Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks (photo credit:

You don’t get much bigger in Hollywood than Tom Hanks. At over $3.6 BILLION in combined sales, Hanks is the highest grossing actor of all time. He worked his way into Hollywood the traditional way, starting out with some low budget films and off-Broadway theater until he was able to get an agent. He landed a lead role in a television series called Bosom Buddies, and eventually caught the eye of upcoming director Ron Howard when Hanks appeared in a single episode of Happy Days.

That meeting led to his first commercial success with the film Splash in 1984 where he played the love interest of a Daryl Hannah, a mermaid. It was all uphill from there, with his breakout film coming several years later, and many awards and accolades to follow. To celebrate his birthday here are my picks for his top 10 films.

The Money Pit- 1986

There are probably a few films that deserve to make the list over this one, but it’s the first Tom Hanks movie I remember seeing, and it used to crack me up as a kid.

Big – 1988

One of my all time favorite flicks as a kid, and it still stands up today. This film established Hanks as a Hollywood power player and offered a glimpse into the variety of roles he can pull off.  After first seeing this movie I remember bargaining with my mother that I would take piano lessons as long as the first song she taught me was Heart & Soul.

Philadelphia – 1993

In a time when there was still a deep stigma around HIV/AIDS and homosexuality, Philadelphia bravely brought the topic into mainstream conversation. Hanks lost over 30 pounds for the movie in order to look sickly, and his heartfelt performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Forrest Gump – 1994

A year after winning his first Best Actor Academy Award, Hanks came right back to win another one a year later for his perfomance in Forrest Gump (becoming only the second actor in history to accomplish such a feat). The film, which chronicles the extraordinary life of a seemingly ordinary man, again casted Hanks into the spotlight as a serious force in the industry, and it also won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.

Apollo 13 – 1995

Tom Hanks portrayed heroic astronaut Jim Lovell who, along with his crew, piloted Command Service Module Odyssey safely back to Earth after a series of explosions and instrument failures that nearly destroyed the ship. Directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 followed the true story of events very closely, actually using official transcripts and recordings from NASA’s records.

Toy Story – 1995

Using revolutionary computer animation, Pixar‘s Toy Story was the first 100% CGI feature film, and it was a monster success. The lifelike computer imaging techniques developed and implemented by Pixar forever changed the course of animation, and the technology was even used by other companies to develop advanced video games and robotics. The vocal talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have helped the Toy Story franchise gross over $1.9 BILLION in ticket sales.

Saving Private Ryan – 1998

In this Steven Spielberg directed epic war drama Hanks plays Captain John Miller during World War II. Nominated for dozens of awards, the most striking scene of the film is the depiction of the Omaha Beach assault in 1944. The scene was voted the “best battle scene of all time” by Empire magazine, and many American WW II veterans have said it was the most realistic portrayal of actual combat even produced. In fact the realism caused some veterans to leave the theater because it brought back too many painful memories.

The Green Mile  – 1999

I loved this film about prisoners on death row in the 30’s. Based off a novel by Stephen King, Hanks plays a correction officer who is torn by his responsibility to enforce the death penalty on a man who he believes is innocent, and who can perform miracles.

Cast Away – 2000

Hanks really committed himself to this role. He first gained 50 pounds to look like a typical middle-aged pudgy businessman, then production was halted for a full year for him to lose the weight and grow his hair & beard out.

Road to Perdition – 2002

Hanks plays an Irish mobster during the Great Depression, who is hell bent on revenge after the mob boss’s son (Daniel Craig), murders his wife and son.

Honorable Mentions

A League Of Their Own – 1992

Needs to be included for the hilarious line “There’s no crying in baseball!”

Catch Me If You Can – 2002

I haven’t seen this one yet, but I’ve heard almost all good reviews and it has a ‘Fresh Rating’ of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on a true story, Hanks plays an FBI agent who is tracking down the notorious fraudster Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The Da Vince Code – 2006

I actually didn’t like this film, but I love anything that shakes up the system. I particularly enjoyed how up-in-arms the world Catholic community became over the “blasphemy” of the story line (I was born and raised Catholic so I’m allowed to poke fun.) The was a lot of uproar among Catholic groups in India also, with multiple (mostly Catholic-majority) states banning the film, and even the Indian Supreme Court had to intervene.