The 25 Best Tom Hanks Movies

And where to watch them

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The 25 Best Tom Hanks Movies

Tom Hanks’ big break in 1980 was as half of the sitcom duo Bosom Buddies alongside the late Peter Scolari, and while his affable charm was already on display, it was far from obvious that he’d one day become one of the most bankable and beloved movie stars in America. Hanks’ movie career would begin four years later as Allen Bauer in Splash, the unlucky-in-love young man who falls for a mermaid. It was the first of several films he’d anchor for director Ron Howard, and he’d also partner on multiple projects with luminaries like Steven Spielberg, Nora Ephron, Robert Zemeckis, Penny Marshall and Paul Greengrass—leading everything from comedies to epic war dramas. He’d voice one of the most iconic animated characters of all time as a little pull-string cowboy named Woody. And he’d write, direct and star in two features. He’s traveled to space, fought off pirates and survived a deserted island in his 49 starring roles to date, becoming America’s dad in the process.

Today we take a look at the 25 best Tom Hanks movies.


25. The ’Burbs

the-burbs.jpg Year: 1989
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

Watch on Peacock

Yes, it is true that the star of Joe Dante began to dim somewhat in the horror scene after classics like Gremlins and The Howling, but The ’Burbs remains a film that is somewhat overlooked today. A darkly comic story with a touch of the macabre, it initially looks like a pretty conventional comedy until Tom Hanks starts suspecting their new neighbors of having killed and eaten the old man who lives at the end of the street. The cast is great, featuring Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman and the diminutive (but hilarious) Henry Gibson in addition to Hanks. The star is at his spastic best, haranguing his neighbors about the disappearance and generally seeming extremely stressed—you can’t help but miss this comedic version of Tom Hanks, rather than the dour, dramatic actor he’s become. The cheeky cinematography only adds to the zany feel, as in the scene where Hanks and his neighbor realize the bone they’ve been tossing to the dog may well be from the deceased old man and engage in a protracted comedy scream while the camera zooms in and out. Gallows humor abounds, in what might be Joe Dante’s funniest overall movie.—Jim Vorel


24. Sully

sully.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 96 minutes

Watch on Amazon

Clint Eastwood’s new film, Sully, is a meticulous recounting of the actions of Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), best known as the pilot who saved the lives of an entire passenger plane on January 15, 2009 when he miraculously landed in the Hudson. An unambiguously heroic story starring one of the most likable movie stars in the world, Sully could easily be viewed as a preemptive career move on Eastwood’s part after the controversies around American Sniper’s biographical whitewashing. Yet, the most radical thing about Sully is its apparent disinterest in presenting this story as a thriller. Beginning with a throttling dream sequence, Sully’s opening belies its intentions. A better encapsulation comes minutes later as Sully corrects an official who calls the incident a “crash.” “It was a forced water landing,” he says assertively in a line of dialogue that would be arrogant coming from any other actor, but feels ingratiating from Hanks. In other words, by mimicking the harmony of the real-life events, this is an anti-disaster film. Sully is foremost about control, harkening back to Howard Hawks films like Only Angels Have Wings in its exploration and admiration of the complexities of duty. Hanks got several minor awards for his performance, but the film is ultimately a testament to Eastwood’s skills as a director. This is exactly the type of historical dramatization that Hollywood loves to churn out, but Sully doesn’t feel like merely a paycheck. Like much of latter-day Eastwood’s work, this is another flawed but thoughtful effort. —Michael Snydel


23. Splash

splash.jpg Year: 1984
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Fantasy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 111 minutes

Watch on Disney+

You know those moments when you unexpectedly discover you have crossed paths with a mermaid and suddenly you start wondering if that near-death experience you thought you had at Cape Cod when you were a kid miiiiiight have been something deeper and weirder? That! One of the first pictures to emanate from Disney’s spankin’ new Touchstone imprint (PG for mildly vulgar language?!) this mild-mannered, warm-hearted comedy, directed by Ron Howard, stars Tom Hanks as a lonely produce wholesaler and Darryl Hannah as the not-so-little Little Mermaid who saves him. From drowning. Literally, followed by figuratively. C’mon guys: metaphor! Aside from being credited with popularizing “Madison” as a name for girls, the film was a box office and critical success for its gosh-darned old-fashioned sweetness and for the great performances by Hanks and Hannah as well as classics from John Candy and Eugene Levy. Ron Howard is a natural at the Wistful School of Comedy and this film is a basically wall-to-wall feel-good. If you’re looking for a rom-com with sharp teeth, keep walkin’-but any fan of Tom Hanks as a rom-com lead needs to see this film. —Amy Glynn


