10. ANGELS & DEMONS (2009)
As well-intentioned as Ron Howard’s 2006 adaptation The Da Vinci Code was, what worked on page became monotonous and overly expository on screen. When Howard adapted Dan Brown’s first book in the series three years later, he came at it with a fresh perspective, a faster pace, and a willingness to change what he wanted, resulting in a near-masterpiece of modern dramatic tension. It’s the one of the best David Fincher movies David Fincher never made.
9. TOY STORY 3 (2010)
Like most trilogies, the third entry in Pixar’s oldest franchise can’t equal the original, but improves over the second in every way. The list of movies most grown men will admit to crying during is very short, but right near the top for almost all of them is the (momentarily) final Toy Story movie. Like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Toy Story 3 is a movie kids will enjoy, but plays entirely differently — and far more richly — for adults.
8. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2013)
Like Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean Eleven, the premise to Catch Me If You Can is basic enough — in this case, a young con artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) plays cat-and-mouse with a tenacious FBI agent (Hanks) — but the flair added by the pair’s talent and director Steven Spielberg makes all the difference between a good movie and a great one. It could use a little tightening in its middle act, but Catch Me If You Can is fun enough that you don’t mind much.
7. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
If you saw The Bourne Supremacy or The Bourne Ultimatum, you know how tense director Paul Greengrass’ movies can be. Captain Phillips is his best work to date, starting off with an ominous sense of dread as the titular character (Hanks) pilots a cargo ship through treacherous waters. As Somali pirates board the ship and the crew takes refuge amongst crannies of the ship, the tension ratchets as the movie’s running time ticks away. It’s an insanely tense hostage situation, made all the more unusual by being set at sea, and it provides Hanks the opportunity to give one of the best performances of his career.
6. THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004)
Far too many complaints have been lobbed at the movie’s “eerie” animation and its representation of the Uncanny Valley, but the revolutionary motion-capture technology used by director Robert Zemeckis still feels like the appropriate choice for a movie that is meant to feel surreal in the best ways the classic picture book did. Hanks does sextuple duty as a half-dozen characters in the story of a boy who no longer believes in Santa Claus and the midnight adventure he takes aboard a train with other children struggling to believe. Every year, it comes closer to becoming a true Christmas classic.
5. TOY STORY (1995)
After Disney and Pixar released the first feature-length, computer-animated movie in November 1995, animation was never the same. The influence of Toy Story really can’t be overstated. What’s as impressive, though, is how well it holds up twenty-one years later. Sure, the humans move stiffly and the characters’ lips don’t quite match the audio, but the comedy and the heart remains as strong today as it was two decades ago, with Hanks bringing his Big enthusiasm to his littlest role.
4. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)
Watching Saving Private Ryan, one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, is a taxing, encompassing, and rewarding experience. The realism of the battles, the grittiness of the sets, and the broad cast of actors (including a young Matt Damon) make for a wonderful film about a terrible time. The tension is often palpable, but Spielberg’s first picture with Hanks wisely still takes time to pontificate and philosophize in between the gunfire.
3. APOLLO 13 (1995)
Almost all biographies or historical films are burdened with the task of making you forget you know the story’s end before watching, but Apollo 13 is the rare work that makes you forget. Hanks works expertly in the trio of astronauts (rounded out by Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon) aboard what was intended to be the third manned flight to the Moon. Ron Howard does his best work in recreating not just the look of the time but the grip the space disaster had on North America. Hanks wisely cedes the lead to be one of three equals, but still holds the movie with his intense persistence.
2. CLOUD ATLAS (2012)
Deftly weaving six different storylines over seven different time periods, Cloud Atlas not only manages to tell six stories that in and of themselves could nearly be complete movies, but creates a whole much larger than the sum of its parts through connections and reincarnation. (Hanks broke his Polar Express record here, giving seven distinct performances.) Nearly flawless from a technical standpoint and scored by the most haunting soundtrack of the last decade, Cloud Atlas is a movie that’s impossible to forget, easy to underestimate, and the ultimate proof that cinematic masterpieces are still being made today.
1. FORREST GUMP (1994)
For all the animosity the 1994 Best Picture Oscar winner has accrued in the decades since, there’s a reason the movie took over the world: it’s that good. Like The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars, Forrest Gump has a timelessness that makes it hard to imagine a world existing without it, even if you were around when it came out. A modern-day fantasy that weaves the extraordinary life of a seemingly ordinary man through countless pivotal moments in American history and interacting with everyone from Elvis Presley to Richard Nixon, the heightened reality and delightful whimsy of it all, built around Hanks’ deservedly Oscar-winning performance, keeps Forrest Gump as effective, enjoyable, and powerful a masterpiece as Tom Hanks has ever made.