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The 'Forgotten' Films of Tom Hanks

Most movie fans love Tom Hanks, and the old movie fans will remember his breakout performances in Splash (1984), The Money Pit (1986), and Big (1988), which came a few years before he became one of America's most widely admired leading men with films like Philadelphia (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), and Apollo 13 (1995). And the man just never stops working. So logically, there will be a few Tom Hanks movies you missed, overlooked, or just plain forgot. Here are just a few of the highlights from Tom's non-smash hit department.

He Knows You're Alone (1980)

An early entry in the slasher craze, this one focuses on a stalker who targets brides. It's a pretty dry and derivative affair, but at least you can enjoy a small Tom Hanks performance that represents his first movie, ever!

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Mazes & Monsters (1982)

This goofy made-for-TV movie is less about "Dungeons & Dragons" and more about the short-lived social paranoia regarding how dangerous "Dungeons & Dragons" could be to those who play it! Gasp! This is in no way a good film, but it does offer some amusement as a ridiculously dated relic of the early '80s.

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The Man with One Red Shoe (1985)

This slight farce, adapted from a recent French hit, may have seemed like a perfect fit for Hanks; it's about a likeable everyman who is mistaken for a spy and finds himself embroiled in all sorts of ostensibly wacky shenanigans. But despite Hanks' best efforts, and the inclusion of a top-tier ensemble cast that includes Carrie Fisher, Charles Durning, and Dabney Coleman.

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Volunteers (1985)

Hanks reunites with his Splash co-star John Candy in what might be the first high-concept ...peace corps farce? Weird. Here Hanks plays a snooty jerk on the run who learns some valuable life lessons from a sweet lady (Hanks' future wife Rita Wilson) and a lovable lug (Candy) before stumbling across a conspiracy and saving the day in pure 1980s fashion. Hardly the most memorable comedy of Hanks' career but the chemistry between the three leads makes it all rather painless.

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The Money Pit (1986)

This one was actually a solid hit at the box office but that doesn't seem to have done much for its long-term popularity. It's a simple farce about a young couple (Hanks and an also amusing Shelley Long) who buy an old house and quickly realize that literally everything is wrong with it. Based on the 1948 Cary Grant comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, the movie is not much more than an escalating series of set pieces in which the couple's new home (and of course their relationship) falls apart, but the charm of the two leads keep things afloat throughout.

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Nothing in Common (1986)

Now here's a classy little winner that's rarely discussed, but still holds up surprisingly well. Hanks plays an advertising exec who is forced to deal with his estranged father (Jackie Gleason) after his mom gives up on the grouchy jerk. What could have been a basic "TV movie" is elevated by a clever screenplay and some great work from Hanks, Gleason, and Eva Marie Saint. Plus this was the first movie in which Hanks dipped his toe into melodrama; prior to this were all comedies.

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Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986)

Arguably Hanks' most "forgotten" film, and justifiably so, as it's not very good. Here he plays a WWII Royal Air Force pilot who falls in love while stationed in Jerusalem. Most people overlook this unconvincing melodrama when they talk about Hank's earliest "dramatic" performances, and that's probably because it's little-seen, unmemorable, and hardly his finest work. Hanks would start to shed his comedy-only persona with our next movie.

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Punchline (1988)

Another drama / comedy combo that could have been a big hit on a different weekend, this one stars Hanks as an aspiring comedian who befriends a suburban mom (the great Sally Field) who also has dreams of making people laugh. Offers some solid laughs but also a sobering look at how difficult this profession actually is. Bonus: John Goodman is on board, too.

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The 'burbs (1989)

A modest hit back in 1989, The 'burbs has gone on to become one of the biggest cult flicks of the decade, which I didn't see coming at all.  This one's an arch, amiable, and willfully weird horror comedy from the endlessly playful Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace, etc.), and it gives Hanks a chance to get super silly alongside some great folks like Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, and Henry Gibson.

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Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

The same year that Hanks was miscast in the woefully misguided Brian de Palma adaptation of The Bonfire of the Vanities, he also starred in a weird little romantic comedy that didn't make much of a splash back in 1990, but it has lots of fans these days. Here he plays an affable nobody who's told he's dying, so he makes a deal to jump into an angry volcano to help a local tribe. It's dark but also hopeful, weird but funny, and offers Meg Ryan in no fewer than three different roles. 

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