22. Road to Perdition

perdition.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig, Tyler Hoechlin
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

Watch on Hulu

As he did in American Beauty, Sam Mendes here creates another grand tragedy. Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, Road to Perdition tells a captivating tale about a father and son—gangster and future gangster. There’s warmth in their relationship, but the outcome of it proves cold, something Mendes hones in on with the beautifully bleak cinematography. In this underrated take on the mobster family dynamic, Mendes does what he does best by focusing on the family and the relationships within when a son accidentally sees the darkness inside of his mobster father. Tom Hanks and Jude Law are great in their rare dark performances, but Paul Newman is exceptional in his final film role as the consummate professional mobster struggling with what he’ll do to his protégé (Hanks) after the latter splits on him. The no-nonsense, chill-you-to-the-bone-with-his-coolness Paul Newman from The Hustler, from Cool Hand Luke, pulls off a blistering final fight before tapping out for good. Starkly lit under heavy rain through DP Conrad Hall’s lens, Newman’s character stands stoically awaiting the flurry of bullets that are seconds away from tearing into him, perfectly capturing that aura Newman had cultivated over his storied career. —Staff


21. You’ve Got Mail

youve-got-mail.jpg Year: 1998
Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 119 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Some films are just pure testaments to the power of relatable characters and believable screen chemistry, and Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail is a prime example. Dramatically unsurprising and artistically unremarkable, it still pulls you in with its Jane Austen-esque lover-rival dynamic and general good-naturedness. The third rom-com collaboration between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (and Ryan’s most unaffected performance of the trio) is the story of the unlikely (yet inevitable) coupling between an independent bookstore owner and the mogul at the helm of the mega-bookstore that’s threatening to put her out of business. In real life they can’t stand each other—but in an anonymous chat room, they get along and then some. Sailing along on the sheer likability of its protagonists, and the actors who portray them—Ryan’s at her best in a grounded, just-plain-happy performance and Hanks’s kind of limitless plasticity is in full flow—You’ve Got Mail trades in “cute.” If that makes you itch, you’re in for a bit of scratching, but there is a genuine heart to this movie that will reel in even avowed cynics. —Amy Glynn


20. That Thing You Do

that-thing-you-do-poster.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Tom Hanks
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Charlize Theron
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 108 minutes

Watch on Hulu

A lovingly brutal, silly, and strange look at fame and the entertainment industry, the ‘60s-set story of the one-hit Wonders and their shark-with-a-heart-of-gold manager (Tom Hanks, also in his directorial debut) is a charming hug of a movie. That Thing You Do is just as deceptively sharp and icky-sticky sweet as its central candy-coated pop tune, with odd deadpan supplementing the wide-eyed comedy delivered by its young cast. Adam Schlesinger’s earwormy tune and Hanks’ abilities as a first-time helmsman/writer keep the film brisk and light even as it dumps on the business of being a star—and those Average Americans who’ve been trained by cigar-munchers to go nuts for them. But, like Hanks’ slick-suited cynic, That Thing You Do can still see the bright side. Charming turns by Liv Tyler and Tom Everett Scott compliment more broadly comic (but still excellent) performances by Johnathon Schaech and Steve Zahn, giving the film that extra oomph of comfort needed to keep its ending happy and its journey a fun little farce that never takes itself too seriously.—Jacob Oller


19. Toy Story 3

toy-story-3.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: G
Runtime: 103 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Towards the conclusion of 1999’s Toy Story 2, villain Stinky Pete asks Woody the Cowboy what he’ll do when Andy, their owner, grows up and no longer wants his toys. At the time, Woody did not have a definite answer for the duplicitous prospector. And the Pixar team could have left it there—ending on a an optimistic image of the toys mutually agreeing that they can’t stop Andy from growing, but they can enjoy the time they have left. Instead, 11 years later, John Lasseter and Co. actually made an entire movie exploring that exact question. Boasting both gut-busting laughs (Mr. Potato Head as a flour tortilla) and questionably intense drama (the toys being lowered into a fiery pit of death), this third Toy Story adventure was treated as an unequivocal success. Story-wise, the film is not horribly original, taking its escape plotline almost beat for beat from the second film. Yet, for any audience member who had grown up with Woody, Buzz and the gang, it was all about those last five minutes—when a college-bound Andy plays with his childhood toys for the last time. It’s the film that would make you believe a jaded teenager could cry. —Mark Rozeman


