The man, the actor, the legend. I implore you to find one person who doesn’t like Tom Hanks (and if you do that person is insane). The man is just so unbelievably engaging no matter what film he is in you will always find something good about it. Even when he made his cinematic debut in the low-budget slasher He Knows Your Alone (1980), his character was so likeable that the producers decided not to kill his character off. Now how good do you have to be at the start of the career to not get killed off in a slasher movie and not be the main character? A Hologram for the King (2016) has just been released, but what were Hanks’ best moments in cinema?

10. Michael Sullivan, Sr. – Road to Perdition (2002)

Sam Mendes directs this brilliant gangster flick with other talents including the legendary Paul Newman, Daniel Craig and Jude Law. Hanks plays a gangster whose own son witnesses him gunning down some rivals. In the wake of the shooting, their entire family are killed, and it’s up to Hanks to seek vengeance. A great Sam Mendes film with great performances all around, especially our main man who as always, steals the show.

9. Jim Lovell – Apollo 13 (1995)

The first collaboration between Hanks and Ron Howard. The true story about the nerve-wracking space mission Apollo 13, in which three astronauts on their way to the moon loose a majority of their oxygen supply and electricity, thus the sole mission now relies on returning the men home to safety. The historical drama takes a claustrophobic twist as the three men (including Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton) struggle to make their way home during increasingly difficult circumstances. A real nail bitter of American patriotism at its finest.

8. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty – Catch Me if you Can (2002)

Hanks’ second collaboration with the legendary Steven Spielberg. This time assuming the role of the FBI agent looking to take down professional con-artist Frank Abagnale, Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio). Before Abagnale’s 19th birthday, he had garnered millions by passing himself off as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. For a film with such a light-hearted touch, Hanks is very restrictive and plays a much more professional portrayal. One of my favourite Spielberg films to boot.

7. Chuck Noland – Cast Away (2000)

Poor old Wilson. For a movie where nearly 2/3’s of the film is rested solely on one actor’s performance, it made for some very entertaining screen time. Although some people have complained about the pacing and some have even called it boring, I shun those people. For a modern day Robinson Crusoe, an average guy spending four years of his life marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere, with only a volleyball for company, Hanks made me feel for that guy big time.

6. Paul Edgecombe – The Green Mile (1999)

Although the film is mostly remembered for the brilliant performance of John Coffey by the late great Michael Clark Duncan, Tom Hanks still gets some of the credit here. Playing the lead corrections officer in a death row cell block, Paul and his fellow officers find a new meaning in their lives when the friendly giant becomes a new prisoner, and takes them into a world of supernatural events which would change their lives forever. A great Frank Darabont film that is utterly intense, and genuinely heart-breaking.

5. Andrew Beckett – Philadelphia (1993)

One of the first Hollywood films to deal with HIV and homophobia in the mainstream. And also the actors first major jump from comedy to drama. Hanks plays a man who contracted the deadly virus, and in turn is fired from his law firm. Asking for the assistance of lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), Andrew wants to prove that he was wrongfully dismissed because of his condition, and sets out to expose his old employers on the grounds of discrimination. Another tearjerker here with an amazing script, a great cast, and a haunting portrayal from Hanks as a man who has precious time to seek the justice rightly deserved.

4. Captain John H. Miller – Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Hanks’ first collaboration with Spielberg, and one of the greatest war films of all time (in my opinion). Hanks is the leader of a group of soldiers set out to find a last surviving brother of three other service-men who all died in the field. One of the most intense and realistic war movies of all time, with an opening battle at Omaha that to this day I find hard to top. Seeing the trauma inflicted on a man trying to keep his head levelled and keep his troops alive is one of the most gut wrenching performances of Hanks’ career.

3. Sheriff Woody – Toy Story (1995)

Although many people would argue that voice over doesn’t count in terms of a performance (I have had many arguments about this), I think it absolutely does. One of the most beloved childhood films of all time and it is essential to be part of Tom Hanks’ filmography. For a film about inanimate objects that come to life, it is charming, witty, sad, joyous, and overall funny. And thanks to Woody, a toy who has a spring in his step and argues his leadership amongst the more popular Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), it is definitely one of Hanks’ most memorable and iconic roles.

2. Josh Baskin – Big (1988)

Another childhood favourite for many. Hanks plays a twelve year old boy who wishes to be big, only to wake up the next day in the body of a thirty year old man. It’s hard to find anything to hate about this movie. The performance is so innocent and playful it makes us all remember what it was like to be that young again no matter how old you are. Also garnering Hanks’ first Oscar nomination, the film is incredibly sweet, and overall very funny.

1. Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump (1994)

Always and forever will be Tom Hanks’ most iconic role. It really is hard to find anybody who hates this film. Playing a simple, but gentle man who intervenes in some of the most iconic moments in the latter half of 20th century America. Blending the perfect mix of both comedy and tragedy, the man wants nothing more than to find true happiness and love, whilst becoming an important innovator as early as helping Elvis learn his swagger, to making people realise that “Shit Happens”. It’s funny, moving, tragic, and heart-warming all at the same time, and Hanks pulls off the role with pure excellence. I doubt he could ever top it.


Part time film maker, writer and film enthusiast based in Dublin.