Tom Hanks plays real-life people in films an awful lot of the time. He does it so often, that many times we've found ourselves feeling like the movie we were watching must be based on a true story, even when that's not the case. Hanks simply makes everything he does feel real. Sometimes you find yourself jumping online after the movie is over to see whether the story you just say actually happened.
Sometimes Tom Hanks has been in films that were inspired by a true story. Other times, it simply takes place during an actual period of history. This certainly adds to the feeling that you're watching history unfold in front of you, but beyond that, Hanks just imbues his characters with a reality that makes them impossible to believe they were entirely made up. Here are six times we had to double check to be sure Tom Hanks was playing a fictional character.
The Terminal is one of those stories that was inspired by an actual story. There was once a man who lived for years in an airplane terminal. However, the story of The Terminal, as directed by Steven Spielberg, is actually not about that story. However, Tom Hanks makes Viktor Navorski feel like somebody who would respond to this situation in the only possible way. By living as best he can. Stuck in a place he can't leave, where people speaking a language he doesn't really understand, he just chooses to continue to exist. As we all would, hopefully.
Many legal films are actually based on real stories. Moments that actually change laws are stories that are worthy of cinematic drama. In 1993 when Philadelphia was released, topics like HIV were still difficult for many people to understand. Gay rights hadn't progressed nearly as far as they have today. Philadelphia was a story that we wanted to be true, where the law fought against bigotry. The fact that one of the men fighting was dealing with his own bigotry only made the story more poetic. In the end, the story has a tragic ending, as so many true stories unfortunately do.
Road to Perdition
Mobster movies are like legal stories, in that half the time they seem to be based on actual events. Road to Perdition isn't based on a true story, it's based on a graphic novel, and if anybody else had starred in it or if it had been directed differently it would have seemed like it. While much of the action may come across as extreme, the rest of the film, including Tom Hanks' performance, is so understated that it feels very real. When it comes to an end we feel like we've really lost somebody.
Cast Away is a fairly amazing story. Most people would probably never consider Cast Away to be a true story, and yet, we know that some people are out there have wondered. There have certainly been stories about people surviving absolutely epic struggles in nature. It's the kind of story that we want to be real. It's the fight that we want to believe we would be willing to go through if this somehow happened to us in real life. After spending so much time in a movie with a single character you simply can't help but feel a strong connection to them. Therefore, it must be real, right?
Saving Private Ryan
So many movies about heroism during World War II are 100% real. There were so many great heroes fighting that it's honestly easier to believe that the WWII movie you're watching is real than to assume otherwise. The letter from Abraham Lincoln which inspires the search for Private Ryan is completely legit, so is it so hard to believe that the events that follow could also have been? We know that the war really happened. There were probably men not unlike the characters in Saving Private Ryan all over France on D-Day. Some men make it home, and others do not. Saving Private Ryan makes war feel as real as any film ever made, which makes the characters feel real as well.
A League of Their Own
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a real thing that existed for over a decade. However, the characters that we met in A League of Their Own were fictional creations. Yet, Tom Hanks' Jimmy Dugan was a completely believable character. A past-his-prime ballplayer who thinks the entire thing is a joke. While the events of the film are fictional, several of the characters, like the men who set up the league, are real people, it gives the rest of the film a sense of accuracy. Maybe it didn't all happen like this, but it should have.