18. Forrest Gump

forrest.jpg Year: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, Rebecca Williams
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 142 minutes

Watch on fuboTV

Few films infiltrate the collective American psyche quite the way Forrest Gump managed. You’ve undoubtedly heard someone make reference to this 1994 classic—whether it was a classmate sarcastically yelling “Run, Forrest, run!” as you hustled to catch the bus, or someone busting out their best drawl to deliver, “Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates.” The entire film is full of dialogue that’s both moving and funny (my personal favorites include “But Lt. Dan, you ain’t got no legs” and “I’m sorry I had a fight at your Black Panther party”). Forrest may be a simple man, but his story is our nation’s story, and we all are run through the emotional gauntlet as we watch him hang with Elvis and John Lennon, fight in Vietnam and encounter many a civic protest—all while in pursuit of his true love, Jenny. Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance, and Gary Sinise is heartbreaking as Lt. Dan. —Bonnie Stiernberg


17. Philadelphia

philadelphia.jpg Year: 1993
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 125 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia is one of those 1990s prestige pictures that we don’t see the likes of much anymore. With a top-notch cast of stars and dramatic courtroom sequences, its Philadelphia is handsome and diverse, shot brightly and expansively (plus, it hits the classic rock jackpot with original music by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young). But within Philadelphia beats the heart of an art-house flick, and it excels not only in its delicate handling of AIDS, homosexuality and mortality, but also in its thoughtful examination of homophobia—all of which shouldn’t have been expected in a mainstream film at the time. Tom Hanks as Andy Bennett, afflicted with AIDS and suing his employer (a fancy law firm headed by a glowering Jason Robards) for wrongful termination, is, in standard ’90s message-movie fashion, more or less a saint: a brilliant, compassionate upper-middle-class lawyer with a loving partner (Antonio Banderas) and a large, understanding family. More complex is Denzel Washington’s character, a “TV lawyer” who agrees to take Andy’s case but struggles to reconcile his own knee-jerk homophobia, even as he becomes his client’s friend and champion. Philadelphia acts as an appropriate backdrop for these conflicts, and the film’s extended opening montage pointedly takes us all over the city, highlighting its stately humanity, as if to say, “This is just one small story of justice and tragedy. But there are many more here to tell.” —Maura McAndrew


16. News of the World

news-of-the-world-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch on iTunes

Paul Greengrass and screenwriting partner Luke Davies may have adapted Paulette Jiles’ 2016 Western novel News of the World at least in partial consideration of how far the United States hasn’t come as a nation—around the time of the book’s publication, such cursed phrases as “fake news” and “alternative facts” were inducted into popular language by fascists and crooks attempting to pull a fast one on the American people. Neither of these terms, nor their equally grotesque cousins, make their way into Greengrass’ film, but the spirit that conjured them into being four years ago is alive and well in his recreation of the American frontier. His hero is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks), a Confederate Civil War veteran who, having stood on the losing side of history, moseys across the Lone Star State and reads out-of-town papers to the locals at each stop on his journeys. The movie doesn’t exactly ask the viewer to overlook which side of the war Kidd stood on: In fact, the truth of his old allegiances becomes more unavoidable the less directly they’re spoken of. This is Texas. An erstwhile soldier in Texas could only have fought on one side of the aisle. News of the World damns Kidd without having to say a word. But as soon as the film judges him, it presents him with a chance at redemption in the form of a girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel). Zengel is a fresh spark in an otherwise old-fashioned production, but old-fashioned here is a compliment. News of the World has no interest in subverting or updating classic Western formulas: It is content with its function as a handsomely-made studio picture, built ostensibly around Hanks but with plenty of room for its young star to make her mark. What modernizes the movie has more to do with context than content. Anyone trapped in indentured servitude to social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or worse, other people’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts—should appreciate this calming two-hour reprieve from the unavoidable din publishers and platforms make in our lives today. There’s such a thing as too much news, whether for better or worse, and News of the World only tries to give us the best. —Andy Crump


