Tom Hanks, one of this generations greatest living actors, has an affinity for getting into troublesome situations when traveling this wonderful world. The star with such hits as Big, Sleepless in Seattle and Saving Private Ryan, has a slew of movies where his travel plans often go awry. In the last few years, I saw a popular meme stating –

“Never Travel with Tom Hanks”

It made me laugh and then got the wheels turning. How does an actor fall into the trope of “travel gone wrong”? I guess it’s much like Tom Cruise saving the world in pretty much every movie he’s made. It’s just his thing. Here’s a quick rundown of Tom Hanks, weary traveler.

Joe Vs The Volcano

Hanks stars in this strange, quirky movie (with many variations of Meg Ryan) about a man diagnosed with a “brain cloud” and only has weeks to live. He is talked into jumping into a volcano to appease a god on some remote Pacific island and has some very bizarre interactions with Meg, who is playing three different roles. It’s early Hanks and worth a watch if you can get through it. It’s a weird flick.

4/10 volcanoes

Apollo 13

The true story of the Apollo 13 fiasco, where a faulty oxygen canister exploded and stranded three astronauts in lunar orbit. Tom, alongside the late Bill Paxton and still very much alive Kevin Bacon, work with the NASA ground controllers to get them home safely.
Directed by Ron Howard, a well-made film about how human ingenuity and the deadly rigors of space come hand in hand.

8/10 lunar modules

Cast Away

One of my favorite man vs nature films, our Tom is stranded on a remote deserted island in the Pacific after a near-fatal plane crash. No brain cloud or dancing natives this time, but as Chuck Nolan, he uses his wits to battle the elements, and stays alive and eventually return to society, a forever changed man. One of the best plane crash sequences put on film.

9/10 volleyballs

The Terminal

As much as I love Hanks, I couldn’t get through this movie, even with Catherine Zeta-Jones as a flight attendant. The less said the better. Apparently, it is loosely based on a true story of a man whose country’s government falls to a coup while he’s traveling. He gets stuck in the said terminal when his passport is no longer valid and must live there for, like, a year. If you happen to watch it, please let me know if he ever got out of the terminal. AND it’s directed by Spielberg, which is even more disappointing.

1/10 (for what I did see!)

Captain Phillips

Another true story (Tom likes his biopics) based on Captain Richard Phillips and the taking of the shipping vessel Maersk Alabama. While trying to take a shortcut through a dangerous passage of water off the coast of Somalia, his ship is boarded by local pirates. He is no longer “the Captain now”. A tense standoff emerges between the pirates and the US military as a SEAL team is dispatched to take care of business. The last 30 minutes are intense and when Phillips is in the med bay getting examined, a real Navy corpsman was used. A very emotional scene, one of the reasons Hanks is one of our greatest actors.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (the Bourne series), Phillips is painted in a far better light than his workers gave him. Allegedly, he was trying to save time cutting the corner through the pirated waters against the advice of his crew. Allegedly, he’s a tremendous A-hole!

7/10 lifeboats


Hanks is back as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot in command of Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina. Immediately after takeoff, the aircraft hits a flock of geese and ends up ditching in the Hudson River, amazingly with no loss of life. The story is told partially in flashback, with more focus on the investigation and the personal toll on the pilots’ psyche. They have doubts, question themselves, could they have done it better? It’s an interesting look at an NTSB investigation and what kind of lifesaving decision making is in the hands of the people driving your plane. The end is quite harrowing and puts you right there on the aircraft. You can almost feel the vibration as if you’re right there in the jump seat with them.

8/10 engine-stopping geese

If that doesn’t keep you from traveling with the Hanx, I don’t know what will. Check them out. Andy Dufresne