Tom Hanks Project – Best & Worst of the ’90s

18 Sep

tom hanks 90sNot only is this the best decade of Tom Hanks’ career*, it’s one of the all-time greatest stretches by any actor in film history**. Two back to back Academy Awards (Philadelphia and Forrest Gump), one more nomination (Saving Private Ryan) and starring in two more best picture nominees (The Green Mile and Apollo 13). But it wasn’t just his Academy Award roles that made him so wonderful this decade. He gave us the entire Meg Ryan trilogy, highlighted by “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle” and to a*** lesser extent, “Joe Vs. The Volcano.” We got two Toy Story movies, one perfect, one we didn’t care for. Hanks was at his funniest since “Bosom Buddies” in “A League of Their Own” and the extended cut of his first writing/directing project, “That Thing You Do!” is pure joy. Aside from the disaster that is “Bonfire of the Vanities****,” and our personal dislike of the otherwise beloved “Toy Story 2,”  it was a spectacular run for Tommy. Let’s get into the highlights, the few low lights and tally up our numbers from the golden age of Hanks.

*Bold statement! I can’t decide if I agree yet — I guess we’ll have to revisit this after we get through the 00’s.

**Somehow I feel more comfortable signing on to this sentiment.


****I don’t remember what this is. Did we watch it?*****

*****Just Google Image searched it and very, very vaguely remember it. Yikes.


Laugh Out Loud: I figure we’ll use 90’s graphics since we’re covering 90s movies. The highest total we had in the 80’s was “Big” with 131. We tied or topped that total 5 times in the ’90s, with “That Thing You Do!” leading the way with a whopping 209 laughs. Jimmy Dugan and the Rockford Peaches cracked us up 192 times, Forrest and Jenny and Woody and Buzz gave us 164 and 159 chuckles and Chappelle and Steve Zahn stole scenes to give us 162 in “You’ve Got Mail.” On that note, Zahn deserves special mention for killing it in “That Thing You Do!” and YGM this decade. Steve Zahn, we salute you.


LOLsAs funny as a lot of these movies are, we also had an AIDS movie, a war movie, and a death row movie, but somehow the most joyless movie was “Bonfire of the Vanities” which managed a paltry eight laughs. We laughed twice as much at a movie about a guy dying of AIDS! And 3.5 times more at a movie that starts with half an hour of the invasion of Normandy and ends with Hanks dying! Surprisingly, Apollo 13 was the 2nd least funny movie, with only 18 laughs for the failed moon landing*. Still, a great decade of laughs, despite some super heavy films.

*To clarify, we were not laughing at the fact that they couldn’t land on the moon. That would be cruel. In fact, I feel like I came close to crying/cried.


  • Forrest Gump: 9.3 The quotes are so well known they’ve become cliches, but they still made us smile and chuckle a lot.


  • That Thing You Do! 9.2 A true laugh riot. There are more laughs in the scene where the One-ders hear themselves on the radio than the bottom three movies combined. The definition of delightful. I’d watch that scene once a day, if I could.
  • You’ve Got Mail: 9.15 Not only the most adorable movie of the decade, the bit parts by Dave Chappelle, Zahn and Parker Posey make all the laughs happen.


  • A League of Their Own: 8.9 Jon Lovitz is amazing as the scout and Hanks is a one-liner machine as coach Jimmy Dugan and everyone from Madonna to Rosie kill it.
  • Sleepless in Seattle: 8 For a movie that starts at the funeral of Hanks’ wife, we get some heart-warming laughs. Yet another great supporting Rosie O’Donnell role.
  • Toy Story 1: 7.9 Caitlin was a chuckle machine at this one. It’s a lot of sight gags and stuff that made me smile more than laugh, but Caitlin found it hysterical.


