What is Tom Hanks’ personal ranking?
Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
During his long career, how many good films has Tom Hanks made? Twelve? Twenty three? Forty-seven? According to Hanks himself in a recent interview with People, the answer is four. And it’s with qualifying that these four weren’t “very good” or “almost excellent” but simply “good enough”.
Now, it’s entirely possible that this is just false modesty and that deep down Hanks agrees with the rest of us that the number of good movies he’s has achieved cannot be counted with one hand. However, it’s also worth remembering that Hanks has a habit of speaking quite harshly about his past work. As Anne-Helene Petersen notes, he once rejected Bachelor Party as “a sloppy rock and roll comedy that has boobs in it” and remembers wondering on the set of Turner & Hooch“Did I really work that hard and put all that care into a movie called Turner & Hooch?” Which means Hanks may not have just been a little cheeky in the People interview. Maybe he really believes he’s only made four “really good” films.
The question we are going to try to answer today: what are these four films?
Before we dive in, there’s a potential clue in this. People story. The “four movies” tidbit comes against the backdrop of Hanks talking about his experiences in film production. “Filmmaking is very hard work over a very long period of time that consists of so many moments of joy slapped against an equal number of feelings of self-loathing,” he says. The interview is based on his first novel, The making of another major cinematic masterpiecea decades-spanning look at the inspiration and production of a fictional blockbuster, which Hanks says depicts “”the accidental judgments and occasional slaughter” that go into a film’s saying to hold “a mirror on the nature “”.
Basically, “accidental judgments and occasional culling” would only seem to apply to live-action movie production, not animation, where every frame is painstakingly planned out in advance. This brings me to my first guess: Hanks doesn’t include any of his voice or motion capture work in his tally. He may very well think that the toy story the movies are good because he’s a human being with a heart and a brain, but making them is a fundamentally different process than what Hanks alludes to in having produced the four good movies. So no animation, understood?
Another guess I’m going to make is that none of these four movies were released before the early 90s. petersonin a 2001 Squire profileHanks has categorized his filmography up to and including the 1990s Bonfire of the Vanities like her “pussy” period, reportedly told her agent, “I don’t want to play pussies more… i want to play Men who have experienced bitter compromise in their lives and are trying to cope with “one damn thing after another” of what our lives are like. While his emotions may have cooled over the ensuing three decades, it seems likely that while Hanks sets the bar high for quality, he still feels that none of his early work would pass it.
What else doesn’t make the cut? Probably his directorial debut, This thing you do. Like Hanks said the new yorker in 1998, he felt he had “screwed up” the film by throwing too much of his weight. And probably The “Da Vinci Code”which he called “hooey” in the New York Time back in June. In the same interview, he also described The green Line as “one of the most presentational movies I’ve ever been in… heightened reality and not at all naturalistic”. He didn’t mean that as a dig, but if it was one of the four, he probably would have spoken differently.
In Hanks’ story about his career, he found no meaning until he decided to only take on roles that, as he said Oprah in 2001, “would entertain, educate and enlighten.” (At some point afterwards he added a fourth E, “exciting.”) It seems likely that Hanks thinks his four good movies all passed the test, and thankfully he spoke to Oprah about two titles that he thinks passed on that front. “People want to find out specific things about a world different from their own,” he said, “whether it’s how hard it is to go to the moon or how scary it is to be on Omaha Beach.” Here are our first two: Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan, which Hanks often fondly mentions in other interviews. In The New Yorker profile, he proudly mentioned how he worked with Steven Spielberg to reconfigure his role in Private Ryan the “one-dimensional war hero” he had been in the original script, while in the Time Questions and answers he called Apollo 13 “the first time I said, ‘This is the type of artist I want to be.'”
This brings us halfway. What about one of his Oscar-winning films, philadelphia cream and Forrest Gump? Funnily enough, Hanks discussed the two films with the Time this year, and his preference seemed clear. The headline of the interview was Hanks saying he didn’t think a straight actor today would be cast as a gay AIDS patient, like he was in philadelphia cream, “and rightly so…we’re beyond that now.” He was much more expansive on Gump, which he said was deeper than the “sappy nostalgic feast” remembered with its moments of “undeniably harrowing humanity”. You’re free to disagree, but it’s Hanks’ opinion we’re talking about here, and it’s likely that for him, Forest Gump is one of four.
We only have one free spot left. Last year, Hanks appeared on The Bill Simmons Podcast promote Bullfinch, which I don’t think even Caleb Landry Jones’ mom would put in her top four. But it’s a critical piece of evidence for our investigation, because Simmons asked Hanks this question bluntly: What would he choose as his top three Tom Hanks movies? (Simmons took the presence of Forest Gump in a top four as a given, which Hanks did not dispute, another clue that Gumpis on the list.)
Unfortunately for us, Hanks swerved in his response, giving Simmons his three favorite filming experiences, regardless of how good the finished work was. The first was A league apart because he was able to play baseball all summer, and the second was Castaway because it was surrounded by natural beauty. But the third was a surprise: the incredibly ambitious sci-fi flop cloud atlas, in which Hanks plays a multitude of roles, including an angry author with an earring. While ostensibly discussing what it was like to make the film, Hanks also raved about “the work itself,” which was shot “about a hope and a dream and nothing but a circle of love… This whole movie was so deep that doing it was magic.
That’s not the only time Hanks has mentioned cloud atlas spontaneously while discussing his best work. “I was in a movie called cloud atlas that went over everyone’s head,” he told the Time. “It said, what’s the point of trying to do the right thing when it’s just a drop in the ocean? But what is an ocean if not a multitude of drops? cloud atlas and typewriters – Tom Hanks loves complicated, clunky things that have charm even when they don’t always work.
So this is it. While I don’t think Tom Hanks would ever divulge which of his four films he considers “good enough”, we can reasonably infer that his personal favorites are Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryanand cloud atlas. I guess you could say Tom Hanks taste in his own movies is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.