Critic's Picks: Tom Hanks' Films Ranked Worst to Best

6:00 AM 7/9/2016

by John DeFore

See where 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Turner & Hooch' fall on the list.

Courtesy of Photofest

Tom Hanks turned 60 this year, and if he won't pause to look back, The Hollywood Reporter will do it for him.

Counting only his live-action features means that we omit one beloved Hanks role (yes, the Toy Story trilogy). But it also allows us to forget a certain Dungeons and Dragons rip-off flick that might rank somewhere below last place.

  1. 38
    38

    He Knows You're Alone

    1980

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Hanks barely registers in his big-screen debut, a generic entry in the ranks of '80s slasher pix.

  2. 37
    38

    Every Time We Say Goodbye

    1986

    Courtesy of Photofest

    This oddball (and all but forgotten) entry in Hanks’ 1980s filmography, by Israeli director Moshe Mizrahi, had him playing a Protestant WWII pilot who romances a Jewish woman after being shot down in African airspace.

  3. 36
    38

    The Man With One Red Shoe

    1985

    Courtesy of Photofest

    An ill-conceived remake of 1972's French farce The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, this wrong-man spy comedy makes a concert violinist the target of CIA surveillance.

  4. 35
    38

    Dragnet

    1987

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The best thing about this early effort to milk an old TV show for a wink-stuffed remake was probably the Art of Noise cover of the show's musical theme. Even that wasn't as appealing as the original.

  5. 34
    38

    Turner & Hooch

    1989

    Courtesy of Photofest

    In 1989, the price of maintaining an upwardly-mobile movie career was making a buddy-cop flick — not with Nick Nolte or Bruce Willis, but a jowly, drooly mastiff. Hang in there, Tom, it gets better.

  6. 33
    38

    Punchline

    1988

    Courtesy of Photofest

    One of his early drama/comedy pairings found Hanks alongside Sally Field, both as nonperformers hoping to succeed in stand-up. With actual jokesters in the roles (and writing the script), its decades-early obsession with the brick-back-wall scene might have worked.

  7. 32
    38

    Volunteers

    1985

    Courtesy of Photofest

    An aristocrat slums in the Peace Corps for this one, which paired Hanks with an often-offscreen John Candy. It also teamed him with wife-to-be Rita Wilson, whom he first met on Bosom Buddies.

  8. 31
    38

    Bachelor Party

    1984

    Courtesy of Photofest

    This is the film one imagines, presumably, when one guesses that the teen horndogs who made 1981's Porky's a hit are ready to identify with man-boys of legal drinking age. 

  9. 30
    38

    The 'Burbs / The Money Pit (tie)

    1989 / 1986

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Suburban Americans mired in '80s consumerism, tearing their hair out over problems much of the world would consider self-inflicted: This was actually one movie marketed under two different titles, right?

  10. 29
    38

    The Bonfire of the Vanities

    1990

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Brian De Palma's stab at Tom Wolfe's era-defining novel is one of Hollywood's most famous calamities, from production (as detailed in The Devil's Candy) to reviews to receipts. Still, ambition alone makes it more rewatchable than most of Hanks’ '80s outings.

  11. 28
    38

    Nothing in Common

    1986

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Hanks’ first stab at drama (with Jackie Gleason playing his father) was too reliant on glib comic banter to hold together on its own terms, barely hinting at the finesse with which the actor would later mix seriousness and charm.

  12. 27
    38

    Inferno / Angels & Demons / The Da Vinci Code (three-way tie)

    2016 / 2009 / 2006

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Was the sequel to Dan Brown's thrill-free conspiracy-theory potboiler really better than the first, or did the first just train viewers to accept the hogwash? THR called Robert Langdon's return in 2016's Inferno, "arguably the best in the franchise so far" — due to "not that surprising" but "satisfyingly delivered" twists, "a strong supporting cast ... plus striking dream imagery" — but conceded "that’s not a high bar to jump."

     

  13. 26
    38

    Larry Crowne

    2011

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    A well-intentioned but far from biting rom-com for victims of the Great Recession, Hanks’ sophomore feature as director was co-written by Nia Vardalos (whose Big Fat Greek Wedding made producer Hanks a pile of cash).

  14. 25
    38

    Joe Versus the Volcano

    1990

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The inauspicious directing debut of Moonstruck scribe John Patrick Shanley (later to rebound with 2008's Doubt) has attracted some defenders in the decades since it bombed at the box office, but remains most notable for being the first pairing of Hanks with co-star Meg Ryan.

  15. 24
    38

    A Hologram for the King

    2016

    Helmut Prein

    Dave Eggers' novel, about a businessman hoping to sell a teleconferencing invention to an absent Saudi king, loses much of its philosophical juice in this year's adaptation by Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer.

  16. 23
    38

    The Terminal

    2004

    Photofest

    This reality-inspired fable is the least of the collaborations between Hanks and Steven Spielberg, a surprisingly prosaic take on an intriguing limbo-drifting premise.

  17. 22
    38

    Splash

    1984

    Photofest

    This tale of mermaid/man love was the first of several collaborations with director Ron Howard, whose career behind the camera may be the best Heartland-pleasing analogue for the career of Hanks in front of it.

  18. 21
    38

    The Ladykillers

    2004

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The actor's most out-there performance to date caps what is, arguably, the Coen Brothers' worst film, whose scenery gets chewed to bits and whose racial caricatures provoke discomfort. But the Coens at their worst are better than most others on a good day …

  19. 20
    38

    Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

    2011

    Courtesy of Photofest

    As a father whose death on 9/11 reveals a mystery for his son to solve, Hanks bears no blame for director Stephen Daldry's more manipulative choices. But this exercise in eccentric grieving should have stayed on the pages of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel.

