Tom Hanks: Angel… or Demon? His Best and Worst Roles

Angels and Demons opens this weekend, and boy, does it look... exactly the same as The Da Vinci Code, except this time Tom Hanks has a decent haircut. And when the defining characteristic of your lead character is his haircut, you may be in trouble. (In other words, don't expect to beat Star Trek, Tom.) We're kinda disappointed, because usually Hanks delivers memorable, distinctive performances, whether good (Philadelphia) or bad (Bosom Buddies). Putting aside his famously Oscar-winning performance and his first steady cross-dressing job, we thought we'd run down the five roles that make Hanks a saint in our eyes, and the five that make him the devil.


Capt. John Miller, Saving Private Ryan
This was not your ordinary war picture, and Miller was not your ordinary soldier. Hanks played him with a sly sense of humor, the appropriate amount of fear, and a quiet intelligence befitting his former life as a schoolteacher. And Hanks has that great barking-orders voice.

Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own
"There's no crying in baseball!" Hanks' delivery of that line alone would earn him our love, but his general drunken surliness in this movie -- mocking umpires, peeing in front of his all-woman team and throwing a glove at one of their kids -- makes him a classic character. Could he be any more disgusting? No, no he couldn't.

Joe Banks, Joe vs. the Volcano
Before you mock us for looooooving this movie, consider his sad-sack performance as a beaten-down cog in the sales department of a prosthesis factory. Blinking in rhythm with the flickering fluorescents, we buy that the hypochondriac would fall for a diagnosis as ludicrous as a "brain cloud." His farewell rant to Dan Hedaya is pure artistry, and we could watch him debate whether or not to throw his hat into the water for hours.

Woody, Toy Story
You may call it cheating to include a Pixar animated character, but Hanks' vocal inflections make Woody one of the most beloved characters in animation, despite the fact that he spends much of the first movie trying to get rid of Buzz Lightyear. It makes us actually want to see Hanks play a real-life cowboy.

Det. Scott Turner, Turner & Hooch
How does the human half of a man-dog duo make it onto this list? By imbuing what could have been another K9 with enough heart and soul to elevate it to a higher plane. It's not just a buddy-cop movie, it's a touching story of a man who finds and (SPOILER, we guess) loses his best friend. We're tearing up even as we remember Hanks breaking down in the vet's office at the end, and laughing as we remember Hanks spending one entire scene in little black underwear. That's one for the ladies...


Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump
Hanks' other Oscar win, Forrest is essentially a one-note character, and Hanks hits that note repeatedly for over two hours. Yes, he's scared, yes, he's sad, yes, he's happy, but through it all he speaks in that same stilted dumb-guy drawl. Also, it inspired everyone (Cuba Gooding Jr., Sean Penn) to want to play a similar part, which is unforgiveable.

Joe Fox, You've Got Mail
First of all, Hanks is no Jimmy Stewart. But even if he was, we would never have cared for Jimmy in the role of an elitist bookstore chain heir (whose boat is slightly smaller than his father's and grandfather's boats) "stuck" in a relationship with an obviously annoying Parker Posey while slowly driving the adorable Meg Ryan's family bookstore out of business. Then, when he discovers that Ryan is the woman he's been talking to online, he proceeds to pretend it's not him, all the while giving her romantic advice. That's called a slimeball move, and it does not make you a catch.

Lawrence Bourne III, Volunteers
Volunteers is one of our guilty pleasures, and Hanks' wife Rita Wilson is lovely in it, but what is with Hanks' cartoonishly upper-crust accent in this movie? He's like a poorly developed Saturday Night Live character.

Professor G.H. Dorr, The Ladykillers
We're still trying to figure out what the Coen Brothers were thinking when they re-wrote and remade this Alec Guinness film. Hanks' casino-heist ringleader more closely resembles Colonel Sanders than Guinness' evil mastermind, and his Southern gentleman act wears thin after about 15 minutes.

Robbbie Wheeling, Mazes and Monsters
We know you were just starting out Tom, but seriously? You play a college student who gets sucked into the evil world of fantasy role-playing, and therefore lose your mind? We can only hope that your heart wasn't in this piece of Christian propaganda, which is why your performance as you wandered the streets of New York City in a medieval daze was so sleep-inducing.

Yeah, that's our list. What can we say? Big leaves us kinda "eh." What are your favorite (or least favorite) Tom Hanks roles?




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Movies Without Pity

April 2012


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