Tom Hanks' 25 best movies, ranked

22 February 2024, 16:52

Tom Hanks' best films
Tom Hanks' best films. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

Tom Hanks is one of the most celebrated and versatile actors in Hollywood, with a career spanning over four decades and dozens of memorable roles.

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From comedy to drama, from romance to thriller, from animation to historical, Tom Hanks has done it all and done it incredibly well.

But which of his films are the best? Hanks has won two Oscars, four Golden Globes, and seven Emmys among many other awards.

Here are the top 25 films of Tom Hanks's career that you should not miss:

  1. The Da Vinci Code (2006)

    Tom Hanks stars in 'The Da Vinci Code', which will open the 59th Cannes Film Festival. Photo Columbia Pictures via KRT/ABACAPRESS.COM
    Tom Hanks stars in 'The Da Vinci Code', which will open the 59th Cannes Film Festival. Photo Columbia Pictures via KRT/ABACAPRESS.COM. Picture: Alamy

    The Da Vinci Code is based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, which explores the hidden secrets and mysteries of Christianity, especially the Holy Grail and the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

    Tom Hanks plays the role of Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology from Harvard University, who is called to investigate the murder of a curator at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Langdon discovers that the curator is a member of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, which guards the truth about the Grail.

    He also teams up with Sophie Neveu, the curator’s granddaughter and a police cryptologist, who helps him decode the clues left by her grandfather. Together, they embark on a thrilling adventure across Europe, pursued by a fanatical monk named Silas, who works for a mysterious organization called Opus Dei.

    Along the way, they meet Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), a Grail historian who reveals to them the secrets hidden in Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and the true identity of Mary Magdalene.

    While the film itself had mixed reviews, Tom Hanks delivers a captivating and convincing performance as Langdon, showing his intelligence, courage, and curiosity. He also portrays Langdon’s doubts and conflicts, as he faces the challenge of reconciling his faith and his reason. Hanks makes Langdon a sympathetic and relatable character, who tries to solve the puzzle and uncover the truth.

  2. The Polar Express (2004)

    THE POLAR EXPRESS -2004. Picture: Alamy

    The Polar Express is an animated film based on the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. The film tells the story of a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus and is invited to board a magical train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Along the way, he meets other children and learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.

    Tom Hanks plays six different roles in the film, using motion capture technology to animate his characters. He plays the Hero Boy (adult voice and motion-capture), Hero Boy's father, the Conductor, the Hobo, Santa Claus, and the Ebenezer Scrooge puppet.

    Hanks gives each character a distinct personality and voice, showing his versatility and talent as an actor. He also serves as one of the producers of the film, which has become a Christmas favourite for many.

  3. Elvis (2022)

    Watch the trailer for Elvis

    Elvis is a biographical drama film directed by Baz Luhrmann, which tells the story of the legendary rock and roll singer and actor Elvis Presley and his complex relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

    Tom Hanks plays the role of Parker, a controversial and influential figure who shaped Presley’s (Austin Butler) career and personal life. Hanks portrays Parker as a cunning and manipulative man who exploited Presley’s talent and charisma for his own gain, but also as a mentor and protector who genuinely cared for him.

    Hanks’ performance received mixed reviews from critics at the time, some praising his transformation and depth, others criticizing his accent and characterization.

  4. Finch (2021)

    Tom Hanks in Finch
    Tom Hanks in Finch. Picture: Alamy

    Finch is a sci-fi film that tells the story of a man, a dog, and a robot in a post-apocalyptic world. Tom Hanks plays the role of Finch, a robotics engineer who is one of the few survivors of a solar flare that destroyed the ozone layer and made the Earth almost uninhabitable.

    Finch is dying of radiation poisoning and wants to ensure that his dog Goodyear will be taken care of after he is gone. He builds a humanoid robot named Jeff, who he teaches to be more human and to protect Goodyear. Finch, Jeff, and Goodyear embark on a road trip to San Francisco, where Finch hopes to see the Golden Gate Bridge before he dies. Along the way, they face various dangers and challenges, but also bond as a family.

