Throughout his illustrious career, Tom Hanks has worked across a wide variety of genres while establishing himself as one of the most prominent talents in Hollywood. Ranging from beloved romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle to critically acclaimed biopics like Saving Mr. Banks, Hanks has done it all. However, one particular genre that has played a huge part in elevating his status as an actor is the war drama.
Collaborating with none other than Steven Spielberg on multiple features such as Saving Private Ryan and Bridge of Spies, Hanks has left an indelible mark on the American war movie and its impact on the popular consciousness. This is not only evident in the highly sought-after movie roles he has selected over the years but also in his television work. When it comes to the latter, the discussion almost always leads to Band of Brothers.
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Co-created by Spielberg and Hanks, some even consider the miniseries to be their greatest creative achievement. Following a dramatised version of the “Easy” Company’s involvement in the war, it’s a visceral experience that grabs the viewer and refuses to let go. Given Hanks’ proven track record in the genre, it’s no surprise that fans are always curious about the great war movies that have shaped his own sensibilities.
Interestingly, his favourite World War II movie has very little to do with the action that is usually linked to the subject. During a conversation with Letterboxd, Hanks was asked about his four favourite movies of all time. After gushing about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the acclaimed actor revealed that William Wyler’s 1946 drama The Best Years of Our Lives is the greatest film he has ever seen, which deals with the 20th century’s defining event.
Hanks said: “I would have to say there’s a film that came out called The Best Years of Our Lives. It has absolutely nothing about World War II in it, except it’s all about World War II because it takes place after the war. I think that is the best film about the war and the generation who fought it… You could watch that today, and outside of the fashions and a bit of the colloquial language, it’s all about who we are right now. I think that’s an incredible motion picture.”
Routinely cited as one of the finest additions to Wyler’s impressive filmography, The Best Years of Our Lives focuses on the lives of three veterans who try to reintegrate into society after enduring the horrors of the war. Examining the irreversible psychological and sociological implications of war-related trauma, it’s a surprisingly modern cinematic gem that still speaks to contemporary audiences.
Watch the interview below.
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