5 Best Tom Hanks Movies That Fans Will Never Forget

StudyFinds compiles lists of consensus picks featured on credible review sites. We aim to lay out top consumer research finds for you by bringing expert rankings to one place.

Tom Hanks has charmed audiences for decades with his remarkable talent and versatility. He is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors. From heartwarming dramas to thrilling adventures, his performances have left an indelible mark on cinema. Join us as we explore the best Tom Hanks movies, celebrating the iconic roles and unforgettable moments that have defined his illustrious career. Whether you’re a lifelong fan or new to his work, this list promises a journey through the films that showcase Hanks at his very best. StudyFinds has done the research for you. Find out below which films 10 fan sites love most. There are so many more that could extend this list, so please leave your favorites in the comments below!

Best Tom Hanks Movies, According to Expert Reviews

1. The “Toy Story” Franchise (1995-2019)

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We begin with the most light-hearted Tom Hanks movie, The “Toy Story” franchise. Woody is such a fun-loving character and Tom Hank’s depiction of the character is bar none. “There’s no doubt that Hanks’ turn as the heroic cowboy doll in Toy Story is the best voice work of his career. Hanks has gone on to voice Woody three more times since this film, and he’s slated to reprise the role a fifth time. This Pixar classic has endured through several generations now. Hanks’ chemistry with Tim Allen, who voices Buzz Lightyear, is one of the reasons the movie remains funny and heartfelt, whether you’re watching for the first time or the hundredth,” shares The Manual

Pixar’s heartwarming saga of friendship introduced a new era of animation. Of them all, Parade thinks “Toy Story 3″ is the best. “The unexpectedly dark and bittersweet detours taken in its third act are among the greatest creative risks the artists at Pixar have ever taken and the most rewarding. Perhaps especially for millennial audiences who grew up with Andy, Toy Story 3 is a profoundly moving film. The fourth picture is often brilliant but more divisive, ending on an uncomfortably mature note.”

Woody is undeniably one of the most beloved animated characters. Tom Hanks brings an unmatched performance to the character and his friendship with Buzz Lightyear. “From his frustrated declaration of ‘He’s not a Space Ranger!’ to telling the toy-torturing Sid to ‘play nice,’ Hanks creates a fully-realized personality for the cowboy doll. The actor is once again playing a leader, but the filmmakers constantly make him doubt himself. His fear of Andy’s rejection is the motivating factor throughout most of the series. Hanks’ voice performance is a big reason for the success of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise. It’s a perfect confluence of writing and acting that creates a character that both children and adults have grown to love. With 2019’s ‘Toy Story 4,’ Tom Hanks proves the longevity of the character we have come to care for — even if he’s made of plastic and cloth,” states Slash Film.

 2. “Big” (1988)

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A box office smash hit, “Big” underlined Hanks’ credibility as a leading man and bona fide Hollywood superstar. Top 10 Films elaborates on the value the film had on Tom Hank’s career, “That he would then endure a relatively static commercial period with a series of flops before 1992’s A League of Their Own shows just what an indelible mark Big left on the actor’s career (including leading him to an Academy Award nomination).”

Again, the fantasy comedy that put Hanks on the map. The movie speaks to everyone in the way that The Guardian describes as beautiful: “who feels in their heart that they are impostors, deeply implausible as adults and basically bewildered (or excited) little kids. Hanks plays Josh Baskin, the boy who resents the rules laid down for kids, wishes to be big, and then … well … be careful what you wish for. Like no one else, Hanks could persuasively embody an adult with adult presence who is nonetheless someone with a child’s innocence and fun. (Try to imagine Tom Cruise doing it, and you realize how quickly it could be a scary movie.) It is never better demonstrated than in the giant toy piano scene, with Hanks joyously dancing on the keys.”

Can you believe this film is 35 years old? “Big” is still one of the most memorable eighties movies. The Manual gives us the breakdown: “Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin, a child who gets trapped in a grown man’s body after wishing for maturity from a fortune teller, has to overcome the trials and tribulations of becoming an adult while he’s still just a kid. The film is a poignant and funny reminder of the ways we wish away our youth, only to find out we should have appreciated our innocence. This movie earned Hanks his first Oscar nomination.”

3.Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

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If you haven’t seen “Saving Private Ryan” (first of all, please do), Tom Hanks is the hero Captain Miller in WWII who leads a platoon whose purpose is to find Private Ryan (Matt Damon) on the field of battle and order him home safely, because he is the only living brother. “Importantly, Miller is not a professional soldier, but a teacher in civilian life, someone who feels the burden of leadership keenly, but with great modesty and seriousness: a matter of civic values rather than macho heroism. He also has to try concealing that he has a tremor in his hand. The paradox of Hanks is that he is pure Hollywood star quality mixed with self-effacement and it works very well in a drama where the huge impacts of warfare distract you from the acting,” says The Guardian.

You can separate the history of war films into two eras: before and after “Saving Private Ryan”. It is one of the most influential war movies out there. Parade hails it as, “one of the great directorial accomplishments in cinema. The battle scenes are as remarkable for their awe-inspiring technical wizardry and authenticity (Spielberg famously didn’t storyboard the D-Day landing scene, as he wanted genuine spontaneity) as they are for being stomach-turning and, at times, almost unbearable to watch. After the release of the unflinching, masterfully immersive Saving Private Ryan, so many earlier World War II films just seem quaint and phony by comparison. This film is uniquely powerful for veterans and their loved ones.”

Tom Hanks plays the type of character fans love most; one who is good and can inspire others to support his mission. “In what is unquestionably one of the best films of Tom Hanks’ career, he plays Capt. John Miller, a company commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion who, after surviving the brutal landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, is ordered to find and rescue a missing soldier, PFC James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) whose three brothers have just been killed in action. The character of Capt. Miller plays to one of Hanks’ great strengths — believably playing a man who is good and who can inspire others to join him on a mission simply because it’s the right thing to do. For his performance, Hanks received Best Actor nominations for the Oscar and Golden Globe, as well as two SAG Award nominations — for himself and as part of the film’s ensemble,” adds Gold Derby.

4. “Forrest Gump” (1994)

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Slow-witted Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, has never thought of himself as disadvantaged, and thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field), he leads anything but a restricted life. Ranker gives an accurate synopsis of the movie, “Whether dominating on the gridiron as a college football star, fighting in Vietnam, or captaining a shrimp boat, Forrest inspires people with his childlike optimism. But one person Forrest cares about most may be the most difficult to save — his childhood love, the sweet but troubled Jenny (Robin Wright).”

“It’s not easy playing a character like Forrest Gump. Hanks nails it as Forrest navigates all of the political events and hurdles are thrown at him. This may be one of the greatest reactive screen performances ever, with the star deadpanning, 1000-yard staring, and/or wide-eying his way through history — sometimes literally, courtesy of a VFX team that drops Hanks into yesteryear’s grainy newsreel footage. Yet he somehow makes Forrest feel like a fleshed-out character, even if he is a guy who blindly lucks into meeting presidents, getting a ‘right on’ from Abbie Hoffman, and becoming a ping-ping champion and a fitness guru. Gump’s inability to comprehend the world around him doesn’t hinder his loyalty to friends, or his unconditional love for Robin Wright’s take-advantage-of-the-new-freedoms martyr; Hanks gets that the no brains, all-heart aspect of this hapless hero play like a feature and not a bug in Eric Roth’s script,” adds Rolling Stone.

Obviously, it made our list of best Tom Hanks movies, but fans have much to say about it. The Top Tens offers direct quotes from Gump fans, “Surely the best movie of Hank’s filmography till date. The character passes his lifetime chasing for love and when he finally achieves it, it is found to be dying. Thus, the tragedy of life is depicted very truly- one cannot be perfectly happy- he can achieve perfection in whatever he does but still, he has too long for something or the other.”

5. “Philadelphia” (1993)

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In an interview, Tom Hanks commented that his character is non-threatening, and because of that, the idea of a gay man with AIDS is not scary. “This studio movie about an AIDS-afflicted lawyer suing his firm for wrongful termination was partially designed to put a human face on the epidemic, which meant the star essentially had to flesh out a character and become the mainstream’s symbolic martyr for every person who was living with (and died from) the disease. Yet for all of the movie’s gravitas, you never feel like Hanks is giving a heavy-handed performance — there’s a surprising deftness to his scenes of confronting politely delivered prejudices or making peace between his lover Antonio Banderas and the unforgiving world around them, and sparring with Denzel Washington’s homophobic attorney,” shares Rolling Stone

“Philadelphia” holds two firsts; one for Tom Hank’s first Academy Award win and one for being the first movie to tackle the AIDS crisis. “To play Andrew Beckett, a senior associate at a top Philadelphia law firm who is trying to hide the fact that he is suffering from AIDS, Hanks lost a startling 26 pounds for the film that helped to persuade audiences that he really was sick.  When Beckett is fired by his law firm, he hires homophobic personal injury attorney Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who must face his fear of gay people and the disease from which they are suffering.  In addition to his Oscar, Hanks won his second Golden Globe for this performance,” says Gold Derby.

The Manual hones in more on the LGBTQ factor and homophobia, “A landmark film for many reasons, Philadelphia shed light on the despicable homophobia that pervaded American society throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a gay man who has contracted AIDS and is fighting in court over unfair dismissal from his job. The performance broke down barriers for other LGBTQ+ filmmaking to be possible in the future.”

Sources used to find these consensus picks:

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  1. Tom Hanks in “Castaway” saved my life after I was lost in Tongass National Forest in Alaska from August 16 – August 21, 2022. At one point his character connects a shoe, string, and walking stick to get drinking water. My remembering this saved my life …. I was able to get drinking water, which saved my life until I was rescued on my 5th day in the wilderness.

  2. I think all the choices of his best were good ones. They were not only good as stand alones. But also as the article suggests because taken together they show the breadth of Hanks’ creativity and range of acting ability. On that basis, I recommend his Greyhound. A film about an Allied destroyer fleet in which he portrays the CO protecting a fleet of merchant ships running the German UBoat gauntlet in the North Atlantic during WWII. His Navy Brat upbringing I’m sure helped inspire him in the writing, producing, directing and acting in the major role. Yep- he did all four and absolutely nailed all four. I was stunned that he didn’t receive an Academy Award for at least one. He merited one for each. I’ve rewatched it a dozen times. I’m a Vietnam vet and history buff. So I’m pretty picky and critical about the accuracy and realism in war movies. Hanks absolutely nails both.

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