    Tom Hanks delivers a heartfelt and nuanced performance as Finch, a man who is lonely and afraid, but also hopeful and curious. He shows Finch’s love for his dog and his robot, as well as his passion for science and engineering. He also portrays Finch’s struggle with his illness and his mortality, as well as his courage and resilience.

  5. A Man Called Otto (2022)

    A Man Called Otto  Tom Hanks & cat
    A Man Called Otto Tom Hanks & cat. Picture: Alamy

    A Man Called Otto was directed by Marc Forster, and starred Tom Hanks as Otto, a grumpy and suicidal widower who finds new meaning in life after befriending his Iranian neighbours, Marisol and Tommy, and their two daughters.

    The film is based on the novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which was also adapted into a Swedish film in 2015. Tom Hanks plays Otto with his usual charm and warmth, bringing wit and emotion to the role of a man who is bitter and lonely after losing his wife and unborn child.

    Hanks portrays Otto’s transformation from a curmudgeon who hates everyone and everything to a compassionate and caring person who helps others and reconnects with his community. Hanks also shows Otto’s vulnerability and grief, as well as his resilience and courage. Hanks delivers a moving and memorable performance as Otto, a man who learns to love again.

  6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

    Tom Hanks as Mr Rogers
    Tom Hanks as Mr Rogers. Picture: Alamy

    A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tells the story of the friendship between Fred Rogers, a beloved American children’s TV host, and Lloyd Vogel, a cynical journalist who is assigned to write a profile of him.

    Tom Hanks plays the role of Rogers, who is known for his kindness, empathy, and sincerity. Hanks captures Rogers’ mannerisms, voice, and personality with remarkable accuracy and subtlety. He also shows Rogers’ depth and wisdom, as he helps Vogel deal with his anger and resentment towards his father, and teaches him about forgiveness and compassion.

    Hanks’ performance was widely praised by critics and audiences, and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He also received a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for the same role.

  7. Saving Mr Banks (2013)

    With Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks
    With Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks. Picture: Alamy

    Saving Mr Banks tells the story of how Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, acquired the film rights to P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, despite her reluctance and resistance.

    The film alternates between the present day in 1961, when Disney and his team try to convince Travers to approve their script, songs, and casting choices, and the past in 1906, when Travers’ childhood in Australia influenced her creation of the character of Mary Poppins.

    Tom Hanks portrays Disney as a charming and visionary producer, who is determined to fulfil his promise to his daughters and make a movie out of their favourite book. He also shows Disney’s frustration and disappointment when he realizes that Travers is not willing to cooperate or compromise with him. Hanks captures Disney’s mannerisms, voice, and personality with precision and subtlety.

    He also develops a complex and dynamic relationship with Emma Thompson, who plays Travers, as they clash and bond over their mutual love for Mary Poppins.

  8. Splash (1984)

    HANNAH,HANKS, SPLASH, 1984. Picture: Alamy

    Splash is a romantic comedy film directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Tom Hanks plays Allen Bauer, a man who falls in love with a mysterious woman who turns out to be a mermaid.

    The film explores the challenges and joys of their cross-species relationship, as well as the dangers posed by a scientist who wants to expose the mermaid's secret. Splash was the first film released by Touchstone Pictures, a label created by Walt Disney Studios to produce films for adult audiences.

    The film was a critical and commercial success, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and launching Tom Hanks' career as a leading man. Splash is considered one of the best romantic comedies of the 1980s and a classic of the fantasy genre.

  9. Captain Phillips (2013)

    Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' 'Captain Phillips.'
    Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' 'Captain Phillips.'. Picture: Alamy

    Captain Phillips is a biographical action thriller directed by Paul Greengrass, based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates.

    Tom Hanks plays the role of Captain Richard Phillips, the commanding officer of the ship, who is taken hostage by the pirates and held for ransom in a lifeboat. Hanks portrays Phillips as a brave and resourceful leader, who tries to protect his crew and negotiate with the pirates, while also coping with the fear and stress of the situation.

    Hanks delivers a powerful and realistic performance, showing Phillips' emotions and reactions in various scenes, such as when he is attacked, captured, beaten, and rescued.

