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Tom Hanks: His best performances to date

Tom Hanks

This week, both at the Tribeca Film Festival as well as opening in theaters, we have an independent movie that stars Tom Hanks. Especially considering how infrequently Hanks acts in small films these days, this is something to take notice of. The film in question? Well, it’s A Hologram for the King, of course. Side note, this is another example of a thing that I mentioned yesterday, namely that a Tribeca title is going basically straight to general release. There’s another one of these still to discuss before the week is out, but right now, Hanks’ flick is what is in the spotlight. I see it tomorrow, so instead of delving too deep into it, I’ll be looking at his career and what I feel are his best performances so far to date. Fun, right? We’ll, here goes nothing!

Quickly, a bit on the film itself. It follows a struggling American businessman named Alan (Hanks), who is attempting to right his life by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea to the wealthy monarchy there. Along the way, he winds up discovering things he never knew and engaging in a bit of personal redemption, as you might imagine for something of this ilk. The movie is written and directed by Tom Tykwer (who also had a hand in composing the music), based on the well regarded Dave Eggers novel of the same name. In addition to Hanks in the lead, the rest of the cast here includes Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Tracey Fairaway, Jane Perry, Tom Skerritt, and Ben Whishaw, among others. Hanks though, as you can see, is truly the star here.

What you’ll see below is a whole smorgasbord of top quality Hanks work. Spoiler alert: I think he’s never been better than in his Academy Award winning turn in Philadelphia, though that’s just me. There’s also his win for Forrest Gump to consider, along with other Oscar nominated work like Big, Cast Away, or Saving Private Ryan, all of which show up on my list. As an aside, just know that while I didn’t consider his voice work, I did give it a special citation of its own, which you’ll notice below the main list, before my honorable mention picks. Those are no slouches either, so it’s all a testament to just how good an actor Hanks is. We all knew that already, but still, it never hurts to remind yourself.

Enough talk. Here now are what I think are the ten best performances so far from Hanks:

10. Charlie Wilson’s War
9. A League of Their Own
8. Captain Phillips
7. Catch Me if You Can
6. Apollo 13
5. Saving Private Ryan
4. Cast Away
3. Forrest Gump
2. Big
1. Philadelphia

Special Citation: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3

Honorable Mention: Bridge of Spies, The Green Mile, Road to Perdition, Sleepless in Seattle, Splash, and The Terminal


This weekend, audiences have a new Hanks movie to see, and that’s always a bit of a delight, isn’t it? In addition to A Hologram for the King, feel free to revisit any of the Hanks performances I mentioned above, since there’s no shortage at all of quality titles to peruse. He’s kind of an American acting treasure, isn’t he? That’s how I look at him, at least, and I know that I can’t be alone. Stay tuned for more on him this year, as he also has the biopic Sully for awards consideration this fall/winter. I suspect we’ll have plenty more to say about Hanks and his career then, so sit tight…

Be sure to check out A Hologram for the King, in theaters starting on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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