Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, The Post: A look at Tom Hanks' best and most offbeat roles

FP Staff

January 12, 2018 15:04:02 IST

Tom Hanks has been one of the most likable faces in Hollywood for over 30 years now. From his 1984 big screen debut in Ron Howard's Splash to his latest role in Steven Spielberg's The Post, Hanks has remained the quintessential good guy.

As the funny, kind-hearted, always decent and fully American hero, Hanks has portrayed some of the most iconic characters in the history of movies, like the titular character in Forrest Gump, Chuck Noland in Cast Away, Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan, Josh in Big, and the voice of Sheriff Woody in Toy Story.

Hanks has also proved be a big draw at the box-office with his movies earning over $4 billion at the North American screens, and over $9 billion worldwide, and that's not surprising considering he is the greatest actor in entertainment history.

This same likability has made him one of the most important actors in the world. And even though Tom Hanks is known for portraying easy-going and lovable characters, he has tried his hands at various kinds of roles.

Here we take a look at some of the most off-beat and experimental characters that Tom Hanks has played throughout his career.

Big (1988)

A still from Big/Image from YouTube.

A still from Big/Image from YouTube.

Released in 1988, Big is a simple, gentle and heart-warming story about a 13-year-old boy who wishes he was big. The next morning 13-year-old Josh wakes up to find himself turned into a fully grown adult. His wish has been granted, and Josh, who is now a man, starts living the regular life of an adult. He goes to work, makes new friends, receives a promotion and finds himself a girlfriend.

Big was an instant charmer, with Hanks convincingly portraying the role of a 13-year-old. His performance is innocent, sweet, mischievous and really softens the heart. You really start to believe that Hanks is a young teenage boy trapped in a man's body, and it remains one of Hanks' most earnest performance till date. Big was directed by Penny Marshall, and also starred Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia and John Heard.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

A still from Sleepless in Seattle/Image from YouTube.

A still from Sleepless in Seattle/Image from YouTube.

What's more appealing and likable than the pair of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? At the start of the 90s, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were two emerging American sweethearts. Hanks, who was coming fresh off the success of A League of Their Own, teamed up with Meg Ryan to be part of one of the most heartfelt romantic-comedies of all time, Sleepless in Seattle.

The 1993 movie starred Hanks as Sam Baldwin — a young, puppy-eyed widower who moves to Seattle with his son Jonah to start a new life. Sam still isn't over the heartbreak of losing his wife when his son, who wants his father to find love again, convinces him to go on air on a radio show and talk about his late wife. Soon thousands of women, who are enchanted by Sam's love for his deceased wife, want to talk to him. Meg Ryan, a reporter in Baltimore, finds herself enamored by Sam, and decides to pursue what she believes can be her destiny. Sleepless in Seattle is an essential romantic-comedy watch, and established Hanks as a mainstream romantic lead.

Philadelphia (1993)

A still from Philadelphia/Image from YouTube.

A still from Philadelphia/Image from YouTube.

In Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia, Hanks played the character of the hotshot lawyer Andrew Beckett whose life is turned upside down after being diagnosed with AIDS. One of the first Hollywood movies to acknowledge the stigma around HIV/AIDS, Philadelphia charted its own course after the release of the movie. Hanks is brilliant as the lawyer who loses everything after his condition of being HIV positive comes out in the open. Fired from his job because of the illness, Hanks decides to fight for his rights by suing the law firm he previously worked for.

Denzel Washington gives an endearing performance as the advocate Hanks hires for his case. Philadelphia became a movie to challenge bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals head-on. The movie was way beyond its time, and Hanks — the gentle American hero — does complete justice to the role of a homosexual fighting against ignorance, injustice and plain hatred.

Forrest Gump (1994)

A still from Forrest Gump/Image from YouTube.

A still from Forrest Gump/Image from YouTube.

Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump is undoubtedly one of the most popular movies in the world. It takes its place among movies like Titanic, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather and the likes, and rightly so. Hanks played the role of Forrest Gump, a Southern American man who appears to be dim-witted and sheepish, but is hiding within him a treasure trove of talent and determination. Gump learns his life's lessons from his mother, and sticks to his principles religiously. Unable to walk as a young boy, Forrest discovers his ability to run like the wind while being chased by bullies. He goes on to play for the University of Alabama's football team, and also meets President Kennedy. He joins the army and fights in the Vietnam war, and receives a medal of honor. He also becomes a ping-pong celebrity, an anti-war activist, and reveals the Watergate scandal causing President Nixon to resign.

The simplicity of Forrest Gump's character is what captured everyone's minds and hearts. Forrest wasn't out there trying to achieve great things; it just happened to him. From giving Elvis Presley the gift of his signature pelvis-thrust dance step, to running across America several times over a course of three and a half years, Forrest did great things without ever punishing himself. The serenity and purity of Hanks' portrayal is what made the character, and the movie, immortal. Tom Hanks won an Academy Award for the Best Actor for his role in Forrest Gump. Today, to think of anyone else play Forrest Gump is impossible.

Cast Away (2000)

A still from Cast Away/Image from Twitter.

A still from Cast Away/Image from Twitter.

Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis come together once again for Cast Away; a story about a FedEx systems engineer who is the lone survivor of a plane crash. One of his most experimental roles till date, Cast Away saw Hanks portray a man who is marooned on a deserted island. Hanks really tapped the vein of a man who has been alone for four long years on an island. We see him battle against the cruel nature while his only friend is a volleyball named Wilson. The performance that Hanks delivered was raw, earthy and absolutely convincing.

The spiritual change a person would go through after being stuck on an island alone for years has been accurately captured by Hanks. This was one movie where Hanks was the quintessential American guy, but not quite. We see him reach his breaking point, and feel his mental anguish as the movie moves along. Hanks received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role in Cast Away, and the movie is counted among the best roles of his career.

Road to Perdition (2002)

A still from Road to Perdition/Image from YouTube.

A still from Road to Perdition/Image from YouTube.

Directed by Sam Mendes, Road of Perdition is probably Hanks' most underrated movie. A period-crime drama, Road of Perdition tells the story of a man who must choose between saving his son or being loyal to his longtime boss and father figure. Hanks starred as the 'bad guy' in the movie, by which we mean he was one of the criminals, but he wasn't really the bad guy.

Hanks played a criminal with a conscience, who has nothing but the best intentions for his sons. The movie, adapted by David Self from a graphic novel of the same name presents Hanks in an avatar we haven't seen him in before. Hanks played an enforcer for the Irish mafia during the Great Depression, and that in itself is a reason to watch the movie.

The Terminal (2004)

A still from The Terminal/Image from YouTube.

A still from The Terminal/Image from YouTube.

Even though Spielberg and Hanks are best-known for Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal possesses a quality that separates it from any other movie Hanks has ever done. Tom Hanks played the character of Viktor Navorski, a traveler from the nation of Krakozhia, who finds himself stuck at the terminal of New York City's JFK International Airport.

The Terminal is a feel-good story of the man and how he adapts to life in an American airport terminal without understanding English. Hanks is flawless in his portrayal of the Eastern European immigrant and touches the heart of all the viewers. We go from trying to understand what is happening to rooting for the Viktor. The Terminal is a much-needed performance of Tom Hanks' body of work.

Updated Date: Jan 12, 2018 15:04 PM