Tom Hanks: Breaking Down The Actor’s Iconic Career

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Tom Hanks: Breaking Down The Actor’s Iconic Career

Veteran actor Tom Hanks, whose acting career has spanned over 45 years, is one of the most successful actors of his generation. Hanks is also easily one of Hollywood’s most popular entertainers, having starred in evergreen movies across generations. His continued influence and relevance in the film industry is a testament to his acting talents.

Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing actors. His films, which have mostly been box office hits, have grossed over $9.96 billion worldwide. A better way to appreciate Tom Hanks’ career and contributions to the film industry is to follow his growth through the years. Here are 9 great roles in Tom Hanks’ career since his on-screen debut in 1980.

Big (1988)

Tom Hanks in Big (1988)

The 1988 fantasy comedy-drama Big is Tom Hanks’ tenth feature film. Coincidentally, this milestone performance earned him his first Academy Awards nomination. 16 years before the Jennifer Garner-led 13 Going on 30 (2004), Tom Hanks played Joshua “Josh” Baskin, a 12-year-old boy whose wish to be “Big” is granted. Like Garner’s Jenna Rink character, Hanks’ Josh chose to wish themselves back as a child. Tom Hanks’ performance as a child in an adult body received special praise. Big grossed $151.7 million at the Box Office on a production budget of $18 million. The movie helped position and boost Tom Hanks’ career in Hollywood.

Watch Big on Disney+

Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)

Director Jonathan Demme’s legal drama Philadelphia is one of Hollywood’s mainstream movies to have portrayed gay people in a positive light and also addressed the subject of homophobia and HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS was not understood in the early 90s as it is today. Tom Hanks played the lead role as Andrew “Andy” Beckett, a gay, super-talented lawyer who was fired because he had HIV/AIDS. With Joseph “Joe” Miller’s (Denzel Washington) help, Beckett sues and wins the case about his discrimination. To properly portray someone sick with HIV/AIDS, Hanks thinned his hair and lost 35 lbs. Philadelphia (1993) earned Tom Hanks his first Academy Award win. With box office earnings of $206.7 million on a $26 million budget, Philadelphia was the ninth highest-grossing film of 1993.

Watch Philadelphia on Apple TV+

Forrest Gump (1994)

Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump (1994)

For most film audiences, Forrest Gump (1994) is Tom Hanks’ biggest movie of his career. Hanks played the mentally disabled titular character Forrest Gump. Although it wasn’t the first time audiences had seen Hanks play a childlike character (Big), Hanks’ interpretation of the character is such that no other actor could have embodied it as it did. The Library of Congress preserved Forrest Gump in the National Film Registry for food reasons. Not only did Forrest Gump shape Tom Hanks’ character, but it also helped showcase the actor’s versatility. Tom Hanks won his second Oscar for his performance in Forrest Gump (1994). Forrest Gump grossed $678.2 million on a $55 million production budget.

Watch Forrest Gump on Paramount+

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The 90s was a pivotal decade in Tom Hanks’ career. If there was doubt about his acting talents, Hanks cleared all doubt with a masterful performance in Steven Spielberg’s epic war movie Saving Private Ryan (1998). The movie, made on a $65–$70 million budget, was a commercial hit, grossing $482.3 million at the Box Office. In Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks played John H. Miller, a gallant U.S. Captain suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Although Tom Hanks received his fourth Academy Awards nomination with his performance, he lost to actor Roberto Benigni, who played Guido Orefice in Life Is Beautiful (1998) at the 71st Academy Awards in 1999.

Watch Saving Private Ryan on Amazon

Cast Away (2000)

Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000)

Tom Hanks’ performance in Cast Away (2000) proved he wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan actor of the 90s. Hanks begins the decade playing a FedEx systems analyst whose plane crashes in the South Pacific Ocean. As the sole survivor, Charles “Chuck” Noland (Hanks’ character) is stranded on an uninhabitable island. Cast Away is an emotional movie that keeps audiences hooked to the end. The movie’s concept would later be used to develop the ABC hit TV show Lost. Tom Hanks’ intense performance did not go unnoticed. He received his fifth Academy Awards nomination with Cast Away (2000).

Watch Cast Away on Netflix

Sully (2016)

Tom Hanks in Sully (2016)

Tom Hanks is no stranger to biographical dramas, but he put up a stellar performance portraying Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Sully (2016). The Clint Eastwood-directed movie tells the story of Sullenberger’s heroic emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009. His last-minute decision to land on the river saved all 155 passengers and crew members onboard the flight. 36 years after he made his film debut, Tom Hanks’ performance in Sully showed, like fine wine, that the actor had aged well. Although his performance didn’t get an Oscar nomination, Tom Hanks was at a point in his career where he always received validation for his work. Even the real-life Chesley Sullenberger was more than impressed with Hanks’ portrayal of his person. Sully (2016) is a must-watch for any true Tom Hanks fan or admirer.

Watch Sully on Netflix

The Post (2017)

Tom Hanks in The Post (2017)

Movie audiences watched Tom Hanks play a role by himself on an uninhabited island in Cast Away (2000). Starring alongside some of Hollywood’s top talents only helped consolidate his status as a super-talented veteran actor. With Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, Hanks co-starred alongside Meryl Streep and Bob Odenkirk. The Post (2017) tells the story of The Washington Post’s attempt to publish a set of classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War and French Indochina. Tom Hanks portrayed Ben Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post, while Meryl Streep portrayed Katharine Graham. Both of their performances were critically acclaimed. Although Hanks received no Academy Awards nomination, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globe Awards.

Watch The Post on Apple TV+

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks portrayed TV presenter Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). The biographical drama follows Lloyd Vogel, a cynical journalist forced to interview Fred Rogers. Although Hanks plays a supporting role, his near-perfect portrayal of the historical figure earned him critical acclaim. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood gave Tom Hanks his sixth Academy Awards nomination. Although the movie did not cross the $100 million mark at the Box Office, it was still commercially successful, grossing $68.4 million on a $25 million budget.

Watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood on Hulu

Elvis (2022)

Tom Hanks in Elvis (2022)

In recent times, one of Tom Hanks’ most iconic roles of his career has been Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 epic biographical drama Elvis. It wasn’t the first time a biographical movie was made about Elvis Presley. However, it was the first to have Tom Hanks play a major role. Hanks portrayed Elvis Presley’s solo manager, Colonel Tom Parker. For the role, Tom Hanks wore a fat suit and prosthetics to change his appearance. Although Hanks didn’t receive any nomination from any major award association, Elvis is one of Tom Hanks’ most intense performances of the 2020s. If you enjoyed reading about Tom Hanks‘ iconic career, read about the intense roles that shaped Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy‘s career.

Watch Elvis on Netflix

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