Toy Story 1 - 3 (1995 - 2010)
The Role: Woody
Why It’s The Best: He's the most loveable, brave and witty sheriff in the land. Despite showing off game-changing tech, Toy Story is a timeless classic that's loved by audiences of all ages. Tom Hanks voices the hero of the film, helping to bring an inanimate cowboy doll to life.
Hanks has played Sheriff Woody across 15 years, never failing to deliver the winning combination of snarky sass and homespun charm.
Iconic Moment: “YOU ARE A TOY!” Perhaps the most iconic line from the Toy Story series.
And let's not overlook the emotional climax of Toy Story 3 , where adults across the world were brought to floods of tears at the scene of the toys' impending fiery doom.
Tom Says: “Woody is a passionate guy who throws himself into every action. As soon as he has an instinctive thought like "I have to help them," or "I have to run away," he does it with 100 percent commitment. You gotta love that about anybody.”
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Role: Forrest Gump
Why It’s The Best: It's not to everyone's taste, but Hanks proves that no one else plays the loveable dolt quite as well as he does, and his comforting blandness allows him to fit in seamlessly at various points in American history. Forrest Gump is possibly Hanks' most divisive performance, but that didn't stop him taking home another Oscar.
Iconic Moment: “My Momma always said: 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get'; a line which has earned itself a permanent place in the pop-culture lexicon, for better or worse.
Tom Says: “He survived everything, he believed in what God tells him to do, he obeys what ‘Momma’ says he should do, and he believes in everything the woman he loves says of him. That was it, armed with that Forrest Gump can survive everything.”
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Role: Capt. John H Miller
Why It’s The Best: Steven Spielberg directed Hanks for the first time in this war movie that drives home the horror of the conflict on an intimate and epic scale.
Hanks plays Captain Miller, leading his battalion in WW2 to save Private Ryan and bring him home safely to his mother, after his three brothers have been killed in action.
Iconic Moment: The graphically realistic portrayal of the Normandy landings in the opening sequence. Spine-chilling and gut-wrenching.
Tom Says: “The first time I read about Captain John Miller, here's what I got: he's scared. And he's afraid in the same way that I would be in his circumstances. His fear is the reason for everything he does. And all the questions that are answered in the movie come back to that core thing.”
The Role: Andrew Beckett
Why It’s The Best: Tom Hank’s won his first Oscar for his outstanding performance in Philadelphia .
A film about discrimination, Hanks' character is fired from a law firm on account of having Aids, and he takes the case to court. He hires Denzel Washington’s character, a homophobic small-time lawyer, to take his case. Hanks' engaging performance lends dignity to one of the first mainstream movies to tackle the subject of Aids.
Iconic Moment: The final hospital scene where Beckett tells Miguel, his lover, that he is ready to die.
Tom Says: “There's no person who can't relate to a guy who was robbed and now wants to get back what was taken from him. Andrew discovers that he's a victim not of Aids, but of the intolerance that goes along with it."
Cast Away (2000)
The Role: Chuck Noland
Why It’s The Best: Tom Hanks carries this film: portraying a man alone on an island for four years translates into a very demanding 2 hour 49 minute solo performance. Hanks grips for the entire running time in this story of survival and isolation.
Iconic Moment: “WILSON!!!” After escaping the island, Chuck Noland loses his best and only friend of four years, Wilson. The volleyball. A true grit-in-the-eye moment whether you like to admit it or not.
Tom Says: “During the film all I did was catalogue the nature of things that can be taken away. That's everything from a cheeseburger to the feeling of cold air from the refrigerator door on you at night."
Apollo 13 (1995)
The Role: Jim Lovell
Why It’s The Best: The true story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon is that rare beast: a realistic space-set actioner.
Hanks plays Jim Lovell, one of the astronauts aboard the doomed craft. His character is a real father figure, not only to his family waiting for him back on Earth, but also to the other crew members. Even if you know the outcome of the real-life event, Hanks keeps the tension palpable.
