Top 10 Tom Hanks performances | Virgin Media
Top 10 Tom Hanks performances

Top 10 Tom Hanks performances



One of America's greatest living actors returns to Virgin Movies this week: the incomparable Tom Hanks stars in A Hologram For The King as a failed American sales rep looks to recoup his losses by making the sale of his career in Saudi Arabia. Hanks is a guarantee of quality and has never knowingly turned in a poor showing, which does tend to make it difficult to rank his greatest performances. Nonetheless, it's time to put our Top 10 hat on and give thanks to T. Hanks.



10. Tie: Sleepless In Seattle (1993) / You've Got Mail (1998)

Interchangeable for rom-com haters and inseparable for fans, Hanks' twin performances for director Norah Ephron are equally affecting so it's only fair they take up one space on the countdown. If we had to choose a favourite, Sleepless wins by a wink, with Hanks playing a lovelorn widow so charming he's able to woo Meg Ryan via radio waves, but You've Got Mail is probably the funnier movie of the pair, giving Hanks ample opportunity to flex his comedic muscles. Both movies are effortlessly lovely and heart-swellingly romantic: losers in love should take notes.

9. Road To Perdition (2002)

Hanks has spent his entire career challenging labels: he started out in goofy comedies like Bachelor Party before ultimately seguing into serious Oscar fare – not many actors survive the journey. But could he play badass? Specifically a cold-hearted hitman? With that lovable face of his? Hanks answered his critics adeptly in this rain-soaked noir from Sam Mendes, although the atmosphere was helped in part by co-star Paul Newman in one of his final roles, and by cinematographer Conrad Hall, who carves Hanks into shape with hard light and harder rain. But it's the former Bachelor Party star himself who steals the show, proving there's nothing he can't do and no genre he can't adapt to.

Road To Perdition is available now on Virgin Movies


8. Toy Story 1-3 (1995-2010)

Can you honestly imagine anyone else's voice emerging from Woody's mouth when his drawstring is pulled? That's the mark of a fine performance: when you put your stamp on a role – even if it's only your voice – and it's impossible to separate the actor from the character. Make no mistake: although Toy Story is ostensibly a kids' animation and doesn't have nearly as much nuance as the other films on this list, Hanks makes the movie. It's well-documented that the first draft had Woody as a “sarcastic jerk”, but when Hanks opened that golden throat of his, the Woody we know and love was born. Three movies, two billion dollars and one iconic cowboy later, Toy Story became an institution.

Toy Story 2 is available now on Virgin Movies


7. Apollo 13 (1995)

It takes an actor with one hell of an air of gravitas to deliver a line like “Houston, we have a problem” - luckily, Hanks has gravitas even in zero-gravity. The story of the fateful mission of the Apollo 13 crew had the world gripped back in 1970, and Ron Howard's 1995 dramatisation tapped into that exact same gripping tension. As astronaut Jim Lovell, Hanks commands the movie with a powerful performance full of heroics, humility and hubris – the scene in which he gazes lovingly at the surface of the moon, knowing full well that he'll never set foot on it, is particularly moving. Ultimately it's a story about the best of men coming together to overcome adversity, and there's little doubt that Tom Hanks was the best man for the job.


6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Inexplicably beaten to the Best Picture Oscar by Shakespeare In Love, Steven Spielberg's World War II epic is up there with Schindler's List as the director's most 'important' movies – and once again it's Hanks who sets the tone. Hanks' hero Captain Miller is the strong pillar that prevents the plot from crumbling; he's the driving force behind the entire picture. Spielberg is really the star here, in full, devastating 'War is Hell' mode, but you can't deny Hanks gives an astonishing performance: tough yet tender, stoic yet vulnerable. Miller is an unremarkable man called upon to do remarkable things, and there are few actors who can channel both qualities as satisfyingly as Hanks.


5. Cast Away (2000)

Hanks isn't often required to do much grandstanding – the kind of roles that scream 'Look how HARD I'm acting!' - but Cast Away represented his most challenging role yet: one that required him to shed not just 55 lbs of body weight, but the usual safety nets that come with making ordinary movies – this required him to go solo. Isolated on a desert island as crash survivor Chuck Noland, Hanks delivered his most raw, stripped-back performance to date, and with no co-stars to bounce off of (other than a volleyball named Wilson), he had to leave it all on the field. The result is a movie that's pure, undiluted Hanks: it's far from his most fun performance, but it's undoubtedly one of his most heartfelt.


4. Big (1988)

The iconic piano scene. The caviar tasting. The squash match. The 'Shimmy shimmy Cocoa Pop' song. Fittingly, for a movie about growing up too fast, every frame of Big bursts with youthful exuberance: it is, ironically, a movie which will never get old. Hanks – playing Josh Baskin, a small boy who wished he was an adult then woke up the next morning to find he was, well, Tom Hanks – gives the movie more shades of grey than it possibly deserved: it's no simple task to play a boy in a man's body, but that history of goofy physical comedy came in useful. Scenes that could have been squirmingly uncomfortable – like, say, the seduction scene – are quashed thanks to Hanks' boundless charm: it's a movie, and a performance, that's sweet through like a stick of rock.


3. Forrest Gump (1994)

Time – and reputation – has not been particularly kind to Forrest Gump; though the movie had good intentions, the role of Forrest came to represent the kind of Oscar bait movie that any Best Actor worth his salt should attempt (Ben Stiller sent it up perfectly in Simple Jack, the parody movie within Tropic Thunder). But to hell with what came after: Hanks performance as Gump is one for the ages – the complete dissolution of actor into character. Forrest's mannerisms, speech patterns, even his style, are all instantly iconic – I bet right now, you could stop anyone on the street and they could quote him, in a passable accent, and describe his clothing to boot. Hate on the movie all you want, but the reason it passed into ridicule is because Hanks' performance was as indelible as they come.


2. Philadelphia (1993)

The movie that earned Tom Hanks his first Best Actor Oscar, and deservedly so, Philadelphia will go down as the most important picture of his career – just one year previously, he was still plugging away in bland comedies like A League Of Their Own (although obviously, Hanks is amazing in that movie too). It's a very different Tom Hanks on show here: a timely story about a man wrongfully dismissed when it's discovered he has AIDS, it's a showcase for the breadth and depth of the man's acting abilities – the quiet dignity with which Andrew Beckett handles himself, even when visibly ailing, is testament to the bottomless talent at Hanks' disposal.


1. Captain Phillips (2013)

Paul Greengrass's kidnap thriller is the Ultimate Tom Hanks Movie: it features Hanks as yet another ordinary everyman forced to adapt to challenging circumstances, tapping into depths of character and wells of emotion in the process. It's a performance that comes together right at the close, when – after a whole movie of peril, none of it mild, most of it terrorist-related – Phillips is taken to a medic, and emotionally collapses: Hanks' voice breaks, his lip goes, his entire body shatters. It is a physical release of an entire movie's worth of torture. It is almost impossible to watch. But it is the perfect example of what Hanks can do: tap into reservoirs of emotion you didn't even know were there. It's the climax to a performance of a lifetime, and it's Tom Hanks at his finest.