best film:  Tom Hanks was perhaps the preeminent movie star in the 1990s. Now that there has been more than a little bit of distance between Tom Hanks’ best stretch of work – easily his best film from that decade is Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II spectacle is both jaw-dropping cinema (particularly the Omaha Beach sequence) and a model of superb screen writing and acting.  Since the 1990s, two other films in Hanks’ filmography give Spielberg’s film a run for its money – Sam Mendes’ 2002 film Road to Perdition and Wes Anderson’s 2023 entry Asteroid City (where Hanks handles himself quite well in a fine role amidst an ensemble cast that seems to feature half of the world’s most talented contemporary actors).


Hanks as Captain Miller in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan – bravura filmmaking and a leading performance from Hanks to match


best performance:  Philadelphia and the debate is between two films with Saving Private Ryan as the prime contender. Both films have tremendous showcase scenes to accentuate Hanks’ acting prowess. In Philadelphia, the microphone drop scene is the opera sequence – just give Hanks the Oscar right there (as they eventually would for the performance). In Saving Private Ryan, it is the slow motion nonverbal, hand shaking, distress sequences that put Hanks’ on display. The tiebreaker may be that Jonathan Demme (director of Philadelphia – and master of that close-up heavy style that is ever so actor friendly) gives Hanks a second such scene – this time it is a close up of Hanks as Demme’s camera holds on him up tight as Bruce Springsteen’s  “Streets of Philadelphia” song washes over himBeyond the top two performances, there is a lot of quality depth here. Slots three through five are debatable – Forrest Gump or Apollo 13 could easily slide in – and as mentioned above, Hanks pulls off his supporting role Asteroid City. The brilliant acting in the post traumatic epilogue scene from Captain Phillips is just enough to edge out those other performances for the final slot.


Hanks’ zenith as an actor – the Umberto Giordano Andrea Chénier La Mamma Morta  performed by Maria Callas opera scene from Philadelphia (1993)


stylistic innovations/traits:   Tom Hanks now has twenty-two (22) films in the archives with six (6) Oscar nominations and two wins (Philadelphia and Forrest Gump in back to back years in 1993 and 1994). Hanks has an undeniable gift for portraying friendliness – tremendously amiable. The talent for portraying goodness – the sturdy, moral leading man (certainly the heir of a persona like Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart – without their ability to have that dark edge) is self-evident. Hanks has challenged himself – from Cloud Atlas to Road to Perdition to Elvis – and should be praised for his willingness to take a big swing – but one has to admit he has not always landed on his feet with these attempts.


Hanks’ iconic Heart and Soul piano scene with Robert Loggia from Big (1988)


directors worked with:  Steven Spielberg (4), Robert Zemeckis (2), Paul Greengrass (2), Brian De Palma (1), Jonathan Demme (1), Ron Howard (1), Sam Mendes (1), Mike Nichols (1), The Wachowskis’ (1), Clint Eastwood (1), Baz Luhrmann (1), Wes Anderson (1)


top five performances:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Saving Private Ryan
  3. Cast Away
  4. Big
  5. Captain Phillips


archiveable films

1988- Big
1990- Joe Versus the Volcano
1990 The Bonfire of the Vanities
1993- Philadelphia
1993- Sleepless in Seattle
1994- Forrest Gump
1995- Apollo 13
1998- Saving Private Ryan
1999- The Green Mile
2000- Cast Away
2002- Catch Me If You Can
2002- The Road to Perdition
2007- Charlie Wilson’s War
2012- Cloud Atlas
2013- Captain Phillips
2015- Bridge of Spies
2016- Sully
2017- The Post
2019- A Beautiful Day in the Neighbhorhood
2020- News of the World
2022- Elvis
2023- Asteroid City