15. Bridge of Spies

bridge-of-spies.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Joel Coen, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Scott Shepherd
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 142 minutes

Watch on iTunes

Once again Steven Spielberg tells a story set in the past but about the present: In 1957, American lawyer Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) is called upon to defend Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who is on trial for his life. Although taking the case makes him one of the most despised and misunderstood men in the country (not to mention his own home), Donovan throws himself into it with gusto. As he sees it, giving his client a proper defense vindicates and celebrates American values rather than undermining them. This is clearly Spielberg’s view, and there’s a superficially inspiring quality to the film—we’re invited to take pride in Donovan’s righteous stance and share his belief in the principles upon which the country was built. Yet that very sense of patriotism is undermined by the fact that the country in which Donovan and Spielberg believe is shown to be a place populated by morons who aren’t worth defending or saving. Thus the film takes on a strange, contradictory tone reminiscent of the best of Frank Capra’s work. It’s a movie intent on defending American values in an America where those values have been so corroded as to be practically nonexistent. Bridge of Spies is right up there with his most provocative work, yet it has a straightforward, deceptive simplicity—it doesn’t force its contradictions or complexities down the audience’s throat, and that makes them all the more fascinating. —Jim Hemphill


14. The Post

the-post-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, David Cross
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 116 minutes

Watch on ABC.com

The Post begins as a restrained procedural, sticking only to the facts surrounding The Washington Post obtaining, in 1972, top secret Pentagon Papers showing (without a doubt) that the American resolve for winning the war in Vietnam was severely diminished—the exact opposite mood the U.S. administration was claiming at the time. This strictly matter-of-fact approach would have made directors like Gosta Gavras and, yes, Alan J. Pakula proud. Of course, this being a Steven Spielberg joint, The Post can’t help but gradually bring heavy emotional tension to the film’s forefront, easing us moment by moment into a fairly manipulative yet exhilarating finale. None of that should come as a surprise: “Manipulative but exhilarating” might as well be the director’s calling card. The fact that The Post doesn’t stick to its apparent predecessors’ (All the President’s Men, Spotlight) dogged dedication to never clearly extracting strong emotional responses out of its audience might come across as a clear criticism of this otherwise airtight, tautly-paced drama with some of the best acting of the year. However, we are not living in subtle times. With the rise of authoritarianism here in the U.S. severely pushing back on the first amendment, explicitly declaring the free and open press an enemy of the people, the people need a populist piece of art with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. That’s why, in 2017, Spielberg is the perfect director to handle this story. Who better to rouse us, give us the passion and motivation we need to not only keep up the fight against such tyranny, but to hold out some hope for salvation as well? Depending on one’s politics, then, The Post could be the most important film of the year, or a pathetic piece of left-wing agitprop, but its effectiveness in eliciting a strong emotional response cannot be denied. —Oktay Ege Kozak


13. Sleepless in Seattle

sleepless.jpg Year: 1993
Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Rita Wilson, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 105 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Sleepless in Seattle is essentially one giant love letter to 1957’s An Affair to Remember from writer/director Nora Ephron. Rita Wilson gives a memorable teary summary of the movie, and Annie (Meg Ryan) watches it before writing to Sam (Tom Hanks) inviting him to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building—the way Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr attempt to in their movie—on Valentine’s Day. When they finally meet on the observation deck, the theme from An Affair to Remember swells, setting the mood for anyone with an appreciation for good rom-coms.—Bonnie Stiernberg


12. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director Marielle Heller
Stars: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Maryann Plunkett
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG
Runtime: 109 minutes

