Flashback Five – The Best Movies of Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks is Hollywood’s (and America’s) ultimate Everyman. Like Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, and Harrison Ford before him, Hanks is the guy audiences trust implicitly. Starting off in comedy, Hanks quickly turned into a cinematic jack-of-all-trades, spending the past two decades as one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. With such a wide-ranging career in comedy, drama, and even animated movies, there are bound to be gems, duds, and diamonds in the rough found in his past. Hanks is so prolific that everyone’s got ten favorite movies. Here’s one take.

1. Big (1988)
The dream of every scrawny youngster is to be a man-child in a New York loft with a job designing toys. In Big, Hanks lives that dream, and it remains his most enduring movie, with the piano scene at FAO Schwarz ranking as one of the most memorable movie scenes, period. As a boy trapped in a man’s body, Hanks walks a fine line between humor and pathos. While copycats 18 Again! and Vice Versa have fallen by the wayside, Big remains the wistful exemplar of the fact that adults want to be children, and children adults.

2. Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
This
cult comedy — which crashed at the multiplex before a video-store
resurrection — is the first film to pair Hanks with Meg Ryan. But
unlike their other admirable pairings, Joe Versus the Volcano is truly
one of a kind. (Did we mention that Ryan plays three different
characters?) An existentialist comedy in the mode of Groundhog Day and The Hudsucker Proxy, Joe Versus the Volcano
has enough plots for three movies, as Hanks charmingly goes through the
wringer, experiencing shipwrecks, terminal illness, and on-the-job hell.

3. Splash (1984)
Consider it the thinking man’s Mannequin.
As a fruit-selling schmo hooked by mute mermaid Daryl Hannah, Hanks
proves himself a capable leading man. Despite the whiney voice,
unconventional movie-star looks, and painful memories of him wearing a
brassiere, he snares audiences in the endlessly watchable eighties
classic. Not to mention that his crack comic timing made him a worthy foil
to outsize brother John Candy.

4. Philadelphia (1993)
Hanks’s
turn as an AIDS-afflicted lawyer is a brave step into dramatic waters
– not to mention politically sensitive territory. Philadelphia represents a
turning point in his career and the national debate over AIDS. While
makeup helped with Hank’s remarkable physical transformation during the
different stages of the disease, navigating the difficult emotional
territory of the dying man was all Hanks’s doing. He deservedly took
home an Oscar for his role.

5. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Hanks commands sympathy as a widowed dad looking for love in Sleepless in Seattle. This sleeper hit ushered in a tide of romantic-comedy imitators, many starring Meg Ryan (including You’ve Got Mail, with Ryan and Hanks). The medium for Hanks’s cross-country romance with Ryan, however, wasn’t
the Internet but something decidedly old-school: the radio. But if
their method of meeting seems a bit antiquated, their rendezvous on the
Empire State Building is unforgettable stuff all the way.

Honorable Mentions

1. Forrest Gump (1994): Yes, it garnered countless Oscar nods. People laughed. People cried.
That said, Hanks’s performance remains iconic but all too easy to parody.

2. Apollo 13 (1995): Hanks is a steady hand as an astronaut on the ill-fated Moon mission. The true-story is Hollywood at its best.

3. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Hanks anchors the ensemble piece. The movie works largely because audiences, like his soldiers, implicitly trust Hanks.

4. Toy Story (1995): Radiating old-time Hollywood values and charm, Hanks is the perfect fit for toy cowboy Woody. The success continues to this day, with Toy Story 3.

5. Catch Me If You Can (2002): Hanks’s FBI agent plays straight man to the high jinks
of sixties identity thief Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio). This
lighthearted jaunt is a ray of light in Steven Spielberg’s thematically
heavy late period.

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Watch Charlie Wilson’s War tonight, Fri., Aug. 6, at 8PM | 7C.

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