Tom Hanks’ acting legacy remains unrivaled


Tom Hanks is the most accomplished actor of the last 50 years. With roles like Sheriff Woody, Forrest Gump and Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Hanks has made quite a career for himself. 

In the 42 years since his acting debut in the 1980 film “He Knows You’re Alone,” Hanks has put together quite a resume. His highest honor is the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2016. As for other awards, IMDb reports that Hanks has 211 nominations and 92 wins, including two Oscars, seven Emmys and a Guinness World Record for winning “Best Actor” for two consecutive years.

Graphic by Kenzie Akins.

Despite all these accomplishments, Hanks remains humble about his career. News outlets jumped when a statement from Hanks around the release of his novel, “The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece,” jokingly mentioned that he thinks only four of his movies are “pretty good.” While most fans can see that the Toy Story franchise has four movies, it’s hard to believe that Hanks suggested only four.

Hanks’ best series is the Toy Story franchise. He plays everyone’s favorite cowboy, Woody, and this is a family-friendly franchise with four films and multiple shorts for all ages. While many people debate which Toy Story film is the best, all four are the highest-ranked Hanks movies on Rotten Tomatoes. “Toy Story 2” takes the top spot, followed by “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4.”

With two Toy Story movies out before I was born, I’ve never known a world without the sheriff of Andy’s room. Woody keeps the other toys in order, but he also teaches kids how to work with people you don’t always get along with. Hanks always made me laugh and cry as he portrayed relatable issues through Woody, whether it’s finding purpose in life or saying goodbye to friends.

Woody isn’t the only iconic animated character that Hanks is known for. “The Polar Express” is led by Hanks as the train’s conductor. This holiday classic gives Hanks the opportunity to share its theme of believing in miracles, and he also stars in one of its catchiest musical numbers, “Hot Chocolate.” 

One of the funniest roles in Hanks’ filmography has to be Josh, the main character from “Big.” The movie follows Josh wishing to be a grown-up, and Hanks plays Josh in an adult’s body. This leads to many funny scenes like Josh playing with a puppet and slapping himself in the face. Hanks has kids of all ages laughing and brings enough jokes for adults to enjoy the movie, too. 

Hanks’ family films can be enjoyed by all ages, but when fans get older, they can also appreciate his numerous other roles. There are a lot of options for which movie to watch next, from sports and comedy movies to war and history movies. You can watch and be entertained by his work for your whole life.

For sports fans, Hanks plays Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan in “A League of Their Own.” This baseball movie takes place during the 1940s, when men were off in war and women played professional baseball. It’s also the film in which Hanks delivers arguably his most quoted line: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

What makes me like this movie so much is how it reminds me of my family. My older sister traveled around the country playing softball, and she did things that people said were hard to achieve. Dugan also did things that people said were going to be difficult, like helping the Rockford Peaches be the best team. Yes, there were hiccups, but they played well and got through tough times. 

You can also watch recent movies like “Elvis,” in which Hanks played Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Hanks’ antagonistic role is different from most of his movies. The closest Hanks character to Elvis’ manager was Dugan, and even he came around in the end. I’d never seen Hanks play a horrible person, and he’s known as a good person off-screen, but this performance showed how diverse his roles can be. 

While incredible movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Cast Away” add to his filmography, Hanks’ most famous film is undoubtedly “Forrest Gump.” Audiences and critics alike loved the titular character, who earned Hanks high praises and an award for Best Actor. It’s also filled with lines like “run, Forrest, run” and “life is like a box of chocolates,” making it one of Hanks’ most quotable films.

In his latest film, “A Man Called Otto,” Hanks plays the title character with his struggles after losing his wife, Sonya. This tearjerker is bound to tug at the heartstrings, though it can be triggering for individuals with suicide attempts. 

“A Man Called Otto” brought me to tears multiple times, and it was like no other Hanks movie I had seen. It isn’t funny like “Big,” sporty like “A League of Their Own” or a family classic like “Toy Story,” but it shows the miracle of life. One person is all it takes to change someone’s outlook on life, and Otto’s friend Marisol not giving up on him was touching. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of movies you like best. From his variety of films to the emotions he can make you feel, Hanks is a once-in-a-generation actor.

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Brian Rubin
Staff Writer | + posts