Every generation has a few actors that you could safely say "defined" the generation. The forties had Jimmy Stewart and Katheryn Hepburn, the fifties had Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. For me, when I think of the 90's, my first decade of living, no other actor personifies it more than Tom Hanks. Before 1993 Tom Hanks could have easily been equated to Will Farrell or Vince Vaughn; doing mostly gross out comedies. With the exception of Big, he had no masterpieces. The Burbs, House Party, Turner and Hooch... nobody would have watched a Tom Hanks movie and thought he was going to be one of Hollywoods all time greats. However, in 1993 a little movie came out that changed everything; not just for Toms career but for the scope of what would be acceptable content in movies. Philadelphia came out in 1993 and was the first major Hollywood motion picture to confront head on the AID's pandemic; it also changed the way the world would look at Tom Hanks forever. Over the next 23 years Hanks would go on to warm and stir hearts to no end. Whether it was his iconic voice in Toy Story, his charming innocence in Forrest Gump or his sly humor in You've Got Mail; everybody has a favorite Tom Hanks performance. Here are my picks for the top ten Tom Hanks performances. Disclaimer: I have not seen Big, so nobody jump down my throat for it not being on this list.
I often refer to Tom Hanks as the Jimmy Stewart of our day. So it is only fitting that he would star in the remake of Stewarts Shop Around The Corner. This movie is schmaltzy, predictable and at time unrealistic; but it is also my second favorite romantic comedy of all time (behind When Harry Met Sally). For those who believe in movie magic, this is a shining example of it, but made all the more watchable by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in their third outing together. Tom is funny, flawed, arrogant and lovable in this; showing us a light hearted, easy going side of him rarely seen in his performances, but we all like to believe he's really like this.
In one of his most flawed characters to date, Tom plays the sleazy congressman turned war profiteer turned anti war advocate. Hanks doesn't let you put Charlie Wilson in any boxes; he's not just a womanizing politician, he's not just a social justice advocate. Tom doesn't pigeon hold the character and so neither do we. In a lesser actors hands, this character wouldn't have just been unlikable and unrelatable, but he'd probably be unwatchable.
Is there any other actor out there capable of bringing to the big screen the charisma and likability the beloved Walt Disney was famous for? 2012 was a return to form for Hanks, giving us two of his best performances. Making Disney sweet, sympathetic and flawed, Hanks does a great service to one of the most iconic figures in American history.
The Green Mile is a 3 hour and 9 minute masterpiece that meditates in miracles and challenges everyone's position on the death penalty no matter where you stand on the debate. There's a lot of story and beautiful themes in The Green Mile, but Tom Hanks playing the sympathetic and noble Paul Edgecomb holds it all together.
In addition to Saving Mr. Banks in 2012, Tom Hanks brought a tour de force performance in this edge of your seat thriller. If there was any question as to whether or not Hanks is one of the best actors of our time, watch the last ten minutes of this movie. There is a short list of Oscar nomination snubs that thinking about just ticks me off, Anthony Perkins in Psycho and Tom Hanks here top the list.
In his most understated and under appreciated performance to date, Tom Hanks takes on the most conflicted role of his career. Tormented by the choices he made that lead to his families suffering, Tom Hanks plays a man on the road to redemption and to connect with his son for the first time. Hanks doesn't miss a beat or wink at the camera at all, he embodies the stoic and introverted Michael Sullivan perfectly, showing us something he's never done before or since.
In what is arguably Tom Hanks' most iconic performance, he took home his second Oscar in the title role of Forrest Gump. This was a risky move, playing the mentally challenged Forrest, which could have easily been interpreted as insensitive or cruel. But in the capable hands of Tom Hanks all those bullets are carefully dodged, what we are left with is one of the most earnest and enduring performances of all time.
Undoubtedly the best war movie of the last twenty years, Steven Spielberg took home his second Oscar for his meditative and violent film on war. Playing the strong leader who suffers quietly, Hanks does nothing flashy here, but he does ground this this character in the brutal, war torn reality he lives in.
When most of your movie focuses on a man alone on the Island, and you're the actor tasked with keeping the audiences attention for two hours, it sounds like a recipe for failure. But we aren't just talking about any actor here, we are talking about Tom Hanks. In what I consider to be one of cinemas finest performances, Tom Hanks takes on an impossible role that will leave you speechless. No disrespect to Russell Crowe, who won that year for Gladiator, but Tom should have taken home his third trophy for his masterful work here.
The movie that changed Tom's career forever. As a gay, young lawyer dying of AID's, Tom Hanks is in total control of your heart from start to finish in the role that won him his first Oscar. Though today it may not seem all that brave, at the time nobody portrayed this type of character in a major Hollywood motion picture. Tom pioneered new ground in cinematic acting with his heartbreaking portrayal of a dying man seeking fairness ad justice.
So, these are my top 10 favorite Tom Hanks movies. What are yours? Slap on a comment! Thanks for reading!