Tom Hanks is one of the most accomplished and hardest-working actors of our time. His every-man quality has led to him playing roles across a wide range. He’s played soldiers, astronauts, and even a toy sheriff. And all of those movies are amazing. You can always count on Hanks turning in a performance that moves you and gets the audience on his side. That’s why the best Tom Hanks movie is the one where it’s almost exclusively him on screen. His best movie is Cast Away.
Now, it might be a stretch to say that Cast Away is the best Tom Hanks movie out of all the movies he has played a part in. Saving Private Ryan and the Toy Story franchise certainly might be better overall watches. But as for a movie that lives and dies on the back of Tom Hanks’ performance, Cast Away can’t be topped. In the movie, Hanks plays the most normal guy ever who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances–circumstances that hit on a deep human fear everyone has had and imagined themselves in. If you were stranded on a desert island, how would you fare? Cast Away takes a person we could all probably relate to and puts them in that situation.
In Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a systems analyst executive at FedEx. During Christmas dinner, he’s summoned by his work to Malaysia to solve an issue. However, he doesn’t quite make it to his destination. The cargo plane he’s on crashes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hanks is the only survivor, along with some FedEx packages that wash ashore on the remote island where he lands. From there, Noland has to use his own resources and the packages that wash up with him to survive.
Once Noland gets on the island, it truly becomes Tom Hanks’ movie. He’s on-screen, alone, for 75 minutes total. That means that Hanks has to carry a movie on his own for over an hour, with no other characters to interact with. Not many actors can pull that off, but Hanks is definitely one of them. Of course, he does have his friend Wilson the volleyball to talk to, but as acting partners go there are definitely more active ones to play off of. You see Hanks run the gamut of emotions in this movie. You see his desperation, you see joy when he is able to make a fire, you see him struggle to hold on to his sanity. Hanks has you gripped throughout the movie’s runtime. His performance keeps you engaged and invested in his journey the entire time, which is no easy feat. The efficient and steady direction of Robert Zemeckis certainly helps, but Hanks certainly deserves as much credit as he gets for carrying the weight of the movie on his shoulders.
Critics and audiences seem to agree with this being one of the best Tom Hanks movies. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie holds an 89% critic score and an 84% audience score. It did pretty great at the box office too, pulling in an overall gross of $429.6 million against a $90 million budget. When awards season came around that year, the movie also got some acclaim and nominations. Hanks ended up winning the Golden Globe for Best Film Actor in a Leading Role. He also got the Oscar nom for Best Actor but lost out to Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Wilson the volleyball also nabbed the award for Best Movie Inanimate Object at the Critics’ Choice Award, which is clearly the most prestigious accolade of all.
Though Cast Away is undoubtedly the Tom Hanks show, the rest of the cast list made the most of their minor roles, particularly Helen Hunt as Noland’s girlfriend Kelly. There are certainly complaints to be had about the way the movie ends, but that doesn’t take away from the performance of either of the two leads. Also, as an island-survival tale, it’s really one of the best movies out there that scratches that itch. It has emotional highs, emotional lows, and enough uncertainty to make you wonder if Noland ever will actually get off that island.
If you’re as charmed by Tom Hanks as the rest of us, and you haven’t seen him own the screen in Cast Away yet, make sure to check out one of the best Tom Hanks movies out there.