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11 classic Tom Hanks roles that earned him a place in our hearts


This January, Tom Hanks reunites with director Steven Spielberg for gripping drama The Post. Dramatising The Washington Post’s battle to publish the incriminating Pentagon Papers, it’s been nominated for six Golden Globe awards and is set to enthral UK audiences.

As the release of every Tom Hanks movie is something of a special occasion, we're taking a look back at 11 unforgettable movies that have caused the legendary actor's name to be forever etched in our hearts.

1. Splash (1984)

We begin with Hanks' breakout role, and the greatest love story ever told between a human and a mermaid (sorry Ariel). The chemistry between fish-out-of-water mermaid Daryl Hannah and Hanks' none-the-wiser, lovelorn gentleman is palpable the latter demonstrating the everyman qualities that would serve him so well in the years to come.

2. Big (1988)

Another unusual love story for our star, and the role that truly caused our hearts to flutter, Big is nothing less than a cinematic gem. The story of a teenage boy who wishes to 'be big', all his naive dreams come true when he suddenly wakes up one morning to find he has turned into a 30-year-old Tom Hanks.

What ensues is equal parts terrifying and amusing as Josh discovers the many wonders (and complexities) of being an adult. Full of jokes for kids, and just as many intended for adults, Big is a classic family film, and isn't easily topped.

3. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle has (deservedly) been put up on a pedestal as the film by which all other romantic comedies are judged. This shining star of rom-coms gave us two hugely likeable leads and introduced us to the natural chemistry of co-stars Hanks and Meg Ryan. The iconic image of our star-crossed lovers atop the Empire State building is burned into the retinas of hopeless romantics everywhere.

4. Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks had become synonymous with comedic acting... until he starred in Philadelphia. Appearing opposite fellow powerhouse Denzel Washington, this true story of a lawyer struck down by HIV and unlawfully dismissed by his employers sees Hanks displaying his powerful dramatic range.

The actor's portrayal of tragic figure Andrew Beckett comprises a lot of his innate likability, while also allowing him to form a far more prickly and complex character. Not only did audiences love him but so did the Academy Awards, awarding him with his first Oscar for Best Actor.

5. Forrest Gump (1994)

This tale of a loveable simpleton navigating his way through history, meeting a variety of influential figures along the way, is a cavalcade of emotions. The film was nothing less than an awards magnet, picking up both Best Film and Best Actor, beating some very tough competition.

Hanks and his Alabama accent immediately entered the cinema lexicon, with the character’s traditional views and naive outlook blinding us to Gump’s uncanny emotional perception. In lesser hands a character like Forrest Gump could end up sickly sweet. But with Hanks we get a character with whom you just want to run and run.

6. Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story is arguably Pixar’s greatest series of films to date and Hanks’ voice work is certainly one of the reasons why. As the somewhat narcissistic cowboy toy, Woody, Hanks and Pixar gifted audiences with one of the all-time great childhood heroes.

Woody begins as a selfish, borderline unlikeable character who grows over the first film and continues this growth with each instalment. Learning and teaching audiences about the importance of friendship, Woody is another Hanks character everyone can look up to.

7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Heralded by many as the greatest war movie ever made, Steven Spielberg's devastating drama casts Hanks as the leader of a rag-tag group of soldiers tasked with finding Damon's elusive Ryan.

Hanks' Captain Miller is a little more enigmatic and distant than the actor's usual persona – hardly a surprise given the circumstances. However, Hanks' genial manner ensures that the Captain is someone you not only support, but respect. Saving Private Ryan is anchored by Hanks' masterful central performance, embodying the pain and struggle so inherent in war.

8. The Green Mile (1999)

Considered one of the best Stephen King adaptations, The Green Mile benefits greatly from the compassionate, humane presence of Hanks at its centre.

Revolving around the lives of a team of death row guards, exploring their lives and interactions with the mysterious John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), the film is often difficult to watch. Hanks once again etches out a character whose affable nature and effortless warmth endears you to him.

9. Cast Away (2000)

This story of a man stranded alone on an island not only contains one of Tom Hanks' best performances – it actually makes you feel for an inanimate object.

Wilson, the speechless volleyball that co-stars as Hanks' only companion, brings out the actor's best, giving us one of the most beautiful friendships ever committed to celluloid. The fact that Hanks can make us weep over his helpless cries for a lifeless ball is testament to his sheer acting talent.

10. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

This charming drama finds our beloved star donning a moustache and mile-wide grin as movie institution Walt Disney. The film follows uptight Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and her meetings with Disney, as he endeavours to adapt her beloved story.

Hanks is inspired casting as Disney, giving the icon a friendly demeanour while maintaining the hard edge one would expect from the man behind such a huge empire. Given his persistence, the on-screen portrayal of Disney could easily have become irritating, but once again Hanks' natural charm prevents this, allowing for another winning performance.

11. Captain Phillips (2013)

Astonishingly, Hanks wasn’t even Oscar-nominated for his powerhouse turn in this gripping hijack drama.

Director Paul Greengrass invests his characteristic handheld urgency into the story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. In the process, the movie’s gritty sense of realism helps strip any sense of false Hollywood bravado from Hanks’ performance, the actor wringing our emotions dry as the upstanding Captain thrown into the most horrifying of situations.

Just try not to cry during the closing moments on the medical ship – it’s one of the finest scenes from an illustrious career.

With The Post released in Cineworld cinemas on 19th January, we want to hear your favourite Tom Hanks movies. Send us your choices @Cineworld.

Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.