Watch on Starz

One of the best things about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is how stubbornly it resists what you think it is going to be. Sure, this isn’t an exposé of Fred Rogers: In this telling, he’s kindly and pure—but the film never lets that be the end of it. The easy piety of the public perception of Mr. Rogers, the idea that you can simply Be Kind and stick to that platitude and that will be enough, is one the movie roundly rejects. Rogers himself is elusive, mysterious, but he’s also palpable and tangible: He exists in our physical realm and runs into the same challenges the rest of us do, sees the same pain and strife as everyone else. In fact, Mr. Rogers is not the main character of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The protagonist is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, playing a fictionalized version of writer Tom Junod), a highly successful magazine journalist and new father who is cynical about the world and crippled with rage at his alcoholic father (Chris Cooper) for leaving his mother when she was dying of cancer. His editor (a charming, much-missed Christine Lahti) assigns him a short 400-word profile for the magazine’s “Heroes” edition of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks, of course), and the two men meet and talk. You think the film is going to go in a familiar direction from then on, with the cynic journalist having his heart warmed by the human kindness (that word again) of this American hero. And it does, a little. But the movie is more willing to get its hands dirty than that. It wants to put in the work. The film is anchored in Hanks’ inherent goodness and likability as Rogers: He might be too big and too urgent to truly capture Rogers, but he captures the calmness of Rogers, that sense of total presence in the moment. The movie argues not that we should all be like Mr. Rogers, but that when tragedy hits us, and anger envelopes us, we must strive for grace wherever we can find it. The movie is tougher, and more rigorous, and more interested in the hard work of healing than empty slogans. It is true to the spirit of Mr. Rogers without every deifying him. I bet he would have loved it. —Will Leitch


11. The Green Mile

green-mile.jpg Year: 1999
Directors: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rating: R
Runtime: 189 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

When it comes to loyally capturing King’s Dickensian humanist dramas, you can’t go wrong with Frank Darabont. “Another Stephen King adaptation that’s set in a prison?”, a lot of Shawshank Redemption fans asked upon hearing about Darabont’s follow up. I remember the hype and the skepticism around the film were running neck-and-neck in the cultural zeitgeist up until the release of The Green Mile. Many fans were excited about Darabont returning to what he obviously did best, while an almost equal number were afraid that a repeat of similar material would yield diminished returns. The Green Mile wasn’t the masterpiece many hoped it would be, but it’s a rock-solid epic drama with a heartfelt supernatural center. The magical elements, centered on a child-like death row inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan in a star-making performance, RIP) who has the ability to heal others with a simple messianic touch, are of course what set the two films apart on the surface. The Green Mile’s tonal approach is also a bit darker as it leads to more morally complex third act, with an ending that frustrated some viewers because of this, but impressed yours truly. —Oktay Ege Kozak


10. Toy Story 4

toy-story-4-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Josh Cooley
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michal Key, Jordan Peele
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rating: G
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on Disney+

We were all concerned about Toy Story 4. How could we not be? This is perhaps the most beloved animated franchise of the last 50 years, and, in the eyes of many, each movie has been a little better than the last one. That final one, Toy Story 3, ended in such a perfect, emotionally devastating fashion that trying to follow it up felt like the ultimate fool’s errand. And in the nine years since that installment, Pixar, as a company, has changed, becoming more corporate, more sequel-focused, more …Disney. What a relief it is, then, that Toy Story 4 is such an immense joy. It might not reach the heights of Toy Story 3—which manages to be a prison escape movie that also happens to be a profound dissertation on grief and death and features a surrealist tortilla—but it is a more than worthy member of the Toy Story family. Like its protagonist, it’s less concerned with trying to do something revolutionary just because it’s done it in the past and instead worries about what comes next …what the next logical progression is. It finds the next step, for Woody (voiced as ever by Tom Hanks in what honestly has always been one of his best roles), and the franchise, while still being as hellzapoppin’ and wildly entertaining as you have come to expect from this franchise. The overarching theme in Toy Story 4 isn’t as much death as it is loss—loss of purpose, loss of meaning, loss of value. What do you do with yourself when the best thing you’ll ever be a part of is already over? How do you find drive in life when your lifelong goal has been accomplished? How do you handle getting old and not being needed anymore? If these seem like heady concepts for a Toy Story movie …you’ve never seen a Toy Story movie. —Will Leitch


9. A League of Their Own

League_of_their_own_poster.jpg Year: 1992
Director: Penny Marshall
Stars: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: PG
Runtime: 128 minutes

