A Forgotten Tom Hanks Film Is Shining Again On Streaming

The Tom Hanks film Volunteers is on the top ten list of Hulu's most streamed movies.

By Jennifer Asencio | Published

The 1985 Tom Hanks comedy Volunteers is making people laugh again. According to Flix Patrol, the movie is ranked #9 on Hulu in the United States for the week of November 10-16, 2022. In addition to Tom Hanks, Volunteers also stars John Candy, Rita Wilson, Tim Thomerson, and Gedde Watanabe.

Tom Hanks plays Lawrence Bourne III in Volunteers, a character who is a spoiled rich kid with a lot of gambling debt. When his father refuses to pay it off for him, he worms his way into the Peace Corps and runs to Thailand to escape his debt. On the way, he meets the wholesome Tom Tuttle from Tacoma and the beautiful Beth Wexler, who is onto his charade.

The three volunteers find themselves working under Tim Thomerson’s John Reynolds, who wants them to build a bridge.

As the plot develops, it turns out other parties are so interested in getting this bridge built that they’re willing to kill for it. With the U.S. Army, communist agents, and a drug cartel all pushing for the bridge to get built; Lawrence, Tom, and Beth find themselves embroiled in a plot that bypasses what is best for the villagers. As Tom Hanks’ Lawrence befriends the villagers with the other volunteers through the translations of English speaker At Toon, played by Gedde Watanabe, he begins to learn that the best gamble is life.

tom hanks volunteers
John Candy, Rita Wilson, and Tom Hanks in Volunteers (1985)

Tom Hanks found himself working again with Splash costar John Candy to make Volunteers, which marked a joyful comedy reunion. Perhaps more significant is that the movie allowed him to reconnect with former Bosom Buddies costar Rita Wilson, who would shortly become his partner, then his wife. The pair have been married since 1988 and they are considered to be one of the most stable couples in an industry where marriages don’t usually last.

Although it takes place in Thailand, the movie was filmed in Mexico but included an international cast of hundreds of people on a set that included a Thai village built specifically for the film. The set included a 250-yard-long suspension bridge that is the world’s longest. Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast of Volunteers used this set to humorously re-create scenes from the David Lean films that served as inspiration for the movie, including Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai.

The movie opened to mixed reviews, currently holding a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, but even negative reviews praised Tom Hanks as the rich snob turned earnest volunteer. It was number two at the box office the weekend of its release and made almost $20 million during its run. Volunteers took almost 6 years to get to the screen but created a fun comedy that endeared audiences.

Now, modern audiences can also enjoy Tom Hanks in Volunteers and look back at a point in time in the actor’s prolific career when he played mostly comedy roles. Today we know Tom Hanks as the unassuming and modest star of many drama films and Oscar winners, including Forrest Gump and The Green Mile but his early career was dominated by madcap comedies like Splash and Volunteers. Catch Volunteers on Hulu while it lasts!