In honor of the movie's 20th anniversary, Forrest Gump recently hit IMAX theaters, leading us to reflect on the incredible career of Tom Hanks. When Bosom Buddies arrived on TV 1980, who would have imagined that he'd become one of the most acclaimed and beloved movie stars of the next three decades? Even if the 2010s have been hit-or-miss, everyone still loves the guy: He's a modern day Jimmy Stewart. We asked our readers to vote for their favorite Hanks movies. Here are the results.
After the back-to-back failures of Volunteers and The Man With One Red Shoe, Tom Hanks scored a much-needed hit with this 1986 film about a young couple that buys a house that quickly turns into a nightmare when they learn it needs extensive repairs. Shelly Long, who was still on Cheers at the time, played Hanks' wife. Critics didn't love it, but it found a big audience and made $55 million on a mere $10 million budget. It also helped solidify Hanks as a dependable leading man, helping him land bigger films in the near future like Big and Turner & Hooch.
The first Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy of the 1990s was Joe Versus the Volcano, a brilliantly surreal film about an average guy that travels to a remote island to throw himself into a volcano when he becomes convinced that he's dying from a "Brain Cloud." Along the way, he comes across three different women that were all played by Meg Ryan. He falls in love with the third one, and together they travel by boat to a South Pacific Island to discover their destiny. The movie was mostly met with indifference when it first hit theaters, but its become a cult classic.
Right after the huge success of Big, Hanks played a suburban dweller whose life is turned upside down when a mysterious new family known as the Klopeks move next to his house. The neighborhood becomes convinced they are the embodiment of evil and Hanks begins snooping around their house, looking for evidence of their murderous plots. Absolute insanity ensues. Critics were torn, but the film found a big audience and continues to be a favorite.
Five years after Frank Darabont turned Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption into a movie, he turned his attention to The Green Mile, another Stephen King work about a prison. This one delves into the supernatural, and features Tom Hanks as a prison guard in 1935 overseeing the death sentence of a gentle, enormous man played by Michael Clarke Duncan. It's a deeply sad and incredibly intense film, and even if it is the second best Stephen King/Frank Darabont prison movie of the 1990s, it's still pretty damn good.
After establishing himself as a legit movie star with Splash, Tom Hanks was cast in this raunchy, American Pie-esque flick about a bachelor party that grows completely out of control. When his fiancé, played by future video vixen Tawny Kitaen learned of the party, she throws her own party. The two celebrations soon merge into an enormous drunken orgy. It ain't Shakespeare, but it's incredibly funny and it earned $38 million on a $6 million budget.
Robert Zemeckis directed this 2000 blockbuster about a FedEx employee that spends years on a deserted island after his plane crashes. Hanks is the only human on the screen for much of the film, but he does talk to a volleyball he names Wilson. It's a master class in acting and it earned him yet another Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards, though he lost out to Russell Crowe for his work in Gladiator.
It may not seem like a big deal now, but back in 1993 no major studio was making movies about AIDS. That all changed with this Jonathan Demme-directed film about a promising young lawyer that loses his job when his law firm discovers that he's been diagnosed with the disease. It culminates in a courtroom battle and wraps up a tear-jerking scene where Hanks passes away surrounded by his entire family. Hanks won an Academy Award for the role, and Bruce Springsteen won Best Song for "Streets of Philadelphia."
There have been a lot of movies about World War II, but few of them capture the chaos of battle quite like Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Hanks as a United States Rangers Captain seeking out a missing soldier whose three brothers were all killed in battle. It begins with a Normandy Invasion scene that lasts a full 27 minutes. Hanks was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, but he lost out to Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful.
Hollywood has been churning out movies where children wind up in the bodies of adults for years, but none of them come close to Big. Tom Hanks is completely convincing as a 12-year-old that ages 18 years overnight, living out the common boyhood fantasy of working for a cool toy company, dancing on a giant novelty piano and sleeping with a babe from the office. Penny Marshall directed the film, which earned $151 million on a $18 million budget, turning Tom Hanks into one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
Few people had read Winston Groom's 1986 novel Forrest Gump when Robert Zemeckis adapted it for the screen in 1994. That was probably a good thing because most people walked into the theater having little idea what to expect. What they saw was the story of a sweet and simple man that finds himself at the center of some of the most pivotal events of the second half of the 20th century. He opens up China, fights in Vietnam, inadvertently causes Watergate, meets three presidents and coins the phrase "shit happens." It's a very sweet movie and it absolutely killed at the Oscars, winning Hanks his second consecutive Best Actor award.