There’s something so satisfying about the idea of Tom Hanks playing children’s TV show host Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Who can resist one of America’s favorite actors playing one of America’s most beloved TV icons? And I know Mr. Rogers was beloved because every time the preview for Won’t You Be My Neighbor played at the local art house theater last year, it got applause. In honor of Hanks’ latest performance and a possible sixth Oscar nomination, here’s a look back at some of his best and worst films.
Tom Hanks 5 Best Movies
Tom Hanks has such a plethora of great films, it was hard to whittle it down to just five. His IMDb page is an embarrassment of riches. I encourage you to explore his filmography.
Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his role as a man with HIV suing his law firm for wrongful dismissal. Antonio Banderas plays his partner. Denzel Washington plays his attorney in a powerful performance. Hanks gave a memorable acceptance speech, thanking his gay high school drama teacher. The movie was groundbreaking at the time for not only having a gay main character but casting an A-list actor in the role. It was also one of the first mainstream films to take on the topic of HIV.
2. Forrest Gump
One year later, Hanks won his second Oscar for playing the dim but big-hearted title character who was always at the right place at the right time throughout the twentieth century. He is one of the few actors to win back-to-back Oscars. (Others include: Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Jason Robards.) Forrest’s famous quote from this movie is, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” This is probably the movie Tom Hanks is most famous for. The film spawned a popular soundtrack and even a chain of restaurants named Bubba Gump’s.
3. The Green Mile
Everyone knows The Shawshank Redemption. This is director Frank Darabont’s other Stephen King adapted prison movie. Hanks plays a compassionate death row corrections officer in this Best Picture nominee. He and the other guards face a moral dilemma when accused child murderer John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) displays extraordinary supernatural gifts. This is one of my favorite movies of the ’90s. The entire cast is amazing. It features one of Sam Rockwell’s great early performances. I think about Tom Hanks and Graham Greene’s discussion about the afterlife all the time.
Hanks got his first Oscar nomination for this performance. His character is a boy who makes a wish to be big and wakes up in the body of a grown man. (A little bit like Shazam.) Hanks’s performance as a man-child is endearing, as he takes on the joys and burdens of adulthood. The film features a famous scene where he and his boss play “Chopsticks” by dancing on a giant toy piano. Hanks started out doing comedies in the ’80s. This is a great place to start if you’ve never seen anything from his early career.
5. Cast Away
Hanks got his fifth Oscar nomination for this Robert Zemeckis film. When his plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm, Hanks is the only survivor. He makes it ashore to a deserted island where he must learn how to survive on his own. The description may not grab you, but I assure you the movie will. I have watched people get sucked into this film while watching it on display televisions in stores. Somehow Zemeckis manages to weave a spell over you. And he does it with a movie that has hardly any dialogue.
Tom Hanks’ 5 Worst Movies
Every actor has their share of missteps and Hanks has some doozies.
1. The Bonfire of the Vanities
What do you get when you put Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith in an adaptation of a Tom Wolfe novel? Pure dreck. This is generally considered one of the worst movies of the ’90s. Hanks is miscast as an unlikable character. The power of Wolfe’s writing is lost in its transition to the screen.
Who wants to watch a movie about stand-up comedians that isn’t funny? Hanks plays a young comic who helps a housewife (Sally Fields) develop her stage act. I tried to watch this movie several times in the ’80s and could never get through it. I was used to seeing Tom Hanks kiss mermaids and solve crimes with dogs. Nothing nearly as exciting happens in this movie. The punchline is there are no jokes in this film.
3. The Da Vinci Code
One of the best-selling novels of all-time, one of the most protested movies ever is also…a total snooze fest. Not even Hanks’ charm or a controversial plot twist can save this so-so thriller. Things pick up a little when Ian McKellen finally shows up.
4. The Ladykillers
This is one of the Coen Brothers’ worst films. Hanks plays an eccentric Southern professor whose gang is posing as musicians in order to rob a casino. They practice in the basement of his landlady’s home. I’ve already forgotten most of this forgettable film. But I’m still haunted by Hanks’ odd performance.
5. Cloud Atlas
What can I say about Cloud Atlas? As a friend of mine likes to say, it’s a lot of what it is. Nearly three hours to be exact. It’s a movie I want to like. But I’m not sure I want to put in the mental work and repeated viewings required to do so. The Matrix, it’s not. The movie deals with reincarnation and how our actions ripple through time to affect others. Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters across multiple storylines. It requires a lot of concentration to keep up with everything. And that’s before the post-apocalyptic people start talking like five-year-olds (“Tell me the true true.”)
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