Has Tom Hanks Ever Played a Bad Guy On-Screen?

Tom Hanks is currently starring in a film destined to earn him yet another Oscar: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. In a movie that aims to capture the beloved TV personality who inspired the film, Hanks stars as Fred Rogers, bringing the contagious energy and warm earnestness perfect for delivering the film’s message about acceptance and understanding. 

Tom Hanks of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks attends the 2018 The National Board Of Review Annual Awards Gala | Coppola/Getty Images

While Hanks excels in the role, it should come as no surprise that he was chosen for the part. Hanks has cemented a good-guy image in Hollywood. From Big to Captain Phillips and, of course, Forrest Gump, the actor is renowned for his turns as lovable guys with so much to give, so willing to sacrifice, and so compassionate to a fault. 

After all these years, Hanks has become one with the persona he often depicts on-screen. So, has the actor behind Fred Rogers ever played a bad guy? If so, when? And, how did it go? 

Hanks has received the most praise for his ‘good guy’ roles

Hanks has played a range of characters — those who leave our chests bubbly in response to their bashful buoyancy and those who leave us confounded in response to their morally gray or manipulative behavior. The problem: when he plays a questionable character, the guy is either good “deep down” or goes largely unrecognized. 

When analyzing Hanks’ career, his Oscar-winning roles include Forrest Gump and Philadelphia. He was nominated for Saving Private Ryan, Big, and Cast Away. In each of these roles, he portrays a protagonist — the audience roots for his character to come out on top. Thus, when fans reflect on Hanks’ career, it seems as if he has only played good guys, for these films receive the most recognition. 

These films become emblematic of the man — the characters grow intimately connected to the actor behind them, and Hanks becomes America’s hero, America’s good guy, America’s loveable father. However, Hanks has played parts that diverge from his norm.

Tom Hanks has played the ‘bad guy’

In the 2002 film Road to Perdition, Hanks played a gangster, stepping away from the likes of characters he normally portrays on-screen. However, there was a catch: he was protecting his son against people worse than he was. This narrative provided the character with relatable motivations beyond self-interest, creating a protective parent out of the questionable man. So, he wasn’t all bad. 

More recently, in 2017, Hanks played a shady CEO across from Emma Watson in The Circle. If you don’t remember this movie, never heard of it, or heard of it but never saw it, you’re in the majority. The Circle was condemned by critics and audiences alike and opened to poor box office sales. 

In short, Hanks has either played bad guys who are relatable or bad guys who no one gets to witness. While Hanks may have the skill to portray a bad guy effectively — no one would doubt the actor’s competence — he has yet to depict one that receives widespread recognition, only further cementing his status as Hollywood’s hero. Who knows, maybe Hanks will play a Marvel villain and, at last, break the mold he has solidified. However, will Marvel’s head honchos even be able to picture good-guy Hanks behind a big baddie?