The 10 Saddest Tom Hanks Movies (Including Finch)

It’s pretty much a given that Tom Hanks movies are going to hit the desired sentimental notes every time. Finch is Hanks’ latest Apple TV+ movie following 2020’s Greyhound that once again proves the actor’s mastery when it comes to capturing the audience’s hearts with his performances. The movie is a science fiction drama whose quality is carried squarely on his shoulders, but he is very familiar with this type of role.

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There are more than several other movies that deliver similar emotional gut-punches across Hanks’ filmography and it’s worth checking them out to appreciate the actor’s career. Interestingly, they range from science fiction like Finch to dramas, tragedies, animated features, and more.

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Finch (2021)

In this post-apocalyptic movie, Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks) is one of the last surviving humans on an Earth that has been ravaged by radiation. Finch himself is dying and spends his final days teaching a robot how to take care of his dog, so the latter can survive once he has passed away.

It’s a simplistic premise and one that is designed to make viewers cry. Hanks’ portrayal as a man who’s come to terms with his death is an instant tearjerker, with fans kept hooked due to the race against time before Finch will die and possibly doom his dog as well.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Thomas gives Oskar a piggyback ride in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Tom Hanks’ role in this feature is relatively small but his presence looms across the story. The movie’s main protagonist is a child named Oskar (Thomas Horn) who is unable to accept the loss his father, Thomas (Hanks). Oskar explores the city looking for the key to a lock he’s found that he believes his father has left him as a clue for an unknown message.

The story is specifically designed to be one that pulls on viewers’ heartstrings, with Hanks’ character weaving in and out to remind fans of the great impact his death has on his family. At its heart, the movie is about finding acceptance to move on, but there’s a surge of emotions to go through first.

The Terminal (2004)

Tom Hanks in The Terminal

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Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is a traveler from Krakozhia, only to learn that civil unrest in his country has rendered him stateless. Viktor is denied exit from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and has to learn to survive there until he’s allowed to be free once more.

Viktor is among the most likable characters Tom Hanks has played, being a man who means well and enriches the lives of everyone in the airport. However, it’s tough to see Viktor’s distraught state when he is all alone, confused in a place he knows nothing about. The story also reveals several tragedies from his life that add to the sentimental nature of the Steven Spielberg movie.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Captain Miller tells Private Ryan to earn this in Saving Private Ryan

This epic is a classic collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and Hanks, with the latter playing Captain John H. Miller. Miller and his squad head out in search of paratrooper Ryan during WWII in a journey that sees many heartbreaks and immeasurable losses of life.

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The film is popular for the finale where Hanks’ character tells Ryan to “earn this,” which is a plea to experience a life of happiness after the war. It makes viewers truly care about the characters but also has many dying tragically in ways that depict the horrors of war in the flesh.

Cast Away (2000)

Even viewers who haven’t seen the movie are well aware of the Wilson volleyball and Hanks’ heartbreaking cry of its name. Cast Away depicts Chuck Noland (Hanks) as he gets stranded on an island following a plane crash, where he has to learn how to survive.

Hanks’ brilliance in acting is best proven through this movie, where his imaginary friendship with Wilson might just be the most genuine connection ever seen. Viewers are given hope time and again for Chuck’s rescue, only for it to fall short. For a story about a stranded man, it has quite a few twists and turns to deliver.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

The ending of Toy Story 3

Although it’s technically one of Tom Hanks’ well-noted comedy films, the third entry in the animated series is nearly impossible to watch without welling up. Woody and the rest of the toys try to stay together as their owner Andy leaves in an adventure that could see them torn apart forever.

In many ways, the film is about finally growing up even if people want to hang on to their childhoods. Hanks’ voice acting deserves full credit for bringing Woody to life and making the bond he shares with his owner and fellow toys feel real. As is the case with Pixar movies, it’s the soundtrack that really makes viewers emotional.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks as Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips

Based on the true story of the titular person, the film portrays his attempts to overcome pirates who take MV Maersk Alabama. Even with the knowledge that Phillips will survive, it’s Hanks’ portrayal that should convince viewers to still be concerned with whether the protagonist will live to see the next day.

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The movie is a fast-paced affair that is as thrilling as it is heartbreaking. Phillips has to come to terms with the possibility that he will die, as the pirates threaten to end him should they be challenged by Phillips’ rescuers. As with other Tom Hanks features, the actor embodies his role so well that Captain Phillips seems like a person fans are intimately connected with.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Tom Hanks

Robert Zemeckis’ sentimental drama Forrest Gump chronicles the extraordinary life of Forrest (Tom Hanks), a slow-witted but very loving man as the story takes place from his younger days to adulthood. Forrest becomes part of significant moments in history despite wanting nothing but love and acceptance from a society that often overlooks him.

The movie has an enduring legacy thanks to the many life lessons Forrest Gump teaches, with Hanks’ portrayal of the titular character heartfelt, amusing, and everything in between. Forrest has so many tragedies that it’s hard to keep count and it’s his undying optimism in the direst circumstances that somehow brings the most tears.

The Green Mile (1999)

Tom Hanks holds back tears in The Green Mile.

Set in a prison in 1935, the arrival of inmate John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) begins a series of supernatural events that convinces death row prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) that John is innocent. Despite learning John’s truth, Paul can do nothing but await the moment he will have to watch his execution.

A film that doesn’t shy away from being overwrought, The Green Mile is considered one of the best movies that depict inner faith and powerlessness during unjust moments in life. Hanks’ character is the audience’s surrogate to feel for John’s plight and the understandably heart0wrenching ending remains firm in memory.

Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks Quiz - Philadelphia

It’s pretty much certain that a film is going to be big in terms of impact when Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks are featured. Philadelphia is a legal drama where Andy Beckett (Hanks) is represented by Joe Miller (Washington) in a wrongful dismissal case due to Andy’s office treating him with contempt for his AIDS diagnosis.

It’s clear right from the get-go that the movie will not have a happy ending, but there’s something about the bond between Andy and Joe that makes it a must-watch. It’s also saddening to see Andy’s deteriorating condition as he only wants to be respected before meeting his end.

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The 10 Saddest Tom Hanks Movies (Including Finch)

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