The Best Tom Hanks Monologues
Tom Hanks is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors who has ever lived. As a result, he has been given the opportunity to play a wide range of characters from cops to pilots to soldiers. Writers are always eager to give him at least one scene in which the spotlight is all his, and he is able to wrap up the theme of the movie or at least the character he is playing in one tightly written monologue. When Hanks begins a speech, the scene grows quiet and concentrated, and the audience listens with intent ears. Below are some of his best monologues in terms of being memorable, well written, and flawlessly performed.
Apollo 13 (1995) – “You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home.”
In the middle of the Apollo 13 disaster, the news stations keep running previous interviews with the astronauts, including one of Hanks’ character, Jim Lovell. During the interview, he is asked if he was ever in a situation where he experienced fear during an emergency in the air. Lovell launches into a recollection of an air mission in Japan in which his homing signal goes out along with all of the instruments in his cockpit, including his lights. Fearing himself doomed, he notices that the algae in the ocean is lighting his way back in a way that it couldn’t had all of his lights been on.
The story is meant to illustrate the fortunate coincidences that we encounter in moments of doom, and it almost provides an explanation as to how the three astronauts are able to survive their current mission. Hanks uses a matter-of-fact tone to speak these lines, giving audiences a glimpse of his character as a born leader and one who has faith in not only his abilities but in the abilities of NASA itself.
Cast Away (2000) – “Tomorrow the sun will rise.”
Hanks’ Chuck Noland is quickly established as a man whose life is governed by time as dictated by his job at FedEx. So, when he is stranded on a deserted island for four years, it throws him for a loop more so than your average person. The plump, outgoing man returns thin and quiet, unable to articulate what he has been through and how he was able to survive on his own. At the end of the film, he ends up at his friend, Stan’s, house, where he is able to tell his story by a warm fire with an ice cold drink.
He talks about how his penchant for order and timing got in his way but were ultimately the traits that kept him alive and got him off of the island. His despair at losing the life that he knew took its toll on him, leading to a plan of suicide, but when his plan failed, he instead focused on getting through one day after the other, eating and breathing until he was able to rescue himself. Stan doesn’t speak a word throughout this monologue; he just stays quiet in the unfocused background as the camera pans around Noland and his fluctuating emotions about how being rescued has put him back into despair, but just as before, he is waiting for the tide to bring him another tool that he can use to get to the next stage of his life. This scene captures the anti-suicide message of the story in that one has to battle through every tough situation in order to make it back to land and away from the island of isolation that can consume us all.
Saving Private Ryan – “That’s my mission.” (1998)
Who better to play a father figure to a group of young, American soldiers fighting in World War II than America’s dad? Hanks is not very dad-like in this part, though. Captain Miller is a man thrust into his leadership position basically because he is the highest ranking officer left during the invasion of Normandy and earns his stripes by getting as many men up the beach as possible. His next mission is to save the only son left in a family of brothers sent overseas to fight in the war. He assembles his team and then leads them on a needle-in-the-haystack hunt for this lone soldier who is oblivious to his recent only-child status. His men look up to him, but they are also curious about him. Miller gives them very little information about them, and as a result, he has a bargaining chip in his pocket at all times to use for an emergency boost in morale.
That moment comes after the group is split on Miller’s decision to let a German soldier go free, despite the fact that he had killed one of their own. That, along with their own mounting reservations about risking the lives of seven men to save one, leads to a complete break in the group. Miller, who has remained silent to a point, pulls out his bargaining chip and announces to the group that he was a school teacher from Pennsylvania before he joined the war effort. The big mystery surrounding their captain is that he is just a regular man pulled out of a regular life from his wife to come look after a bunch of boys young enough to have been his students.
He then explains that he, like them, is just “earning” the right to go home. To do this, he must follow his orders without question, and he’s going to do it without complaint. Hanks pulls this off as calm, cool, and collected in a story full of chaos and suspense. He is clear-headed and genuine which is effective in a way that barking orders never would have been. As a result, the remaining group of men are silenced, and they all carry on with their mission to find Private Ryan and bring him home.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) – “Maybe human is divine.”
