Essential Tom Hanks Performances Essential Tom Hanks Performances
To celebrate the UK release of Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, the Filmoria team offer up their favourite Tom Hanks performances. Essential Tom Hanks Performances

Tom Hanks is quite frankly one of the most talented and down-to-earth Hollywood A-listers you’ll find working today. From his honest and humbling appearances on the red carpet, to his much lighter side performing sketches such as this year’s YouTube fodder, David Pumpkins for SNL, here is a man you can’t help but love. For someone who has had such a glittering career, he’s rarely letting up, and this week sees the releases of him in yet another leading role for Clint Eastwood’s Sully: Miracle on the Hudson.

To celebrate the great man and his new film (you can read our official review here), the team at Filmoria have combined once more for our weekly feature and give you our essential performances that you really should have seen from the great man himself. Enjoy!

1. Captain Richard Phillips – Captain Phillips

Source: CinemaBlend

Source: CinemaBlend

For years, I couldn’t understand what was so great about Tom Hanks. I actively disliked Forrest Gump, Philadelphia was good but that was all and David Morse outshone him in The Green Mile. What was all the fuss about? The penny dropped in 2014. The film was Captain Phillips.

Based on the true story of the hi-jacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates, Hanks played the title role and presented us with a fully rounded character and one, by his own admission, who wasn’t much fun to work for. Our initial view of him was more sympathetic: with his family, he’s easy going and eminently likeable. But on board ship, with a job to do, he was a different man altogether, focussed on getting the job done – and if the crew wanted to finish their coffee, that was just too bad

That single-mindedness sustained him throughout the hi-jack, even in its most terrifying moments when he stared the prospect of death in the face. It was all there in Hanks’s performance – but then came the masterstroke. His reaction once he’d been rescued. An unforgettable sequence, one driven by uninhibited, searingly honest acting and that landed a devastating emotional punch. Why on earth the Academy didn’t see fit to recognise such a finely-tuned piece of acting with a nomination was completely beyond me

I’d seen the light. Ten days later I watched Saving Mr Banks. Normal service was resumed.

Freda Cooper

2. Captain Miller – Saving Private Ryan

Source: Yahoo

Source: Yahoo

In Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan I truly believe we have cinema’s greatest ever war movie, and to boot it is driven by an incredible turn from none other than Mr. Hanks as Captain Miller. His teacher-turned-captain is one of the greatest examples of a character thrust from the real world into a situation he never imagined he would find himself in, yet he drives on to inspire those under his command and set an example.

With Matt Damon’s unwitting Private Ryan the ultimate mission, Miller’s strength and honour drive the narrative forward and bring together his ragtag group of soldiers in a mission none of them signed up for. Particular moments of note within the film involve bets on Miller’s actual occupation, with only an internal argument forcing him to confess all, while another sees Miller seemingly giving up the fight and going ‘gung-ho’ in the film’s gripping final battle, only for him to survive and become the war hero he deserves to be.

One of Spielberg’s finest in his mass repertoire and also an all-time great performance from Hanks himself.

James Thompson

3. Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump

Source: Pintrest

Source: Pintrest

We can talk about brilliant Tom Hanks performances all day, but none will compare to that of his lead in Forrest Gump.

He’s an actor who can make you laugh, cry, empathise with, feel awkward for, and, most of all, admire, but it’s not often that an actor can do all of these things with one performance.

The movie has a bit of everything – drama, romance, war, comedy, action – and Hanks handles each of these genres perfectly to make Forrest Gump one rollercoaster of an emotional journey.

It’s hard to imagine how anybody came up with a character like this in the first place, but even more impossible to picture anyone but Hanks in his role. John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase were all (somehow!) considered for the role, but nobody could have portrayed the same naivety, charm, or pure ability that Hanks brings to the film.

He’s what makes this film work, full stop.

Charlie Derry

4. Viktor Navorski – The Terminal

Source: Collider

Source: Collider

Undoubtedly one of legendary auteur Steven Spielberg’s most underrated films also contains one of Tom Hanks’ most underrated characters. His robust and quietly emotional performance as Viktor Navorski – a Krakozhian immigrant temporarily living in JFK Airport – in The Terminal is a glorious example of his range, physicality, and power in frame.

Fundamentally this is a character whose entire design is in waiting; a presence lingering in empty, negative space. Crowds surround him – faces all blurred as they rush past – but he is ultimately isolated. An alien in uncharted, foreign terrain. Paired with Spielberg’s trademark visual whimsy, and sensitive tonal palettes, Viktor begins to loosen and flourish as the film presses onwards. He becomes as integral to the bustling airport terminal as the staff members, the lobby seats, the check-in desks, and the aeroplanes themselves. He is more than a person, he is an institution, and such a transition happens so elegantly.

What Hanks brings to The Terminal – like he does with pretty much every single project – is a sense of humanity. Regardless of the scenario or scene his characters may occupy, the audience are always invested in the man. He is a rare performer – a dexterous and ever-changing one – and even in slighter films such as this, provides exactly what is required. If you haven’t seen Spielberg’s quaint 2004 drama, one highly recommends it.

