If you were to ask a hundred people what they best remember Tom Hanks for, most of them would tell you Forrest Gump. 25 years after its 1994 premiere, it’s still considered the high point of Hanks’ long career. It resonated with audiences so much that IMDb ranks it in its top 20 highest rated movies of all time, and it resonated with critics enough to earn six Academy Awards, including Best Picture in a field that included Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. It even spawned a chain of restaurants. How many movies can say that?
But after all this time has passed, does it still hold up?
Told almost entirely in flashbacks, Forrest Gump tells the story of a man who has a low IQ but somehow finds himself at the center of pivotal moments in American history. Among these events are the desegregation of schools, meeting three sitting U.S. presidents, and the Vietnam War along with the protests back at home. Through it all, however, he always has his mind on his childhood sweetheart Jenny, who experiences the 20th century in her own way.
I don’t know what I can say about Tom Hanks that hasn’t been said already. The 90s were a great decade for Hanks – he earned two back-to-back Oscars for his work in Philadelphia and this movie. It’s easy to see why. Forrest Gump is one of the most likable characters to come out of Hollywood, so it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Hanks playing the part as well as he did.
Not to be outdone, the rest of the supporting cast bring their best to the roles that they’re given, standing the test of time alongside Gump. Though she has minimal screen time, Sally Field carries a lot of the emotional scenes whenever she’s on screen. Mykelti Williamson plays his army buddy Benjamin Buford Blue, otherwise known as “Bubba”. The two get along almost immediately and Bubba convinces Gump to go into the shrimping business.
In a role that would get him a supporting actor Oscar nomination, Gary Sinise plays Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Gump and Bubba’s platoon leader during the Vietnam War. Lieutenant Dan believes it to be his destiny to die in combat, just like his ancestors did. Gump saves him from that fate, but ends up losing his legs in the process. He falls into a depression after the war, but overcomes it after spending time with Gump back in the U.S.
And then there’s Robin Wright as Jenny Curran. A lot has been said about Jenny over the years. Watching the movie again, I can see where some of the negative comments about her character come from. While Forrest takes the high road of American life, Jenny took the low road of being involved in the hippie movement and drug culture. She phases in and out of Forrest’s life and yells at him when he stands up against someone being abusive towards her. Her behavior could be easily passed off with her history of sexual abuse, but I fear that would be a little too simple.
Most of the movie’s humor comes from Forrest involuntarily inspiring moments in American culture. An early scene in the movie shows a young Forrest in leg braces dancing in front of a young man playing a guitar. That young man would become known to many as Elvis Presley. Later on, after meeting with Richard Nixon, the president sets up Forrest at a new hotel, only for him to be the one to call out the now infamous Watergate scandal.
The effects in the movie are also a standout, earning the film one of its six Oscar wins. Through careful editing, Forrest Gump is seamlessly blended into archive footage that enables him to shake hands with President Kennedy and have him seated next to the late John Lennon. Also worth noting are the absence of Lieutenant Dan’s legs following the war. While the archive footage effect may be seen by some as dated by today’s standards, people are still amazed by the missing leg effects.
So in conclusion, Forrest Gump is still a great movie twenty five years later. Pretty much everything about it is excellent. The acting, the writing, the directing from the great Robert Zemeckis. Even the classic rock soundtrack, which can double as a time capsule for the time period the movie is set in. It’s easy to see how this movie became ingrained in American culture. Even people who don’t love it like I do are able to find something to like about it.