Watch on iTunes

Of course, a film about women’s baseball during WWII is going to feature an outstanding cast of players (Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna), but top billing was given to Tom Hanks. His portrayal of a fallen baseball great trying to regain respect (and kick the bottle) is one of the actor’s finer moments and helped cement his title of most likable actor on the American screen. Who can ever get tired of that famous quip, “There’s no crying in baseball!” a staple that baseball commentators throw out like it’s their fastball? —Joe Shearer


8. Captain Phillips

captain-p.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, Faysal Ahmed
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 134 minutes

Watch on Starz

Captain Phillips proves that, while his imitators may do more harm than good, Paul Greengrass himself remains the kind filmmaker cinephiles are lucky to have around. Based on a 2009 incident in which a U.S. cargo ship and its captain were taken hostage by Somali pirates, the film marks Greengrass’ best work since 2006’s 9/11 drama United 93. What’s more, it’s the kind of film that will have you nervously biting your nails and holding your breath out of a sheer sense of suspense—and that’s even if you know how the true story unfolded. Captain Phillips finds its titular character, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), and his crew going about their daily, somewhat monotonous routine. Unbeknownst to them, a gang of Somali pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi, in a breakthrough performance) watches from mere miles away, plotting a strike. Phillips first becomes alarmed when he receives an email warning him of piracy in the area. Not long after, he spots Muse’s crew making their way to his ship. A defensive strategy fails, and the pirates find their way onto the ship. From here, the film divides itself into two distinct parts. The first sees Phillips attempting to stall the pirates as his crew, who have barricaded themselves in the ship’s lower depths, make plans for regaining control via traps and covert maneuvering that would make Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister proud. Once the plot truly gets moving, Hanks gamely disappears into the role, giving perhaps his most powerful performance since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Using his inherent movie star prowess, Hanks is able to embody both Phillips’ authoritative nature as well as successfully sell his cool-headed approach to the situation. Much of the film’s latter half, meanwhile, is predicated on his reactions and interactions with the pirates as well as his growing desperation. Watching the slow, quiet erosion of Phillips’ composure proves only slightly more harrowing than the film’s suspenseful set pieces. The character’s emotional arc eventually builds to a scene that, without spoiling anything, is so potent and raw that you almost can’t stand to watch because Hanks endows the moment with such an aching sense of reality. —Mark Rozeman


7. Big

big.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Penny Marshall
Stars: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on Starz

If you ignore the problematic issues inherent in a man with a 13-year-old’s mind entering into a relationship with a thirtyish woman, Big remains as charming as it was at the time of its release. Tom Hanks is an absolute joy to watch as the central boy-man and the iconic scene where he and Robert Loggia perform “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks” on a foot-operated keyboard is enough to warm the cockles of even the most cynical viewers’ hearts. —Mark Rozeman


6. Cast Away

cast-away.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Genre: Adventure
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 143 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

For a full 75 minutes in the middle of Cast Away, Tom Hanks is the only character on the screen, unless of course you count his now-iconic volleyball Wilson. Before that, the movie opens one FedEx package that we’ll meet later and another traveling to Russia, where we meet Chuck Noland, a FedEx exec with a toothache, training employees in Moscow and anxious to get back home to his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) in Memphis. The couple enjoys one very busy Christmas party before trying to sync up their very busy schedules until New Year’s, where he plans to propose. But it’s the last time he’ll see her for years, when the plane goes down in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles south of the Cook Islands. Washed ashore on an uninhabited island, Noland must survive alone, and Hanks must keep the audience engaged with no one else on screen. His efforts earned him a Golden Globe and earned the film $430 million internationally. Without the charisma of Hanks, the slow-burning middle third of this one-man disaster movie—with Noland suffering from his tooth ache, his loneliness and his withering grasp of sanity—wouldn’t have been nearly as gripping. —Josh Jackson


5. Toy Story

toy-story.jpg Year: 1995
Director: John Lasseter
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn
Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: G
Runtime: 80 minutes

Watch on Disney+

The one that started it all. Still to this day, Toy Story is a remarkable technical achievement (the first computer-animated film) and a flawless blueprint for all of the Pixar films that followed: start with a litany of standout characters (Woody, Buzz, Potato Head, Slinkie, Rex, and more); add a decidedly-sinister villain (in this case, the skull-shirted bully Syd); and top it off with a well-rounded, awe-inspiring adventure, and you’ve got the makings of an enduring classic. Few films can capture the true essence of childhood without featuring a kid as the main character, but that’s just what Pixar did in 1995 with Toy Story. The film’s hilarious (and heartwarming) competition between longtime toy-favorite Woody and flashy newcomer Buzz Lightyear wasn’t only entertaining—it explored themes of friendship, family and ultimately growing up. The film gave us our first peek into the legacy that Pixar solidified with classics like Up and Wall-E, not to mention three fantastic sequels. —Jeremy Medina and Tyler Kane