  20. 19
    38

    The Great Buck Howard

    2008

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Hanks took a small part playing the father of real-life son Colin Hanks in this story of an illusionist (John Malkovich) who has fallen from talk-show fame.

  21. 18
    38

    Cloud Atlas

    2012

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Playing a half-dozen characters in this hugely ambitious take on David Mitchell's splintery novel, Hanks helped sell the idea that such heady fare might work as a multiplex blockbuster. It didn't, but history should be kinder to this than to the Wachowskis' other post-Matrix efforts to date.

  22. 17
    38

    A League of Their Own

    1992

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Notable on this list largely as the earliest good view fans got of the ways Hanks could play up his ornery side without sacrificing likeability, this story of a 1940s women's baseball team reunited him with Big director Penny Marshall.

  23. 16
    38

    Saving Mr. Banks

    2013

    Disney

    A figure as culturally monumental as Walt Disney deserved something more thoughtful than this lightweight exercise in corporate self-mythologizing, in which Uncle Walt charms the stiff author (Emma Thompson) behind Mary Poppins.

  24. 15
    38

    The Green Mile

    1999

    Courtesy of Photofest

    A well-crafted picture whose popular esteem outstrips its merits, this sentimental Stephen King adaptation by Frank Darabont (a follow-up to the similarly overrated Shawshank Redemption) casts Hanks as a folksy prison guard witnessing miracles on Death Row.

  25. 14
    38

    That Thing You Do!

    1996

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Uncomplicated nostalgia made for good fun in the first feature Hanks directed (and wrote), a 1960s rock 'n' roll pic in which he plays a musical foursome's ethically flexible manager.

  26. 13
    38

    Forrest Gump

    1994

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Robert Zemeckis' grandiose celebration of dumb luck sits, as of this writing, at No. 13 on IMDb's best movies list. That's best of all time. More truthful would be to say it's shameless, but expert viewer manipulation makes it about the 13th best film in history that starred Tom Hanks.

  27. 12
    38

    Sleepless in Seattle / You've Got Mail (tie)

    1993 / 1998

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The twin commercial high points of Nora Ephron's directing career, these ingratiating rom-coms epitomize the secondhand romantic aesthetic of their day. With Hanks and Meg Ryan onscreen together, though, viewers forgave all sorts of things.

  28. 11
    38

    Philadelphia

    1993

    Courtesy of Photofest

    A difficult film to divorce from its historical context, Jonathan Demme's AIDS picture wasn't striving for subtlety; it employed heavy hitters Hanks and Denzel Washington to make viewers identify with a patient who might have frightened them in real life. All else aside, it marked a huge leap for Hanks as a dramatic actor.

  29. 10
    38

    Road to Perdition

    2002

    Courtesy of Photofest

    After blowing minds with his debut American Beauty, Sam Mendes played it safe in this excessively polished but seductive gangster film, in which Hanks served as a top advisor to Paul Newman's Irish mob boss.

  30. 9
    38

    'Sully'

    Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros.

    The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy calls the film, in which Hanks plays the "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot, a "vigorous and involving salute to professionalism and being good at your job," which "vividly portrays the physical realities and human elements in the dramatic safe landing of a crippled US Airways jet on the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009."

    Of Hanks as Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in the "elegant and eloquent docudrama," McCarthy writes, "Made up to look older than his years, Hanks confidently carries the film as a man of undoubted decency and judgment who is nonetheless made to question, however incorrectly and briefly, actions prudently made under conditions of great stress."

  31. 8
    38

    Charlie Wilson's War

    2007

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Mike Nichols' rollicking swan song makes Hanks and Julia Roberts the unlikely benefactors of covert U.S. operations against commies in Afghanistan. Philip Seymour Hoffman stole the show, but there was plenty of fun to go around.

  32. 7
    38

    Bridge of Spies

    2015

    Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

    Spielberg's follow-up to Lincoln was every bit as fascinated with procedural detail. But where the earlier film is commanded by a single can't-watch-anything-else presidential performance, Hanks and the captivating Mark Rylance share the screen to wonderful effect.

  33. 6
    38

    Catch Me If You Can

    2002

    Photofest

    Hanks scores a big one here, holding our attention in the face of a protagonist — Leonardo DiCaprio's high-flying con man — whose exploits threaten to make all those around him look like dullards.

  34. 5
    38

    Cast Away

    2000

    Courtesy of Photofest

    You forget there was a "before" and "after" in Cast Away, remembering the surprisingly long chunk of the film Hanks carries all by himself (imaginary friend or none) on that lonely island.

  35. 4
    38

    Big

    1988

    Photofest

    Hanks' endearing qualities carried him through eight starring roles before he got a vehicle worthy of him — this charmer about a kid who magically acquires an adult's body.

  36. 3
    38

    Apollo 13

    1995

    Photofest

    Ron Howard's best film locked Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton together in a crippled spaceship bound for the moon. The true-life nail biter that ensued was as claustrophobic and tense as The Right Stuff was elating and expansive.

  37. 2
    38

    Saving Private Ryan

    1998

    DreamWorks/Courtesy of Everett Collection

    Few, if any, pictures have made as fine use of Hanks' place in the American psyche as Spielberg's universally acclaimed war film. But it doesn't take a radical revisionist to feel qualms about the "greatest generation" glorification Ryan ushered in, much of it produced or otherwise endorsed by Hanks.

  38. 1
    38

    Captain Phillips

    2013

    Sony Pictures

    For an actor identified with sentiment-friendly American auteurs like Spielberg and Howard, a Paul Greengrass hostage picture stands out. But Hanks matches the Brit here for steely, desperate action, providing an excellent viewer surrogate while Greengrass ensures we understand his tormentors too well to demonize them.

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