Skip to content

The Ultimate Choice #3: Tom Hanks Films

If I was to ask who the best actor currently going to this day is, there are certainly a few names I could expect to hear. However, in my opinion, nobody comes close to the man that is Tom Hanks. From dramas to comedies, romance to animation, Hanks seems to have done it all and excelled in everything that he touches. With the release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood at the end of the year, I thought it would be fitting to have this third issue of The Ultimate Choice be about the man himself. Here are my fellow film bloggers and podcaster’s favourite Tom Hanks films.
You’ve Got Mail
Chosen by Amy Smith (me): Twitter
There are certain films that you end up watching whenever it is being shown on TV, whether it is a rare occasion or something that seems to be on every weekend. Here, it seemed that You’ve Got Mail would be showing every week without fail. However, I would watch it every single time purely down to the joy that this story gave me.
I have had a long history with this film. It started off that I just simply enjoyed this little story and the partnership between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Then, as a book lover myself at the young age of twelve, I developed a passion for the same topic as these people, and became even more in love with the film and the message it was communicating. I then went on to being obsessed with another earlier adaptation from the source material, a musical named She Loves Me (with the latest production starring Shazam! star Zachary Levi).
So, what is it about this film that works for me so well? It’s the true charm of the film, and how well written every character is. I found the script to be incredibly clever, particularly how they balance the online and offline aspect of the film. It is also a film that is more relevant than ever these days, due to online dating and how people tend to now live their lives on social media. All of the performances are spot on, and I adore the fact that it is all about books and supporting local businesses. It is simply a charming film to watch at the end of a long day and to cheer you up when you’re feeling down.

The Post
Chosen by Simon Waite: Twitter | Blog

My Favorite Tom Hanks movie is actually a movie he only made the last couple of years, Steven Spielberg’s The Post from late 2017/beginning of 2018. And there are four key reasons why I feel this way: Firstly, Mr Hanks is great in the film and an inspired choice to play the legendary editor of the Washing Post Ben Bradlee, a role Jason Robards won an Academy Award for in All the Presidents Men in 1976 and Mr Hanks brings both an editorial toughness but also a compassionate side to the role as well. Secondly, the movie made me really rethink how I view Mr Spielberg as a filmmaker, he is someone that I have been down on for the most part in past years due to my not really responding to his overly sentimental brand of filmmaking and preferring the tougher style of people like Paul Verhoeven and James Cameron but after seeing this movie I began to rethink all of that and have come to appreciate the mastery of Speilberg’s craft through movies like this or Jurassic Park or Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Thirdly, watching this movie in the cinema made me think of all those wonderful friends I made during my time doing the movie review show at ABC South East South Australia which came to an end about a month before I saw this movie. Watching an equivalent of those like them doing what they do on that big screen was a very moving experience for me and there was one scene in particular where Mr Hanks had his back to camera and walked out of a room and I thought to myself “That’s Stuart.” And lastly, the film shows us a period of history in the United States where things aren’t really that much better than they are now, even though we like to think that things have progressively gotten better since 1971 though in the cold light of reality they really haven’t and that the struggle some people face still goes on but all people can do is try to work for a better world and it accomplishes all of this in only 115 minutes which is further skill of Spielberg’s filmmaking prowess.