4. Apollo 13

apollo-13.jpg Year: 1995
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Rating: PG
Runtime: 140 minutes

Watch on Peacock

Among the most impressive feats of this Ron Howard tour de force is the way that he took an incredibly well-documented true story where everyone knows the ending and made it into such an intensely dramatic nail-biter—thanks, in part, to some reportedly extensive script doctoring by an uncredited John Sayles. Meticulously researched and painfully attentive to accuracy, the film is never more concerned with the nuts and bolts of the science and technology than it is with the humanity of the characters. Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton are all at the top of their game here. —David J. Greenberg


3. Catch Me If You Can

catch-me.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, James Brolin
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 141 minutes

Watch on Paramount+

For lovers of tongue-in-cheek and smooth-as-silk ’60s crime dramedies like Stanley Donen’s wonderfully twisty Charade, Catch Me If You Can is an big fat slice of cinematic comfort food. From the minimalist and pastel animated credits sequence, accentuated wistfully by John Williams’ jazzy score, to the breezy but non-condescending adventures of charming-as-hell conman Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio in a role tailor-made for him), this is a genre throwback that crackles throughout. In only his second role with the director (after Saving Private Ryan), Spielberg regular Tom Hanks, as an anal FBI agent on Abagnale’s tail, is the straight-laced foil to DiCaprio’s wild and loose youngling, but the real MVP here is Christopher Walken as Abagnale’s strong-willed yet tragically self-destructive working class father.—Oktay Ege Kozak


2. Saving Private Ryan

saving-private-ryan.jpg Year: 1998
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Edward Burns
Genre: War, Drama, Action
Rating: R
Runtime: 169 minutes

Watch on fuboTV

Despite its overwhelming scale, the economy of Saving Private Ryan is an astounding accomplishment of storytelling. Barely a year into founding Dreamworks—the studio he built with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, essentially allowing him free rein over his creative output—and cuffed by the relative disappointment of Amistad, Steven Spielberg created a nearly three-hour imagistic portrait of Europe in the waning weeks of World War II, all without once allowing the nightmarish breadth of the conflict to overtake the characters at its heart. Twenty years later, and the film’s opening 30-minute salvo, detailing in documentary-like grit the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, still stands as iconic war filmmaking, unflinching but so pristinely focused on the sheer weight of lives lost that it’s a stymying watch even if you know exactly what you’re getting into—even if you’ve seen it before. Within that initial stretch, brutal and breathless, we learn all we’ll ever need to know about the people who inhabit this literally foreign landscape, each character (played by such folks as Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper and Giovanni Ribisi) presented with the precision of a master who’s discovered how best to balance all that historic weight. For us Millennials who first began to understand the extent of what our grandparents endured as we came of age (as we became the age our grandfather was when he left for war), Saving Private Ryan was an earth-shaking film from a director who’d already reared us on big, blown-out entertainment. For us and anyone else, the film is a near-perfect, heart-wrenching feat that must have been given, as was the film’s titular mission to Captain Miller (Tom Hanks), to Spielberg by fate itself. —Dom Sinacola


1. Toy Story 2

toy-story-2.jpg Year: 2012
Director: John Lasseter
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: G
Runtime: 92 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Toy Story was a revelation of technology. Its sequel was simply a revelation. When Woody is stolen by Seinfeld’s Newman, it’s Buzz Lightyear’s turn to save the day. The toy store scene with Tour Guide Barbie (“I’m a married spud, I’m a married spud”) and legions of Buzz toys is priceless. Improving on the original in almost every way, Toy Story 2 took the characters we grew to love in the first film and separated them—usually a recipe for disaster. But in this case, with Woody discovering the rest of the round-up gang, the new characters are integrated impeccably, and the larger scale of the story allows the sequel to have more gravity. —Josh Jackson & Jeremy Medina