Top Ten: Tom Hanks Films

Happy birthday Tom Hanks. The nicest man in Hollywood is 59 today and to celebrate here are my Top Ten Tom Hanks films.

1. Apollo 13

The true story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon stars Hanks as shuttle commander Jim Lovell. Ron Howard directs a fabulous ensemble cast led by Hanks and including Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. I’ve seen this film countless times and I still hold my breath every time I watch it.

2. Big

One of Hanks’ breakthrough roles, this is the story of 12 year old Josh Baskin who wishes to be “big” in order to impress an older girl. He wakes up as a 30 year old man and has to grapple with his new life. Hanks is vulnerable and sweet as Josh and the floor piano scene is joyous.

captain phillips3. Captain Phillips

Another true story – this time about the hijacking of Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips who risks his life to protect his crew from the pirates (led by an excellent Barkhad Abdi). It was a travesty that Hanks wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for his fabulous portrayal of Phillips.

Full review

4. Forrest Gump

Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar in as many years for his portrayal of the slow-witted and innocent Forrest, who is witness to many of America’s key events of the 20th Century including the Vietnam War and Watergate. Hanks makes a character who could have been cloying, sweet and endearing.

5. The Green Mile

Based on a Stephen King novel, Hanks plays another fundamentally decent character – a warden on death row who feels sympathy for the men he takes to their deaths. One of these men is John Coffey, a giant convicted of raping and killing two young girls but who appears to have magical healing powers. I can’t watch The Green Mile too often as it always affects me quite deeply.

6. A League Of Their Own

This is quite a light film, but it’s great fun and Hanks puts in a great wee performance. A League of Their Own is set during the Second World War when Major League Baseball is threatened with shutdown and only a women’s league can save it. Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a drunken former player who coaches Geena Davis and her Peaches team. It’s a feminist film that doesn’t beat you over the head with… well, a baseball bat.

7. Philadelphia

Hanks won his first Oscar for his role as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm after being sacked. His case is taken on by an initially reluctant Denzel Washington. This was one of the first major Hollywood movies to feature homosexuality, homophobia and AIDS and both Hanks and Washington were brilliant.

8. Saving Private Ryan

The story of a US Army company tasked with finding the only surviving brother in a family of four servicemen. Famous for its graphic depiction of the Omaha Beach assault of June 6th 1944 this is a brutal and at times harrowing war film. Hanks was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award and once again plays a fundamentally decent character. This is one of the best war films of the modern era.

sleepless in seattle9. Sleepless in Seattle

Perhaps the greatest romantic comedy of the 80s, this is the story of two people who fall in love without quite knowing it. Hanks plays a widower who somewhat reluctantly pours his heart out to a late-night radio host and Meg Ryan is the journalist who falls in love with him over the airwaves. They meet on Valentine’s Day atop the Empire State Building. It’s lovely and if you don’t sigh happily at the end of this film then you have no soul.

toy story10. Toy Story (Trilogy)

A bit of a cheat as I’m including all three Toy Story films here. Hanks provides the voice of Woody the cowboy Sheriff in Pixar’s groundbreaking animation which see toys come to life and have some fabulous adventures and break the hearts of every adult watching their childhood disappear before their eyes. Mark Kermode thinks this is the greatest film trilogy of all time and who am I to disagree with the good doctor?

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