With every single Toy Story movie featured recently in our Pixar Top 10, we decided that Toy Story should be excluded when voting for our Top 10 Tom Hanks movies. Luckily, Mr Hanks has four decades worth of incredibly memorable movies to choose from, and in a first for Team CineChat, we were able to agree on a Top 10 without any ties!
10. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Mary: This was Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s third outing together after Joe Vs. the Volcano and the romance classic Sleepless in Seattle. This is a lovely little cosy film and I can’t lie and say I don’t like it so much because it all revolves around bookshops (my favourite places). Hanks and Ryan are so comfortable with each other and it is a pleasure to watch them share the screen, journeying through dislike to love. This is the perfect movie for a Sunday evening under a blanket with a hot chocolate….. Perfection.
9. Philadelphia (1993)
Matt: There’s no denying that Tom Hanks thoroughly deserved his first Oscar win as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, a lawyer who is fired by his firm after they discover he is a homosexual living with HIV. There aren’t a great many films where he undergoes a physical transformation, so watching his condition deteriorate throughout the film (director Jonathan Demme opted to shoot the film in sequence, during which Hanks lost nearly 30 pounds) is quite difficult to watch. Revisiting Philadelphia this week was interesting, and I think in some ways the film lets him down with some of it’s unusual stylistic choices – a few examples include editing transitions whereby a scene ‘spins’ into the next, distracting captions telling us exactly how much time has passed between each scene, and an intrusive musical score that overpowers the dialogue in some of the quieter moments. But the fact that Hanks’ performance shines through is a credit to his incredible acting ability.
8. The Terminal (2004)
Mary: This felt like a very different role for Hanks, and it is so much fun. Watching his character befriend all manner of people in JFK airport is a heart-warming thing, but not in the least bit surprising because I’m sure Tom Hanks is that awesome in real life he’d befriend everyone too. This comedy has been underrated in my opinion and has a cast of great actors this is definitely worth going back to.
7. Apollo 13 (1995)
Mary: Tom Hanks is the every-man we love to root for and we do just that in this Ron Howard movie about the ill fated Apollo Mission. This is a great film that makes you feel like you are in space with the astronauts. The cast is terrific, Hanks teaming up once again with Gary Sinise, you feel their joys, struggles and fear and mixed with a brilliant realistic technical aspect of the film the tensions are ramped up to get these guys home safely. Haven’t watched this one in a long while, think I’ll have to sit down with it.
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Matt: Saving Private Ryan is a huge film that covers a lot of ground and many characters, so like a lot of films about World War II and the Normandy landings in particular, you might think that highlighting any one actor’s performance would be unfair – that is until you consider that the entire events of this film unfold through the eyes of Tom Hanks’ Captain John H. Miller; from his perspective we witness the nightmarish horror, brutality and devastation of the warfare around him. In many of the earlier scenes were dialogue is not an option, the volume he communicates through facial expressions alone is astounding. In this respect, the monumental responsibility of accurately portraying the experience of thousands of soldiers during this pivotal moment in history falls predominantly on Hanks’ shoulders in this film – and I’m not sure he got the full credit he deserved for this work. Of course this film is in IMDBs Top 30 films (#26), and rightly so.
5. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Mary: Say what you want about Walt Disney (and people do), that he had questionable interests in fascism, was against the unions etc. But it cannot be denied the man was a true artistic genius, and what he portrayed on screen was a fatherly character who you could inspire to be like. Who better to play one of the most famous people in world, who is responsible for childhood happiness and imagination the world over than Tom Hanks. Obviously being a Disney film all the bad parts of his real life personality are glossed over, but whatever the real man was like Hanks creates a man who strives to bring happiness to families through his movies and theme parks. Who’s childhood shaped him as a man and who would go to great lengths to create magic. Lovely film, however unrealistic it might actually be in reality.
Clare: I hesitated to watch Saving Mr Banks (I don’t often admit this, but I don’t like Mary Poppins), but I shouldn’t have worried. The powerhouse double act of Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson turns what could be a stuffy biopic in to a charismatic tug of war. As Mary says, I’m sure there is a lot glossed over, but Hanks manages to balance Walt’s greed with his wide eyed enthusiasm and acts as a tonic to Thompson’s firm stance.
4. The Green Mile (1999)
Matt: Watching the film again this week absolutely knocked my socks off. I’ve only seen The Green Mile once before – probably as a teenager – and while I remembered it to be good, I think it needs that first viewing just to get your head around what the film actually is. I must say it was definitely not what I was expecting back then, and it definitely surprised me again this time around. I imagine many (like me) tend to forget that this is based on a series of Stephen King novels – and therefore what sounds like it might be a run-of-the-mill prison drama is suddenly so much more… various injections of fantasy, mystery, crime, comedy, and even horror (to an extent) make The Green Mile an incredible roller-coaster of a film, despite taking place in one room for the most part. As much as Tom Hanks deserves praise for his excellent performance as Death Row guard Paul Edgecomb, I have to say it’s Michael Clarke Duncan’s portrayal of John Coffey that really blew me away (and deserves so much more recognition). But the two of them together, and their unlikely relationship given the extraordinary events of the film, works perfectly. It’s no surprise that this is also in IMDB’s Top 30 films (#29), I also reckon this should have been #1 on our list!