At the end of the Da Vinci code, Robert and Sophie get to the end of the puzzle without actually finding the grail, but Sophie finds something more important, her heritage. However, she is still a bit skeptical of their findings. As a result, Robert lays out a philosophy about faith to help put her at ease about her newfound family. He speaks of history versus religion, especially how it relates to Christianity. There is no proof that Jesus was divine. Christians just latch onto their faith that he was divine. He suggests that Sophie hold on to that faith and the evidence of miracles that she has produced in her life, no matter how small.
He gets very personal in his own moment where he relied on faith to save his life and how that had worked out for him. It’s not preachy or even confident, just a hopeful idea for her to consider, and the conversation that follows illustrates the nature of the friendship that they have formed on their journey. He strips away his public-speaking professor persona introduced at the start of the movie to a more genuine, soft-spoken, Tom Hanks gospel.
Forrest Gump (1994) – “Maybe we’re all just floating accidental-like on a breeze.”
The main theme in Forrest Gump is destiny vs. free will. The people and situations that Forrest encounters in his life provide evidence to both theories. Lieutenant Dan believes in fate and that we all serve a purpose and then die while his mama believes that our lives are in our own hands, and it is up to us as to what to do with it. So, when Hanks, as Forrest, visits Jenny’s grave at the end of the film, he ponders these two points of view and wonders just who was right. His ability to love transcends his lack of intelligence, and he is able to dig deep into his sorrow and pull out a theory that maybe we do have a destiny, but we decide how we arrive at that destiny. He has proven that life is about the journey and not about the destination, and Hanks delivers his lines as if he is working this out in his head as he is speaking. He wants answers to the many things that he does not understand, but most of all, he wants to know where he fits in in the world. In the end, it doesn’t matter because he is living life as he chooses, taking advantage of every opportunity and not losing one value instilled to him by his mama.
A League of Their Own (1992) – “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”
Jimmy Dugan is not your typical Tom Hanks character, but he is one of his best. He’s obnoxious, belittling, and disgusting in many ways, but he wins over the audience as his team of “girl ballplayers” win him over, most notably Dottie Hinson. So, when Dottie picks up and quits the team right before the world series, Jimmy has some words for her which sums up his philosophy of the game itself. He can’t believe that she is so easily able to leave the game, knowing full well that she is as in love with the sport as he is. He sees her leaving out of reluctant duty, and the feminist in him emerges to tell her that she doesn’t always have to do what is expected of her, especially when she has the desire and the talent to stay. The speech doesn’t work for him at first. It takes six games without Dottie for her to return for her final game and finish what she began.
What are your favorite Tom Hanks movie moments? Leave your answers in the comments below!
Saving Mr Banks (2013) – “It’s not the children she comes to save.”
Tom Hanks’ turn as the historical Walt Disney is not in biopic fashion as much as it’s a sparring match between he and P.L. Travers over the rights to her Mary Poppins books. Disney comes across as the rightful king of his kingdom, intent on getting whatever he wants, and Travers is intent on not giving him what he wants for once. It takes a visit from Disney, not as the smiling persona that he exhibits at the office but as a candid storyteller who, like she, has a past trauma to suppress and honor. Travers has spent her life bitter over her daddy issues while Disney has spent his trying to transform his life into a fairy tale, and he asks her to try it his way this time so that he can give her a version of her father that she craves.
This is one of Hanks’ most captivating performances where the audience lingers on every word spoken in a low mumble as if he doesn’t want anyone to hear the truth about his own past and sharing it with her is regarded to be a privilege. He does end up getting his way not through a business man’s trickery but through honest intent. Hanks is not trying to impersonate a legend here, which would have been easy enough. Instead, he is trying to service the story and character in the same way that Disney was trying to service the Mary Poppins books.