25 Best Tom Hanks Movies, Ranked

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Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s most beloved and well-respected actors. Often called a modern-day James Stewart, it is easy to understand why because Hanks is often thought of as the “every man.” And while that is a fair assessment, the career of Hanks is also more multi-faceted than that.

With 92 acting credits to his name, Tom Hanks has carved out a special place in film history with various roles ranging from an animated toy cowboy to an Apollo astronaut.

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Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Hanks is a master at his craft with the ability to step into roles and elicit visceral emotional reactions, hearty laughter, or genuine tears from viewers, whether it be a comedic or dramatic film. The two-time Oscar winner also holds a record for portraying the greatest number of actual individuals on screen. Truthfully, in recent years Hanks has become the go-to actor in many biographical films featuring men of incredible heroics or legendary status.

So, it should be no surprise that determining his top 25 greatest performances is difficult, let alone ranking them. But regardless, I tackled this feat and determined something I already knew but was overwhelmingly reminded of. Tom Hanks is one of the most phenomenal actors ever to grace the screen.

25. The Polar Express (2004)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, remains a unique feat in movie history. It was the first “all-digital capture” film meaning every performance employed the motion-capture technology. Although technology is the most prominent aspect of The Polar Express, one cannot deny the importance of Hanks’ presence.

He performs the Hero Boy, the Conductor, a Hobo, Scrooge, the Father, and Santa Claus, arguably the most significant roles in the film. Of these, the Conductor and the Hobo stand out performance-wise, but they all help to make The Polar Express the unique film it is.

24. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

In this film, Hanks tackles a somewhat different type of role for him, playing Charlie Wilson, a Congressman from Texas, in the 1980s. Wilson is a charming womanizer known for doing as little as possible. But being a member of crucial foreign policy committees puts him in the surprising position to aid Afghanistan, which was suffering at the hands of the Soviet Union at the time. This true story is a fascinating one and one that came to have extraordinary overreaching circumstances.

Although Hanks had played bold characters in the past, the role of Charlie Wilson feels unique in his filmography as this real man was no epitome of virtue. He was a frequenter of drug-riddled parties, had a staff of only attractive women, and his work in Congress often included selling his votes. Still, Hanks manages to convey Wilson’s complexities with ease.

23. The Da Vinci Code/Angels & Demons/Inferno (2006-2016)

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Sony Pictures

In this trilogy of Dan Brown’s works, directed by Ron Howard, Hanks portrays the intelligent, brave, and resourceful symbologist Robert Langdon. In The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Inferno, Langdon is thrust into dangerous plots involving murder, conspiracies, cover-ups, and potential warfare on a global scale.

Each film is a fascinating and thought-provoking adventure. And while Hanks is not known as an action/adventure actor, Langdon is well suited for his particular abilities because Hanks is adept at showcasing an understated strength rooted in intellect and faith. He centers the films, giving Langdon his tenacity and compassion in what are ultimately riveting tales.

22. That Thing You Do! (1996)

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

If this were purely a ranking of the films of Tom Hanks, That Thing You Do! would rank much higher, as the directorial debut from Hanks is a sheer delight. However, since this list is based on his performances, this film ranks lower, with Hanks in a supporting role as the manager of a rock and roll band on the rise to fame in the 1960s.

Hanks plays Mr. White, the astute, wise, and affable manager of the Wonders, whose hit “That Thing You Do” quickly rises on the charts.

Along the way, he guides the four members, Jimmy, Guy, Lenny, the Bass Player, and Jimmy’s girlfriend, Faye. He is always very observant and in tune with things, sometimes things they aren’t even aware of themselves. And he is always there with insight and compliments on their suits, no matter the color. He is not the main character, but Hanks, who superbly wrote and directed the film, anchors That Thing You Do! with wisdom and sobering truths while maintaining a lightness, snappiness, and, ultimately, believability.

21. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In this poignant film about the making of the Disney classic Mary Poppins, Hanks plays the legend himself, Walt Disney. In the movie, we see Poppins’ author P.L. Travers, finally relenting after 20 years of asking to let her books be turned into a feature film. But Travers proves difficult at every turn, not wanting her stories to become overly sentimental, like how she views other Disney works.

This leaves Disney frustrated but determined to make his film. So, he does whatever he can to convince Travers to trust him and fulfill his daughters’ request many years ago to make their favorite books into a film.

