Tom Hanks rise to stardom is a strange one, but his story is also one that brings hope to any up and coming young actor in Hollywood. Tom began his career on TV and was an immediate comedic success. His first few films focused on the comedy aspect of his talent, and although he had some misfires along the way, there was no doubt that Hanx (as his Facebook page states) had what it took to be a major Hollywood player for years to come. Back in the early 1980’s, he starred or had minor roles on some of television’s biggest shows – Family Ties, Taxi, Bosom Buddies, The Love Boat, and Happy Days. A string of film comedies followed, which included the fan favorite Bachelor Party, Splash, The Money Pit (a personal favorite of mine!), The Burbs’, Turner and Hooch, Joe vs. the Volcano, and The Man With One Red Shoe. Tom also dabbled in the dramatic a bit, with Big and Punchline, both of which garnered him solid reviews as an actor.
If the 1980’s were good to Tom Hanks, then the 1990’s were absolutely great to him. Tom turned out some of the best performances ever for an actor during this decade and these films became instant classics. It was here where Mr. Hanks proved his skills as a dramatic actor. As time went on, he was able to combine both the dramatic and comedic aspects of his talents in his films which resulted in solid results. Tom is the closest thing we have to this generation’s Jimmy Stewart. He has worked with some of the best directors out there – most notably Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis, Jonathan Demme, Frank Darabont, Sam Mendes, and Brian DePalma. There is no role that is too big for him and with only a couple of exceptions, is rarely miscast (the DaVinci Code films come to mind). The man is an amazing actor and I am happy to have been alive during his time on the big screen. He is truly a gift to cinema. Here are my top 10 Tom Hanks films…sorry Hooch, you didn’t make the cut!
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE – Yes, I know it’s a sappy flick and considered a definite chick flick, but Hanks shows range here in his first romantic comedy. Even though the two leads in the film don’t meet until the end, there individual performances throughout add to the eagerness the audience has waiting for this moment. It is a sweet, touching movie that even references another great romantic film – An Affair to Remember in the plot. Meg Ryan and Tom do great work here and as an audience member, you find yourself rooting for them to meet…and fall in love. This is the film that Tom proved he could be a successful romantic lead. Rating:
THE MONEY PIT – Hanks starred with Shelley Long in this hilarious film about a couple who buys the house from hell. Anything and everything that could go wrong with a home does in this great flick that truly lets Tom shine above the rest of the cast. This is one of my favorite comedies from the 1980’s and if you haven’t seen it and are in the mood for a good laugh – pick it up and add it to your collection. You won’t be disappointed. Rating:
10. ROAD TO PERDITION- On paper, this film had the makings of a bona-fide Oscar winner. Paul Newman, Hanks, Jude Law, and director Sam Mendes all lent their talents to this film about a hit-man who has to protect his son after he witnesses a murder. Hanks gives a raw performance here. It’s gritty and believable, as is the film. Law portrays the hit-man assigned by Newman’s John Rooney to hunt down and kill Hanks’ Michael Sullivan. Hanks plays the role of hit-man perfectly and even better, the role of a somewhat distant father who finally gets to know and love his son…who is the only remaining member of his immediate family. The film is full of emotion and great performances across the board. Many people had a tough time believing Tom would fit the role as nicely as he did. After watching it…can’t imagine anyone else doing it. A true testament to his talent. He was passed over for an Oscar nomination here and I believe that was an injustice. Rating:
9. APOLLO 13 - On the heels of the success of Forrest Gump, audiences were eager to see Gary Sinise and Hanks together again on-screen. They formed a great partnership in Gump and the story of the crew of the Apollo 13 was a great chance to get them working together again. The story is about the amazing crew, who had to use skill and dedication to make sure they returned home after problems occurred on their ship, leaving them stranded in outer space. Marvelously directed by Ron Howard, A13, is a true story of human will and determination. Hanks is the main man, Jim Lovell, whose experience is the catalyst for leading the men back from an almost certain death. Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Sinise, and Ed Harris all give strong performances here and the film will definitely have you cheering at the end. The storytelling to a film where we all know the outcome is key to making the audience feel like they are their watching it as it happened. Yes, we know how it ends. But watching the story unfold is exciting…and riveting. Rating:
8. BIG – You would have to say that Penny Marshall’s tale about a boy who wishes to become a grown up and ends up getting it granted to him overnight is a familiar one, that has been done many times over. It has…but their is just something different about Big. Perhaps it has a bit more heart than the rest, or perhaps, it’s the genius and spot on casting of Hanks in the lead role that separates in from the rest. Tom loses himself in this role, as he does with his most famous characters. He is the perfect fit for Josh Baskin…the boy who wants to be a man, and wants it now. The film is funny…yet touching. The relationships between two best friends, a boy and his mom, a jealous co-worker, and the woman who falls for the youth within him, are all touched on here and handled extremely well. Marshall worked again with Hanks in A League of Their Own and even though it didn’t make the top 10, is still a quality film. Rating:
