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Alicia Goluszka

Every Tom Hanks film, reviewed

August 14, 2020

“Willsoooooooooonn!” is probably how everyone is feeling right about now. Alone, drained both physically and mentally, and who knows, maybe you’re floating on a raft. 

With COVID-19 requiring most of us to stay at home, it makes for the perfect time to binge every single one of Tom Hanks’ 56 feature films and that is what I did, starting back exactly 40 years ago in 1980.

Hanks’ movies range from downright comical to dramatics of the highest level. There is a movie for just about every occasion. Hanks has charmed his way through our screens and into our hearts.

Hanks has been referred to as “America’s Dad” for a few years now, ever since Esquire coined the term for him in 2016. It’s stuck due to his loving, kind and infallible public persona. His roles have brought laughs, smiles, tears, concern and just about every other emotion on the list. 

DePaul professor Paul Booth has been a fan of Hanks since he was just a young boy watching “Bosom Buddies,” his first TV role. 

“[Hanks] embodies a kind of comfort that he makes us all feel better,” Booth said. “He also has a kind of authority and kind of gravitas. When he says something, we listen to it. So he kind of embodies a lot of the stereotypical notions of what we associate with fathers in our culture or at least good fathers.”

It was no wonder that when it came out that Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 11, people began spreading endless amounts of love online to the pair. Hanks and his wife made it through and have even donated plasma to help find a vaccine. One person even told me my Tom Hanks article may take a depressing turn. Luckily, that was not the case.

The list of films starts in 1980 and the latest on July 10. I hope we get plenty of Hanks in the coming years, but his current list took me five months to complete. It all started after he gave his Golden Globe speech back in January. My friend and I jokingly said we should watch all of his films, now here we are. 

His iconic roles are those of more serious and dramatic styles. But for those who haven’t seen every single one of his films — and yes, I’m bragging — you’d be surprised to know his ‘80s roles are full of a bunch of comedic, even raunchy, movies. 

The ‘80s Hanks you didn’t know you needed 

“He Knows You’re Alone” was Hanks’ first movie role, an awful slasher film about a man stalking a woman. Luckily for him, he was only in it for about five minutes. It’s what I would classify as an absolute trainwreck and the only good thing about it was seeing a young Hanks with a luscious head of hair. 

The ‘80s were a time when he seemed to take roles in any movie. The ‘80s show a completely different genre of Hanks that I don’t believe many people— youngins mostly — are particularly familiar with. His highlights from that era would have to be “Splash,” “Big,” and “Turner & Hooch.” 

My favorite of this decade is “The Money Pit.” A couple buys a house that ends up being a disastrous mess and leading to relationship problems. Hanks is just simply the most charming man in this movie and a specific bathtub scene is hilarious. 

Hanks shone in those movies and they’ve been deemed as classics. The other nine movies give a type of bachelor vibe to the leading man and that pattern continues through the decade. The only serious role he played was “Every Time We Say Goodbye” in 1986, playing an American pilot in Jerusalem during World War II who falls in love. Now, I wouldn’t say this is the role that made him stand out to directors for future serious roles, but what do I know? I’ve only seen every movie he’s ever done.

In movies such as “Bachelor Party” and “Volunteers,” Hanks plays a young ladies’ man and that, my friends, is a sight to behold. Hanks knows how to play a fun-loving guy who seems to make every leading lady fall for him with minimal effort. His acting in the ‘80s displayed a side of his abilities that we don’t see much of today.

I highly recommend indulging yourself into the ‘80s era of Tom Hanks. It gets overlooked due to his tremendous career in the ‘90s that launched him into complete stardom.

The ‘90s brought the classic Hollywood actor we all love today 

We’ve all heard the phrase “that role was made for him” and the ‘90s were exactly that for Tom Hanks. Some of the most iconic — and I mean iconic — roles of his career were filmed in this decade. 

The first three out of 14 he was in are “Joe Versus the Volcano,” which I have to say, maybe one of the worst Hanks films, but it’s hard to admit that. It’s a silly movie to say the least about a man who basically is willing to kill himself by jumping into a volcano. Hanks followed this up with “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and an uncredited role in “Radio Flyer.” 

Booth thinks that many of his movies today and his classic films were roles that were written specifically for Hanks.

“So, they are very tailored to a particular kind of style and they embody something that he can bring to the role,” he said. “The movies that he’s in today are more ‘Tom Hanksy’ than the ones in the past.” 

The movies of this decade were full of breathtaking performances. In ‘92, “A League of Their Own” came out and “there’s no crying in baseball” became a classic line. In ‘93, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Philadelphia” were released. These two films gave me goosebumps only the best movies can give you.

“Philadelphia,” specifically, is an incredible film. Hanks plays a man diagnosed with HIV and wants to sue the law firm he worked at for wrongful termination. He took drastic measures to play the part, including losing a lot of weight. It is a movie that will bring you to tears – an ugly cry if you will. 

In ‘94, Hanks starred in what is arguably his biggest film to date, “Forrest Gump.” This movie is a masterpiece from start to finish. His character embodies the spirit of humility and humanity and took the world by storm. It’s a film that is one of his most quoted and loved to this day. 

Lindsay Alfermann, 22, could quote the entire film by the age of seven. She ended up putting Hanks on her graduation cap last year with the quote “I’m pretty tired, I think I’ll go home now.”