Portraying someone like Walt Disney, who is so well-known, world-renowned, and beloved by multiple generations, is a daunting, even impossible, task. And while Hanks may not embody Disney in a way where you feel as if you’re watching the actual man on screen, that is a task no actor could achieve.

That is because Walt Disney was larger than life and felt like a comforting father figure. Hanks beautifully portrays Disney’s warmth, shrewd business sense, and compassion with grace and maturity in a way only he could achieve. He gives Walt Disney a realness that is captivating to watch.

20. Sully

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

On January 15, 2009, what became known as “The Miracle on the Hudson” was rife with material apt for the big screen. On that fateful day, airline pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger saved the lives of his crew and all 151 passengers by safely landing their plane on the Hudson River after their engines died.

Despite his heroics, Sulley is investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, who doubt and scrutinize his tactics, insisting he was reckless in his decisions.

As said, Hanks has become the go-to actor to portray real-life individuals, particularly those who demonstrated grand heroics. And Hanks feels like a natural choice for Captain Sullenberger, for a good reason. The film itself, which depicts a brief period of time, is gripping, and Hanks wonderfully showcases Sully’s quick thinking, courage, and tact.

This is seen especially in the final tense moments before de-boarding the plane, making sure everyone is safely off, and while under investigation and is bombarded with undue criticism. Hanks was the perfect actor to bring this man to life.

19. Splash (1984)

Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Splash represents many firsts in Hanks’ career. This was his first leading-man role in a film, his first collaboration with director Ron Howard, and his first proper foray into the romantic comedy genre. In the movie, Hanks plays Allen Bauer, a man who has never found that special someone but falls in love unexpectedly with a beautiful and mysterious woman he meets on the beach one day.

But this girl who takes the name Madison has a great secret- she is a mermaid. And that truth threatens not only their relationship but her peaceful existence.

It is difficult to believe that this was Hanks’ first significant movie role because he showcases no sense of awkwardness. Hanks is a natural for the romantic comedy genre, and at the onset, he makes a big splash, pun intended. Allen has an upbeat, energetic presence and is effortlessly funny, but he also showcases believable moments of sadness, genuine fear, and confusion over Madison’s true self.

His chemistry with John Candy as his brother has such ease that you overlook that they don’t necessarily look like siblings. And the romantic chemistry with Daryl Hannah is so sweet and tender that he makes a romance with a mermaid feel as real as any other. Hanks proves from the beginning of his career he is a more than capable, charismatic leading man.

18. Road to Perdition (2002)

Image Credit: Dreamworks LLC and Francois Duhamel

Hanks aptly tackles a much darker role in this Sam Mendes drama set in 1930s Illinois. Hanks plays Mike Sullivan, a mob enforcer, and man entrenched in an Irish crime syndicate, who keeps his work separate from his family. His children only know his boss, John Rooney (Paul Neman), as a loving Uncle-figure and Rooney’s son Connor (Daniel Craig), as a stoic but unnerving man.

When Sullivan’s son Michael witnesses Connor murder a man, Sullivan knows his son has not only lost his innocence, but his safety is in jeopardy. And soon, Connor takes it upon himself to eliminate loose ends. Afraid of the truth of his corruption coming out, he murders Sullivan’s wife and other son. So Sullivan and Michael embark on a journey, fleeing for their lives and hell-bent on revenge on the Rooneys.

Although Hanks has not often played characters like Sullivan, he brings his remarkable talents into the role. It is a threatening character but not one of true evil. Instead, Hanks portrays a morally ambiguous man who ultimately is a father who will do anything to protect his son.

In a world of overtly violent gangsters, Hanks maintains a balance between a cool demeanor and a subtle warmth that is slowly brought out on his redemptive journey with his son. It is an understated but highly effective performance.

17. Toy Story Series (1995-2019)

Image Credit: The alt Disney Company

Although there have been many memorable voice performances in animated films, few have quite the everlasting legacy and indelible appeal as Woody from the Toy Story films. I cannot imagine any other actor voicing this toy cowboy in these four animated ventures that take Woody, his foe to friend Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of his toy friends through many adventures.

Voice work is unlike any other acting in that you must convey each word without the benefit of your physical being. Although actors are often filmed for reference, it is still up to the animators to bring that character to the screen. Animation is a dazzling medium, but without the right actors voicing the characters, the film is far less effective.

