Top Performances is a recurring feature in which we definitively handpick the very best performances from an iconic actor or actress.
The cinema world still doesn’t know what it did to deserve Tom Hanks. The actor is a key part of the movie-going experience and always has been ever since his early days. Hanks is the guy in the role you can’t help but believe is totally real. He’s the man who warms your heart, even when his character doesn’t speak a single warm line. From his early ’80s charm to his later dramatic work, he’s present and tuned in, shifting his tone, lines, and presence to better fit the overall goal of whatever film he’s in.
Even now, as the actor enters his 60s with plenty of prospects ahead of him, he stays on top of the film game. He held his role with ease in 2015’s Bridge of Spies. He adapted to a period drama like Saving Mr. Banks without hesitating. He appeared in a Carly Rae Jepsen music video with the same type of out-of-place appearance that quickly becomes normal, a change in preconceived appearance that he’s been pulling off from back in earlier films, like when he morphed from a corporate snob to a heartfelt emailer in You’ve Got Mail.
Since he lept out of comedies and into dramas, Hanks’ method for choosing which films he’s in seems to be somewhat random. But as he told USA Weekend back in 2004, there’s a way to pick the good apples from the bad. “[Since] A League of Their Own, it can’t be just another movie for me,” he said. “There has to be some all-encompassing desire or feeling about wanting to do that particular movie. I’d like to assume that I’m willing to go down any avenue in order to do it right”
And that he has. Throughout his multiple decades’ worth of films, Hanks has shown his ability to not just to be a lovable character, but to be someone who can adapt to the genre of the film as well as he can push it further. Though often in understated ways, he brings a level of calmness to the movies he’s in, a reassurance that things will pan out how they’re meant to, even if that means a sad ending. That dexterity raises a toast or two. For now, a round of verbal applause will have to do — that is if he gives himself a big enough break between acting in films to actually hear it.
P.S. If you’re in love with the guy as much as we are, subscribe to Adam Kivel’s podcast: Hanks for the Memories. But if you’re reading this, you probably already have.