Over the course of his more than 40-year career, Tom Hanks has given audiences around the world some of the best performances ever captured on film. The two-time Academy Award-actor has shown up the highs and lows of the human condition, explored death and rebirth, and has inspired countless actors and filmmakers to follow in his footsteps. Oh, and he has mastered the art of the on-screen freakout better than anyone.
There is just something about a great Tom Hanks meltdown. They have this certain quality about them where they seem to come out of nowhere even though they've been building up for quite some time. When Hanks' loud and boisterous voice begins to stretch as a crazed expression comes over his face, we in the audience know that something good is coming our way. And with that, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the different times where Tom Hanks freaked out on screen and it was perfect in every way.
The Burbs - Ray's Epic Meltdown In Front Of The Ambulance
Ray Peterson's meltdown at the end of The Burbs is one of, if not the best on-screen freak-outs from Tom Hanks, and that says a lot about a film that came out more than 30 years ago. What makes it so great is the fact that Ray's blowup on his neighbor Rick (Art Weingartner) has ebbs and flows as he goes between being rational and a loose-cannon as he comes to terms with being one of the lunatics on Mayfield Place. It all ends with Ray pretty much stopping himself before yelling out "I've been blown up, take me to the hospital" before throwing a gurney into an ambulance and climbing on top of it.
Honorable Mention: Ray and Carol fight during breakfast.
The Money Pit - It's A Big House
Who knows if we'll ever get that TV adaptation of The Money Pit, but if we don't, there is always the the 1986 comedy starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long who think they get an incredible deal on a country estate only to find out it's plagued with issues. When the deplorable conditions and never-ending renovation project get too much for the young couple, they have a major blow-up and argue over who keeps the house. It's here we get classic Tom Hanks with the "It's a big house" speech that's full of manic rage and a little bit of uncertainty that is sill visible in the actor's eyes and audible in his loud voice all these years later.
Honorable Mention: Walter laughs after the bathtub falls through the floor.
Cast Away - Chuck Cuts His Hand And Creates Wilson
Two Oscars and the several other high profile roles didn't stop Tom Hanks from bringing his sense of comedic (or tragic) timing in the 2001 epic Cast Away which saw him playing FedEx analyst Chuck Noland who gets stuck on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific. Going in, you know there's going to be a moment where Chuck loses all touch with reality (and sanity), and that moment comes when he slices his hand open and inadvertently creates Wilson. After cutting his hand, Chuck kicks water-logged FeEx boxes, grabs the volleyball, and yells to the heavens like a madman. There are other freak-outs here, but nothing comes close to this one.
Honorable Mention: Chuck creates fire.
Toy Story - Woody Tells Buzz He's A Toy
I must admit, Woody is probably the most unlikable character in the first Toy Story movie, but that doesn't mean he's wrong when he finally lets Buzz Lightyear have it when they're stranded at the Dinoco gas station. He tries to convince the astronaut action figure that he's a toy time and time again until he finally loses it completely and begins jumping around like a lunatic yelling "You are a toy!" Woody has other great moments in the movie (and in further installments in the franchise), but none capture the crazy side of Tom Hanks better than this one.
That Thing You Do - Mr. White Tells Guy Patterson To Get To The Studio
For most of That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks' portrayal of band manager Mr. Amos White is relatively calm if not a little hard on the Oneders and never really loses his cool. That all changes when the band is getting ready for a big television gig and Mr. White has to give Guy Peterson (Tom Everett Scott) a wakeup call no one wants to receive. It starts off fine enough but the speed, volume, and rage in the manager's voice all go into overdrive with each word that comes out of his mouth, ending in a fit of rage like nothing the drummer had seen before.
A League Of Their Own - There's No Crying In Baseball
Whenever the tragic day comes when Tom Hanks passes away, his iconic "There's no crying in baseball," line from A League of Their Own will be a staple of all the tribute videos at awards shows and news reports. Seriously, there are few lines from Hanks' phenomenal career that compare to his portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan as he berates Everlyn Gardner (Bitty Schram) from the dugout. But the scene doesn't end there as it continues to escalate and ultimately ends with Dugan getting thrown out of the game. Classic.
Honorable Mention: Dugan kisses Miss Cuthbert, then realizes what he just did and loses it.
Turner And Hooch - Turner Tells Hooch To Quit Barking And Howling
One of the best dog movies currently available on Disney+, the 1989 buddy cop movie Turner & Hooch is also one of the highlights of Tom Hanks' career before he transitioned from standout comedy actor to the megastar he's known as today. The relationship between Hanks' Scott Turner and his K-9 partner Hooch goes without comparison and is built up with scenes like the one where the police detective begins to yell at his dog to quit barking. He runs through an extremely long list of types of foods and beverages at his disposal before asking Hooch if wants him to make a margarita. I wonder if he regrets that outburst at the film's tragic ending.
Honorable Mention: Don't eat the car.
Big - Josh Freaks Out When He's Transformed Into An Adult
The 1988 fantasy comedy Big is young Tom Hanks at his finest. His boyish looks and gentle demeanor are perfect for a character who's supposed to be a child stuck in a man's body after making a wish at a carnival. There are times throughout the movie where Hanks' portrayal of 12-year-old Josh Baskin absolutely kill me, including the part where he first talks to his mother, which doesn't go well, the scene when he tries to convince his best friend he's not some creep trying to kidnap him. He goes from yelling Billy's full name to singing "Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop" in a matter of seconds. Just don't make me watch the scene where Josh has to spend the night in the seedy hotel again.
Sleepless In Seattle - Sam Yells About Fatal Attraction
I'm not going to lie, Sleepless in Seattle is one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies and it's not just because of Bill Pullman. The pairing of Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin and Meg Ryan as Annie Reed (who only share one scene together) as star-crossed lovers is amazing and makes for some great scenes, including the one where Jonah Baldwin (Ross Malinger) tries to convince his father to meet the woman on the phone. Sam could be polite and say no, but he goes on a long tangent about Fatal Attraction and compares her to a psychopath.
Forrest Gump - Greenbow, Alabama!
And finally, we have the only time in Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks quits being the dim-witted yet lovable titular character and loses his southern accent for a few seconds when tells Jenny (Robin Wright) that she should go back to Greenbow, Alabama, when leaving the anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. The brief moment of white-hot rage is about the only anger we see from Forrest throughout the movie and remains one of the most quotable lines in any of Tom Hanks' feature films.
Those are just some of the great Tom Hanks meltdowns, freak-outs, and fits of insanity from the actor's legendary career. Do you agree with the list or do you think something else should have been added? Either way, let me know in the comments below.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.