When does a divided country come together? When the health of America’s Dad is at risk.
Last Thursday, Tom Hanks revealed on social media that while in Australia filming Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic, he and wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the coronavirus (Idris Elba has also announced he has the virus), which has since brought the entertainment world and most of the globe to a standstill. The love and shout-outs were immediate, and Hanks has kept all of us apprised of his recovery, quoting “A League of Their Own” and thanking “the Helpers” – a nod to one of his most recent roles, as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
Hanks’ diagnosis made the pandemic feel real to film fans, and for those needing a pick-me-up as self-isolation and social distancing continue to be the order of the day, here are the beloved Oscar winner’s 10 essential feel-good roles.
‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ (2019)
One of the Hanks-iest of Hanks personas, the actor and Rogers go together like a well-matched sweater and sneakers. Hanks played the late kids’ TV icon as a guru of empathy, doling out heartwarming bon mots to a troubled journalist (Matthew Rhys) who’s tasked to profile Rogers but is skeptical of the man’s absolute goodness. Hanks earned a supporting-actor Oscar nomination not just because of a pitch-perfect performance but because he brought so much of his own calming aura to the part.
Back in the 1980s, Hanks was aces at playing a man-child – to a debaucherous degree (see: “Bachelor Party”) and quite memorably to a deeper one in this fantasy in which a 12-year-old wishes to be big and a magical carnival machine grants it. Hanks sells the sweet (playing “Heart and Soul” with his feet on a giant keyboard), the sublime (eating baby corn at a dinner party) and the somewhat serious (dating Elizabeth Perkins) until Josh figures out he’d rather just be a kid again.
‘Cast Away’ (2000)
It’s all Hanks, all the time in the survival drama: Most of the two hours-plus running time is spent watching the actor by himself on an island, playing a FedEx guy who gets stranded after his plane crashes. Hanks’ main character grows a beard, goes a little crazy, befriends a volleyball (named Wilson, obviously) but never gives up. An ode to the human condition, for sure, and one where Hanks lends heaps of humanity.
‘Forrest Gump’ (1994)
It won an Oscar for best picture (and maybe shouldn’t have). It spawned a seafood restaurant and so many Internet memes. The thing is, though, what keeps “Gump” from being complete uber-saccharine hokum is Hanks as the lovable main character who listens to his mama (Sally Field) and is utterly devoted to his Jenny (Robin Wright). We see American history through his experience, but Forrest has a lot to teach us about kindness, love, family and life (which, as we all know, is totally like a box of chocolates.)
‘Larry Crowne’ (2011)
An underrated film in the impressive Hanks-ography, “Crowne” is a dramedy he also directed that taps into a lot of modern themes, from emotional turmoil brought on by sudden unemployment to an older generation reinventing itself for a new chapter in life. Hanks is the title boomer, a divorced veteran laid off from his job at a big-box store who finds himself with limited opportunities without a college education, while Julia Roberts is the speech professor (and love interest) with her own issues who’s part of Larry’s rebirth.
‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)
Hanks is very much a supporting player in Penny Marshall’s sports-movie ode to the first women’s professional baseball league, with Geena Davis taking the lead in a story of female identity in the wake of World War II. As alcoholic former all-star and new Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan, Hanks is the crass, somewhat sexist comic relief (“There’s no crying in baseball!”) who comes around as both his players’ friend and fan yet also as an emotional rock in tragic times.
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ (2013)
The dramedy digs into the backstory behind “Mary Poppins” and how persnickety author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) was wooed to sign off on an adaptation by none other than Walt Disney (Hanks) himself. While it’s a hoot seeing Disney the ultimate businessman showing off Disneyland and his Mickey Mouse efforts to a disinterested Travers, the hard sell shifts to kindness and understanding as the two have a heartfelt conversation about what “Poppins” is really about.
‘The Terminal’ (2004)
The Steven Spielberg film is more than 15 years old yet feels timely in today’s travel and immigration discussion. Hanks is a traveler from the fictional Eastern European country of Krakozhia who lands at New York’s JFK airport and gets stuck there, thanks to a civil war breaking out in his country and his passport being declared invalid. From there, it’s a quirky exploration of the human spirit as only Hanks can pull off, with his goodhearted guy learning to live under strange circumstances and help folks out whenever possible.
‘Toy Story’ (1995)
Because there’s so much personality in plastic cowpoke Woody’s voice, the Pixar animated classic is a no-brainer to include on any Hanks retrospective. The first “Toy Story” is fun, full of nostalgia and, yes, it’ll make you tear up like freshly sliced onions. It’s totally worth it, however, to see the dynamic between earnest sheriff Woody and idiosyncratic spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) as they go from an initial rivalry to be the favorite toy to budding best friendship.
‘You’ve Got Mail’ (1998)
In the 1990s, Hanks and Meg Ryan were an unstoppable rom-com pairing, the Fred and Ginger of the grunge era. “Joe Versus the Volcano” and “Sleepless in Seattle” might have their devotees, but the best by far is this lovely ode the earliest days of online dating. Hanks runs a massive family bookseller, Ryan heads up the small corner bookstore whose business is in jeopardy, and the rivals become secret email confidantes who fall for each other. Just try not to cry as Brinkley the dog bounds through the park, a furry version of a modern “swipe right” bringing together two lovebirds. Credit: USATODAY