Chris Haydon

5. Josh Baskin – Big

Source: Metacritic

Source: Metacritic

Ever been too young to see an 18-rated movie? How about wanting to drive despite being unable to gain a license? Well, for 12 year old Josh Baskin, there’s never been a bigger disappointment than being rejected for entry to a carnival rollercoaster due to a legal height requirement. After making a wish to be big, he’s shocked to find out upon awaking the next morning that it’s been granted.

There’s a solid reason why Tom Hanks was Oscar-nominated for his role in Big – he is able to effortlessly capture the very essence and magic of what it would be like for a 12-year-old to be trapped in a 30-year-old body. He takes us on a journey through his first time experiences of adulthood that this 30-year-old writer simply takes for granted, such as adolescence, puberty, working in a full-time career job, falling in love and renting out an apartment.

It’s not long before the responsibilities and pressures of being an adult finally takes its toll on Josh and he longs for the freedom and stress free life of being a child again. This film says a lot about grown up responsibilities, human relationships and being reconnected with your early childhood again; bringing back all those wonderfully sweet nostalgic memories.

Martin White

6. Carl Hanratty – Catch Me If You Can

Source: IndieWire

Source: IndieWire

One of my favourite performances of Tom Hanks is in Steven Spielberg’s rather fun cat and mouse caper, Catch Me If You Can. Hanks doesn’t feature prominently, but that’s exactly what I love about it. He provides effortless support to Leonardo Di Caprio’s standout performance. It’s also worth noting that Tom Hanks is debatably the ‘Bad Guy’ – that’s a rarity in itself!

Throughout the film, Hanks’ FBI agent Carl Hanratty is at constant odds with young conman Frank Abagnale Jr after their initial meeting. As the story progresses, Hanks’ measured performance as the man playing chase with Abagnale and a government agent at odds with his peers in the Bureau shows several sides to the character. Displaying a quiet determination to get his guy, anxiously shrugging off any doubt or naysaying.

Slowly, Carl begins to show not only an admiration for Frank, but a somewhat surrogate parent role too. And with the film’s rather light-hearted tone, Hanks’ well-natured temperament is suited to a tee. It’s by no means his greatest role – but it’s certainly a role that demonstrates Hanks’ malleability and ability to elevate another actor’s performance.

Scott Allden

7. Dr. Henry Goose / Hotel Manager / Isaac Sachs / Dermot Hoggins / Cavendish Look-a-Like / Zachry – Cloud Atlas

Source: Collider

Source: Collider

An audacious epic that on the page, saw my first attempt to tackle the grandiose nature of the David Mitchell novel prove tricky to absorb. On screen however, it resulted in the sort of genre-fusing, time-hopping out-on-a-limb cinema we don’t see often crafted on a $100 million budget in the current climate. Initially a box office flop, months on the both transcendent and politically charged themes of The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of Cloud Atlas remain potent.

For all the narrative ambitions the film possesses, it allowed its star-studded ensemble to embrace a diverse and distinct range of six individual characters.Certainly the case for Mr Hanks. A devoted fan base that has grown accustomed to the sheer decency and wonderful wisdom of his heroic and easy-to-root-for protagonists, he notably in the eccentricity of his frustrated physician Henry Goose, the no-nonsense persona of his tough-talking author Dermot Hoggins and the frightened fragility of his futuristic goatherd Zachry.

Through such an unenviable undertaking, he subverted audience expectations with fearless and convincing grotesque personalities, committal to these often displaying a breadth of his range that perhaps we haven’t seen enough evidence in the more family-friendly and definitive entries of his back catalogue. Yet for all the unlikely nature of his characters, Hanks’ portrayal of Isaac Sachs as he displays his affection for Halle Berry’s Luisa Rae, proves the heartfelt, philosophical counterpoint and an ideal reminder of why we have admired his acting talents for so long.

Darryl Griffiths 

8. Woody – Toy Story 1, 2, 3

Source: EW

Source: EW

In a career full of standout performances, you could make a case for almost all as being ‘essential’ – okay, maybe not Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – but for me the essential Tom Hanks performance is as Sheriff Woody Pride in the Toy Story movies.

Hanks has proved himself a great physical actor, but his voice performance as Woody has as much range and is as fully formed and ‘real’ as any performance in his career.

These days, Pixar are the absolute masters of making us care about their CGI creations, but this all began when they ‘reached for the sky’ with Toy Story in 1995. Woody is actually a bit of a jerk in the first movie, where his jealousy and insecurity over Buzz’s arrival takes centre stage, but it’s Hanks’s inherent vocal ‘nice guy-ness’ that makes Woody still likeable. In the subsequent (and equally great) sequels, Hanks conveys a huge range of emotions as Woody shows his loyalty, bravery, frustration, fear, sadness (and all the other emotions from Inside Out for that matter) and many more. His performance should be in any list of greatest vocal performances, but also greatest acting performances full stop. It’s impossible to imagine anybody else voicing Woody.

Toy Story will be many children’s first introduction to Tom Hanks. Where better to start than his very best performance?

What are your favourite Tom Hanks performances? Drop us a comment below and let us know! Sully: Miracle on the Hudson opens in UK cinemas in IMAX on Friday, 2nd December.

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Jon Dingle Editor

A film journalist, writer and a filmmaker in business for over 20 years. I am passionate about movies, television series, music and online games.