  • Joe vs. The Volcano: 7 Slow and dark at first, the laughs start coming on fairly strong once Hanks comes to grips with dying and heads to the island. Wow, really? I don’t remember laughing at this one much at all.
  • Radio Flyer: 6.5 A movie about child abuse shouldn’t have had this many laughs, but it racked up 55 before it brought the water works.
  • Apollo 13: 4.5 I know it’s not really trying to be funny, but there was a lot more opportunity for comedy before the mission went wrong and they just didn’t seem to care about getting some laughs in. 
  • Toy Story 2: 4.5 We loved the first one and were ready to laugh constantly at the second. Didn’t happen. We weren’t into it at all.
  • Bonfire of the Vanities: 0.5 It’s depressing how unfunny this piece of crap is. You end up hating everyone, even Hanks.
  • Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile & Philadelphia: N/A How do you even rate these three on a comedy scale? You don’t. 


Romance: Hanks is mostly known for his on-screen romances with Meg Ryan, but there’s some other hidden gems this decade. Sure, the Meg Ryan trilogy comes in ranked at #1, 4 and 6, but we have his undying love for Jenny, his first gay romance in Philadelphia and a surprisingly decent amount of chemistry with Bonnie Hunt in The Green Mile.  All that said, c’mon. “We’ll just argue about what movie we want to watch…for as long as we both shall live.” Meg + Tom 4EVER (my future tattoo).

  • You’ve Got Mail: 10 Joe F-O-X and Kathleen Kelly have a rocky start, but soon after he realizes she’s shopgirl, you just can’t wait another second for them to be together … for as long as they both shall live and you want it to start immediately. THE BEST. OF ALL. TIIIIME.robin-wright-jenny-curran-and-tom-hanks-forrest
  • Forrest Gump: 9.65 I wanted to give this one a 10 at first, but it took so long for Jenny to come around to Forrest that I had to admit it was unrequited love for a long time. I like Jenny, and the way she cares for Forrest is sweet, but his love for her was much deeper.
  • Philadelphia: 9.55 A beautifully touching gay romance when there weren’t many such portrayals in big studio films. Hanks and Banderas showed a deep love for each other and made the average movie goer feel like they knew a gay person after seeing it.tomantonio
  • Sleepless in Seattle: 9.3 Tom and Meg barely interact in this one, but you just know they’re a perfect fit and when she picks up Jonah’s backpack at the end, c’mon. Game over. 
  • The Green Mile: 7 You wouldn’t think Bonnie Hunt would bring the heat, but after Hanks gets his urinary tract infection cleared up, they go at it four times in one night. Get it, Bonnie Hunt! Seriously, though. They’re really sweet together. It’s a romance that fits the time period it is set in. Great casting choice in this one.
  • Joe Vs. The Volcano: 6 It’s hard to judge, because the first wacky Meg isn’t a good fit for Hanks and I barely remember the second one, but the third one is a classic instant Hanks/Ryan connection. 
  • Toy Story: 5.5 This is awkward, because it’s two toys, but Bo Peep clearly gave Hanks Woody. Hey-Oh! Ugh. I do not sign off on that joke at all.
  • Apollo 13: 4 Hanks’ wife is such a bore who just worries about him the whole time. No chemistry at all. You mean his mom? ZERO chemistry.


  • Bonfire of the Vanities: 1.5 Hanks cheats on Samantha from Sex and the City with Melanie Griffith and she’s a monster and we hate everyone and wish they were all dead. It’s incredibly sexual, but totally unlikeable. Damn I don’t remember this film at all.
  • Toy Story 2: N/A Bo peep barely interacts with our boy here. No Woody. 
  • Saving Private Ryan: N/A Hanks has a wife at home who he clearly loves and wants to get back to, but we never even see them together or a picture of her.
  • That Thing You Do! N/A In the extended version, Hanks is gay with Howie Long, but it’s like a 45 second scene.
  • Radio Flyer: N/A He’s just the narrator. No love interest. 
  • A League of Their Own N/A Other than making out with the etiquette woman while on the bus, no love for Jimmy Dugan.

 Eyes Covered 


 We had four eye-covering movies this go round. Two of them were massive, with what could only be called “unlimited” for “Saving Private Ryan.”  The others were mostly what you’d expect. 