Woody is a leader who is often proud, stubborn, kindhearted, and brave. Hanks breathes life into this character in a way only he could, giving Woody his unmistakable voice and very particular, lively personality.

16. The Green Mile (1999)

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

This gripping drama based on a novel by Stephen King may be very much an ensemble piece, but Hanks manages to stand out with his performance. Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, one of a handful of prison guards on a death row cellblock during the Great Depression.

With the arrival of the black man John Coffey, convicted of child rape and murder, the term “gentle giant” garners its most genuine meaning. Soon, not only does Edgecomb doubt Coffey’s guilt, but he and his fellow guards bear witness to miraculous events.

There is no word more apropos to describe The Green Mile than engrossing. The day-to-day events of Coffey and other prisoners and their interactions with all of the guards bring forth every emotion imaginable, from humor to disgust to profound sadness. But what makes Hanks stand out is that the film is seen through his eyes.

Hanks gives Edgecomb a quiet strength that is a formidable match to the equally gentle and moving performance from Michael Clarke Duncan. Hanks gives an affecting performance that matches the film’s emotional resonance.

15. News of the World (2020)

Image Credit: Universal Studios and Bruce Talamon

Hanks gives one of his most understated but poignant performances in this vastly underrated western drama. In the film, he plays Captain Jefferson Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who travels from town to town, reading newspapers to captive audiences.

On his travels, he comes across a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengal), who had been raised as part of the Kiowa people. And she is alone, frightened, and skittish. Learning she has an aunt and uncle who are alive, he agrees to make the long journey to bring her to her family. But along the way, they encounter many dangers as the two form a strong bond.

News of the World is one of the lesser-known films featuring Hanks, but it also deserves tremendous praise. Kidd is a man who is weathered, tired, and numb from years of war and loss. And as the story unfolds, it’s poignant to see this man’s protective nature emerge. Kidd and Johanna are layered characters, and both Hanks and Zengel give subtle but deeply affecting performances.

14. Bridge of Spies (2015)

Image Credit: Dreamworks II Distribution Co., LLC, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and Jaap Buitendijk

Portraying another true life story, this effort from Hanks and Steven Spielberg is an enthralling and fascinating story. Hanks portrays James B. Sullivan, the lawyer tasked with defending the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel during the Cold War. As he develops a rapport with Abel and learns about his life, he begins to take his job more seriously than he was asked to do.

And when Sullivan is asked to be the CIA liaison for a prisoner exchange between Abel and the captured American pilot Francis Gary Powers, the strength of Sullivan’s convictions shine through.

No one can capture a specific period with a level of authenticity like Spielberg. But a film must also get the most out of its cast, and the collaboration between Hanks and Spielberg always produces something remarkable. Hanks’ performance is so outstanding in Bridge of Spies because it is nuanced and layered. Sullivan is a complex man with immense integrity, courage, and empathy.

These qualities that his colleagues would dismiss or diminish could not be broken. And because of Sullivan’s skills as an intelligent and compassionate lawyer and person, many lives were saved.

13. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures

In a film that is both a romantic drama and comedy, Hanks gives one of his career’s most tender and genuine performances. He plays Sam, a lonely widower whose son Noah calls into a radio station wanting help finding his father a new wife. When Sam gets on the phone, what he says arouses an influx of women inspired to write to him.

But none are moved like the sweet journalist Annie (Meg Ryan), whose letter Noah takes a shine to.

The concept may be for the hopeless romantics. Still, with Nora Ephron’s glorious writing in the capable hands of talented actors like Hanks and Ryan, the film is given a heartbeat that still feels grounded in realism. Hanks is particularly moving as he portrays a loving father that never feels too saccharine or unrealistic. Rather, he plays a father with both gruffness and warmth.

12. The Terminal (2004)

Image Credit: Dreamworks LLC

In this absorbing and heartfelt drama that again pairs Hanks and Spielberg, we are treated to a unique and poignant performance from Hanks. In the film, he plays Victor Navorski, a man who lands at JFK airport in New York and becomes stranded due to the collapse of his country, which invalidates his papers and makes it impossible for him to set foot outside.

So Victor is forced to set up residence in the airport and quickly warms the heart of almost everyone who works there.

