This was a tough call. I locked the first four picks in rather quickly, but the fifth spot was a coveted one. I settled on Hanks’ performance as the much beloved Forrest Gump based on the strength of just one scene. In my opinion, the crux of who Forrest is as man comes down to the moment he finds out he has a son. His lifelong love informs Forrest that her son is actually their son, and Forrest takes a sharp breath and asks, “Is he smart?”
For the first time, we become fully aware that Forrest is aware of his simplemindedness. Such a beautiful and earnest reaction
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
I remember the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan. I was young and impressionable and saw it under the best possible circumstances a young and impressionable boy could: with his understanding father. As my dad and I walked out of the theater, he asked if I had any questions about the film or the events it depicted. The only thing I remember asking was something to the effect of, “Why did Tom Hanks go to hide when he had to cry?” My dad smiled and said, “Because grown men didn’t cry back then. At least not in public. To cry back then was to show weakness. And for a commanding officer to do it in front of his men simply didn’t happen. So they did what I imagine Tom Hanks did. That’s why that’s the best scene in the movie.”
Hard to disagree.
3. Captain Phillips (2013)
As mentioned in my recent review for Captain Phillips, the aspect of Hanks’ work in the film that I was immediately taken with was the fact that Phillips isn’t really a nice guy. He’s a worker. There to get the job done. And when his ship is hijacked, I loved that Phillips didn’t instinctually turn into a glad-hander, begging and pleading to be let go. He handled the situation with by-the-book precision, but he was never afraid to improvise in the name of safety. Based on the strength of the final scene of this film, we’ll be talking about Hanks’ work in Captain Phillips for a long, long time.
2. Cast Away (2000)
I’m one of those people who loves Cast Away. All of Cast Away. Aside from the physical skill and emotional complexity it took to convincingly carry the middle portion of the film, I’m equally as taken with the gratified (if not borderline melancholic) sensibility of Hanks’ acting during the final scenes of the movie. Whether he’s fighting back tears in the home of his former lover, or describing a suicide attempt to his best friend, or standing at a crossroads, focusing on a path, wondering What If. I want to follow Chuck wherever he may go.
1. Philadelphia (1993)
It’s the way he pleasantly apologizes for Antonio Banderas in the hospital, the way he articulately tries to save his job in front of his bosses, the way he delicately handles a bigoted Denzel Washington during their initial meeting, the way he’s overcome with emotion after dictating an opera aloud, the way he triumphantly says “Yes” while showing lesions on his chest in court, and, of course, the way he stands helpless and lost outside of Washington’s law office. There are any number of things that make Hanks’ work as Andrew Beckett the most emotionally satisfying work he’s ever done. Just take your pick.