12 movies starring Tom Hanks to watch online
From an episode of The Love Boat in 1980, to Band of Brothers (coming to Showmax on 22 March 2021 – stream the documentary about the real-life band of brothers in the meantime), in which he appeared as well as sharing writing and directing credits, to a cameo in 30 Rock and numerous executive producing roles for television; from voicing the much-loved Woody in the Toy Story franchise, to stage performances, two music videos, and a book of short stories, Tom Hanks has also appeared in “about 94” movies. Even Google couldn’t be bothered to count. From these he has won two Oscars and 48 more awards.
Hanks is a true blue American movie star, who can act well too (these are not mutually inclusive; think the other Tom: Cruise). He takes pics of lost single gloves, performs random acts of kindness, surprises fans with photos taken on their phones while they’re drunk, and is the most charming guest on Graham Norton’s red couch.
Here are 12 Hanks movies to stream that showcase his incredible range and ability.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood on Netflix
Fred Rogers aka Mr Rogers was a beloved television host and creator of the preschool show Mr Rogers’ Neigbourhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. Who better to play such a character than Tom Hanks? In this movie we discover the real-life friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, a jaded magazine writer (played by Matthew Rhys – The Americans, Perry Mason).
New York Times says it “celebrates the virtues of patient listening, gentleness and the honest expression of feelings. It’s about how a man who has devoted his life to being kind helps a man with a professional investment in skepticism to become a little nicer.”
An early 1990s time capsule, this movie about women’s baseball stars Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Petty alongside Hanks. The story is fictional but has its roots in real life and the association formed to keep the game alive during World War II when the male players were enlisted to fight overseas.
The late Roger Ebert himself wrote: “The movie has a real bittersweet charm. The baseball sequences, we’ve seen before. What’s fresh are the personalities of the players, the gradual unfolding of their coach and the way this early chapter of women’s liberation fit into the hidebound traditions of professional baseball.”
Apollo 13 on Netflix
“Houston, we have a problem” – there can’t be anyone on the planet who doesn’t know this line and its reference, other than perhaps the tribes of people who live in the rain forest. It’s a wonderful movie, directed by Ron Howard and based on the true story of the crew of Apollo 13 who didn’t quite make it to the moon. Even when we know the outcome, it doesn’t take anything away from the emotional impact of the performances and the events. Hanks leads an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise.
“There’s no denying the power and exhilaration pumping through the heart of Ron Howard’s truly excellent docu-drama detailing the incredible story of NASA’s ill-fated third lunar landing mission in 1970,” says Empire.
Captain Phillips on Netflix
There are pirates of the Caribbean-Johnny Depp variety and then there are the real modern-day pirates terrorising the high seas of the 21st Century. This is the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. Hanks plays the captain of the title. It’s a tense – and intense – film.
“At every step, Hanks excels at showing what’s really going on in the character’s mind while maintaining his facade of almost folksy calm,” says Variety.
Catch Me If You Can on Prime Video
Steven Spielberg directed this biopic based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. Alongside Hanks, the cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.
“Every single element of this movie works brilliantly together and the result is as irresistible as its con man hero,” says Common Sense Media.
The story of a man stranded on a desert island, and his basketball named Wilson: it’s almost a bit of a movie buff joke, and as such the two of them carry most of the film.
“Deemed an ‘existential blockbuster’ for the 21st Century, not a whole lot of action occurs during Cast Away’s 143-minute running time. But Hanks’s long beard and survival scenarios generated an iconic character and film,” says Mental Floss, which adds a few fun facts about the movie, including Hanks’s above-and-beyond approach to the role.
Charlie Wilson’s War on Prime Video
Based on the true story of Charlie Wilson, a congressman whose efforts, along with those of CIA operative Gust Avrakotos, led to Operation Cyclone, a programme to organise and support the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War.
It was written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Trial Of The Chicago Seven, The Newsroom), which seals the deal.
As well-known as Wilson and “Houston, we have a problem”, is “run, Forrest, run”. Even if you’ve never watched the film you’ll know this bit. Spoiler: he can run like the wind. Hanks plays Forrest, a slow-witted but kind-hearted man (afflicted by a curved spine as a child, requiring leg braces) who unwittingly influences several defining historical events.
Another famous quote from Forrest Gump is: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It’s fair to call this a classic.
News of the World on Netflix
In this Western, Hanks plays a Civil War veteran who has to return a girl taken in (or abducted, depending on your point of view) by Native Americans when she was little, and return her to her family. Released theatrically at the end of 2020 and on Netflix in February 2021, it has been named by the National Board of Review as one of the 10 best movies of last year, which is not too shabby at all.
It works, says BBC, “because there is something quietly miraculous about the way Hanks embodies this character, making him the stirring and fresh emotional centre of a beautifully old-fashioned Western.”
Saving Private Ryan on Netflix
With one of the most savage heart- and gut-wrenching 24-second scenes in modern movie history, Saving Private Ryan is a five-Oscar, Spielberg-directed World War II drama about United States Army Rangers captain John H Miller (Hanks) as he and his squad search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last survivor of four brothers – because they simply will not tolerate the family’s loss of every single one of their sons.
Washington Post sums it up: “Searing, heartbreaking, so intense it turns your body into a single tube of clenched muscle, this is simply the greatest war movie ever made, and one of the great American movies.”
The Green Mile on Netflix
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, who did such great work with Stephen King novels – or in this case, a serialised story – where so many have failed, The Green Mile is about a man on death row, and the human relationships playing out around him during those troubled days. Hanks plays the warden, who discovers first-hand his prisoner has mysterious abilities to heal … and could not possibly be a cold-hearted killer.
“Though a paranormal story, The Green Mile explores humanity at the deepest level. The constant quarrel between right and wrong in life is portrayed through the experience of several characters in varying walks of life,” says Mxdwn.
As if Tom Hanks isn’t enough of a superstar just as he is, here he shares the screen with the incredible, inimitable, extraordinary Meryl Streep. So accomplished and familiar are these actors, you need merely hear their voices to recognise them. Steven Spielberg is at the helm again, in another true story, this time in the now fast-fading world of newspapers. Set in 1971, it depicts the attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers, a set of classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War, and earlier in French Indochina back to the 1940s.
True red-blooded print veterans, the rebels of their time wouldn’t hesitate to print, no matter the cost. ‘Twas once a noble profession. “Few films have so acutely traced the triangular relationship between journalists, sources, and subjects, and even fewer have so palpably expressed the personal cost of maintaining that sacred dynamic,” says IndieWire.