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Ranking Tom Hanks Movie Accents From Worst To Best

Tom Hanks is one of his generation's greatest actors. Heck, he's one of any generation's greatest actors. Don't take our word for it, just look at his trophy collection –- there's not an "Honorable Mention" in the bunch. Hanks has won two Academy Awards (for "Philadelphia" in 1994 and "Forrest Gump" in 1995) and been nominated for six. He is one of less than 50 actors to have won multiple Oscars, one of only a handful to have won best actor at least twice, and only the second actor in history (after Spencer Tracy) to have won best actor in two consecutive years – the first to do so in almost 60 years. Do you think he's good at his job? 

However, just because Hanks is great at acting doesn't mean he's perfect at it, especially when it comes to one of the most challenging things for any actor to master — accents. Some of Hanks' accents have been excellent, while some have been kinda cringe. We hate to pick on him because he's such a nice guy, but some of his accents belong in a community theater production, not a multimillion-dollar Oscar contender. Which accents prove Hanks is one of the best, and which accents are just the worst? Here are Tom Hanks' movie accents ranked from worst to best!

12. Elvis

When we originally saw the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis," our initial thought was, "Wow, that looks pretty good!" Our second thought was, "But what's the deal with Tom Hanks' accent?" Still, this is Tom Hanks after all, so we decided to tone down our "Suspicious Minds," even if the accent did seem to be ... a lot. Well, turns out we probably should have gone with our gut instinct. According to Variety, Tom Hanks' accent was the most polarizing part of the movie, with critics not showing his performance much "Burning Love." Hanks even avoided questions about it during a press conference, preferring to talk about how he researched the character instead. 

In "Elvis," Hanks plays Presley's longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker, the man who discovered the boy wonder and turned him into the King of Rock & Roll. He's also the antagonist of the story, which may explain why Hanks seems to be channeling Bond villain Auric Goldfinger with his accent. According to Biography, Col. Tom Parker was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in Breda, Netherlands, despite Parker's own claims that he was born in West Virginia. Hanks adopts a thick Dutch accent in the film — one that borders a bit on a "Saturday Night Live"-level caricature. Based on rare interview footage with the real Col. Tom Parker, in which his Dutch accent is barely discernible, we think Hanks' accent might have been "All Shook Up."

11. The Terminal

As far as great actor-director collaborations go, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg might be one of the most underrated. However, that could be because most of the movies they've made together are not either of their best work (with the obvious exception being their first team-up, "Saving Private Ryan"). For instance, take their third collaboration, "The Terminal." It's an okay movie in a TBS Saturday afternoon kinda way until you step back and realize it was made by one of the greatest actors working with one of the greatest directors. Like, you guys didn't have anything better to do? 

Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European tourist whose home country's government has a coup while he's in transit at JFK International Airport in New York. Because the Department of Homeland Security doesn't recognize the new regime, they won't let him leave the airport, trapping him in the titular terminal. Oh, politics. We can see what attracted both Hanks and Spielberg to the story, as "The Terminal" shoots for a Frank Capra-esque sentiment, though it falls far short of Capra ... and Spielberg and Hanks for that matter. 

In particular, we mean Hanks' accent. His character comes from the fictional country of Krakozhia, so he basically sounds like Bela Lugosi by way of Spencer Tracy. If a non-actor were asked to try a generic Eastern European accent, it would sound like this. Pretty good, but lacking the subtle nuances we'd expect from one of the world's best movie actors.

10. Captain Phillips

Playing a real person is always tricky for an actor, mostly because they have to contend with people's preconceived notions. It's even more difficult when that real person happens to still be alive, as we can see how successful the actor was (or wasn't) at portraying them. For example, there's "Captain Phillips." Based on a true story, Tom Hanks plays the titular Captain Richard Phillips, whose U.S. container ship was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009. 

Released in 2013, Tom Hanks was probably hoping his performance in the Paul Greengrass-directed thriller would earn him another Oscar nomination. Instead it was his co-star, Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the Somali pirates, who was nominated. We think Hanks' accent might have a bit to do with it. He plays the New Englander Phillips with a Northeast accent as thick as clam chow-dah, at times sounding like Mark Wahlberg doing an impression of Matt Damon (or vice versa). Alas, the real Phillips' New England accent, while noticeable, isn't nearly as thick as Hanks played it. Maybe if Hanks toned it down just a tad, he'd have a third Oscar on his shelf. That said, the film is heralded as being amongst some of the best pirate films out there.

9. Catch Me If You Can

In 2002, Leonardo DiCaprio began his long collaboration with director Martin Scorsese in "Gangs of New York." That same year, he joined another great actor-director pairing, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, for their second collaboration, "Catch Me If You Can." DiCaprio certainly had his work cut out for him. While he had been nominated for an Oscar "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," as far as the public was concerned, he was still the pretty boy from "Titanic." Now, he was working with one of our greatest actors and one of our greatest directors. No pressure. 

