10 Roles of Tom Hanks You May Have Forgotten Existed

Tom Hanks has had an illustrious Hollywood career that has spanned over 35 years. Known for his roles in Forrest Gump, Big, and Saving Private Ryan and voicing "Woody" in the Toy Story movies, Hanks has appeared in over 70 projects and has twice won an Academy Award for Best Actor.

With his new film Bridge of Spies now showing in theaters, let's take a look at ten screen projects that Hanks acted in over the years that may have slipped the minds of fans. These roles and films may be lesser known but Hanks' work in them is certainly not under appreciated.

Elvis has Left the Building (2004)

A movie with Kim Basinger and Tom Hanks? Really? How did such a flick slip so quietly under the radar? Probably because Hanks simply made a cameo appearance in this 2004 film directed by Joel Zwick.

The premise of this film is pretty straight forward. A fugitive (Basinger) goes on the run in order to avoid being captured for the murder of several Elvis impersonators. Of course,  romance enters the picture when Basinger hooks up with a bored ad exec, played by John Corbett.

Hanks, in a “blink and you’ll miss him” cameo, appears as one of the Elvis impersonators. The catch? Hanks appears as a severed head in a mailbox. It was nothing too fancy or too elaborate, as Hanks wasn’t even promoted as appearing in the movie.

Hanks had previously worked with Zwick, first on Bosom Buddies and later when Hanks was a producer for the Zwick directed My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Seeing big celebrities make these cameos is always a plus, even if the actor appears as only a severed head.

He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

Tom Hanks was given his first screen credit in the slasher flick He Knows You’re Alone.

In an attempt to capitalize on the success of Halloween, He Knows You’re Alone has a plot that follows a soon-to-be bride who is being stalked the weekend before her wedding by a killer. (SPOILER ALERT: Hanks is not the killer).

In fact, the role of Elliot, as played by Hanks, plays a relatively minor part as far as the plot goes. The focus of the movie is on the bride and the man stalking her. Hanks played a wise-cracking, psych major that has a romantic interest in the bride’s sister.

In a scene at the local carnival, Hanks displays the sarcastic wit that defined his early roles. He was affable and easy going, a natural in this slasher flick that gets lost among the other horror classics of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. The movie has sharp dialogue that is very reminiscent of the style that Kevin Williamson made popular years later.

The Great Buck Howard (2008)

Sometimes it’s not just early work from an actor’s career that is forgotten. Such is the case with The Great Buck Howard.

This is another of those films in which Tom Hanks has a brief role, except this time his character is a little more pivotal to the story. Hanks plays Mr. Gable, father to Troy Gable, played by Colin Hanks, the real life son of Tom. No doubt Tom accepted this role for the opportunity to act with his son.

Basically, the plot revolves around Troy, a law school dropout who decides to become an assistant to an aging magician (John Malkovich). Tom Hanks shines in his two scenes, which add up to less than ten minutes of screen time. Based off the previous two minutes mentioned here, that’s a record.

Depending on your level of love for Colin Hanks, this movie can range anywhere from drab to witty. It does star Malkovich, Emily Blunt, and Tom Hanks, so my meter leans towards the witty side.

Tales from the Crypt (1992)

The Crypt Keeper and his stories of horror were reaching the height of their popularity when Hanks appeared in and directed an episode entitled “None but the Lonely Heart”.

At this time in his career, it can be considered a coup that producers of Tales from the Crypt were even able to get Hanks. He wasn’t the Tom Hanks we know now but he’d had a slew of comedy hits (Splash, Big, Joe Vs. the Volcano) and was fairly popular in Hollywood. If the producers had waited another year to ask him, Hanks may have very well been too busy, as he would very shortly began a dominating ten-year run of Academy Award wins and nominations.

The episode is very-well done and not as hokey as other episodes at that time were. Hanks has a deft hand as a director and played the manager at a dating service in the episode. The plot centers around a con man who, through the dating service, meets, marries, and murders an elderly woman in order to get her inheritance. He then gets his dream date, one made up of his worst nightmares.

Tales from the Crypt had its moments over the years but this Hanks-centric episode certainly ranks high on the list of favorites.

Taxi (1982)

Fresh off his starring role in Bosom Buddies, Hanks landed a guest-starring role in an episode of Taxi.

The episode focuses on the events in the past that made the Taxi characters who they are in the present day. Hanks shows up in a flashback scene focused on Jim (Christopher Lloyd). Hanks plays to his forte, comedy, and steals the scene as a stoner who is attempting to get a straight-laced Jim to try marijuana.

Taxi itself is not lesser known but the fact that Hanks was able to get this “one-off” was indeed impressive. Yes, he was coming off of Bosom Buddies but that ran only 37 episodes and was only the third project Hanks was credited in. To step onto the set of Taxi was in and of itself an accomplishment. To actually shine and keep pace with the veteran Lloyd, well, that should be applauded.

Mazes and Monsters (1982)

Hanks stuck with the medium of television and for it was rewarded with a top-billed role in this television movie about four friends playing a role playing game called Mazes and Monsters. Hanks plays Robbie Wheeling, the last of the four friends to agree to play this game. He had his reservations due to past trouble from playing the game. He agrees to play, though, and soon begins to blur the line between reality and fantasy

Mazes and Monsters is a Dungeons and Dragons game gone wild. Hanks, in his first major leading man role, shines as the main character Robbie. For the first time in his young career, Hanks was able to show his range and do something besides just comedy.

This certainly isn’t a movie for everyone. Twenty years ago, a movie centered around role playing games would be targeted to a niche audience. That niche has become more mainstream over the years. While not the greatest of Hanks performances, this movie should be tracked down and watched. Of course, tracking it down maybe the hard part.

Bachelor Party (1984)

1984 was the year that Hanks star flew into a different orbit. Was it because of Bachelor Party? Not necessarily. While this movie helped things along, it was the success of Splash earlier in the year that helped lay the path for Tom Hanks to have a long career in Hollywood.

That’s exactly why we’ll talk about Bachelor Party. Though very popular in some circles, Bachelor Party is sometimes forgotten when comedies from Tom Hanks in the 80’s are brought up. It was a favorite of t.v. stations in the 90’s as a choice for late night programming; the Saturday night late night movie of choice. Then it vanished from the airwaves, a whole new generation of movie viewers missing out on a comedy classic.

The plot is pretty standard. Hanks plays Rick Gassko, a school bus driver who is about to marry a woman from a wealthy family. You know the story. The wrinkle in this one is that the movie centers around the bachelor party and the bridal shower that is going on at the same time. Of course, one side has debauchery and the other side is clean fun. Well, it’s supposed to be before the night goes awry and a donkey makes an appearance.

Hanks is in rare form with his comedic chops, especially in this scene in which he is playing tennis.

The ‘Burbs (1989)

Hanks role as Ray Peterson, in a way, capped off his successful string of comedies in the 80’s. While others in the immediate years following were more successful (looking at you Turner and Hooch), The ‘Burbs had the dark comedy aspect to it that had been missing from the earlier comedies of Hanks.

The film pokes fun at life in the suburbs and the eccentric people that live in these communities. Things get serious when a mysterious family moves into the neighborhood and Ray and his friends, including Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), begin investigating their new neighbors.

Hanks is at his finest in this movie, one that is underrated in the Tom Hanks lexicon of films. The film has a nice blend of comedy and seriousness, perfectly blending the two while adding a touch of suspense. Plus, it also stars Carrie Fisher as the wife of Hanks. How can you go wrong?

Family Ties (1983-84)

For three episodes over a two season span, Hanks appeared as Uncle Ned on the hit sitcom Family Ties. Hanks was very much in his “television” phase at this point and starring in these already established sitcoms helped to cement his place as a “rising star”.

It is in the third episode, titled “Say Uncle”, in which Hanks really steps up to the plate. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, sitcoms had very special episodes that dealt with drug abuse and alcohol abuse. In this episode, Uncle Ned has developed a drinking problem and it is up to Alex (Michael J. Fox) to get him help before the drinking addiction ruins Ned’s life.

This episode gave fans of Hanks an early glimpse of the seriousness that Hanks could attain as an actor. Hanks balances the drama and the comedy perfectly, portraying a man hiding his addiction with dignity and grace. It would be easy to go over-the-top with a performance but Hanks brings a subtlety to it that is perfect for this sitcom.

The Late Night Talk Shows (Various)

These appearance may seem neither under appreciated or lesser known. Hanks seems to tap into those comedic roots and is often at his best when appearing. Whether promoting a movie or just stopping by to say hi, Hanks proves to be a stand-up guy that’s always willing to have a little fun.

This is truly evident when he stops by to say to Conan O’Brien. The two know each other from way back when Conan worked on Saturday Night Live. Hanks always has a good time when visiting with Conan. A favorite is when Conan used to do a sketch called “Secrets”. Various celebrities did this sketch but it was always Hanks that came out on top. There’s only one man with the talent to say with a straight face, “Looks like we’re a couple of peeing Toms.”


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