MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI 100*** #76. Forrest Gump (1994)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.


“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

Love this movie, hate it, or fall somewhere in the ambivalent middle, there’s no denying that Forrest Gump is one of the most iconic movies of the last quarter century.  When it came out, it was unavoidable.  I was 13 or 14 years old, looking back now, I can’t see a single thing about it that would have made a 13 or 14 year old interested in Forrest Gump.  But I saw it in the cinema, like every single other poison my age and older.  It was the kind of movie quoted by people before they’d ever even seen it.  And the soundtrack, the laziest and most obvious since The Big Chill, was everywhere.  The movie won all the major awards at the time and made a shit tonne of money.

In the years since, I feel like it’s reputation may have dipped a little and its syrupy cheese has become just a bit derided.  I remember liking it, not loving it, and haven’t seen in at least a decade.  So even though it’s a movie I feel pretty familiar with, I was actually intrigued going into Forrest Gump again to see if and how it held up.

The titular Gump (Tom Hanks) sits on a park bench, waiting for a bus.  He talks to people sitting next to him, whether they listen or not, telling his life story.  Flashing back to his childhood, young Forrest (Michal Conner Humphreys) is having a tough go of it.  His legs are in braces and his IQ is five points below the minimum required to go to a regular, public school.  But his mother (Sally Field) bangs the principal and Forrest is enrolled, where he meets the love of his life, Jenny (later played by Robin Wright).

Oblivious of his own shortcomings and the ultimate glass half full kind of guy, Forrest lucks his way onto the high school football team, which leads to lucking his way into college, which leads to bumbling into the army and the Vietnam war, which leads to lucking his way into lucrative careers in shrimping and ping pong, meeting several presidents and a whole lot more along the way.

To give any sort of thorough synopsis of Forrest Gump would take way too many words.  A lot happens in this movie as Forrest goes on one adventure after another, traversing America, the world and a decade or two.  I haven’t even mentioned the iconic characters of Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) and Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise).

Hanks won the Oscar, with the kind of performance that would lead to Robert Downey Jr’s ‘full retard’ speech in Tropic Thunder.  But like Eddie Redmayne’s win this year for The Theory of Everything, sometimes, bigger is better.  This movie needs Hanks’ big performance, and there’s a reason why he won back then, and the character is still so recognisable today, 21 years later.

The IMDB trivia page says that John Travolta, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase all turned down the lead role.  If that’s true, these producers are the luckiest in Hollywood history.  Murray is a legend, Travolta shines once a decade or so, and Chevy Chase was once one of the funniest actors in the world, but they all have a certain movie stardom about them, something that puts them at arm’s length.  Tom Hanks though, no matter how famous he gets or how many Oscars he wins, still seems like an everyman.  You need that for the character of Forrest Gump.  From charming people on a park bench, to becoming a millionaire, to meeting Presidents, Hanks gives Gump the humility and wide eyed joy that the character needs.

I think, after so many years of not seeing this movie, I had built up Forrest Gump in my mind as the worst kind of cornball, manipulative cheese.  But I was wrong.  Forrest Gump is the best kind of cornball, manipulative cheese.  The sentimentality almost oozes out of the screen, and the character should be too precious to tolerate, but Tom Hanks, and probably only Tom Hanks, can pull it off.

Forrest Gump
Directed By – Robert Zemeckis
Written By – Eric Roth

Academy Awards
Best Picture
Best Actor – Tom Hanks
Best Director
Best Visual Effects
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Editing

14 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI 100*** #76. Forrest Gump (1994)

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