Iconic Moment: The seemingly endless pause as the world watches from the ground, waiting for the Apollo 13 craft to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Tom Says: “Jim made sure that I had some background and education and skills, he personally saw to it himself on a couple of weekends together. One of them, down in Texas, he made me fly his plane at night among other things.”
The Role: Josh Baskin
Why It’s The Best: Young Josh Baskin wished that he were bigger on a magic machine at a funfair, and when he woke up the next day a whole generation had a new favourite actor.
Big marked out Hanks as possibly the world's finest manchild actor, and left us asking ourselves: "Why don't I have a trampoline in my living room?"
Iconic Moment: The duet on the gigantic piano in the FAO Schwarz toy store on 5th Avenue: surely one of the most infectiously fun scenes ever filmed.
Tom Says: “It's a genuinely good movie that I think is really honest and touches the consciousness.”
Road To Perdition (2002)
The Role: Michael Sullivan
Why It’s The Best: There are a number of underrated performances in this film, but it is Hanks, who plays against the grain of his established screen persona, who sticks in the mind.
Despite an iffy barely-there 'tache, Hanks convinces as a contract killer and, vitally, a committed father, in a way that a more obviously-cast actor may have failed to do. He's the emotional anchor at the centre of a veritable Venn diagram of father-son relationships, with his scared son and surrogate father on either side.
Iconic Moment: When Sullivan finally gets revenge on his boss (Paul Newman) who betrayed him and murdered his family. The intense, rain-soaked scene has become even more iconic on account of the fact that it is Paul Newman’s final onscreen appearance.
Tom Says: “The key to this whole thing is the father and son relationships in the various permutations of the fathers and the sons that go on in the movie. I've got a father and I have sons. That alone helped. But there's a whole ocean of emotions to explore here and a million ways to find the universe of what these relationships are going to be,”
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
The Role: Carl Hanratty
Why It’s The Best: On paper, Hanratty could have been a stolid irritant, but Hanks makes you feel his frustration, and he remains on the likeable side of dogged, ensuring your loyalties don't know what do with themselves.
It's a credit to an actor of Hanks' stature that he was willing to take on what is ostensibly a supporting role at this stage of his career, ensuring Spielberg's superb, underrated crime caper flies with old-school charm.
Iconic Moment: After years of torment and obsession chasing Abagnale, Hanratty begins to sympathise and feel sorry for the elusive con artist, and manages to talk him out of his French hideout.
Tom Says: “There was no bona fide record of who Carl Hanratty was so I made it all up.”
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
The Role: Sam Baldwin
Why It’s The Best: In possibly one of the most beloved romcoms from the 90s, Hanks is Sam Baldwin, a widower whose 8-year-old son is trying to set him up with a new wife via a late night radio talk show.
It's a testament to the Hankster's charm that the icky premise works. He can play larger than life characters with childish abandon (see Big ), but he knows when to underplay.
Iconic Moment: The meeting atop the Empire State building as Sam and Annie (Meg Ryan) had just missed each other in the elevator.
Tom Says: “I like the dynamic of who I got to play in this, it was very understandable and very emotional, very real and truthful.”
The Terminal (2004)
The Role: Viktor Navorski
Why It’s The Best: Hanks is an Eastern European immigrant, stranded at JFK airport for nine months, finding his own ways to live, sleep and get by in an airport.
Navorski remains patient and polite considering his predicament, and gives Hanks another opportunity to show how deftly he can carry an entire movie. It is a charming performance, and vaguely based on a true story.
Iconic Moment: When Navorski finally sees New York City, to visit a Jazz bar to fulfil a promise he made to his father.
Tom Says: “I even speak Russian in the film and I did an interview with a Russian journalist, and he asked me ‘What the hell were you saying?’”
The Green Mile (1999)
The Role: Paul Edgecomb
Why It’s The Best: Tom Hanks plays a prison guard working on death row in the 1930s in this Stephen King adap, and he soon finds that one of the inmates has inexplicable magic healing powers.
Under Frank Darabont's measured unshowy direction, Hanks doesn't have anywhere to hide, and he gets to show a more sombre side as an executioner who doesn't shy away from his duties.
Iconic Moment: A quiet scene in which Edgecomb screens Top Hat for John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan).