    Hanks also develops a complex and dynamic relationship with Barkhad Abdi, who plays the pirate leader Muse, as they clash and bond over their mutual respect and desperation. Hanks received critical acclaim and several award nominations for his role as Phillips, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

  10. Toy Story 4 (2019)

    TOY STORY 4, from left: Forky (voice: Tony Hale), Woody (voice: Tom Hanks), 2019. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
    TOY STORY 4, from left: Forky (voice: Tony Hale), Woody (voice: Tom Hanks), 2019. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection. Picture: Alamy

    Toy Story 4 was the fourth installment in Pixar's Toy Story series, and follows Woody, a cowboy doll voiced by Tom Hanks, and his friends as they go on a road trip with their new owner Bonnie and her handmade toy Forky.

    Along the way, Woody reunites with his long-lost love Bo Peep, who has become an adventurous free spirit. Woody must decide whether to stay with Bo or return to Bonnie, while also facing a threat from a sinister antique doll named Gabby Gabby.

    Hanks brings his usual charm, humour, and emotion to the role of Woody. Hanks has said that he loves playing Woody because he is "a good guy who cares about his friends".

  11. The Terminal (2004)

    Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones
    Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones. Picture: Alamy

    The Terminal is a comedy-drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a man from a fictional Eastern European country called Krakozhia. Viktor arrives at New York’s JFK airport, but he is denied entry to the US and cannot return to his homeland because of a political coup that has invalidated his passport.

    He is forced to live in the airport terminal for nine months, where he befriends the staff, falls in love with a flight attendant, and clashes with the airport authority. The film was partly based on a true story.

    Tom Hanks plays Viktor with a convincing accent, a charming personality, and a lot of spirit and emotion. He makes Viktor a sympathetic and likable character, who adapts to his situation and tries to fulfill his father’s wish.

    Hanks has said that he enjoyed playing Viktor because he is a good and honest man who faces a difficult challenge. He has also praised the film for its message of hope and humanity.

  12. Big (1988)

    LOGGIA,HANKS, BIG, 1988. Picture: Alamy

    Big is a movie about a boy who wishes to be an adult and learns the joys and challenges of growing up. Tom Hanks plays the role of Josh Baskin, the boy who transforms into a 30-year-old man overnight. He works at a toy company and falls in love with a woman named Susan.

    Hanks delivers a brilliant performance as Josh, capturing his innocence, curiosity, and enthusiasm. He also shows his emotional range as Josh struggles with his identity, responsibilities, and relationships.

    Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Big. He also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Big is considered one of Hanks' best and most iconic roles in his career.

  13. Toy Story 2 (1999)

    TOY STORY 2 - 1999 Buena Vista/Walt Disney film
    TOY STORY 2 - 1999 Buena Vista/Walt Disney film. Picture: Alamy

    Toy Story 2 was the sequel to Toy Story and follows Hanks's Woody, who is kidnapped by a toy collector named Al. Woody discovers that he is part of a rare set of toys from a TV show called Woody's Roundup.

    He meets Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete, who want him to join them in a museum in Japan. Woody must choose between his new friends and his old ones, who are trying to rescue him.

  14. Road to Perdition (2002)

    NEWMAN,HANKS, ROAD TO PERDITION, 2002. Picture: Alamy

    Road to Perdition was a crime drama film directed by Sam Mendes and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.

    The film is set in 1931 during the Great Depression and follows Michael Sullivan, a mob enforcer played by Tom Hanks, and his son Michael Jr, who witness a murder committed by the son (Daniel Craig) of Sullivan’s boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman). Sullivan and his son become targets of Rooney and his allies, and they embark on a journey of revenge and redemption.

    In a rare dark role, Hanks plays Sullivan with a subdued and sombre performance, showing his inner conflict and moral dilemma. He makes Sullivan a complex and tragic character, who tries to protect his son and atone for his sins.

    Hanks has said that he was attracted to the role because it was different from his previous roles and challenged him as an actor. He has also praised the film for its visual style and emotional depth.

  15. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks
    Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Picture: Alamy

    Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a notorious con artist who impersonated various professions and forged millions of dollars in checks in the 1960s.

    Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who is determined to catch Frank and bring him to justice. Hanratty is a persistent and meticulous investigator who gradually develops respect and admiration for Frank's intelligence and cunning. He also becomes a father figure to Frank, who is estranged from his own parents and seeks validation and affection.

    Hanks delivers a solid performance as Hanratty, balancing humour and seriousness, and creating a memorable character who is both an adversary and an ally to Frank.

  16. Philadelphia (1993)

    Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington
    Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Picture: Alamy

    Philadelphia is a movie that explores the issues of HIV/AIDS and homophobia in the 1990s. Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a successful lawyer who is fired from his firm when they discover he is gay and has AIDS. He decides to sue his former employers for discrimination, with the help of Joe Miller, a lawyer played by Denzel Washington.

    Hanks delivers a powerful and emotional performance as a man who fights for his dignity and justice, while facing the stigma and prejudice of society.

    He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role, which was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to portray gay people in a positive light. Philadelphia is a landmark film that raises awareness and compassion for the people affected by HIV/AIDS and challenges the stereotypes and fears of homophobia.

  17. Toy Story 3 (2010)

    Toy Story 3
    Toy Story 3. Picture: Alamy

    Toy Story 3 is the third part of Pixar's Toy Story series, and follows Woody and his toy friends as they face an uncertain future when their owner Andy grows up and goes to college.

    Woody and the others are accidentally donated to a daycare centre, where they meet new toys and encounter dangers. Woody must lead his friends to escape and return to Andy, while also dealing with his own feelings of loyalty and nostalgia.

    Hanks gives Woody a personality that is brave, caring, funny, and sometimes stubborn, and makes Woody a leader who always tries to do the right thing for his friends.

  18. You've Got Mail (1998)

    HANKS,RYAN, YOU'VE GOT MAIL, 1998,. Picture: Alamy

    You've Got Mail is a romantic comedy-drama film that stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as two people who fall in love online, unaware that they are business rivals in real life.

    Tom Hanks plays Joe Fox, the owner of a large bookstore chain that threatens to put Meg Ryan's character, Kathleen Kelly, out of business. She owns a small and charming children's bookstore that has been in her family for generations. Joe and Kathleen communicate anonymously through AOL email, using the screen names NY152 and Shopgirl.

    They share their thoughts and feelings about books, life, and love, but they also clash and argue when they meet in person. The film explores the themes of identity, communication, and modernity in the age of the internet. It is based on a 1937 play by Miklós László called Parfumerie, which was also adapted into two other films: The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and In the Good Old Summertime (1949).

    You've Got Mail was directed by Nora Ephron, who also co-wrote the screenplay with her sister Delia Ephron. It was released in 1998 and received positive reviews from critics and audiences. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $250 million worldwide.

  19. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

    SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE 1993 TriStar film with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and Ross Malinger as the child
    SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE 1993 TriStar film with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and Ross Malinger as the child. Picture: Alamy

    Sleepless in Seattle is a romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron and starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The film follows the story of Sam Baldwin (Hanks), a widowed architect who moves to Seattle with his son Jonah after his wife's death. One night, Jonah calls a radio talk show and tells the host that his father needs a new wife.

    Annie Reed (Ryan), a journalist from Baltimore who is engaged to another man, hears the broadcast and becomes fascinated by Sam. She decides to write a letter to him, suggesting that they meet at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day, inspired by the movie An Affair to Remember.

    Hanks is charming, funny, and sincere, but also vulnerable and lonely as Sam. He delivers a heartfelt and nuanced performance that makes the audience root for him and his happiness. He also has great chemistry with Meg Ryan. Together, they create one of the most iconic and memorable couples in cinematic history.

  20. Apollo 13 (1995)

    PAXTON,BACON,HANKS, APOLLO 13, 1995. Picture: Alamy

    Apollo 13 is a movie based on the true story of the NASA mission that was supposed to land on the Moon in 1970, but had to be aborted due to an explosion that damaged the spacecraft. Tom Hanks plays Jim Lovell, the commander of the Apollo 13 crew, who has to deal with the crisis and keep his team alive while working with Mission Control to find a way to return to Earth safely.

