Top 5… Tom Hanks performances

I was having a debate with my best friend last week about how Tom Hanks is no longer an amazing actor since his roles of late have been a bit rubbish. With the universally disliked Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close opening this week I thought I could dig out the best roles of this once top actor.


5. Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile

How can I have two films at position 5 and especially such drastically different films as Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile? Well, for a start, I just couldn’t choose which one of the two wouldn’t make the list and secondly they are also very similar in the way that Hanks’ performance is not what you leave thinking about.

In Saving Private Ryan, Hanks does a fine job playing the captain of a unit sent deep into war torn France to recover a paratrooper and bring him home but he is just one of many excellent characters in this stunning war film from Spielberg.

In The Green Mile, Hanks plays a prison guard on death row when a remarkable inmate comes to stay. Hank is again on top form but it is the story of John Coffey that really leaves the lasting impression.

4. Big

Hanks had already starred in a number of films and was no means a newcomer when Big arrived but it was the first film that showed what potential he had. Hanks plays Josh who is a young teenager who wakes up after making a wish as a fully grown adult. This film is timeless and Hank manages to capture the playfulness and innocence of youth brilliantly. This is still one of my favourite films.

3. Cast Away

Hanks shows that he can carry a film on his own (literally) in this movie of a DHL exec who gets stranded on a desert island after a plane crash with only a volleyball for company. He does an amazing job to keep the film gripping when he has no-one real to interact with. Not many others could have pulled this off so well.

2. Road to Perdition

Here, Hanks goes slightly against type as a mafia hitman who has to go on the run with his son after he is marked for death by the mob he works for. I love Hanks in this film and the bonding between him and his son and the conflict he faces as he has to go up against the man he used to work for and who he thought of as a surrogate father is painful.

1. Forrest Gump

There was really never going to be any contest for the top spot here. Forrest Gump gets a lot of jeering and negativity and it’s easy to see why but actually it is a phenomenally good film and Hanks will never be better. It was the role of a lifetime and he deservedly won the Oscar for it.

Honourable Mentions

  • Catch Me If You Can – This was really DiCaprio’s film but Hanks is excellent as the agent in pursuit.
  • Toy Story Trilogy – A near perfect trilogy of films but it is the story and ensemble acting rather than Hanks that makes it.
  • The Terminal – Gets a lot of flack but I like Hanks in this and is a good comedy to add to his canon.
  • Philadelphia – I haven’t seen this is years but Hanks won his first Oscar portraying this lawyer dying of aids.
  • Apollo 13 – Another film I haven’t seen in ages with a great performance by Hanks.
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  1. I’m not a Hanks fan, but I always find myself watching the Terminal if it’s on. It’s a dreadful film but there’s something about it that sucks me in.

    I also enjoy Bonfire of the Vanities. Another dreadful film but fun to watch.

    • I used to be a Hanks fan and I think he can be in a great film again. Maybe Captain Phillips with Paul Greengrass behind the camera could be the one!

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