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Tom Hanks' Best and Worst Accents

Saying Tom Hanks is beloved is hardly an understatement. We wonder if it'll eventually be a federal offense to speak ill of the seemingly all-around great guy and much admired actor. He’s won two of his five Oscar nominations (for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia), plus any number of other awards crowding his shelves. There’s no doubt about it: Tom Hanks has the chops.

This week, he's back in theaters assuming a thick New England accent to play real-life Captain Richard Phillips, who with his crew battled Somali pirates when they hijacked his cargo carrier in 2009. And as you can see below, it's not the first time Hanks has assumed an accent -- some of them more successful than others -- to become the character. 

East Coast

Captain Richard Phillips, Captain Phillips

In real life, Captain Phillips doesn’t have as pronounced an accent as Tom displays for the film, so we’re not sure he needed to go so far with it. It makes us crave a bowl of chow-dah after listen to him a few minutes, though.


Deep South

Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump

This still remains Hanks' accent pinnacle. The exaggerated Southern drawl of the slow but sweet Forrest is almost a caricature now, but we dare anyone to hear just a sentence or two from him and not immediately identify the film.

Woody, Toy Story

There’s not a lot of vocal separation between Woody and Hanks until the cowboy’s drawstring gets pulled and a Southern catchphrase of “Reach for the sky!” makes the cowpoke iconic.

Paul Edgecomb, The Green Mile

Hanks doesn’t get too showy with corrections officer Paul Edgecomb’s slight Southern accent, but the sublety sets regional context as they’re inside the walls of the prison.

Professor G.H. Dorr, The Ladykillers

It’s a farce, and as such Hanks lays the Southern charm and accent on thick as Professor Dorr.  We wish the film turned out to be better, but we get a strong Colonel Sanders vibe from Hanks throughout.



Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

As the drunk, crackpot manager of the Rockford Peaches, Hanks gives us his best Chicago accent and it works beautifully. Subtle, yet authentic.

Carl Hanratty, Catch Me if You Can

We get one of Hanks' most pronounced accents as he goes full Chicagoan playing the Leo DiCaprio stalker, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. It’s thick as can be and sometimes borders on too much, but by the film’s end it’s a defining attribute of the character.


Eastern Europe

Viktor Navorski, The Terminal

Playing a stranded passenger from the fictional Krakozhia, Hanks serves up a Bulgarian accent that is not one of his finest. It’s forced and gets old quickly as the film unfolds. We can see why he’s been banished to airport hell. 


And finally...the WTF?

Cloud Atlas

Perhaps his vocal tour de force, Hanks creates several different accents playing Dr. Henry Goose, Isaac Sachs, Dermot Hoggins and Zachry (amongst others). He does some great, distinctive work -- even if you fell asleep watching it.

Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks

In Hanks' next big film this year, he plays Walt Disney, who had a very particular cadence to his voice. Just based on the trailer, we’re not hearing much crossover as Hanks has a much higher range than Disney’s lower register. We’ll reserve judgment until we see the whole film.


Tom Hanks and accents...where do you stand? Tell us your best and worst in the comments.




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Next Article by Cecily Kellogg

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