It takes an actor of tremendous ability to disappear into a role like Hanks does with Victor. What’s exceptional about this role, in particular, is that he does so not in appearance but in voice and demeanor. You never once doubt where he is from, nor his heart and motivation for coming to America. It is a true wonder to behold.

11. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

If you don’t say “FOX” every time you hear the word fox, you are probably not a Tom Hanks or rom-com fan. If you are, many of you will agree that You’ve Got Mail is a quintessential romantic comedy not only for the genre but also in the career of Hanks.

Teaming up once again with director Nora Ephron and co-star Meg Ryan, this remake of The Shop Around the Corner is a natural for Hanks’ unique talents and on-screen presence. In an unsurprising twist of fate, Hanks steps into a role played in the original by the actor he is most often compared to – James Stewart. And the results are the epitome of delightful.

Hanks and Ryan play Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, two rival bookstore owners who are anonymous online pen pals. And also potential soul mates. The pair are always excellent together, but they create rare magic in this film. The on-screen couple captured lightning in a bottle, which is due in no small part to Hanks.

A common idiom when we speak of our favorite actors is that they could read a phone book and make it sound interesting. And that idea is perfectly captured in their emails, where ordinary and mundane things become lines of comedic and romantic poetry. Moreover, it is notable that only someone with Hanks’ ability could make a character like Joe, who can be callous, be likable.

Of course, there is more to his character, and he has a softer and more vulnerable side. And Hanks adds a layer of dimension to Ephron’s words. As Joe, Hanks is endlessly funny, sharp, and often tender. And his performance proves that a lighter role is just as praiseworthy.

10. Apollo 13 (1995)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

In this enriching drama, Hanks again embodies a real-life individual and a legendary and heroic one to boot. Based on the memoir Lost Moon, Hanks effortlessly steps into the role of astronaut Jim Lovell. As part of the Apollo 13 crew, Lovell, along with astronauts Fred Haise and Jack Swigert (Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon), are on a mission set for the moon.

But when an oxygen tank explodes, their mission becomes perilous. It is no longer about landing on the lunar surface but returning home safely.

Apollo 13 is a powerhouse ensemble film where each actor gives an exceptional performance, including Hanks. As tensions rise at Mission Control and aboard the LEM regarding how they can get back home, we are treated to a gripping, nail-biting film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though the outcome is well-known.

As Lovell, Hanks is spectacular, embodying the courageous man so well that Lovell’s wife said he captured his mannerisms perfectly. Hanks elicits resolute and visceral emotions that make Apollo 13 the superb film it is.

9. Captain Phillips (2013)

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

In another film based on true events, Hanks takes on the title role of Captain Richard Phillips, the brave Captain of a US freighter ship that Somali pirates hijack. Focusing mainly on Phillips and the pirate captain Muse, who takes them all hostage, the film is tense and provocative. But it also examines global issues seen through these two opposing individuals.

Moreover, basic human motivations and survival instincts are fully displayed in this depiction of those fateful days in 2009.

As Phillips, Hanks brings his own gravitas and authenticity to the role portraying a man in the direst of circumstances. He showcases the courage and intelligence of Phillips. But even more brilliantly, Hanks shows us his vulnerability in moments that are so viscerally raw that they could make even the most stoic person weep. Hanks matches the exceptional nature of the film, beat for beat.

8. Forrest Gump (1994)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

In this film from frequent collaborator Robert Zemeckis, Hanks earned his second Academy Award for Best Actor. Forrest Gump is a sweet but simple-minded man. He may not be intelligent, but he lives an extraordinary life fighting and saving lives in the Vietnam War, meeting two presidents, embarking on a cross-country run, and inspiring countless people over his adult life.

But in the end, all he truly wants is to love and marry his childhood friend Jenny.

The film will inspire varied reactions, but in performance, Hanks is fantastic in the role of Forrest, a man who may not be smart but is entirely earnest. A role like this requires a suspension of disbelief, and Hanks makes every moment realistic because he brings tremendous heart, sweetness, and vulnerability.

Hanks shows us through Forrest what truly matters in life is not how smart or successful we are. It is about our ability to love others without condition.

7. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Image Credit: Dreamworks LLC

The second collaboration between Hanks and Steven Spielberg tells the true story of the young con man Frank Abignale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks), who relentlessly pursues him for multiple years in the 1960s. A humorous, dramatic, and stylish film, Catch Me if You Can is one of the most entertaining films of both Hanks and Spielberg’s careers.

