Many have labeled him as, "the greatest living actor", but I've always referred to Tom Hanks as. "the best actor of all-time". Throughout Hanks' long and illustrious career as an entertainer he's just about done it all. Therefore, to coincide with the release of his latest Oscar contending drama, Steve Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, I'm devoting October's Movie List of the Month to the Top 10 performances of Hanks' career (September's List).
*** The list is courtesy of Reel True's Greg Rouleau
#10. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
It wouldn’t have been a shock if Hanks became the king of the rom-coms after Nora Ephron’s touching tale of a widowed man’s pursuit of new love with the help of his son. The chemistry between Hanks and Meg Ryan was so palpable, Ephron reunited the two just five years later in You’ve Got Mail. But it’s Hanks’ undeniable ability to garner empathy and laughs in Sleepless in Seattle that earns his performance a spot on this “best of” list.
#9. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
This breezy 2002 caper is certainly Leo’s show, but it’s difficult to argue that Dicaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. doesn’t work quite as well without the understated turn of Hanks’ Carl Hanratty. Hanks gives the diligent, hard-nosed FBI agent the perfect amount of sympathy as he’s outwitted by Abagnale at every turn, eventually becoming somewhat of a father figure to the “kid” as the two play off each other wonderfully in one of Spielberg’s best.
#8. Captain Phillips (2013)
Hanks’ final scene in Captain Phillips alone is enough to earn him a spot on the list. Those harrowing final moments for Hanks’ character as he deals with the aftermath of experiencing such a traumatic ordeal at the hands of Somalian pirates are heart-wrenching. That’s not to say he didn’t offer a great showing throughout the rest of the movie as the sturdy and steadfast Captain Richard Phillips in a role that was snubbed by the Academy that year, but the final scene for Hanks is some of his best work to date.
#7. Apollo 13 (1995)
Coming off of back-to-back Best Actor Oscar wins, Hanks seemed poised for an unprecedented third straight victory for his portrayal of Jim Lovell in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Hanks failed to receive a nomination that year but that doesn’t take away from what is one of the most compelling performances of an incredible oeuvre. In particular, this role highlights one of the best decades an actor could ever dream of having and Apollo 13 was Hanks at his peak.
#6. Forrest Gump (1994)
Hanks second Best Actor Oscar was earned for what is possibly his hallmark performance as the title character in Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. There’s an infectious charm to the simple southerner who experiences love, war, tragedy and triumph during his odyssey and an ease in which Hanks makes it all so believable as he rattles off numerous quotable lines one after another. It was a well-earned second straight trip to the podium for Mr. Hanks.
#5. A League of Their Own (1992)
For my money, A League of Their Own is the best baseball story ever put to screen and, despite a great ensemble of actresses, it’s Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan that steals the show. He’s electric as the has-been slugger that begrudgingly takes the role of manager for the Rockford Peaches and is eventually turned into a loving mentor to the team. It’s a great arc for the actor who got his start in comedy and gets to show off his impressive comedic timing here with just enough heart to make us love him, too.
#4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
From the moment we see the trembling hand of Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller over a canteen, we’re transported to the beaches of Normandy in a strikingly realistic portrayal of the D-Day invasion. It’s the best of the Hanks and Spielberg collaborations and although much of the film’s marvels are contributed to Spielberg’s deft hand, it’s Hanks visceral, somber performance that complements this brutal examination of men at war.
#3. Cast Away (2000)
It takes a special kind of actor that can keep an audience captivated while being the sole performer for a majority of a film. Hanks was up to the challenge in 2000’s Cast Away as he was reunited with Forrest Gump director, Robert Zemeckis. While the movie isn’t as strong as the performance, it was a great way to remind us why we love Tom Hanks. After the impressive resume he accumulated throughout the ‘90s, he starts off the 2000’s with another gem here that deservedly earned him his fifth and most recent Oscar nomination.
#2. Philadelphia (1993)
A gay man dying of AIDS and fighting his former employer over wrongful termination couldn’t seem more Oscar-baity, and this was exactly the role that earned Hanks his first Academy Award. Despite the obvious award’s allure a role like this would come with, it’s the most emotional and nuanced, dramatic performance Hanks has ever put on screen.
#1. Big (1988)
It was the flip of a coin to determine the best Tom Hanks performance, and here’s the argument for Big: strong comedic performances are often under-appreciated. In addition, there’s a nice blend of drama and heart in here that allows Hanks to show off his impressive range, essentially putting him on the map as a major star who could pull off the more dramatic roles he would earn in the ‘90s. The film also landed Hanks his first and very deserved Oscar nomination.