Turns out DiCaprio was up for the task as Frank Abagnale Jr., a young man who conned people out of millions before his 20th birthday, stealing the show from the two-time Oscar-winning Tom Hanks. It was Hanks' performance as the real-life Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent on his tail, that left a little to be desired. Hanks' performance isn't bad by any stretch (this is still Tom Hanks, after all), it's just his Chicago accent is this close to being a "Da Bears"-level caricature, particularly in scenes when he says, "You have no one else to cawl." Hanks delivered a much better Chicago accent in 1992's "A League of Their Own," so we're not sure what he was going for here. His accent isn't bad, but Tom Hanks has done a much better job in other films.

8. Charlie Wilson's War

While Tom Hanks has a gift for Southern accents, a Texas accent is distinct from a Southern accent, which makes Hanks' performance in "Charlie Wilson's War" one of his most forgettable. In the 2007 film, Tom Hanks plays Representative Charlie Wilson, Democratic Congressman from Texas who helps arm Afghani rebels in their war against the Soviets during the 1980s. The film shows Charlie Wilson as a cocktail-sipping, skirt-chasing Texas playboy/public servant who represents his district when he's not throwing soirees. 

The real-life Charlie Wilson, who died in 2010 — three years after the film's release — was not a subtle man, and he certainly wasn't portrayed that way in this film. However, Hanks' Texas accent very much is. There's nothing wrong with subtlety, per se, except Hanks' Texas twang dips in and out, as the actor will start a sentence with a Southeast Texas drawl, slip into his own naturally neutral vernacular, and then finish right back where he started. So it's not the accent that's the problem but Hanks' inconsistent delivery. It's functional, not fantastic, as Hanks commits to his Texas accent about as much as Charlie Wilson committed to one his many Washington D.C.-based girlfriends. In other words, not much. Tom Hanks' lukewarm delivery helps land "Charlie Wilson's War" on the lower end of his accents.

7. Saving Mr. Banks

The Walt Disney Company may have operations all over the world, but according to Britannica, their founder was born in Chicago and grew up in Missouri. Thus, the real Walt Disney had a bit of a folksy Midwestern accent, which you already knew if you're a longtime Disney lover who watched those old "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" shows hosted by Uncle Walt. And let's be honest, Disney was a consummate showman, so he probably played it up a bit. Well, Tom Hanks is a bit of a showman himself, and he played up his accent too in his performance as Walt Disney in 2013's "Saving Mr. Banks." 

In the film, Disney attempts to get the movie rights to "Mary Poppins" from uncompromising curmudgeon P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson with an impeccable English accent because she is, as a matter of fact, English. Walt Disney had a particular cadence and a lower timbre, which Hanks was unable to master. It's solid, not spectacular, and while we won't fault him for it or insist he be banned for life from Disney World forever, it does keep "Saving Mr. Banks" from being one of Hanks' best accents.

6. The Ladykillers

An excellent Tom Hanks accent doesn't have to take place in an excellent (or even good) movie. Enter "The Ladykillers," the 2004 remake of the 1955 British comedy starring Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars" for you readers younger than 80). Hanks plays the Guinness part in the remake, which transplants London for the Deep South, with Hanks playing Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, PhD — a charming but cunning Southern gentleman who leads a band of criminals in their plot to rob a casino. When the sweet old lady they're renting a room from discovers their plans, Hanks and his crew set out to murder her, only for the crooks to be killed off one by one in ways so outlandish the filmmakers behind "Final Destination" would roll their eyes. 

With Joel and Ethan Coen in charge and marvelous source material, "The Ladykillers" should have been a comedy masterpiece. It wasn't, as the film feels undercooked, like they were filming the rehearsal of a comedy that could have been really good. What was really good? Tom Hanks' accent. Hanks gift for Southern vocals is on full display here, and he plays Professor Dorr like a psychotic Colonel Sanders. Hanks was "criminally" good (see what we did there?) in this mediocre movie, proving that you don't have to be in a good film to nail a great accent.

5. A League of Their Own

"There's no crying in baseball!" from "A League of Their Own" is one of three Tom Hanks movie quotes to land on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. It landed at #54 behind "life is like a box of chocolates" from "Forrest Gump" at #40 and "Houston, we have a problem" at #50 from "Apollo 13." Besides being a great quote (there's a reason it's become a mantra for America's favorite pastime), Tom Hanks delivered it perfectly, with a histrionic panache and a subtle, authentic Chicago accent that passes the Chi-Town smell test. 