That Thing You Do!
Chosen by Simon: Twitter | Blog

For many valid reasons, it’s hard to pick a favourite Tom Hanks film; the man’s career has led him down so many varied roles and projects that I could pick five of his films and still feel like at least another five have been snubbed. With that in mind, I wanted to champion arguably the most Tom Hanks film there is: his debut as a director working from his own screenplay, and containing one of his all-time best big-screen performances, despite not really being in the film all that much.
That Thing You Do! is one of those really special films that I could watch over and over again, and it’d be fresh every time. The chemistry between the members of The Wonders, the fictional band at the centre of the film, is magical, and it’s testament to Hanks’ writing and first-time direction that he was able to get such harmonious performances from his ensemble. While the band is ultimately doomed to be known only for their one hit (one-hit Wonders, as Hanks’ character Mr White wryly observes towards the end of the film), I can always see the same optimism and camaraderie between the members of The Wonders that has been present in real bands and musical collaborations that I have been involved in in the past.
While the bulk of That Thing You Do! involves the rise and – spoilers – quick decline of The Wonders, the film’s emotional core is Liv Tyler’s character Faye; as the girlfriend of Jimmy, the band’s frontman, she’s the strongest support that they’ll ever have. She’s arguably responsible for the climactic moment of the film, as the tensions between her and Jimmy, and a building attraction to the band’s newly acquired drummer, reach breaking point. Tyler’s character may not have the most agency throughout the film, but as the band’s one constant reminder of their small-town days, she keeps The Wonders grounded as their career seems to skyrocket under the watchful eye of Tom Hanks’ Mr White.
Hanks turns up just over a third of the way into the film as the executive to the Play-Tone record label and The Wonders’ eventual manager. He and comes and goes after his initial introduction, but he gives his character so much charm and a near-hypnotic quality, that you can practically see the strings he’s pulling to get the band members exactly where he wants them. Eventually the ego of the band’s frontman and songwriter is enough to overpower White’s stronghold, but by that point the damage is done: nobody read the Play-Tone contract before signing, and the band is left in the ultimate decision: continue to exist as a recording vessel for songs the label wants to push, or disband after one hit. It’s a fitting end for what is essentially a fable about finding fame overnight, and the perils that await those who aren’t prepared to deal with it. For a film that plays mainly as a throwback to a more innocent time before mega-studios gained control of popular culture, That Thing You Do!’s remains surprisingly relevant as a cautionary tale for smaller studios and creative individuals who may be courted by enormous corporations (see: Disney towards everything).
As a director and writer, Tom Hanks hasn’t come even slightly close to what he achieved here; it would be great to see him behind a similarly great project again in the writer-director’s chair. For now, when it comes to Hanks’ filmmaking and acting, you can’t go much better than viewing That Thing You Do!.

Apollo 13
Chosen by Chris Watt: Twitter

Few actors personify their country of origin quite as well as Tom Hanks. Rightly dubbed the James Stewart of his generation, Hanks’ characters have rooted themselves firmly in the hearts and minds of U.S. culture like no other artist, due in no small part to the overwhelmingly decent, optimistic and kind nature with which Hanks plays them. If one role encapsulates this sense of the American dream personified within portrayal, it is arguably his performance as Jim Lovell, the real life astronaut at the heart of Ron Howard’s superb telling of the failed mission to the moon, Apollo 13.
Lovell fits Hanks like a glove. He was a dreamer, a family man who personified everything that made the U.S. Space Program so important to a country being torn apart by a tumultuous political climate. A chance to celebrate human achievement, rather than its multitude of follies. Hanks instils the role with a bittersweet yearning. Lovell came tantalisingly close to his dream of walking on the moon, only to have it torn from him by the very real possibility of oblivion, courtesy of an explosion that crippled the spacecraft’s oxygen supply.
Hanks himself is part of the baby boomer generation and has had a lifelong passion for space exploration, and so brings an authentic sense of awe, but never at the expense of the realism. It is also testament to the man that he never overshadows the drama, something that movie stars of his calibre can often do, without even realising it. Instead, he treats the film and its characters, with the respect they deserve. There were two other men on that spacecraft (here played by Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon), not to mention the myriad people behind the scenes at Mission Control in Houston, who were tasked with improvising against the clock to bring those men home safely.
Hanks is still one of the most effortlessly naturalistic of actors, often gifting his characters with a quirk or mannerism (consider the shaking hand in Saving Private Ryan). In the case of Apollo 13, it’s in the moments of quiet reflection that he gives his best work. That the film feels more like an ensemble drama than a star vehicle, is nothing short of miraculous. Hanks had won two Academy Awards by this time and is still considered one of the most dependable actors on the planet, and yet his ability to blend in to his surroundings never fails to impress. He is the everyman of modern cinema.