Tom Says: “What was intriguing to me, was that Paul Edgecomb is an executioner, and yet he lives the most civilised life that anybody possibly could inside a penitentiary.”
Turner & Hooch (1989)
The Role: Detective Scott Turner
Why It’s The Best: Hanks brings heart to what could have been a clumsy buddy-com.
It was the second canine-cop comedy in 1989, but Tom Hanks and Beasley the dog (Hooch) managed to overpower K-9 , which was out earlier that year.
Iconic Moment: When Turner gives his slobbery new houseguest the tour (" This is not your room..."). Or maybe the moment Tom proves he's the master of getting the audience weeping without resorting to histrionics when Hooch is on the operating table following the movie's climax.
Tom Says: “I saw Turner & Hooch the other day in the SAC store and couldn't help but be reminiscent. I cried like a baby.”
Charlie Wilsons War (2007)
The Role: Charlie Wilson
Why It’s The Best: Based on a true story, Hanks portrays the Texan congressman who gets involved in some dodgy dealings in Afghanistan with good intentions. Hanks, who also produces, plays up the wit without belittling the story.
Iconic Moment: Seeing Hanks playing a suave ladies man, seducing girls in hot tubs. Tom, you cad.
Tom Says: “This is a tale that deals with something that is probably impossible to capture on film: how politics works.”
The Polar Express (2004)
The Role(s): Hero boy, father, conductor, Scrooge, Santa Clause and hobo
Why It’s The Best: Though the dead, zombie-like eyes still retain the capacity to creep, there's something mesmerising about the array of characters that Hanks portrays.
Years before Beowulf or Avatar , this was the first animated feature film to be shot entirely using motion capture technology, so Hanks deserves credit for getting involved with new tech at an early stage.
Iconic Moment: “Where are you going?” “To the North Pole, of course, this is the Polar Express!” Tom Hanks convinces that Santa Claus exists, and earns a place on Christmas viewing lists for years to come.
Tom Says: [ On his favourite character to play ] “I guess it was the big man, Santa Claus. It’s tantamount to playing Elvis in an Elvis movie.”
The Role: Allen Bauer
Why It’s The Best: A romcom for all ages to enjoy. Tom Hanks was still relatively unknown at this point, but his aquatic shenanigans with Daryl Hannah helped to propel him to stardom; over the next three years, he appeared in Bachelor Party , The Money Pit and Dragnet .
Playing likeable romcom leads became Hanks' bread and butter, as he provides the human element in a fantastical love story.
Iconic Moment: The underwater kiss. Aww.
Tom Says: “The script really jut spoke for itself, as far as credibility-wise and quality-wise, it was very well put together.”
The 'burbs (1989)
The Role: Ray Peterson
Why It’s The Best: Another one of Hank’s great comedies from the 80s, this underrated gem is nestled between the releases of Punchline , Big and Turner & Hooch .
Here he plays exasperated everyman Ray to frazzled perfection, as he's gripped by the suspicion that his new neighbours just might be murderers. Gremlims director Joe Dante makes sure that there are plenty of chills amid the cackles.
Iconic Moment: “Ray, this is Walter.” “NOOOOOOOOOO!”
A League Of Their Own (1992)
The Role: Jimmy Dugan
Why It’s The Best: A film which just about pulls off ‘charmingly sentimental’ without reeking of cheese. Hanks plays against type as a chubby, sozzled, bestubbled coach, and he's a lone male presence in the team of gals.
Despite being a change of pace for Hanks, beneath his grizzled Dugan there's just a hint of emerging likeability that provides a consistent throughline with earlier performances. It's also another example of Hanks taking on a challenge, rather than slipping into an easy vanity project.
Iconic Moment: Tom Hanks hitting a child in the face with a baseball glove. We shouldn’t laugh, but we do. It's Hanks' fault.
Tom Says: “I'd had quite a run of playing a certain type of guy that I was done examining, in all honesty... I wanna go off and play men who have experienced bitter compromise in their lives and are trying to deal with the day-in and day-out one-damn-thing-after-another of what our lives are.”