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RANKED: The 20 Best Tom Hanks Movies

Happy birthday to Hollywood’s national treasure, Tom Hanks! Gracing movie screens since the early ‘80s, he is regarded as one of the most successful and recognizable actors worldwide. To celebrate Tom Hanks’ 65th birthday, here is a look into his career and his best movies of all time.  

Did you know Tom Hanks made his acting debut on stage?

From a young age, Tom Hanks had a fascination with the stage. He studied theater at both Chabot College and California State University. Starting in 1977, Tom Hanks would spend his summers acting and in multiple Shakespeare plays in the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood, Ohio. In 1978, he won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor when playing Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Eventually, Tom Hanks made his way into TV 

Eventually, Tom Hanks dropped out of college to pursue acting on screen. He was cast in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies, a show about two male best friends in New York who dress in drag to move into a women’s apartment complex after their old apartment gets demolished. When the show was canceled after two seasons, he guest-starred on multiple shows like Happy Days and Family Ties before getting his break in movies.

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How many movies has Tom Hanks been in?

Tom Hanks has starred in over 70 movies in his lifetime—and that’s without counting his producing, directing, and writing credits! While he secured a minor part in the 1980 slasher movie He Knows You’re Alone, his first leading role was opposite actress Daryl Hannah in the 1984 romantic comedy Splash. From there, Tom Hanks went on to establish a memorable career. 

Although he’s been in numerous movies, here is our list of the top 20 Tom Hanks films.  

#20 Best Tom Hanks movies: That Thing You Do! (1996)

Tom Hanks made his writing and directorial debut in the comedy film That Thing You Do! The movie follows a one-hit-wonder small-town band in 1964 and their rise and fall after scoring their first (and only) hit. Tom Hanks plays Mr. Amos White, the band’s record producer who helps them along the way. Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, and Charlize Theron also star. 

The film’s title song, “That Thing You Do,” went on to receive Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Original Song.

Watch That Thing You Do! on Amazon Prime.

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#19 Best Tom Hanks movies: The Polar Express (2004)

In the lovable holiday film The Polar Express, Tom Hanks lends his voice talents to five different characters: Hero Boy, Hero Boy’s father, Conductor, Hobo, and Santa Clause. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, the movie tells the story of a young boy who doesn’t believe in Santa while he takes an adventurous train ride to the North Pole. 

Since the film was made using motion-capture, Tom Hanks would speak the lines on a soundstage while acting out his different characters. In a behind-the-scenes interview, Tom Hanks talks about his experience while filming. “We were all grown-ups playing kids,” he says, “We had total freedom to essentially run rampant inside a 10-by-10-foot grid.”

Check out the rest of the interview:

Watch The Polar Express on Hulu and HBO Max

#18 Best Tom Hanks movies: The Green Mile (1999)

Stephen King’s gripping novel comes to life in the fantasy film The Green Mile. The Academy Award-nominated movie follows a death row prison guard named Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) who realizes John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a black man convicted of killing two young sisters, has supernatural gifts. The cast includes David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Doug Hutchison, and James Cromwell. 

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Watch The Green Mile on HBO Max.

#17 Best Tom Hanks movies: Road to Perdition (2002)

Tom Hanks removes his family-friendly image for his role as mob enforcer Michael Sullivan during the Great Depression in the crime film Road to Perdition. When Michael’s son (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a murder, the two embark on a journey of redemption and revenge. 

In a 2002 interview with Hollywood.com, Tom Hanks explained that taking on this character was just him doing his job as an actor:

Every time you say yes to a job, everyone is trying to figure out, ‘What’s his strategy behind taking this job, that diabolical genius? What’s he up to?’ And then the movie comes out and everyone says, ‘Oh, right, he’s just making a movie.’” 

Check out the film’s 2002 premiere:

Watch Road to Perdition on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Paramount+.

#16 Best Tom Hanks movies: Splash (1984)

In the romantic comedy Splash, Tom Hanks dives into leading man territory. He plays Allen Bauer, a young man who falls in love with a mermaid named Madison (Daryl Hannah) who saved him from drowning 20 years earlier. As Allen struggles with choosing life on land or in water, Madison is targeted by scientist Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy). 

Watch Splash on Disney+

#15 Best Tom Hanks movies: The Post (2017)

Tom Hanks takes on Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in the political thriller, The Post. The film depicts the true story around publishing the Pentagon Papers. In 1971, a group of journalists, including Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham, exposed a massive government cover-up involving the Vietnam War and French Indochina.

Meryl Streep praises her co-star Tom Hanks in a behind-the-scenes interview. “Everyone knows he’s got the reputation for being the nicest guy in Hollywood, and he’s very nice,” she says, “but he’s also really smart. He’s crackerjack smart.”

Check out the rest of the interview:

The movie earned two nominations at the Academy Awards and six nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, including Tom Hanks for Best Actor in a Drama. 

Watch the trailer: 

Watch The Post on Amazon Prime.

#14 Best Tom Hanks movies: Bridge of Spies (2015)

The actor stars in another true story as lawyer James B. Donovan during the Cold War in the historical drama Bridge of Spies. The film follows the New York lawyer and his efforts to negotiate the freedom of an American pilot and Soviet prisoner Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) in exchange for a Russian spy and American prisoner Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance). 

The film went on to receive six Academy Award nominations, with Mark Rylance winning for Best Supporting Actor.

Watch the trailer: 

Watch Bridge of Spies on Amazon Prime.

#13 Best Tom Hanks movies: A League of Their Own (1992)

Tom Hanks plays the tough but lovable baseball manager Jimmy Dugan in the sports dramedy, A League of Their Own. With an all-star cast including Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O’Donnell, the movie shares a fictionalized narrative of the real-life All American Girls Professional Baseball League. 

In 2020, Geena Davis reflected on her time sharing the screen with Tom Hanks in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter:

“My first impression of Tom was that he’s funny as hell, up for anything and ready to go, at all times. As I’m sure anybody who’s ever worked with Tom would say, he really is just the nicest, most fun person to be around, with the biggest heart.”

Watch the trailer: 

Watch A League of Their Own on Starz

#12 Best Tom Hanks movies: Sully (2016) 

In Clint Eastwood’s Sully, Tom Hanks takes on hero Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in biographical drama Sully. Inspired by the autobiography Highest Duty, the film follows the true story of the American pilot, Sully, who saved his passengers and crew after landing a damaged plane on the Hudson River in 2009. While Captain Sully is called a hero by the public, he must face an investigation that could threaten his career.   

Check out a behind-the-scenes interview where Tom Hanks, Captain Sullenberger, Clint Eastwood, and Aaron Eckhart discuss the weight of taking on a story like Sully:

Watch the trailer:

Watch Sully on Amazon Prime.

#11 Best Tom Hanks movies: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Tom Hanks gets caught in a real game of cat and mouse in the biographical crime film, Catch Me If You Can. He plays FBI agent Carl Hanratty, based on Joseph Shea, who works to track down 21-year-old con artist Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio). Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, and Amy Adams also star. 

In a 2002 press conference, with excerpts provided by Hollywood.com, Leonardo DiCaprio called Tom Hanks his role model: 

“He has such a passion and exuberance for the work. I don’t want to get cynical about what I do; I don’t ever want to lose that spirit. So he was a great example about how to retain all that even when you’re at the upper echelons of this business.”

Watch the trailer:

Watch Catch Me If You Can on Paramount+.

#10 Best Tom Hanks movies: Apollo 13 (1995)

In Apollo 13, NASA astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon