One of the greatest living actors of our time, two-time Oscar winner and all round legend Tom Hanks turns 57 years old today. 2013 will be one of the busiest for him to date, with Cloud Atlas already out this year, and with hostage drama Captain Philips and playing none other than Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, we should see him nominated come next year's awards season. But the man's acting CV is filled with the kind of roles in the kind of movies that any other actor would kill for – Sleepless In Seattle, Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, Toy Story, The Green Mile and countless more – but we're focusing on our five favourite Hanks performances that really showed the depth and breadth of his talent.
CAST AWAY (2000)
Hanks plays a Fed-Ex big-wig who survives a truly terrifying plane-crash, only to wind up on a deserted island that offers no easy escape. Alone on screen for most of the running time, acting against an inanimate object ("WILSON!", this truly shows that Hanks is one of the few actors who can capture our attention and keep it by himself for long, LONG periods at a time.
ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
We're so used to seeing Hanks play the all-round nice guy that it came as something of a shock when he decided to play the murderous lead in director Sam Mendes' follow up to American Beauty, and even more of a shock that he played it so well. An emotionally clamed-up gangster who knew his way around a Tommy Gun, Hanks deserved WAY more kudos for this role than he received.
Earlier on in his career, Tom was one of the biggest comedy actors in Hollywood – The Money Pit, Joe Versus The Volcano, Turner & Hooch, Dragnet, The Burbs – but Big is where his star power shown brightest. Ignoring the slightly creepy undertones to the story if you give it any kind of thought, Big is still very funny to this day, and solely responsible for every impersonation by people standing on giant piano floors.
An interesting career choice to make following all of his family-friendly movies to date, Philadelphia was a risk that paid off for Hanks nicely, in the shape of his first Academy Award (he'd go on to win his second for Forrest Gump, and nominated another three times on top of that). Playing a gay man dying of AIDS who is suing his former employers for wrongful dismissal, this is heavy going but rewarding stuff, held together by Hanks emotional performance.
CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (2007)
Playing a good guy is one thing, playing a bad guy is another, but playing a slimy, swarmy but sharply intelligent man who falls somewhere in between and still come off as likeable? That's hard to do, and Hanks pulls it off with aplomb. Taking like a duck to water with Aaron Sorkin's (The Social Network, The West Wing) scalpel sharp dialogue, the politically charged comedy drama is one of Hanks lesser known, most overlooked movies that definitely deserves a revisit soon.