Lindsey Alfermann, a lifelong fan of “Forrest Gump,” paid tribute to the film on her college graduation cap. (Lindsey Alfermann)

“Forrest Gump ran for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours,” she said. “… I happened to spend almost exactly that amount of time in college so I decided it would be perfect to put on my graduation cap. I truly was tired and did go home afterwards. It was a pretty full-circle moment for me.”

The following years gave us nothing short of greatness. In ‘95, “Apollo 13” gave a surprisingly accurate retelling of the events of the third mission to land on the moon on April 17, 1970. ‘95 brought us “Toy Story,” which now has four movies in the series and each one adds a new element of childhood endearment and happiness. 

One of my favorites is actually one Hanks wrote himself, “That Thing You Do,” which came out in ‘96. It is about a music group (think The Beatles) who become huge stars and Hanks plays their manager. This was the start to his writing and producing journey, and he soon created his company, Playtone Productions. 

The list goes on and the decade ends just as big as it started with “The Green Mile.” Now, the start of the 2000s kicks off with a boat, volleyball and an island. 

The 2000s shows the true meaning of ups and downs 

Hanks said he peaked in the ‘90s at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. We can let him have that opinion, and while there may not be as many classics in this era to him, I promise there are plenty of outstanding ones to watch. 

The decade begins with one of my top Hanks movies, “Cast Away.” Again, another role where he put his body to the test and went through weight gain and loss just for one role. He truly became one with his character. What’s so fantastic about it is the movie is 95 percent him alone with a volleyball named Wilson. That ball became his only companion for years and he plays it so realistically. On top of acting in this film, Hanks produced the movie. 

It’s obvious that drama is Hanks’ starring genre. In ‘02, “Road to Perdition,” a mafia movie and “Catch Me If You Can,” also starring Leonardo DeCaprio, were released. I’d never seen either film before and both had my eyes glued to the screen the entire time.

Now, as much as we love Hanks, not every movie he has done has been fantastic. This leads me to the ‘04 film, “The Ladykillers,” a movie about criminals who live in a nice old lady’s house while trying to rob a casino. Quite frankly, this movie is awful and is when I started to doubt Rotten Tomatoes ratings. 

“The Terminal” is up next, a roller coaster of emotion that has become a fan favorite. Hanks plays an Eastern European tourist who gets stuck in an airport after war breaks out in his country. He ends up living in the JFK airport for months.

Shelby Bailey, 29, watched the entire Hanks filmography about two years ago and said it was a fun journey. 

“Time and time again I was amazed at the range and depth,” she said. “Tough to choose favorites but I loved ‘The Terminal.’ It snuck up on me how much I loved it.”

The next seven films are a mix of good and some that are rated bad, but I personally enjoyed them. In ‘04 he played the “mailbox Elvis” in “Elvis has Left The Building” — I wish there was more to tell you about that role. 

This brings us to my Christmas Eve classic “The Polar Express.” I watch this movie every year and it warms my soul just as much as hot chocolate. Did you know Hanks actually played five roles in that film? Now you do! 

“The Da Vinci Code” series began in ‘06 and it is basically the adult version of “National Treasure.” The last three movies of this decade are full of award winners and the 2010s start with us blasting into space. 

The 2010s is the new era of “peaked” for Hanks

Hanks was a busy bee these past 10 years, starring in 15 films, some of which he wrote himself. Of course, the decade starts with the third installment in the “Toy Story” series and I promise you, every ‘90s kid jumped for joy after waiting 12 years for this movie to come out. 

The film “Larry Crowne” came out in 2011 and I am not sure if I loved it because Julia Roberts was in it or if it was just because Hanks wrote it. Either way, it was an adorable film about a man finding his way again and falling in love in between. It was scored lower than “The Ladykillers” and I’ve still not gotten over it. 

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is next, followed by “Cloud Atlas.” One of these was better than the other, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. 

In 2013, Hanks starred in “Captain Phillips,” which has definitely made its way into my top five favorite Hanks roles. The emotion he displayed so vividly as this character had me in awe. The ending specifically made me really imagine how it felt for the real Captain Phillips. 

Pocahontas Jasper, 44, thinks that’s what makes him such a good actor: the believability he puts into every character. 

“I love Tom Hanks because he becomes the role he’s playing,” she said. “He was convincing as a 12-year-old boy in ‘Big.’ I believed that he was a mentally challenged man in ‘Forrest Gump.’ He made me believe his best friend was a volleyball named Wilson in ‘Cast Away.’”

The following 10 films include the 2013 film “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Sully,” and three back-to-back glorious films, starting with “The Post,” where he starred alongside Meryl Streep – I think I will binge her movies next. Following that were “Toy Story 4” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

His most recent was “Greyhound,” which premiered on Apple TV+. Hanks returns to his starring genre, drama. Giving you captain vibes all over again.

There is too much to be said about the actor that has embodied greatness on and off the screen. With 56 films and counting, I don’t think we will see the end of Hanks filmography any time soon. 

In a time of uncertainty, I have to say, being on this journey has given me many reasons to smile, laugh, sometimes cringe and feel uplifted. Now you have the full list of movies at your disposal. Who’s next?

You can go in order as I did or start with my top five favorite films. In no particular order:

  1. “Captain Phillips”
  2. “Cast Away” 
  3. “That Thing You Do!” 
  4. “Sleepless In Seattle”
  5. “The Terminal”

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