  • Saving Private Ryan: Unlimited It’s impossible to quantify how many times Caitlin actually covered her eyes. She wore the mask pictured above on and off the entire time. I basically narrated half the movie to her. “A soldier just had his arm blown off. Now he’s picking his arm up and walking around with it…” The first and last time I will ever half-watch that movie.
  • The Green Mile: 18 We could quantify this one. A whopping 18 eye coverings and shockingly more of them were for Caitlin’s fear of the mouse getting squashed than the brutal executions. This movie made me sad in a way that only Requiem for a Dream can match. BRUTAL.
  • Philadelphia: 5 I think the culprit here was Hanks vomiting from suffering through AIDS.
  • Apollo 13: 2 Vomit again. This time OUTER SPACE VOMIT! G-ross.
  • Forrest Gump: 2 Vietnam war scenes and Bubba dying did her in here. Bubba 😦 Forrest’s one true love.



  • Radio Flyer: 4 This one really got to Caitlin. The ambiguous ending of whether he flies away or doesn’t make it … is a tough one to handle. Child abuse is just a rough, rough topic.
  • Philadelphia: 2 It’s pretty brutal to see Hanks ravaged by AIDS, on his death bed and then seeing his family throw a touching memorial to him. It’s a gut wrenching ending.
  • Forrest Gump: 2 I always lose it at the scene gif’d above where Forrest is at Jenny’s grave telling her about Lil’ Forrest. For me, it’s when Forrest first realizes he has a kid and all he can ask is, “…is he…is he…” while weeping. Kill me.
  • Saving Private Ryan: 2 Caitlin will always cry when Hanks dies. I cried at the old man asking if he’s a good man. Even if Caitlin thinks it’s corny.
  • Sleepless in Seattle: 1 A rare one where I cried and Caitlin didn’t. I cried right away at Hanks’ wife’s funeral.
  • The Green Mile: 1 Caitlin had a big ole cry during John Coffey’s execution. I wept the first time I saw it, but held it together here. Though there was only one cry here, it may truly have been the “biggest.” Just a long, long sob.


Hanks Performance

We review Tom’s performance in every movie, in addition to the movie itself. It’s typically pretty similar numbers, but we usually score Tom even higher than the movie itself. We’ll focus on Tom’s role in this section and put his score first and the movie’s score in parenthesis.

  • Forrest Gump: 10 (10) It would have been so easy to make this role hokey and lame, but Hanks is absolutely pitch perfect. 
  • Saving Private Ryan: 9.7 (9.55) A reserved performance, but one that anchors the movie in humanity.
  • Philadelphia: 9.7 (9.0) The movie isn’t perfect, but Tom is. He’s so strong and brave in his fight against AIDS and the company that deserted him.
  • The Green Mile: 9.6 (9.35) Another quieter role, like Saving Private Ryan, where Hanks is stuck in a miserable experience and grounds it and makes it accessible. On a personal note (and saying this without checking my rankings), I think this is my personal second favorite Hanks performance, behind You’ve Got Mail just because I can’t help myself it’s my favorite I know it’s stereotypical but UGH.
  • You’ve Got Mail: 9.55 (9.7) A rare one where Hanks gets scored lower than the movie, only because Caitlin gave the film a 10. He is endlessly charming and delightful in the best romantic comedy role of his life. Best. movie. ever.
  • Toy Story 1: 9.55 (9.15) Hanks brings a lot to the voiceover work of Woody. He doesn’t just bring him to life, he brings the same humanity he puts into all his roles. Really remarkable.