Lee: In what is becoming a bit of a running theme for me when it comes to a lot of the movies on this list, it’s been far too since I last saw The Green Mile. As Matt said, it’s the John Coffey character that stands out in this movie, but Hanks is part of an extremely strong supporting cast. I’m sure that if I had watched this movie a lot more recently, it would have been my number one, as this is an incredible movie.
3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
Clare: There may be some recency bias involved with putting this as my personal number one, and seeing it rank in the top 3 of all time will, I’m sure, raise some eyebrows. For me though, Hanks performance as Mr Rogers is the ultimate Hanks performance. It’s everything we have grown to expect from him, and a role that just wouldn’t have worked with anyone else in his place. His calming manner, patient smile and comforting presence make every scene feel like a hot water bottle, and reminds us of the good in the world.
Lee: This one also featured very highly in my personal top 10, probably down to the recency of it, as Clare alluded to. It certainly helped that there was plenty of inspiration for Hanks to draw upon for this role, in the form of Mr Rogers, who was so beloved and well known (in the states). But can you honestly imagine anyone portraying him better than Hanks? It’s that every man, down to earth, effortless style that we’ve all touched upon with the other movies in this list that makes this performance so outstanding for me. Clare summed it perfectly, with that hot water bottle feel-good feeling.
2. Cast Away (2000)
Mary: I recently re-watched this with my husband and really enjoyed it, if ever a film was a one man show then this is it! I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been to film in parts. It is both a very physical and very emotional performance. Hanks is completely believable as the man who is stranded on an island after a plane crash, unable to create a fire or catch himself fish for food. But he is equally believable as the man 5 years alone, able to survive, maybe not quite thrive and who’s only relationship is with a Volleyball called Wilson. Who knew a scene with a ball could cause us all to blub! That is what I call stellar acting.
Lee: Another movie where it’s been a long time since I last saw it. My wife and I keep trying to convince our daughter to watch Cast Away, but I don’t think we really manage to sell the plot to her that well, as she just point blank refuses. But the thing is, on paper, Cast Away is such a simple idea that it probably doesn’t sound all that appealing. But when you’ve got Tom Hanks as lead, even the simplest of ideas become something special. And Wilson is now probably one of the most iconic objects in movie history, and that’s all thanks to the incredible performance by Mr Tom Hanks.
1. Forrest Gump (1994)
Mary: This film reminds me of my childhood, for some reason this was in my repertoire of movies and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen it. For some reason I have never grasped why, this film takes quite a lot of stick today. But I truly believe this is Tom Hanks greatest performance, he plays the pure, innocent low IQ character with so much heart you can’t help but love the guy. His life, though unbeknown to him sees some of the key events of the 20th century but all he cares about is his Jenny. Fantastic plot, effects, score, casting all round great in my eyes.
Clare: As Mary has said, it seems to have become quite cool to hate on Forrest Gump over the last few years. Look, it isn’t a perfect film and there are moments that have not aged well. But it’s such a fun, silly and well crafted movie. Every performance is brilliant, the jokes still land and the heart is clear to see. Thanks to Channel 4 being a bit obsessed with it, it’s a film I’ve re-watched tons of times and despite the epic length, I never regret it.
Clare: I consider myself a Hanks fan, so I was really surprised to learn that once animations are out of the picture, I’ve only seen 9 Tom Hanks films. I knew I was missing some big ones (SPR, TGM) but I guess I’ve got a lot more to catch up on than I realise. It should be a testament to him however, that having only seen 9 films I would still rank him as one of the best and most versatile actors working today.
Matt: It’s fascinating to evaluate why Tom Hanks is such a good actor, and why so many of his films are considered all-time ‘greats’. The conclusion I’ve come to (again) is that I haven’t got a flipping clue how he does it. He’s just one-of-a-kind! I’ve mentioned IMDB’s Top 250 list a couple of times in this article, and while I know it’s not a definitive ranking, I do think it’s a good way of gauging the popularity of films. In the case of Tom Hanks…. there’s Forrest Gump (#12), Saving Private Ryan (#26), The Green Mile (#29), Toy Story (#80), Toy Story 3 (#110) and Catch Me if You Can (#195). It’s an impressive achievement, though I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m sure a lot more of his films should be on that list!
Mary: Well I mean come on, any list of Tom Hanks movies was going to be high quality wasn’t it? He is this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, he is the every man we just love to support. He has great taste in films so his choices are almost always A+ and he is just so reliable. I’ve never ever seen a film of his that wasn’t a good performance, in whatever genre it might be. Just look at this list, these films are either classics or they are extremely good and instantly watchable. I will always feel an excitement for a new Tom Hanks movie because I know exactly what I’m going to get…. stellar acting from an old favourite.
Lee: My personal top 10 featured a lot of the earlier, goofier Hanks roles such as Big and Splash – I even had The Polar Express in there! Despite none of those making it into our final 10, this is still a solid list and just goes to show what an incredible résumé of movies Tom Hanks has clocked up over the years. No surprise that Forrest Gump made the top spot either.