brilliant alongside Barkhad Abdi who plays Somali pirate, Abduwali Muse. Most of the cast in this film are fairly unknown and it’s nice to see that although Hanks is the lead, that others are given the chance to shine, particularly Abdi, who won a BAFTA for his performance. Hanks isn’t an actor who has to hog the spotlight every time he is onscreen.
Saving Mr Banks (2013)
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. Do I even need to say more? It’s one icon playing another and it is perfect casting. I absolutely adore this film and am always watching it when it is on the TV. Following author P L Travers (Emma Thompson) as she is pursued relentlessly by Disney who wants to adapt her famous Mary Poppins books into a film, we see Travers enter a world she has no interest in. Hanks is truly magical as the big man himself and lights up the screen everytime he appears.
So there you have it! We have journeye through the highlights of this legend’s career. With a deserved life achievement Cecil B Demille award on its way from the 2020 Golden Globes, Hanks’ career is far from over. I am excited to see his upcoming films.
Which Tom Hanks performances are your favourites? Let me knows in the comments below!