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THE KINGDOM OF HANKS — At this point, I think people are allowed to say that Tom Hanks is a national treasure. The man has been delighting us on screen for decades and the two-time Academy Award winner seems to be down-to-earth and a downright nice guy.
It’s hard not to like Hanks even when he’s in a movie that isn’t all that great. This weekend will mark the release of his latest film, “The Circle,” where he portrays a Steve Jobs type who may have more power than he should.
I cannot comment on his latest film as I have not had the opportunity to see it, but it has got me thinking about the man’s filmography. I wanted to do a list of his best performances, but there are so many that the list just kept growing and growing. So instead, I have broken it up into genres of performances and his best in each area.
So, here we go.
Best comedic performance: “The ‘Burbs”
Personally, I think “The ‘Burbs” is an underrated movie — it’s one of my favorite comedies. The oddball comedy stars an on-point Hanks who plays a mild-mannered dad in a suburban neighborhood who slowly descends into madness as he suspects his neighbors of being murderers.
Hanks’ subtle transformation is an absolute joy to watch because you could see him as your neighbor, even though he’s becoming increasingly more paranoid and terrifying. “The ‘Burbs” is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and is a dark comedy that I’ll revisit time and again, mostly due to Hanks’ absolutely hilarious performance.
I’ve probably shared this story before, but this is the only movie my mom ever made my brother and I walk out of. I still don’t know why she did because this movie isn’t all that bad, and she’s the one who also took us to “Speed” and “Cliffhanger” when we were just kids. (Love you, mom.)
Most transformative: “Forrest Gump”
There are some performances out there where, thanks to makeup and a quirky character, you don’t realize a famous actor is playing a certain role. Some examples include Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder” or Michael Fassbender in “Frank.”
Other times an actor transforms so much in his or her portrayal of the character that it doesn’t matter if they have makeup or not because you completely forget that it’s not actually that character on screen, but rather an actor you know and recognize. A great example of this is Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” and Hanks in “Forrest Gump.”
“Forrest Gump” was a huge box-office smash and claimed several Academy Awards including best picture and best actor for Hanks.
“Forrest Gump” may not be as greatly revered now as it was when it first released in 1994, but it’s still a great movie with an absolutely stunning performance from Hanks. We know this man from his countless roles, but while watching him as the southern man with a slow mind and a big heart, we forgot it was the charismatic Hanks and only saw the lovable Forrest.
I still love this movie and am constantly in awe of what Hanks did as a performer.
Now we go from one Oscar-winning role to another with “Philadelphia.” The early '90s were good to Hanks and he won back-to-back Oscars, beginning with this film.
This choice was a tough one for me, but no matter what film I put in this slot, I knew none of them reached the level of the heartbreaking and inspiring portrayal Hanks gave us in “Philadelphia.”
The 1993 film is a courtroom-based drama taken from the true story of a man terminated from his job and ostracized by society because of his AIDS diagnosis. Hanks gives a powerful performance of a man who has been knocked down time and time again, only to get back up and keep fighting. Hanks is a revelation in the film, and it will likely go down in history as one of the best Oscar-winning performances ever.
Most honest: “Saving Private Ryan”
Sometimes a performance is so honest and so real you forget that you’re watching actors in a movie. A recent example of this is Casey Affleck’s Academy Award-winning performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” When I thought of this kind of performance, I thought of Hanks’ Capt. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan.”
Considered by some as the greatest World War II movie, “Saving Private Ryan” is a painful movie to watch, yet an important one to consume. Steven Spielberg captured some of the most realistic battle scenes ever put to film and managed to also tell a story of courage, honor, duty and fear that will resonate in your soul long after the credits roll.
In order to make such a powerful film, the director needed an actor to give honest and heartfelt performances, and Spielberg got exactly that from Hanks.
Watching Hanks’ journey as Capt. Miller fighting a war as a means to return to his family is both heart-wrenching and real. With little backstory actually uttered, you still feel like you know Miller intimately and you respect him. You can tell that Hanks connected with this character and wanted to honor those who bravely fought for our freedoms by giving an honest and powerful performance.
"Saving Private Ryan" is rated R for intense and prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence and for strong language.
Best overall: “Big”
I’m sure not everyone will agree with me on this one, but to me, Hanks’ best role is in “Big.”
The story of a boy who grows into a man overnight is funny, touching, dramatic, and at times, profound. I may like this movie more than most, but I think it’s a phenomenal film that we need more of these days and we can thank Hanks for that.
Hanks received his first Academy Award nomination for “Big,” but ultimately lost to Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.” Another great film with a fantastic performance, but I still would have given the statue to Hanks. He was 32 years old when “Big” released and yet he so perfectly captured the excitement, naiveté, innocence and uncertainty of a young boy that you completely believed he was a child in a man’s body.
His performance is so spot on and sincere that it will always go down as his best for me. I can watch that movie over and over again thanks to Hanks’ masterful performance.
The truth is there are so many amazing roles from the great Hanks that it’s hard to just name a few. What is your favorite Hanks' performance? Let us know in the comments.