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Tom Hanks movies include a lot of reflections on historical times. There are the war movies like Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13’s NASA history or A League of Their Own, inspired by the real women’s baseball league. One comment to which Hanks takes umbrage is calling his movies nostalgic. 

Tom Hanks waves at Cannes for Elvis, another historic movie Hanks says are not nostalgic
Tom Hanks | Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

Hanks spoke to the New York Times in an interview published on June 15. After discussing his role as Col. Tom Parker in Elvis, Hanks went back even further. Here’s why he does not consider Tom Hanks movies nostalgic. 

Tom Hanks movies show history the way it was

Hanks made it clear he is not nostalgic for the past. He sees great historic movements of the past and wants to illuminate them for modern audience.s 

“‘There’s Hanks, he’s got a nostalgia for the way America used to be’: No,” Hanks told the New York Times. “I have a fascination with the progress that America has made in all these incremental moments. That is an American sense of what is right and what is wrong. What I don’t do, if I can continue on, I’m not cynical. Cynicism is a default position in an awful lot of entertainment. How many knockoff versions of Chinatown have you seen? Eight million. The conflict of cynicism is glamorous, gorgeous. Violence is glamorous and gorgeous. But it’s cynical, and I’m not a cynic.”

Tom Hanks movies show his faith in America 

Hanks has made fictional movies about history too. Forrest Gump ran through historic events, and Cloud Atlas went from the distant past to the far future. These also reflect Hanks’ historic hope.

“I was in a movie called Cloud Atlas that went right over everybody’s heads,” Hanks said. “It said, ‘What is the point of trying to do the right thing when it’s just a drop in the ocean? But what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?’ Things get better when a multitude of drops form an ocean and sweep things away. World War II: The Nazis were defeated, as was a Japanese empire, because enough good people said no. Civil rights came about because of, I think, an American belief that our responsibility as citizens is to work toward making a more perfect union.”

Nostalgia not welcome here 

Hanks takes umbrage with nostalgia for the past. He recognizes that the past was rough for a lot of people, and that’s nothing for which to be nostalgic.


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“That’s such a loathsome argument: Back in my day,” Hanks said. “Those days were [expletive] up! ‘Oh, the ’50s were this carefree time.’ Excuse me, no, they were not. How come things aren’t the way they were? You mean when you were comfortable? Institutions were gaming the system in order to maintain the status quo! That has always been the case except for when some redefinition of our institutions comes along out of a public outcry because the status quo isn’t fair.”