In the 1992 comedy, Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, manager of the all-female Rockford Peaches. He's a man who enjoys boozing as much as baseball, and chasing skirts as much as catching fly balls. Given the film is set in 1943, nobody would have blamed Hanks if he hammed up his "Chi-caw-ga" accent like an announcer on old-time radio. However, Hanks went low-key for the guy from the Windy City, which made the tobacco-munching manager more believable and consequently more memorable. Hanks would play up the Chicago accent 10 years later in "Catch Me If You Can," making his work here that much more impressive. Perhaps Hanks was trying to differentiate Agent Hanratty from Dugan, but given there are no "Catch Me If You Can" quotes on AFI's list, maybe Hanks should have been taking notes from his earlier performance.

4. Toy Story

Tom Hanks has played a lot of characters who will stand the test of time, from Josh Baskin in "Big" to the title character "Forrest Gump" to Captain Jim Lovell in "Apollo 13." However, Hanks most famous and lasting character (and certainly his most profitable) may be the one you never see him play — Woody from the animated "Toy Story" franchise. Hanks' films have earned a boffo $11.3 billion at the worldwide box office and more than $3 billion of that (or more than 25%) comes from the four "Toy Story" films. One reason "Toy Story" has been so successful is because of Hanks' voice performance as Woody. And one of the things that makes Woody so "real" — for an animated cowboy doll, that is — is Hanks' accent.

Hanks goes full rootin', tootin' cowpoke to utter Woody's catchphrase "reach for the sky!" whenever Andy pulls the toy doll's drawstring, ringing true for anyone familiar with classic cowboys like Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. But that cowboy twang throughout the entire movie would've been brutal. Instead, Hanks shakes it up with an accent similar to his own, somewhere between Oklahoma and Missouri on the "Midwestern scale." Not bad for a guy born and raised in Northern California according to Biography.

3. Cloud Atlas

Despite being one of Tom Hanks' favorite movies that he's starred in, "Cloud Atlas" wasn't widely seen, earning only $130 million worldwide. While that may seem like a lot, its production budget was $102 million, so earning less across the globe than a "Toy Story" movie earns in one weekend qualifies "Cloud Atlas" for mega-bomb status. Which is too bad, as "Cloud Atlas" is an underappreciated gem. While it doesn't feature one of Hanks' best performances, it does feature a great accent. Or perhaps we should say "accents." 

The film spans hundreds of years, with each main actor playing multiple roles. Among many characters, Hanks plays Dr. Henry Goose, a sadistic scientist poisoning his fellow shipmates in the South Pacific in 1849. He's also a devious, bald-headed hotel manager in 1836, as well as Dermot Hoggins, a Cockney thug who looks like Hanks crossed with DJ Khaled. And finally, there's our personal favorite, Zachry, a goatherd who speaks a Polynesian-influenced dialect and is being hunted by Hugh Grant as a tribal cannibal in a post-apocalyptic future. Yes, you read that right. Why didn't this movie make more money? Oh right, it's almost three hours long. But those hours are worth it to hear some of Tom Hanks' best accents in one movie.

2. The Green Mile

Despite being born and raised in California, Tom Hanks has a knack for dialects from the Deep South. But while his accent in "The Ladykillers" is purposefully performative and his accent in "Forrest Gump" is deliberately exaggerated, Hanks goes subtle in "The Green Mile." In the 1999 film, based on the novel by Stephen King, Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a death row supervisor in a 1930s Louisiana penitentiary who discovers one the inmates, John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan in an Oscar-nominated performance), possess supernatural powers of healing. 

While "The Green Mile" is the most supernatural of Hanks' films set in the Deep South, Hanks plays it straight with his Southern accent. It was a good choice on his part, as it grounds the material and keeps the story from becoming farcical. Had Hanks made Edgecomb's accent just a little too heightened, it would have sunk the whole film and turned it into camp. While Duncan 100% deserved the Oscar nomination for his heartbreaking performance, Hanks' lead role was critical to "The Green Mile."

1. Forrest Gump

No hot takes here, you knew that number one had to be Hanks' performance as Forrest Gump from the 1994 fable of the same name. Hanks won his second Oscar for his career-defining performance as the slow-witted but sweet-hearted Southern man who finds himself being a part of some of the 20th century's most significant events. Is his Alabama accent as Forrest Gump exaggerated? You bet, but purposefully so. "Forrest Gump" isn't meant to be "realistic" but believable, and Hanks never goes overboard in either his Southern drawl or in his portrayal as a man with mental disabilities. It's an honest, heartrending performance that could have gone very, very wrong in a lesser actor's hands. 

While we take Hanks' performance as Gump for granted, this role could have been a career-killer if he'd overdone it just a smidge. Instead, Hanks' performance as Forrest Gump is so iconic you can hear his voice in your head speaking the movies' signature lines. However, let's give credit where credit is due. Hanks revealed on "The Graham Norton Show" that he patterned his accent from Michael Conner Humphreys, who played Forrest as a child. In the same clip, Hanks also does a dead-on impression of "Forrest Gump"-director Robert Zemeckis, which probably belongs on this list too. However, nothing will top Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks' best movie accent.