But it is also thought-provoking and poignant when the film focuses on the relationship between Frank and Carl, who connect on a personal level.

Hanks embodies the concept of a supporting role in an essential way. He truly supports the lead, DiCaprio, as the two meet each other beat for beat with chemistry that showcases moments of anger, frustration, and compassion. With the classic black suit, black-rimmed glasses, and fedora, he more than looks the part. But the flawless accent and overall nuanced performance bring this real man to life. Frank was doing what seemed impossible, and Dicaprio captures his undeniable charm. But as Carl, Hanks grounds the film with his own sort of panache and natural validity.

6. A League of Their Own (1992)

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation

In this rich and absorbing drama/comedy set during WWII, Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a man tasked with coaching one of the new teams in the All-American Girls Baseball League. Although the story is fictional, truth is at the heart of A League of Their Own and its characters. Dugan represents a specific type of man.

He is a harsh and brash alcoholic who could not fight in the war due to an injury of his own fault. He is far from a gentleman, but deep down, there is more to Dugan than this coarse façade. And he goes through a significant character arc throughout the film.

This is one of the most brilliant performances by Hanks because he gives Dugan great depth. Fully embodying the character’s rough edges in demeanor and voice, he also considerably softens and changes. As he embraces his role as the manager of the Rockford Peaches, learning to respect the women on the team, he earns theirs in return.

His mistakes make him wiser, and his experiences with his team make him kinder. Moreover, as Jimmy Dugan, Hanks showcases brash humor and gruffness in a way that could make him unlikeable. And yet, Hanks manages to make Dugan likable with his crassness because his heart and vulnerability are always there, even if it takes time to surface. This iconic role for Hanks is one of his most fondly remembered.

5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The first and most extraordinary collaboration between Hanks and Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan is one of the most visceral and accurate depictions of the horrors of war in film history. In the film, Hanks plays the Captain of a platoon whose mission is to find Private Ryan and send him home to his mother because he is the last surviving brother of their family.

After surviving the siege of Omaha Beach at Normandy, their mission behind enemy lines to find Ryan proves to be as dangerous and deadly for the outfit, leaving the men at their breaking points.

As Captain Miller, Hanks leads the film with a balance of fervor, ferocity, and calm stability, representing the real men who fought with immense courage through downright harrowing experiences. And from moments of quiet strength, dejected anger, or broken sobs, Hanks brilliantly portrays experiences that only those who have gone through war can completely understand.

The film, and especially Hanks, provide a raw, riveting, and emotional window into war in a way that gives veterans a voice and the audience a newfound sense of understanding.

4. Philadelphia (1993)

Image Credit: Tristar International

In Jonathan Demme’s compelling drama, Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a man with HIV who is unceremoniously fired from his law firm. So, he hires a lawyer named Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a man who battles with his own bigoted and homophobic beliefs but agrees to take on Andrew’s case, believing he is absolutely in the right.

As Andrew’s health quickly declines and the trial continues, we witness a poignant journey between these two very different men and a story that represents a time when many were ignorant and fearful of the AIDS pandemic. And it is a story with genuinely moving performances.

Casting two of the greatest and most respected actors in Hanks and Washington was a stroke of genius. And the two actors share a nuanced and complex chemistry. As for Hanks, he won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for Philadelphia, and deservedly so. He poignantly portrays Andrew’s immense struggles, where he feels not only wronged but also judged and shamed.

His performance is guided brilliantly by Demme’s specific stylistic direction, where the camera movements feel off-kilter and claustrophobic, mirroring Andrew’s inner and outward struggles. Hanks’ performance is heart-shattering, tremendously accurate, and surely inspired much-needed compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the gay community.

3. Big (1988)

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Big, directed by Penny Marshall, can undoubtedly be considered Hanks’ first breakout role. Although Splash established him as a charismatic leading man, Big took that to another level, especially performance-wise. With the film, Hanks garnered his first Academy Award nomination portraying a 12-year-old child named Josh who wishes he could be “Big” and magically wakes up in a grown man’s body.

