Tom Hanks' Seven Best Movies, Part II

-- Christian came up with the topic of this post, wrote it out {yes, with footnotes!} and e-mailed it to me. Who am I to deny a blog post that so conveniently falls in my lap? I hope you all enjoy. And if by chance you didn't read Part I, you can catch up here. --

After eliminating 15 films in the first post, Tom Hanks still has an astounding 22 films left in the running. How is that even possible?

Hockey has two main statistics: goals and assists. Each of these statistics is individually tracked, but frequently the sum of the two is referred to as the number of points a player has. Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player who ever lived; in addition to winning four Stanley Cups and nine MVPs1, Gretzky is the all-time leader in goals (894) and assists (1,963). As a result, he is also the all-time leader in points (2,857). The number of goals and assists is jaw-dropping by itself. What makes Gretzky's accomplishments even more impressive, however, is that if he had never scored a goal in his life, he would STILL be the all-time leader in points, as his 1,963 assists is still more than Mark Messier’s 1,887 points (694 goals; 1,193 assists)2.

So why do I bring this up? This is how I see Tom Hanks. Not only does he lead the league3 in good movies and great movies, but he may very well have more great movies than other actors have good and great movies combined. Did I lose you? Don’t worry; I'm going to cover the nine movies that Tom Hanks made which I consider good movies, but not great movies. You may think that some of these movies are great, and you might also think that some of these movies belong in the previous category (Tom Hanks Films That Aren’t Very Good), but it’s my list so I make the decisions. Here they are in chronological order:

Joe Versus the Volcano [1990] – This is a family favorite and the first pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The story is a bit absurd and Meg Ryan does play three different characters, but it is still altogether enjoyable. Of all the movies in the Good-But-Not-Great category, this may be the one least deserving.

That Thing You Do! [1996] – Tom Hanks wrote, directed4, and starred in this film about the one-hit Wonders, a group which rose and fell with the success of their single “That Thing You Do” (so that’s why they call it that). This movie was not a success at the box office, but it is a really good movie with a fantastic cast. Endlessly quotable and easily re-watchable, people are missing out by skipping this one.

You’ve Got Mail [1998] – The third pairing with Meg Ryan is still a solid film, even if the content is a little dated. At least it doesn’t seem as ridiculous as The Net now seems. Tom Hanks is kind of like the bad guy in this movie, but he does not come across that way at all. He is, as always, completely likable. F-O-X.

The Green Mile [1999] – Some people would argue that this movie belongs in the next Tom Hanks category (Great Tom Hanks Movies), but I can’t help but compare this film to The Shawshank Redemption. Both of them are based on books written by Stephen King and take place in pre-1950s prisons. The super-natural element of this story seems a little odd, but any film that can get Michael Clarke Duncan an Oscar nomination must be pretty strong.

Road to Perdition [2002] – Based on a graphic novel of the same name, Tom Hanks plays an enforcer for the Rock Island Irish Mob. He is legitimately a bad guy, but only in the sense that a mob enforcer must, by nature, be morally corrupt. In fact, since this movie deals with rival mobs, despite his profession, Hanks is very much the protagonist. And he is obviously great at it. Again, most people skipped this movie, and again, most people are missing out.

The Ladykillers [2004] – You didn’t see this movie. You probably don’t know anyone who saw this movie. It is a very, very dry black comedy written and directed by The Coen Brothers. After Hanks, the rest of the cast are B and C-List actors at best. Hanks' role is completely different than any other he has ever performed, and he makes it look like this is what he has been doing for years.

The Terminal [2004] – Hanks’ follow-up to Ladykillers is another departure from what people expect from him. His accent is a little weak, and he really does not have the best chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones, but he's funny and does a good job.

The Polar Express [2004] – Setting aside the fact that Tom Hanks’ digital representation is enough to frighten animals and small children, this is an enjoyable Christmas movie for when you want something different from the normal Christmas movie. Animated movies are tough to compare side-by-side with live action movies anyway.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close [2011] – You really have to watch this whole movie to appreciate it. The first time I watched it, I turned it off because I got bored. I gave it another shot and the ending is really very powerful. As good as the movie is, though, you should really, really read the book.

All of these movies are good movies and Hanks still has 13 (THIRTEEN!) movies left that are great movies. In the third and final post, I will go through the 13 Great Tom Hanks Movies. This is the pool from which I will select the Seven Essential Tom Hanks Films. I know you are excited, but please try to get some sleep between now and then.

1. In Hockey, the MVP award is called the Hart Trophy. Hockey does this weird thing where they have names for trophies instead of actual award names (e.g. The Vezina Trophy winner is for Best Goalie, and the Calder Cup is for Rookie of the Year). Once again, Canada confuses me.
2. Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky were teammates for 11 years (including time spent in the WHA). When only six guys are on the ice and a third of them are two of the best players of all time, it is no wonder they accomplished so much. The closest equivalent is Magic and Kareem for the Showtime Lakers.
3. Obviously no league exists for actors, but we do have the Screen Actor’s Guild. I feel like I should be hired to keep stats for this league; it might prevent studios from hiring Channing Tatum.
4. Tom Hanks, to date, had only directed one other feature film, Larry Crowne.


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