Tom Hanks Starred in 10 Years of Hits Until This Movie Flopped

In the 1990s, Tom Hanks seemed unstoppable. The actor started the decade with two underperformers in 1990, Joe Versus the Volcano and The Bonfire of the Vanities. By 1999, he had two Oscars and starred in two huge hits that year, Toy Story 2 and The Green Mile. Clearly, his 1988 classic Big set the stage for superstardom. But Hanks’ hit streak came to a screeching halt when a 2004 movie brought more than a decade of box office smashes to an end.

Tom Hanks leans his head on his hand while he wears a suit at a red carpet event
Tom Hanks | George Pimentel/WireImage

Tom Hanks headlined a full decade of $100M hits

Hanks had earned his first Oscar nod for Big in 1989. But it wasn’t until 1993’s Philadelphia that he received another nomination, and this time he won. Most surprising of all, that movie became a blockbuster, as did that summer’s Sleepless in Seattle. Those two successes, however, were nothing compared to what came next. 1994’s Forrest Gump rivaled The Lion King for the year’s biggest hit, with both films topping $300 million domestically.

That Oscar-winning smash kicked off an unprecedented string of box office hits for Hanks. For a full decade afterwards, every film in which Hanks played a lead role earned more than $100 million. Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Road to Perdition, and Catch Me If You Can all cleared what Hollywood then considered its litmus test for a blockbuster film, according to The-Numbers.com.

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The actor’s hit streak ended with the Coen brothers

The only exception during this 1994 to 2004 period was the 1996 release That Thing You Do! Hanks directed and wrote the movie, which follows a fictional 1960s pop band. It earned just $26 million domestically, but Hanks plays the minor role of Mr. White, the band’s manager. So it hardly counts as a star vehicle for the actor. The same can’t be said of The Ladykillers from directors Joel and Ethan Coen. That movie ended Hanks’ reign as box office king.

A remake of a 1955 British comedy, The Ladykillers stars Hanks as the Southern leader of a band of criminals. But audiences did not connect to the black comedy, which earned less than $40 million in theaters. The film is widely considered among the Coens’ weakest directorial efforts and is often forgotten among Hanks’ filmography. Thankfully, Hanks soon bounced back with another hit, Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal, later that very same year.

Despite the talent of the Coen brothers, 2004’s The Ladykillers might have proven to be a bump in Hanks’ filmography. But the actor added another $100+ million hit to his belt that same year with The Polar Express. And though that financial benchmark doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did — thanks to inflation and ballooning Hollywood budgets — Hanks has maintained a mostly solid filmography over the subsequent years.

The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Toy Story 3, Captain Phillips, Sully, and Toy Story 4 all earned between $107 million and $434 million at the domestic box office. Many others came close to earning $100 million, including Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, and The Post. And with two new movies hitting in 2022, Hanks is just as popular as ever, it seems.

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