  • A League of Their Own: 9.35 (9.25) Jimmy Dugan is an American hero. The ball scratching, spitting, cursing, alcoholic former ballplayer is my favorite supporting Hanks character ever. I’d watch an entire movie about Dugan. I’m surprised at how low this ended up in the Hanks rankings! He really adopted to a role we hadn’t quite seen him in before.
  • Sleepless in Seattle: 9.3 (9.15) It’s not all smiles for Hanks the widower, who’s really struggling to be a single parent. He balances the complicated emotions beautifully.
  • Apollo 13: 9.2 (8.8) Is there any one you’d trust to save a doomed mission to the moon more than Hanks? Thought so.
  • Radio Flyer: 9 (8.05) Hanks could narrate any story and I’d watch. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this movie all that much without him. We even went to see a short film in a Planetarium recently just because Hanks was narrating (and slightly because I’m obsessed with outer space). Brilliant.
  • That Thing You Do: 8.7 (9.5) He’s pretty great in it, but it’s such a small part. We should have given him a 10 for writing and directing such a winning movie.
  • Toy Story 2: 8.55 (5.25) We thought Toy Story 2 sucked, but it wasn’t Hanks’ fault. 
  • Joe Vs. The Volcano: 7.75 We know this is a cult favorite and all, but we didn’t connect on first viewing. A disengaged, depressed Hanks is not our favorite Hanks. 
  • Bonfire of the Vanities: 4 (3.25) What an unlikeable douche. 

movies graph

The Movies

Average: 8.39 The 80’s averaged 6.09, so this is a huge step up. Only two movies in the 14 that we wouldn’t recommend, though I guess “Joe Vs. The Volcano” is a borderline recommendation at best. 

We have eight movies that got a 9.15 or above and only three below 8. It’s pretty stacked near the top. We started a bit slow with the underwhelming “Joe Vs. The Volcano.” It had it’s moments, but it was a bit dark and took a while to to get us to a Hanks-Meg connection we cared about*. And don’t get us started on “Bonfire of the Vanities.” We’ll save that for the worst. “Radio Flyer” really connected for Caitlin, but I wasn’t totally hooked. Then we were in the zone. The next 9 movies were near perfect, with “Apollo 13” and it’s methodical, solid, but not quite great movie that didn’t get at least a 9. But that stretch of the other 8 films from 1992 to 1998 that got 9 or above is just impeccable.

*Not to mention, Meg is kinda terrible in this film. She plays 3 characters, and all of them are sort of “blah.”

  • A League of Their Own (1992) 9.25 A story about awesome, nuanced, funny, strong ladies and a kind of messed up but lovably hilarious dude coaching them had all the right elements for our enjoyment. Even the shtick of having Madonna be in this film ended up working out — she was perfect, and allowed Rosie O’Donnell to shine in a bit part. Great cast, compelling story, funny and sweet.


  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993)  Generally, a romantic comedy involves the two primary players to meet early on and overcome some differences so they can be together. Here, our leads meet in the last few minutes of the film, and yet it is so kindly written that you root for the pair to fall in love anyway. It’s the Meg/Tom chemistry in action (sorry Bill Pullman, The Baxter!).
  • Philadelphia (1993) One of my favorite things about re-watching this film was pulling back the curtain to see how much research and love went into making this film. It isn’t perfect, but the writer and director really went to great lengths to try to be true to their subjects, who they saw as individual people with unique stories. It’s devastating to think that many of those subject, some included as extras in the film, have passed away since.
  • Forrest Gump (1994) Truly a great film. You might think to yourself, “Eh, there were so many ‘bits,'” with Forrest randomly showing up in historical events and the whole “Run, Forrest, run!” pull-quote. But seriously, this film holds up and warms your heart and tugs at it and is just this little piece of truth about the important things in life, which are the people you love and the experiences you get to have. One for the ages.


  • Toy Story (1995) We all worry about becoming irrelevant. As James Murphy once spoke-sang, “I’m losing my edge.” Woody is basically just the toy version of a hipster New Yorker. It’s a classic tale, told classically.
  • That Thing You Do (1996) Joy. This film is pure joy. Steve Zahn! Ethan Embry! Liv Tyler! Tom Everett Scott! Music! Drama! Love! Hanks! Perfection.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) Difficult to watch, and not just because Vin Diesel is in it briefly.
  • You’ve Got Mail (1998) The best movie of all time. I’ll go as high as best rom-com ever. 

What a treat it was to watch these 14 films the last six months. I can’t wait to get started with the 2000’s with “Cast Away.”


2 Responses to “Tom Hanks Project – Best & Worst of the ’90s”

  1. anon January 21, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    agreed! Although I’ve probably cried twice as much as you guys.


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - December 15, 2014

    […] 1190’s Best & Worst – Review […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: