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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  • Hanks made his film debut in the 1980 film “He Knows You’re Alone.”

  • Hanks starred as Rick Gassko in 1984’s “Bachelor Party.”

  • Hanks starred alongside Daryl Hannah in 1984’s “Splash,” wherein his character falls in love with a mermaid.

  • In 1985’s “The Man With One Red Shoe,” Hanks plays a man targeted by the CIA.

  • Hanks starred alongside comedy legend John Candy in 1985’s “Volunteers.”

  • Hanks played a Protestant World War II pilot who falls in love with a Jewish girl in 1986’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”

  • Hanks starred alongside comedy legend Jackie Gleason in 1986’s “Nothing in Common.”

  • Hanks starred alongside Shelley Long in 1986’s “The Money Pit.”

  • Hanks teamed up with comedy veteran Dan Akyroyd for 1987’s “Dragnet.”

  • Hanks starred in 1988’s “Big,” one of his most famous films.

  • Hanks starred alongside Sally Field for 1988’s “Punchline,” in which the pair play struggling stand-up comedians.

  • In 1989’s “The ‘Burbs,” Hanks plays a suburbanite convinced his new neighbors are members of a Satanic cult.

  • Hanks starred as a detective who must adopt an unruly dog in order to catch a killer in 1989’s “Turner & Hooch.”

  • In 1990’s “Joe Versus the Volcano,” Hanks portrays a man who volunteers to throw himself into a volcano upon learning he is dying.

  • Hanks starred alongside Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith in 1990’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”

  • In 1992’s “A League of Their Own,” Hanks played a gruff baseball coach.

  • Hanks had an uncredited role as the Narrator in 1992’s “Radio Flyer.”

  • In one of his most famous roles, Hanks played a man fired from his job after contracting HIV. Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance.

  • Hanks starred alongside Meg Ryan in the classic romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle.”

  • In one of his most famous roles, Hanks played the titular role in 1994’s “Forrest Gump.” Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance.

  • Hanks starred in the 1995 blockbuster “Apollo 13” alongside actors Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Gary Sinise.

  • Hanks lent his voice to the 1995 film “Toy Story,” in the lead role of Woody. This would mark the first time Hanks would play the iconic role.

  • Hanks starred alongside Liv Tyler and Charlize Theron in 1996’s “That Thing You Do!”

  • Hanks starred as Captain John H. Miller in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” directed by Steven Speilberg. Hanks was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance.

  • Hanks again teamed up with Meg Ryan for 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail.”

  • Hanks starred as a Death Row guard who has his life forever changed by an inmate in 1999’s “The Green Mile.”

  • Hanks returned for 1999’s “Toy Story 2,” the sequel to the 1994 film.

  • In 2000’s “Cast Away,” Hanks portrayed a man stranded on a deserted island. Hanks was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance.

  • Hanks starred in 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can,” in which he attempts to apprehend a con artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

  • Hanks starred as a mob enforcer out for revenge in 2002’s “Road to Perdition.” The film is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name.

  • Hanks made a cameo in 2004’s “Elvis Has Left the Building” as an Elvis impersonator.

  • Hanks starred as an eccentric professor in the 2004 Coen brothers film “The Ladykillers.”

  • Hanks portrayed multiple characters in 2004’s “The Polar Express.”

  • In 2004’s “The Terminal,” Hanks portrayed an Eastern European tourist stranded in JFK Airport.

  • Hanks portrays Woody for the third time—in car form— in 2006’s “Cars.”

  • Hanks starred in 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code,” based on the novel of the same name.

  • Hanks starred alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julia Roberts in Charlie Wilson’s War.

  • Hanks starred alongside his son Colin Hanks in 2008’s “The Great Buck Howard.”

  • Hanks starred in “Angles & Demons,” a sequel to “The Da Vinci Code.”

  • Hanks returned to the recording booth for 2010’s “Toy Story 3.”

  • Hanks starred in 2011’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” based on the novel of the same name.

  • Hanks starred alongside Julia Roberts for 2011’s “Larry Crowne.”

  • Hanks portrayed multiple roles in the 2012 film “Cloud Atlas.”

  • Hanks played a captain of a boat hijacked by pirates in 2013’s “Captain Phillips.” The film was based on a true story.

  • Hanks portrayed Walt Disney in 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”

  • Hanks again collaborated with Steven Speilberg for 2015’s “Bridge of Spies.”

  • Hanks appeared in 2015’s “Ithaca,” directed by frequent collaborator Meg Ryan.

  • Hanks starred in 2016’s ‘A Hologram for the King,” based on the novel of the same name.

  • Hanks starred in 2016’s “Inferno,” the latest in “The Da Vinci Code” series.

  • In 2016’s “Sully,” Hanks starred as Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who performed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.

  • Hanks starred alongside Emma Watson in 2017’s “The Circle.”

  • Hanks starred as Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of The Washington Post in 2017’s “The Post.”

  • Hanks starred as television host Fred Rogers in 2019′ “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.

  • Hanks returned as Woody for “Toy Story 4,” released 25 years after the first installment.

  • Hanks starred in 2020’s “Greyhound,” for which he also wrote the screenplay.

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