Unable to explain what happened to his mother, he is thrust into an adult world he is unprepared for. Josh must find a job and a place to live despite still having the mentality of a kid. But this lends itself to those he encounters at work, charming not only his boss but also his co-worker Susan, who gives Josh his first experience with love, complicated as that is.

An outlandish concept requires an actor of Hanks’ natural charm and talent to showcase childlike joy so effortlessly. Hanks depicts a kid in a man’s body, so he must take on the persona and mannerisms of someone younger than him.

From how he walks and speaks (guided by the direction and writing) to the jovial nature of many moments, such as the famous toy store piano scene, Hanks makes us believe in the film’s magic. Hanks is charming and hilarious but also brings a heartfelt sadness to the part. With his genuine performance, Hanks shows us the pangs of youth and desire to be older need not mean we lose our ability to remain young at heart.

2. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lacey Terrell

Not a traditional biographical film about Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, this film centers around journalist Lloyd Vogel (real name Tom Junod), played by Matthew Rhys. He is a cynical man with lifelong traumas that have seeped into his personal life with his wife and kept him estranged from his father.

He is assigned to write a profile on Fred Rogers, going into the interview with his own biased and jaded attitude that no one could possibly be as kind and gentle as Rogers seems. And as the two grow close, Vogel discovers Rogers is precisely as he seems, but even more so. Rogers helps Vogel heal his scars and affects his life in a deeply profound way.

This film is beautifully affecting in many ways, due in no small part to the performance from Hanks. As someone who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood religiously as a child, like many others, Fred Rogers is a much-beloved figure. So the actor tasked to portray him had a daunting task before them.

No other actor could have brought what Hanks brings to the role. He embodies Rogers so beautifully and flawlessly that you believe you’re watching the actual man himself, despite Hanks not being Rogers’ physical twin.

Hanks embodies Rogers’ warmth, sensitivity, and compassion in his performance and perfectly captures his speech pattern and mannerisms. Hanks draws you in and inspires the audience’s hearts and minds, like the children’s program did for many years.

Rogers was a man who showed the world, especially children, how to deal with emotions such as fear and grief, all with a gentle and loving spirit. And in that same spirit, Hanks profoundly elicits deep emotions with this role. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a quiet film. And Fred Rogers is a role that is one of his most superbly and exceptionally performed, and undoubtedly the most meaningful of his career.

1. Cast Away (2000)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks LLC

Cast Away is a gripping and reflective film with a singularly unique place in the career of Tom Hanks. Cast Away is the greatest of his numerous extraordinary performances for many reasons. In the film, Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx executive who is the only survivor of a plane crash on a remote island. And the film follows his four-year journey of survival before rescue.

His second and best collaboration with director Robert Zemeckis, the film and the performance by Hanks capture the strength and vulnerabilities of the human spirit in very moving ways.

Cast Away stands out in Hanks’ career in story and performance because most of the film’s 2-hour and 23-minute run-time depicts Chuck on the island as he struggles to find food, shelter, create fire, and ultimately find his will to live. With washed-up packages from his plane and the pocket watch with a picture of his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) to keep him going, his early days on the island are tedious and monotonous.

And as the years pass, Chuck develops a “relationship” with a blood-stained volleyball, the image created from an injury, and the persona created from a need for conversation and connection with another soul. Although he knows the volleyball he calls Wilson is not real, he becomes so to Chuck after a while. This gives the film even more emotion and gravitas.

Not only does the majority of Cast Away take place on the island, but the film is also devoid of much dialogue and musical score. It is long but never feels so, and that is because Hanks is entirely captivating. It takes an actor of extraordinary ability to draw the audience into such a quiet and simple film.

It depicts three different versions of the character, each a product of life-altering experiences. Hanks brings to this role a performance of great beauty, emotion, and profundity demonstrating what it means to be human. And that is the greatest thing any actor could hope to accomplish.

Honorable Mentions:

Image Credit: Universal Pictures
  • The ‘Burbs (1989)

In this dark comedy, Hanks ground the outlandishness of the plot with his distinct humor and presence.

  • Family Ties (1983-84)

Hanks established himself early in his career as capable of intense drama in the role of an alcoholic who becomes violent with his nephew Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox).

  • Bosom Buddies (1980-82)

In this short-lived sitcom with Peter Scolari, Hanks is comedic gold, showcasing his natural ease at physical and witty comedy.

This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks and syndicated by Our Woven Journey.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

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