7. THE GREEN MILE- Ok, so Tom has been a gangster, a simpleton, a man lost at sea, a detective, a 12 year old boy, an astronaut, and an animated toy. Let’s not forget that Mr. Hanks also played a prison guard in director Frank Darabont’s (The Shawshank Redemption) film about a man who is convicted of double murder, but is found out to be much more than that…he is something unique, something special and possibly wrongly convicted of the crimes in which he was charged. There is a lot going on in this film. We get nasty, disgusting prisoners…and we get prisoners that we end up caring for. We also get hard working guards who do their job well…and we also get one real jackass of a guard who we end up despising. Another film filled with wonderful performances (especially Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey), The Green Mile is a film that’s hard not to enjoy. Yes, it’s subject matter at times can be a bit much, but by the end of the picture, you realize that you just watched something extraordinary…and different. Hanks, once again, as the lead man handles the role as he does all of his others…perfectly. Rating:
6. PHILADELPHIA – Tough, controversial, and difficult to watch. No matter what your stance on the subject, everyone involved with the making of Philadelphia knew that if this film was going to be made, they could not hold back. From the director to the actors to the musical score, it is a powerful production. Hanks portrays Andrew Beckett, a gifted lawyer, who is wrongfully accused of mishandling an important case for his firm, and is therefore terminated. We find out that Andrew has A.I.D.S. and it appears that his bosses and co-workers found out about it and that was the reason he was let go. Beckett hires an attorney, portrayed by Denzel Washington, to represent him in his case. Director Jonathan Demme’s first follow up to his Oscar winning Silence of the Lambs, travels down a much different road here, but succeeds nonetheless. Assembling a brilliant cast, headlined by Hanks, was the key to making this work. Tom took home his first Oscar and it was extremely well deserved. He portrays Beckett as a man who knows who he is, but feels lost and helpless in a world that shuns those who have this deadly disease. Hanks shows a wide range here and it was a great decision for him to take on such a challenging role. Oscars never lie! Rating:
5. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN – One of the best on-screen pairings of the past decade featured two of the biggest movie stars in cinema history. Sometimes this type of thing doesn’t work out so well, but honestly, could this film really lose? Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Steven Spielberg? No…it couldn’t. What surprises about Catch Me if You Can is just how well the film is put together. One of the most entertaining films you will ever see has DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale, Jr., who is a master con-man, being constantly chased by Hanks Carl Hanratty, who is a relentless FBI agent consumed with catching him. Although DiCaprio has the more dramatic scenes in the film, it’s Hanks who lightens the mood with his quirky, funny portrayal of Hanratty. It really is a film about the relationship between the two men…who both need each other. Sort of like Batman needing the Joker…and vice versa. The excitement is consistent until the very last frame and Hanks shows yet again, that he can transform into basically any character. Rating:
4. CAST AWAY- Hanks + Zemeckis = MUST SEE FILM! The middle collaboration between Tom and Bob resulted in one of the most interesting physical transformations ever seen on film. Not only does Hanks lose a ton of pounds for the role but he really is a one man show for most of the film. The film pulls you in and never really lets you go until the very end. The best thing about this story of a man, Chuck Nolan, who ends up on a deserted island after a horrific plane crash is the simplicity of it all. The human will to survive is the key element to the film…as well as the desire to get back to the life one once had. The cinematography is beautiful, even amidst tragedy and hopelessness, and Zemeckis really holds back and let’s Hanks and the scenery do most of the work. There are a lot of memorable sequences in Cast Away, but in my opinion, the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the movie occur once Chuck returns home. The realization that all he had ever known and loved was now gone is his greatest heartache of all…and knowing that he could do nothing to prevent it makes it even worse. By the end, you get the feeling that Chuck has a new appreciation for life…and is ready to move forward with his. Tom is brilliant here…and overall, it may be his finest work as an actor. Rating:
3. THE TOY STORY SERIES- I normally don’t include animated films when I do top 10 lists simply because, even though the work is still tough, it’s not live action, therefore we can’t actually ‘see’ the actor…only hear him or her. However, when it comes to the work that Tom does in Pixar’s mega-hit Toy Story series, I must make an exception. Yes, most of the credit must be given to the writers and the animators, but both Hanks and Tim Allen (Buzz) really bring the two lead ‘toys’ to life. They give them heart…while at the same time making them both funny and memorable. As a whole, this trilogy is my favorite all time animated series. Tom’s Woody and Tim’s Buzz are a joy to watch, as are all of the animated toys. Hanks’ voice suits the toy cowboy perfectly. It’s a wonder how Allen and Hanks have yet to star in a live action film together…somebody get these guys a great script! Rating:
2. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN – The war film genre is one that produces a lot of high quality films – examples include Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill, The Thin Red Line, Black Hawk Down…the list goes on and on. My all time favorite war movie just so happens to feature Tom Hanks as well. Directed by Steven Spielberg, who once again shows his mastery of yet another genre, Ryan is an example of gritty, dramatic film-making at its best. An all star cast, led by Hanks, do some of the best work of their careers here. The cast includes – Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies and a small role by Matt Damon (although he is the title character). This film forever changed how war movies were made and shot. Spielberg sort of invented a new approach to the battle sequences, especially the storming of the beach at Normandy. The movie makes you feel like you are there…makes you feel the pain the soldiers must have felt having to watch their friends die right in front of them. Spielberg didn’t hold back…he grounded the film in reality. The great thing about Ryan is the touching story within the action. Soldiers who were given an order and intend to follow it out, no matter how ridiculous it may sound and no matter how much it puts their own lives at risk. Tom Hanks is the centerpiece of the flick and once again, as in most of his roles, he is ‘the leader’. His commanding screen presence is no more evident than it is when he graces the screen in this amazing motion picture. And yes, it got robbed at the Oscars…it was the best film of 1998 and the best war film I’ve ever seen. Rating:
1. FORREST GUMP- I enjoy writing about this film. Why? Because I can’t find one flaw with it. To me, it is cinematic perfection. A film that has it all. Upon it’s release in 1994, I really didn’t know what to expect. Yes, it got a major release date (July 6), but I had not read the book or even really paid close attention to the trailers. I sat down in the theater not knowing I was about to watch what would become my ‘all time favorite film’. Yes, I love it that much. There is so much I can say about Gump to talk it up, but if you’ve seen it (and most of you probably have), then you know what I’m talking about. The memorable characters who are perfectly cast…the amazing soundtrack that spans 3 decades…the beautiful cinematography…and the unforgettable score by Alan Silvestri. That’s just a few things. Director Robert Zemeckis masterfully handles the material about a simpleton who basically goes through life just doing what either his mom or his childhood friend, Jenny, would want him to do. By doing this, it takes him on quite the journey where he meets JFK, John Lennon, and Elvis Presley. He also wins a Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor in Vietnam as well as becoming an international ping pong star. He becomes a billionaire by investing his Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. money in Apple, Inc. stock back when it first started up. Yes, it’s all a bit unbelievable – but it doesn’t matter. By the end of the three hour flick, Forrest finally wins the love of his life and has a child with her. Tragic events occur, but Forrest is forever a changed man when he meets his son. Forrest Gump hits on about every emotional level that a motion picture can hit on. You feel sorry for him…you cheer for him…you feel his sorrow…and you sort of wish you could be more like him. The man just goes with the flow…and it gets him far in life. The film also served as a career jumpstart for stars like Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan Taylor), Robin Wright (Jenny), and Mykelti Williamson (Bubba). 1994 was perhaps the best year for films in cinema history (only 1939 can rival it). Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, and Gump were all up for Best Picture that year. Gump took home the prize, as did Hanks with his second consecutive Oscar, and director Robert Zemeckis. Tom’s portrayal of Forrest Gump goes down in film history as one of the most recognizable characters…ever. And his performance is one of the best you will ever see. This is a marvelous motion picture and I wish more films were made that had the same effect on me as Gump did. I never get tired of watching it…it is movie magic. Rating:
Tom Hanks is my favorite actor. His string of roles in the late 1980’s, the 1990’s, and early 2000’s, became so of the best I’ve ever seen. He stars in my favorite all-time animated series (Toy Story), my favorite war film (Saving Private Ryan), and my favorite overall film (Forrest Gump). Quality roles are given to quality actors and Tom Hanks always gives fantastic performances with nearly every role he chooses to do.
If you notice, 2002’s Catch Me if You Can is the most recent film on his top 10 list. Now, it’s true that Tom has acted in fewer films since then, taking on other roles as producer and sometime director, but the quality of his selections has diminished a bit. Most notably, the Dan Brown adaptations – DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, both of which I didn’t really care for. They made a lot of money worldwide, but I didn’t particularly like them. The Polar Express was a solid animated production and he again struck magic with director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Forrest Gump). I am hoping that his new film Larry Crowne, which opens today, is a return to form for Tom. It looks like just the type of film that Hanx can have a lot of fun with. Teaming up with Julia Roberts should make for quite an entertaining, lighthearted affair.
Check back next week to see if Larry Crowne makes Hanx Top 10 list!!
Also, click here for Julia Roberts Top 10 list !!