RANKED: The 20 Best Tom Hanks Movies

Tom Hanks
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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.

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.

#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. 

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) must go into survival mode when their oxygen tank explodes on their way to the moon. The film is a dramatized account of the aborted Apollo 13 mission in 1977. 

In 1996, the film received nine Academy Award nominations, winning both the Best Sound and Best Film Editing awards. To this day, many people continue to quote Tom Hanks iconic line, “Houston, we have a problem.” 

Watch the trailer:

Watch Apollo 13 on Amazon Prime

#9 Best Tom Hanks movies: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Tom Hanks reenters romantic territory in the rom-com Sleepless in Seattle. He stars as Sam Baldwin, a young widower and single father who moves to Seattle with his son Jonah (Ross Malinger). After Jonah calls into a radio station to find his father a new wife, reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) falls in love and plans to meet him. 

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks proved they were a rom-com match made in heaven, as their chemistry shines through in every scene. The two even reunited for You’ve Got Mail in 1998. 

In a 2018 interview with Sleepless in Seattle producer Gary Foster, Meg Ryan shared that she loved working with Tom Hanks, saying, “He’s just so easy. He listens; he roots for other people.”

Watch the trailer:

Watch Sleepless in Seattle on Amazon Prime

#8 Best Tom Hanks movies: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

If there was anyone destined to play America’s favorite TV personality Fred Rogers, it’s Tom Hanks. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood follows investigative journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), loosely based on journalist Tom Junod, who interviews Fred Rogers with skepticism for a profile piece in Esquire Magazine. As the two get to know each other, Lloyd opens up about his own life while forming a deep connection with the TV star.

Fred Rogers wife, Joanne Rogers, tells viewers in a behind-the-scenes clip that Tom Hanks was meant to play Fred Rogers. “It’s a fabulous tribute to Fred,” she says, “and I’m so happy about that.” 

Check out the rest of the interview:

Time listed the movie as one of “The 10 Best Movies of 2019,” and Tom Hanks went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

Watch the trailer:


Watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood on Starz

#7 Best Tom Hanks movies: Big (1988)

In his breakthrough role as an actor, Tom Hanks stars as Josh Baskin in the fantasy comedy Big. When 12-year-old Josh makes a wish to be big, he wakes up in a 30-year-old body. The cast includes Elizabeth Perkin, Robert Loggia, and Jon Lovitz. 

With memorable scenes like the walking piano and a stellar performance by Tom Hanks, the film earned two Academy Award nominations, including Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Tom Hanks.

Watch the trailer:

Watch Big on Amazon Prime.  

#6 Best Tom Hanks movies: Captain Phillips (2013)

The actor brings the 2009 true story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking to the big screen in Captain Phillips. The movie follows Captain Richard Phillips as Somali Pirates take him and his ship crew hostage. 

The biographical drama-thriller grossed $220 million with critical and commercial success and was nominated for six Academy Awards.  

Watch the trailer: 

Watch Captain Phillips on Amazon Prime

#5 Best Tom Hanks movies: Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks won his first Academy Award for Best Actor with his portrayal of lawyer Andrew Beckett in the legal drama Philadelphia. The movie tells the story of Beckett, who works with lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to sue his ex-Philadelphia law firm for discrimination when he is fired because of his HIV status. The film became one of the first Hollywood movies to discuss HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia.

At the 66th annual Oscars, Tom Hanks delivered a heart-wrenching speech about the importance of tolerance and love after winning his award for Best Actor.

Watch his speech:

When Bruce Springsteen wrote the hit “Streets in Philadelphia” for the film, the single went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Watch the trailer: 

Watch Philadelphia on Amazon Prime.

#4 Best Tom Hanks movies: Cast Away (2000)

FedEx executive Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) must learn how to survive alone on an island when his plane crashes in the survival drama Cast Away. The cast also features appearances by Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, and Chris Noth. 

Though Tom Hanks spends most of his time alone in the film, he personifies a volleyball and names it Winston, calling him his friend. He proves he’s a world-class talent when he can have chemistry with even an inanimate object. 

In 2001, Tom Hanks won a Golden Globe for his performance in Cast Away and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. 

Watch the trailer: 

Watch Cast Away on Amazon Prime

#3  Best Tom Hanks movies: Toy Story (1995)

Tom Hanks plays the beloved cowboy doll, Woody, in the animated comedy Toy Story. After Woody and the new action figure, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), get lost during his owner Andy’s (John Morris) move to another house, Woody must put his jealousy aside and work with Buzz Lightyear to reunite with Andy.

After the movie’s success, Toy Story went on to have a franchise with four films. Tom Hanks sat down with The New York Times to discuss his emotional connection to the movie franchise:

“It’s a disparate group of toys, but there is this sense of both true family and extended family that is representative of anybody’s life, including the little kids, who just might be delighted by toys that come to life.”

Watch the trailer: 

Watch Toy Story on Disney+.  

#2 Best Tom Hanks movies: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

In the epic war film Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks stars as Captain John H. Miller. He and his squad search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), the last surviving son of his family. The film includes appearances from Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies.


 
 
 
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The movie still has an impact on audiences today as the American Film Institute listed it as number 71 in their “100 Years. . . 100 Movies- 10th Anniversary Edition” article. Tom Hanks was also nominated for Best Actor at the 71st Academy Awards. 

Watch Saving Private Ryan on Showtime

#1 Best Tom Hanks movies: Forrest Gump (1994) 

Ranking at number one is Tom Hanks’ award-winning title role as Forrest in the drama Forrest Gump. The movie follows the intellectually disabled and kind-hearted Forrest Gump as he lives through major historical milestones in the 20th century to reunite with his childhood love Jenny (Robin Wright). Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field also star.

Forrest Gump became the second highest-grossing film of 1994 and won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Actor for Tom Hanks. 

With iconic lines like, “Life is a box of chocolates,” and, “Run, Forrest! Run!,” the film will be remembered for many more years to come. 

Watch Tom Hanks talk about how the quotes came to be on The Graham Norton Show:

Watch the trailer:

Watch Forrest Gump on Amazon Prime

Tom Hanks upcoming movies: Finch (2021)

Tom Hanks will lead the cast in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, Finch. He will play a dying inventor named Finch who builds an android to accompany him and his dog across the country. 

The film is set to premiere on Apple TV near the end of 2021.   

Tom Hanks upcoming movies: Elvis (2022)

Tom Hanks joins the cast as Colonel Tom Parker for the upcoming biographical musical drama Elvis. Starring Austin Butler as Elvis, the film follows the life and career of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Olivia DeJonge, Yola Quartey, Luke Bracey, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Dacre Montgomery, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, and David Wenham also star.

The film will hit movie theaters on June 3, 2022.  

Tom Hanks upcoming movies: Pinocchio (TBA)

Disney’s upcoming live adaptation of Pinocchio will star Tom Hanks as wood-carver Geppetto and newcomer Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio. The cast also includes Cynthia Erivo and Luke Evans, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket. 

There is no set release date yet. 

Why fans call Tom Hanks a national treasure:

Not only is Tom Hanks a talented actor, but he’s also an amazing human being. Fans have expressed their love for him on social media. 

Well said.

Tom Hanks with the Girl Scouts? How precious!

Honestly, us too. 


 
 
 
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Tom Hanks + typewriters = the best combination

Happy birthday, Tom Hanks! Thank you for your brilliant films and your wonderful presence!

Do you agree with our list? Which Tom Hanks movie is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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