10. Viktor Navorski
The Terminal (2004)
For a film generally canned by critics, The Terminal sees Hanks portraying the internal fears and excitement of a foreigner with the external quietness and intrigue of someone that’s actually worth watching for two hours. Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, a man visiting New York from Eastern Europe, who discovers his homeland launched into a coup while he was mid-air. Now stranded at JFK with a passport deemed useless, he wanders the terminal’s international transit lounge, finding ways to pass the time until his country resolves its issues. True to life, subtle changes are the big moments, many of which stem from serendipity and generosity tied to Navorski, adding up to make a no-frills, heart-warming flick.
Hanks’ portrayal of Navorski sums up so many of airports’ aggravating and stressful actions, but it wrings a type of peaceful harmony in the process, a humanness that Hanks whips together by picking up coins from luggage trollies, sleeping across plastic seats, and stuttering his way through an exaggerated accent that becomes endearing in its good intentions. There’s no doubt that the film gets overly emotional come the end, in part because of its trite love story, but Hanks’ performance can stand on its own despite that. In fact, it may be the only time you wish you spent more time in an airport.
Hanks’ Moment: For JFK officials, one of the perks of having Navorski around is being able to use him as an unofficial translator. An immigrant carrying medication into the country gets interrogated about his intentions, so the crew brings Navorski in to clarify intentions muddled in the language barrier. In what plays out as equal parts terrifying — in its consequences, especially a few years after 9/11 — and charming — thanks to the giggles Hanks tacks on to the end of shrugged words — as the immigrant is nearly dragged out of the room for breaking the law, Navorski clears up the scenario, letting officers know that the pills are for a goat, not a dying father — an error brought about by the pronunciation of the two similar-sounding words.