Apollo 13
Also chosen by Rosa: Twitter | Blog

When it comes to Tom Hanks, one must sit for a moment (a very long moment) and think very hard of what are his best performances, and your personal favorite. Film is subjective, so the film I chose, and perhaps not the most popular movie is Apollo 13, which is my favorite Tom Hanks film. I’m in no way stating that I’m not a fan of Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, Toy Story, Big, and Cast Away, I’m only saying that I prefer to watch Apollo 13 before I watch any of the previous films I listed. Many of my favorite movies have a high rewatchability factor, and this is no exception. It comes to no surprise that Tom Hanks is one of the best actors currently working, and perhaps of all time because his ability to portray many emotions with facial expressions is one reason why this film works. The film starts with everyone gathering to watch the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and Hanks face, while watching Armstrong walk in the moon on television, portrays a mixture of awed and ambition. Another scene that works (for me), due to his performance, is the conversation he has with his son. Naturally, his son is concerned with the safety of his father, as an accident occurred not long ago, resulting in the loss of lives. Hanks performance is stellar, and for the first time, he expresses some form of concern. Once the spacecraft was launched to space is where Hanks acting (as well as the entire supporting cast) is the most predominant. The chemistry between the three men (Bacon, Paxton, and Hanks) is impeccable, and they work off each other perfectly. I certainly don’t take anything away from the original trio that was supposed to go to the moon (Paxton, Hanks, and Sinise) as they also had great chemistry. The emotions and environment in the spacecraft (as well as back at Earth) are significantly opposites (metaphorically and dark and light) before and after the accident. All hope, enthusiasm, and smiles are drastically changed to concern, stress and disappointment, which consequently leads to a fight or flight response. This is one of those rare films that keeps you at the edge of your seat with anxiety and suspense, even though you already know the outcome. Also, this movie manages to keep you in suspense even with repetitive viewings. I admit that in the last four days, I may have watched this film ten times, and every single time, I was filled with emotions. Granted that this movie holds up due to its great directing, editing, score, but I’m convinced that the acting is mostly responsible for it. Last year the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor was one of my favorite films of the year, and I’m anxiously waiting to watch A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood. The trailer had me in a puddle of my tears, and I see a potential for this upcoming movie to be one of my all-time favorite Tom Hank films.

The ‘Burbs
Chosen by Dom Hastings: Twitter | Blog

Ugh, those damn neighbours…

So, my first time watching The ‘Burbs… It was a late night on BBC One or Two, 15-16 years ago, I had no idea what was on, but as soon as I saw the opening Universal logo, I somehow knew that I was in for a wild ride. The ridiculous opening of Tom Hanks’ Ray Peterson exiting his house during the night,out to his front yard to scope out his new-ish neighbours, the Klopeks, only to be forcedaway by exaggerated breezes when crossing the property line – this essentially sets the tone for The ‘Burbs early on…and it gets better.

Like many great 80s cult classics, The ‘Burbs follows suit in being ridiculous, witty and amusing all at the same time. Of course, the creepy neighbours are exaggeratingly weird – “It came with the frame.” comes to mind. But on the other side of the coin, the protagonists of The ‘Burbs are exaggerated also. Hang on, exaggerations don’t stop there… Here and there, technical elements of The ‘Burbs are exaggerated also – thinking particularly about the zoom-in, zoom-out, zoom-in, zoom-out of, “This is Walter…ARGH!”

On a more meaningful note, the element of family is central to The ‘Burbs. Be it the Petersons or the Klopeks, family is at the heart of the movie. Sadly for Ray, his bewildered state begins to slightly draw him away from both his wife, Carol, (Carrie Fisher) and son, Dave (Corey Danziger), though initially his son is fueled by the neighbour horror stories fed by neighbours, Art (Rick Ducommun) and Ricky (Corey Feldman). In being the typical opposite of cool dad figure, once Ray begins to pursue his neighbourly curiosity, Dave is immediately oblivious to it. Carol wants a mini vacation away from the neighbourhood. Can you blame her?

Ultimately, The ‘Burbs will always be my favourite pre-serious-Tom-Hanks Tom Hanks film. Moved on from the youthful-ish essence in Splash, Bachelor Party and The Money Pit, but not quite Philadelphia nor Forrest Gump, The ‘Burbs is a delightful midway point in that 10 year period of Tom Hanks growing from babyface to Best Actor Oscar winner. Additionally, especially in Hanks’ filmography of this period, The ‘Burbs stands out because it is not only fun, but it’s creepy fun. With The ‘Burbs, Joe Dante successfully expanded the collective of cult creepiness and doorstep horror, by having his new film join the likes of Gremlins, Fright Night and The Lost Boys.

Chosen by Kolby Mac: Twitter | Podcast

Tom Hanks has been that dude, for … shoot, as long as I can remember. He’s a staple of American Cinema that boasts a name as revered as any other.  His recent projects these last couple of decades have been Oscar caliber dramas that boast harrowing tales and strong themes. Before this reverence, we got a more a playful and light Hanks, which just so happened to be my kind of Hanks. Curly brown hair, wide eyed, youthful and comedic roles. Give me 80’s Hanks all day!

Signature “Hanks” has evolved over time, but there was nothing better than “Comedic Hanks”. His timing was impeccable, his voice iconic, and was the fun-loving leading man that dabbled his foot in everything. Romantic and Buddy cop comedies, none greater in my opinion than Splash. Yeah you heard me. If you vaguely remember Splash, it’s the heartwarming story of Allen (Tom Hanks) reuniting with Madison (Daryl Hannah) a mermaid hiding her identity. After years have passed where she saved him from drowning as a young boy the unlikely pair ignite an instant romance. Comedy ensues.

Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah lit up the screen back in 1984, way before it was cool to do so. Several years before Disney produced The Little Mermaid as well, this was a fish out of water story, (pun intended) that was right up my alley. Prince Eric was cool, but he was no Allen Bauer. He’s charming but neurotic, handsome, and supremely funny. Madison’s eccentricity to Allen’s vanilla lifestyle was everything he needed and exactly what we wanted as an audience. For its time it delivers a strong script, a classic 80’s soundtrack and stellar comedic performances including a supporting role from an all-timer in John Candy (RIP).

This was early Hanks and his first big screen leading role that he knocked out of the park. Allen is a normal guy given not so normal circumstances to navigate and no one handles it better than Hanks. It may have been a while since we got comedic chops put on display like in “Splash” but if you ever need a reminder, pop this VHS in. Let your heart warm up a bit, laugh with the strong ensemble and enjoy a cute story that has edge, romance, and lots of Naked Daryl Hannah that doesn’t leave too much to the imagination in the best “PG” sorta way.

Hanks is one of the Greatest actors of our life time, still working and still growing. Splash is an all-time favorite for me and symbolized a time in Cinema that was innocent and inappropriate all at once. Hanks has delivered iconic performances and while others may not come close to considering this classic as one of his bests, I’m happy to say this is where Tom made the biggest SPLASH for me!

Cast Away
Chosen by James of Sorry, You’re In My Seat: Twitter | Podcast

Lend me your ears gentlefolk of the internet for I have a confession. I do not like Tom Hanks. I find him bland, boring and uninspiring. If Tom Hanks were a food, he’d be potatoes, a nice addition to a meal, but not a rousing lead. Do not get me wrong, I know I am in the minority, and co-hosts Aaron and Sam rage at my inability to recognise his clear acting prowess, I just don’t see it. The man is “meh”, and I will never change my mind.

Well, until I watched 2000’s Cast Away.

Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a systems engineer for FedEx who is aboard a flight that crashes into the Pacific Ocean, leaving Chuck stranded on an uninhabited island. This film is over 2 hours long, and the majority of this film is just watching Tom Hanks interact with inanimate objects. During the run time we see Chuck’s first days on the island as he struggles to survive and then fast-forward four years where Chuck is now a talented survivor, having adapted to the island and learnt to hunt, build and persist. Chuck is joined by best friend Wilson, a volleyball he paints a face on, and eventually Chuck leaves the island, loses a friend but survives once more, making it home to see his long lost love and deliver the package that saved his life. And that really is it, sure I may have missed out on the odd event here and there, but essentially we are watching Tom Hanks act on his own, against nothing, for two hours.

Tom Hanks uses those two hours to draw you in, get you invested in the character of Chuck and make you feel his despair. Hanks breaks down the human psyche as he shows us what it would take someone to survive, stripping the character of Chuck to his basics, a perfect contrast to the time obsessed engineer we had met at the beginning of the movie. When Wilson is thrown overboard and Chuck is forced to abandon his only friend of four years, Hanks brings such feeling to his desperate calls that you would honestly think someone had lost a real person and not just a volleyball. Hanks also puts a lot of work into his body language as well, so when he isn’t communicated to Wilson, we can still see the stranded man struggling on, while his big wide eyes entice you further into the storyline. I have never seen anyone act so brilliantly with their eyes alone. FACT!

Weirdly, Cast Away is not my favourite Tom Hanks movie. The reason it isn’t, the ending of the film when the earlier plot threads are reconnected and Chuck finds his way home. Basically, Tom Hanks was so good on his own acting against nothing and telling me a story of survival that the minute they introduced other human characters I got bored. Cast Away is only good for one reason: Tom Hanks. Only an actor of Tom Hanks’ calibre and being a talented student in the art of acting could carry a film on his own for so long with such little story.

Cast Away has the best Tom Hanks performance because I stopped seeing a generic Hollywood A Lister, and saw the heart and soul he could bring to his characters. In a film that lives or dies on the performance of just one man, this film delivers. There are very few actors who could have pulled this off. Tom Hanks has the ability to make the impossible seem ordinary and I have recently learnt what a phenomenal talent it is. Movies like Road to Perdition, Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies are all probably better films where Tom Hanks, again, dominates the screen, but Cast Away is a true masterpiece of acting and a fine showcase of the great Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks isn’t potatoes. Tom Hanks is the main course.

Did you have the same film as any of our choices? Are you shocked that films such as Toy Story, Big and Forrest Gump were not chosen by anyone? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to check out the content of everyone that took part. Thank you once again for taking some time to be part of my blog.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: