From Stanley Kubrick to Francis Ford Coppola: Tom Hanks lists his top 5 favourite films


“May you live as long as you want and not want as long as you live.” – Tom Hanks 

Actor and philosophical sage for the masses, Tom Hanks has charmed contemporary audiences ever since his career inception at the height of modern Hollywood in the 1980s. With an endearing, childlike charm, Hanks has developed a career penned as the reluctant hero and underdog, representing the normal ‘everyman’, from 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle to  Forrest Gump the following year.

In fact, Forrest Gump would represent all that makes Tom Hanks such an admired actor as the film became an instant pop culture phenomenon, winning the actor a successive best actor award at the 67th Academy Awards. Hanks said of the film, “When I read the script for Gump, I saw it as one of those kind of grand, hopeful movies that the audience can go to and feel … some hope for their lot and their position in life … I got that from the movies a hundred million times when I was a kid. I still do.”

American critic Roger Ebert joined the worldwide critical praise of Hanks’ performance, commenting, “the performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths…What a magical movie”. To so many, Tom Hanks represents the everyman on the big screen, one burdened with romantic misfortune and an overly compassionate aurora. 

It is clear that his bright passion for life itself, and his enthusiasm for ambitious, optimistic roles, spills over into his personal life, with his five favourite film choices illustrating a certain infatuation with the charms of the human condition. His first pick, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, explores this and much more, described by the director himself as a “visual, nonverbal experience”. Kubrick went on to describe that the film “avoids intellectual verbalisation and reaches the viewer’s subconscious in a way that is essentially poetic and philosophic. The film thus becomes a subjective experience which hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

Speaking with Germany’s Bild newspaper, Hank commented that ”I just can’t see enough of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey”. From a space epic exploring the philosophical nature of living to the personal, human tale of the Corleone family in Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster saga, The Godfather. His second choice on his top five list is joined by the sequel to the 1972 classic which arguably overshadows the success of the original film, chronicling both the rise of the mob family and its survival after the death of ‘the Don’. Remembered as the pinnacle of modern filmmaking, not only is Coppola’s film a titan of the gangster sub-genre but it is also an excellent anthology of a family business punctuated by excellent characters and some of cinema’s finest performances. 

Just like many of the films Tom Hanks chooses to be a part of, he comments that his favourite types of films are those that give the viewer a chance to ask themselves how they would react in a similar situation. This explains his fourth pick, the Coen Brothers’ comedic thriller Fargo exploring the experience of a small North Dakota town when it becomes the battleground for the police and a group of bumbling henchmen. Gleefully fun without sacrificing the gravity of such a violent situation, the Coen brothers’ film is a classic, bringing high-profile crime to a modest, endearing American town. Hanks comments “that’s what I’m looking for when I go to see a film, just like any other cinema-goer…the period, the topic or the genre don’t matter to me. The only thing that matters for me is: ‘boy, what would you do if that were you?’.”

Hanks’ final choice, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant is an altogether darker choice, following the lives of several high school students before a deadly school shooting. Van Sant would win the best director award at Cannes in 2003 in addition to a triumphant Palme D’or for the film, itself a tragic portrayal of the dangers of discrimination and inaction on the tumultuous, fragile mind of youth.

See the full list of Tom Hanks’ favourite films below:

Tom Hanks’ 5 favourite films:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  • The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
  • The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
  • Fargo (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 1996)
  • Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)


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