The Worst Tom Hanks Movie On Streaming Is Based On A True Story

By Brian Myers | Published

Tom Hanks quickly rose to fame following the abrupt cancelation of the early 80s sitcom Bosom Buddies, securing roles in hit comedies like Big, The Money Pit, and Punchline. Over the decades, the actor segued into more serious films, securing his legacy as one of the most sought-after stars of the era. But before Saving Private Ryan and and Castaway, Hanks co-starred in the TV movie Mazes and Monsters, a move so awful that it could have been an early career killer.

Tom Hanks In Mazes And Monsters

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Tom Hanks portrays college freshman Robbie Wheeling in the 1982 movie Mazes and Monsters, a troubled teen that comes from a home wrought with alcoholism and verbal abuse.

At Grant University, Robbie finds comfort in the friendship of other students, each of whom have equally tumultuous home lives.

His new friends invite him to join in on games of Mazes and Monsters, a role-playing fantasy game meant to be akin to the real-life RPG Dungeons and Dragons.

Losing Grip On Reality

tom Hanks mazes and monsters

Robbie had played the game before and had developed an obsession with it. So much so that it created problems that led to his expulsion from a previous school.

Nonetheless, he and his new friends begin playing the game in a system of caverns near the university. As the movie unfolds, audiences see Tom Hanks’ character slowly lose his grip on reality and begin to live as though Mazes and Monsters is reality.

The movie is loosely based on the tragic suicide of child prodigy James Dallas Egbert III, a teen whose death was erroneously attributed to his love of the RPG Dungeons and Dragons.

Like Egbert, Tom Hanks’ Robbie suffers a psychotic break from reality, though Robbie’s story arc in Mazes and Monsters takes quite a different turn from its real-life inspiration.

The Satanic Panic

tom Hanks mazes and monsters

The movie was one of the first to express the paranoia from the “Satanic Panic” that arose in the late 1970s. The prevailing theory among many parents, teachers, and law enforcement was that there was a widespread conspiracy that involved Satanic cults ritually abusing children.

While history eventually showed that this was nothing more than a delusional conspiracy, the panic resulted in rock music, horror films, and RPGs (similar to the one that Tom Hanks’ Robbie plays in Mazes and Monsters) being responsible for instances of homicide and suicide among fans of the aforementioned mediums. 

Not A Standout Performance

tom Hanks mazes and monsters

Tom Hanks is certainly a novice actor in Mazes and Monsters, his performance leaving much to be desired.

He is joined on screen by Chris Makepeace (My Bodyguard, Vamp), Wendy Crewson (The Good Son, What Lies Beneath), and Davi Wysocki (Mortuary).

None of the young co-stars particularly stood out in the production, but the poor script and lackluster direction worked against any and all players in the movie.

Bigger And Better Things

Tom Hanks, of course, went on to bigger and better roles and was fortunately able to leave the disastrous Mazes and Monsters behind him. In retrospect, it’s a laughable film with a silly storyline and B-level acting. The movie certainly belongs on the bottom of the list of productions that Hanks has been associated with and will likely stay there.

Streaming Mazes and Monsters

tom Hanks mazes and monsters


The storyline might have received a boost had it been adapted for a theatrical release instead of a made-for-TV production. It certainly had some elements that could have conjured up legitimate fears (both real and perceived), but the movie falls quite short of the mark.

The exploration of a person’s deteriorating mental health, evident in several of the characters, was underdeveloped and displayed with a level of unbelievability that it rendered a potential plus as a huge minus.

Tom Hanks or not, Mazes and Monsters gets a lowly 1.0/5.0-stars. You can stream the movie on Tubi and Pluto or rent it on Prime.