At some point—most likely after he won Oscar #1 for Philadelphia in 1994—Tom Hanks moved from celebrity to sainthood. Even when he played a hit man in Road to Perdition, he was a nice mob killer. Reunited with Steven Spielberg to continue a collaboration that includes Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and, er, The Money Pit (Spielberg exec produced!), Hanks now headlines Bridge of Spies as a lawyer negotiating the release of an American pilot captured by the Soviets.
Chances of self-effacing heroism? Very high.
But it wasn’t always like this. Back when he was a young actor with big dreams and bigger hair, Hanks specialized in loud, fast-talking, utterly untrustworthy ladies’ men who might do anything from assaulting a beloved Family Ties star to emitting insane honks of laughter for a solid 30 seconds. So the American Film Institute can honor Hanks’ “classic” movies (he was the youngest recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award at just 45). We, on the other hand, salute the days when Hanks was still a total dick.
He Knows You’re Alone (1980)
The first Hanks screen appearance came in an exceptionally low-budget slasher flick and finds him rocking a bandana, offering the strangest pronunciation of “house of hor-ror ride” ever, and using his background in psychology to convince a woman she’s not being stalked: she’s just crazy. (The music at 2:28 suggests otherwise.)
Bosom Buddies (1980)
Hanks has starred in legendary sequences from the Saving Private Ryan opening to the Captain Phillips finale. But compared to the Bosom Buddies credits, they are poo. Concisely explaining why two men pretend to be ladies to live at the “Susan B. Anthony Hotel: A Residence for Women” while also pretending to be those ladies’ brothers so that Hanks can get with “the blonde” before a cover of a Billy Joel song kicks in and the physical comedy from Hanks and co-star Peter Scolari starts—catch that fruit, Tom!—it’s so brilliant Paul Rudd and Adam Scott reenacted it for Adult Swim.
Happy Days (1982)
See the Fonz out of his leather coat… and Hanks in a karate gi. (Really.) Hanks talks serious trash to Arthur Fonzarelli—the term “geekface” is thrown around—as he seeks revenge for an incident that happened 17 years earlier. Pat Morita enters to observe Hanks’ fighting style; he would gain additional experience watching white folks do martial arts as the Oscar-nominated sensei in three Karate Kid films.
Family Ties (1983)
Hanks made three appearances as “Uncle Ned” on the sitcom, playing a character idolized by Alex P. Keaton who reveals himself to be an unreliable, occasionally violent alcoholic. Get set for 17 seconds of Michael J. Fox stage combat.
Bachelor Party (1984)
In 1984, Hanks set the blueprint for the decades to come: playing an extremely decent man in a wildly successful film (in this case, Ron Howard’s mermaid comedy Splash—they later reunited for Apollo 13). That same year, Hanks shared the screen with Tawny Kitaen, who would go on to skank it up in White Snake videos. Playing an “immature asshole” (who hopes to be “a totally changed person by the time we finish lunch”), the future double-Oscar winner is upstaged by a drug-loving donkey.
Marking the first time Hanks would encounter JFK in a film, this period piece features Splash co-star John Candy and Hanks’ future wife Rita Wilson as Hanks plays a drunken degenerate gambler—and, worse, Yale student—forced to join the Peace Corps to escape his debts. (The late critic Gene Siskel put it succinctly: “Hanks comes off as a jerk.”) It’s most memorable for offering a noise normally denied to everyone but Rita: the sound of Tom climaxing. (Yes, he does laugh a little.) If this appeals to you, skip to 7:10 to hear him get down with Bootsy, the valedictorian at Smith.
The Money Pit (1986)
OK, Hanks is less a bad guy than an overwhelmed one as a man losing his sanity and marriage to Shelley Long as a fixer-upper home falls to pieces… but he’s never brought more demented energy to a film, notably in this scene as he reacts to their latest mishap by laughing…. and laughing… and laughing…
Nothing in Common (1988)
Hanks is an ad exec horndog with not one, but two Oscar winners for parents (The Hustler’s Jackie Gleason and On the Waterfront’s Eva Marie Saint). Gleason is convincing as a very sick man, possibly because he was dying and suffering from conditions that included “thrombosed hemorrhoids.” Directed by Happy Days creator Garry Marshall, the movie features an insanely ’80s soundtrack, with songs by Richard Marx, Christopher Cross, and a Thompson Twins title track prominently featured in the trailer.
As a struggling standup comic falling in love with Sally Field—she will later reappear in the Tom filmography in a role that renders this flirtation deeply creepy—Hanks displays an impressive amount of self-loathing, albeit a limited amount of funny, as demonstrated by a set where he bombs to a nuclear degree.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
Intended as a dramatic breakthrough for Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, it proved to be a disaster—seriously, critics hated this movie. Hanks stars as an adulterous Wall Street titan whose life implodes after he and his mistress run over an African-American teen and drive off. First sign the movie isn’t going to work: Its trailer illustrates the title by periodically adding actual flames.
Forrest Gump (1994)
The only post-Philadelphia film where Hanks gets freaky. Oscar #2 finds this slow-witted hero being insubordinate (Lieutenant Dan very clearly requests to die in combat), disrespectful of traditional values (child out of wedlock, anyone?), a little racist (no doubt the black woman at the bus stop was delighted to hear about Confederate general/Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest), kind of a stalker (how many times does Jenny have to say no?), and an absolute wrecking ball to the presidency as he makes JFK uncomfortable with his pee talk, moons LBJ and brings down the entire Nixon administration. Also, former love interest Sally Field is now his mother. Revisit the trailer with a skeevy new feeling.