    The movie shows the courage, ingenuity, and teamwork of the astronauts and the ground staff, as well as the emotional impact of the ordeal on their families.

    The movie was directed by Ron Howard and received critical acclaim and several awards and nominations. It is considered one of the best space films ever made and one of Tom Hanks’ finest performances.

  21. Cast Away (2000)

    'Cast Away' 2000 Tom Hanks
    'Cast Away' 2000 Tom Hanks. Picture: Alamy

    Cast Away is a survival drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee who is stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean.

    The film shows Chuck’s struggle to survive and return to civilization, as well as his emotional attachment to a volleyball named Wilson, which he uses as his only companion.

    Tom Hanks delivers a powerful and realistic performance as Chuck, who undergoes a physical and psychological transformation during his four-year ordeal. He lost 55 pounds and grew a long beard to portray Chuck’s appearance. He also earned an Oscar nomination for his role.

  22. Toy Story (1995)


    Toy Story was a groundbreaking animated film that served as the first feature film from Pixar. It is set in a world where toys come to life when humans are not around. The film focuses on the relationship between Woody, a cowboy doll voiced by Tom Hanks, and Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure voiced by Tim Allen.

    Woody feels threatened and jealous when Buzz becomes the favourite toy of their owner Andy, a young boy who loves to play with his toys. Woody and Buzz go through many adventures and challenges as they try to get back to Andy, who is moving to a new house.

    With huge stars like Hanks and Allen providing the main characters' voices, it ushered in a new era of critically acclaimed and high-grossing computer-animated family films.

  23. The Green Mile (1999)

    THE GREEN MILE -2000 TOM HANKS. Picture: Alamy

    The Green Mile is a fantasy drama film based on the novel by Stephen King. The film is set in 1935 and follows Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard played by Tom Hanks, who works on death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary.

    Paul meets John Coffey, a gentle giant played by Michael Clarke Duncan, who has been convicted of killing two young girls. Paul soon discovers that John has a miraculous healing power that can cure diseases and revive the dead. Paul faces a moral dilemma as he tries to save John from his unjust fate.

    Tom Hanks plays Paul with a compassionate and conflicted performance, showing his empathy and respect for John and his fellow inmates. He makes Paul a human and relatable character, who questions his own beliefs and values.

    Hanks has said that he was moved by the story and the message of the film, which deals with themes of justice, redemption, and faith. He has also praised the film for its direction, writing, and acting.

  24. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 1998 Paramount Pictures film with from left: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns
    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 1998 Paramount Pictures film with from left: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns. Picture: Alamy

    Saving Private Ryan is a war film directed by Steven Spielberg that depicts the horrors and heroism of World War II. Tom Hanks plays Captain John Miller, a U.S. Army Ranger who leads a squad of soldiers on a dangerous mission to find and rescue Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), the last surviving brother of four siblings who have been killed in action.

    Along the way, they face many obstacles and enemies, as well as moral dilemmas and personal conflicts. The film is known for its realistic and graphic portrayal of combat, especially the opening scene that recreates the Normandy landings on Omaha Beach.

    The film also explores the themes of sacrifice, duty, loyalty, and humanity in war. It is based on a screenplay by Robert Rodat, who was inspired by the true stories of the Niland brothers and other families who lost multiple sons in the war.

    The film received critical acclaim and commercial success. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Director for Spielberg, and was nominated for six more, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Hanks. It is widely considered one of the best war films ever made and one of Spielberg’s masterpieces.

  25. Forrest Gump (1994)

    TOM HANKS, FORREST GUMP, 1994. Picture: Alamy

    Forrest Gump is a 1994 American comedy-drama film that tells the story of a kind-hearted and simple-minded man who witnesses and participates in many historical events of the 20th century.

    Tom Hanks plays the title character, Forrest Gump, who narrates his life story to strangers at a bus stop. Hanks delivers a remarkable performance as a man who overcomes his physical and mental challenges and achieves success in various fields, such as football, ping pong, shrimping, and running. He also experiences love, loss, friendship, and war.

    Hanks won his second Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. The film also won five other Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Forrest Gump is widely considered as one of the best films of all time and a cultural icon of American cinema.