I’m still convinced that Tom Hanks is the light that shines in this eerie world; the man is pure joy. A delightful screen presence who can do no wrong no matter what the script, Hanks has been a favourite for many years, and now he’s back on our screens with frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg in the historical drama The Post. As such, it’s time to take a look at the man’s best work. Condensing it to five is no easy feat…
Honourable Mentions: Apollo 13, The Green Mile, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own, Cast Away, and as good as it may be, we’re gonna leave Forrest Gump in the honourable mentions because there are just far more interesting films to talk about.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Kicking us off is the first Hanks/Spielberg combination that to this day is still regarded as one of the greatest war films of all time. Saving Private Ryan famously starts with an exhilarating and breathtaking sequence on Omaha beach and though there are many who think the films loses steam once this scene is over, especially considering it’s extended run time, but what follows is very much an emotional and reflective experience with an exceptional leading performance from Hanks. And hey, it’s a hell of a lot better than Shakespeare in Love…
The Toy Story Trilogy (1995 – 2010)
Up next is one of the most beloved franchises of all time; the first two Toy Story films are among the best animated films ever made, offering a beautiful presentation of the heights of imagination that come with being a child. Hanks and Tim Allen are simply unforgettable in their voice roles as Woody and Buzz, with a great supporting cast behind them. The films are hilarious, heartbreaking – The second one in particular and full of wonder, and though the third instalment doesn’t quite live up to it’s predecessors, it’s a worthy entry at least.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Is it controversial these days to say that this is the best Spielberg movie? The pair’s second collaboration was a biopic of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo Dicpario) and the FBI agent desperate to catch him (Hanks), and if it’s not his best, it’s easily in the top five. Catch Me If You Can is slick and stylish but also endearing and one of the most interesting biopics made. A sharp screenplay, excellent direction and while Hanks is good in his supporting role, this is Dicpario’s show all over. Of all the Oscar nominations he got and didn’t win, I’m still astounded that he wasn’t even nominated here for what is easily his best performance.
Now, it’s time for some pure joy; Penny Marshall’s 1988 hit told the story of Josh Baskin, a young boy dismayed at his height who makes a wish on an eerie carnival machine and, low and behold, he wakes up the next day as a fully grown Tom Hanks, which I’m sure is a dream for absolutely everyone but sadly just not achievable in our stupid real world. Now an adult, Josh takes his childlike wonder to a grown up life, and it’s one of the best feel good films ever made. Hanks is terrific in his first Oscar nominated role, perfectly capturing the essence of a child plunged into a mature world, and while some have pointed out the darker implications of the film’s events, it’s impossible to describe many of this film’s most famous moments as pure glee.
Let’s be clear on something, I have no issues with Forrest Gump; in the years following his success, many have changed their minds on the 1994 Best Picture winner and it’s now a fairly hated film among many. Whilst I could never agree it’s a bad film, I could also never agree that it’s his best. Many lists charting Hanks’ top films usually have Forrest right at the top, but I’d say it was the film that earned Hanks his first Oscar that should be in that spot. In 1993, the late great Jonathan Demme brought us a spectacular film in Philadelphia, the story of a gay lawyer discriminated against by his superiors when he contracts AIDS, and his legal fight against them to prove they sabotaged him in light of it. Philadelphia was among the first films to draw attention to AIDS and homophobia, and to this day I insist it should be played in schools on the subject of discrimination. It is a beautiful though heartbreaking film featuring what is easily the best performance Hanks’ career, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the best in film history. The scene in which he translates opera to his lawyer is overwhelming; much like the film as a whole, it’s crushing and enticing, and Hanks is on another level entirely. If you haven’t already, make sure you check this one out.
What are your favourites?
The Post is out now!