What are the best Tom Hank movies? There are few Hollywood stars quite like Tom Hanks, who’s become a cinematic father figure through his years of service on the big screen. Since breaking out in the ’80s, he’s graced every decade since with some of the finest pictures of that era.
His talents have contributed to rom-coms, Pixar movies, Steven Spielberg movies, war movies, and even a comic book adaptation or two. Though his performances have ranged from soldiers in WWII to adult children and toys, his charisma and friendly nature have stayed true.
With such a career, the best Tom Hanks movies can be difficult to discern. Do you want a romance movie, or maybe something louder? A gentle fantasy movie, perhaps? We’re the Zoltan of your film-finding needs, and we’ve got all of Tom Hanks’s finest films laid out for you, ta-da!
These are the best Tom Hanks movies:
- Catch Me If You Can
- Toy Story
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Apollo 13
- Saving Private Ryan
- Road to Perdition
- Captain Phillips
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
While this might not be your favourite Spielberg movie, it’s likely in your top five. Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio indulge in a cat-and-mouse chase through a tale that’s stranger than fiction and twice as exciting.
DiCaprio is the young Frank Abagnale, a conman who swindles his way into several high-level jobs through sheer charm. FBI agent Carl Hanratty, Hanks’ character, is on Frank’s tail, and every time you think it can’t get more ridiculous, it does. Catch Me if You Can is the kind of film you can never just watch a few minutes of without making time for the whole thing. And look out for this great cameo in the movie.
Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story would’ve fallen at the first hurdle if not for the immutable warmth in Hanks’s voice. He brought Woody to life and made him feel like a friend that’d stick by you through thick and thin. Pixar’s first animated movie had the cowboy learning some humility by sharing owner Andy’s affections with newcomer Buzz.
Once enemies, they eventually become allies and spiritual siblings, coming together to protect Andy’s childhood from harm. Hanks brings a natural affability to Woody, who’s become an icon for a timeless kind of playing the same way his actor represents an ageless form of stardom. Check our speculation on the Toy Story 5 release date.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Tom Hanks co-led a slew of the best rom-roms of the ’80s and ’90s, and though the competition is stiff, Sleepless in Seattle is what our hearts love the most. Perhaps it’s the long-distance nature of the central romance, where widowed Sam (Hanks) gradually falls for Annie (Meg Ryan) through snail mail.
Whatever the case, their chemistry is obvious, and when they eventually come together, it’s like something that was out of whack has been righted. It was Nora Ephron’s second turn directing, after writing screenplays for comedies like When Harry Met Sally… and My Blue Heaven, so no wonder it’s so effective.
Waking up as an adult is a fantasy for many kids. Waking up as Tom Hanks? Josh Baskin truly lived the dream. Once embodying one of our most charming actors, Josh heads to New York City to become a toy shop mogul, as one does.
The aplomb with which Hanks bounces around the Big Apple made Big one of the great classic ‘80s movies. Director Penny Marshall channels his charisma through a screenplay co-written by Spielberg to create an early staple that’s remained one of his most beloved parts, Zoltan machines dotted around in its wake. See how Hanks almost turned down the role.
Apollo 13 (1995)
A certain level of tact is needed when Hanks is one of your protagonists because no matter how bad things get, it’s hard for us to believe he won’t figure it out. Apollo 13 is one situation where it seems like he mightn’t make it home.
The hard science recounting of the failed mission has Hanks stranded in space as Jim Lovell, flanked by crewmates Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert and Bill Paxton as Fred Haise. Their troubleshooting and tip-toeing through a disaster is deftly carried by Ron Howard’s documentarian direction, which lets the truth tell the story.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Hanks’s shell-shocked face at having to endure Spielberg’s harrowing rendition of the storming of Normandy is a perfect reflection of the gruesome tragedy that unfolds. No actor is better suited, then, to retaining what shreds of hope remain, in this case bringing home the last living child of a family ravaged by war.
The rescue team is led by Hanks, who’s more than capable of pulling off the occasional action sequence when it’s needed. He’s always been better in the quiet moments, as shown by his final words to Matt Damon that echo through no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Road To Perdition (2002)
Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, and Paul Newman in his final theatrical role, directed by Sam Mendes. Road to Perdition is an incredible intersection of talent, all of whom low-key do some of their greatest work, Hanks chief among them.
His brooding turn as white-knuckled mob gunman Michael Sullivan might seem against form, but the reluctance in his eyes could hardly be captured by anyone else. Since the turn of the century, Hanks has become a firm Hollywood dad, and much of that characterisation can be seen here, where he pushes back on a violent world for a child to live more freely. Always aspirational.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Filmmakers can never control what becomes a meme, and a couple of scenes from Captain Phillips are firmly part of internet vernacular. Don’t think any of the laughs they generate represent the tone or content of Paul Greengrass’s tense thriller.
This movie based on a true story sees Hanks as the titular captain whose boat, the MV Maersk Alabama, is laid siege by Somali pirates. Carefully, Phillips manages to keep his crew safe without aggravating their captors too much, and the mix of empathy and cunning required makes it a role practically designed for Hanks.
For more silver screen heroes, check out our lists of the best Clint Eastwood movies, and the best Ryan Gosling movies. If you love film, check out our lists of the best movies of all time, and all the new movies coming in 2024. Oh and here’s the Tom Hanks picks.