Movie: Forrest Gump
Release Date: July 6, 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field
Personal History: Watched Before
Rating: 6.75 Oscars out of 10
‘Forrest Gump’ was more than just a huge commercial success for Paramount when it was released in 1994. It was a global phenomenon that grabbed the attention of the pop culture zeitgeist that has continued to some extent through today. It has generated books (other than the one on which it was based), hats, t-shirts and even a popular restaurant chain. It was the top grossing movie in America that year, second worldwide behind ‘The Lion King,’ and garnered thirteen Academy Award nominations, winning six including Best Picture.
Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his performance of the titular character and became one of the few actors to win back to back statues in that category. His performance in ‘Philadelphia’ was his first win (second nomination at that time) and in my opinion one much more deserving than for Mr. Gump. You see, I am one of those rare human beings that doesn’t love ‘Forrest Gump.’
I get a lot of slack for this opinion as most people (including many friends and family) adore this movie. So let me explain a little (not that it really needs an explanation because art is subjective and people like what they like.) But let me try anyway.
I went to see ‘Forrest Gump’ in the movie theater during its first theatrical run in the summer of 1994. I went with my mom, dad and then girlfriend (eventually wife/ex-wife) sometime in July of that year while I was on summer break from Graduate school. I went in pretty blind to the story but I was a huge Tom Hanks fan, as was everyone else, so choosing the movie was a no-brainer.
My initial reaction to the film at the time was “meh.” First of all, similar to ‘Rain Man,’ I was uncomfortable a bit about the “laughing at” the special needs character portrayed by Mr. Hanks. Were audiences laughing at him or with him? It was just a bit cringe-worthy for me (and still is). Bullying was and never will be my thing. I guess being bullied for the first twenty plus years of my life triggers me.
Secondly, the movie was a little bit over-the-top, schmaltzy and borderline ridiculous for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love over-the-top, schmaltzy and ridiculousness once in a while, but it just seemed out of place in this Robert Zemeckis comedy/drama. With that said, the movie was so well-acted, directed and produced, coupled with my love for the fantastic soundtrack, I overlooked many of the things that just didn’t connect with me in the film at that time.
“Gumpism” then took over the United States. You could not go anywhere without running into something “Gump” related. As mentioned before t-shirts, hats, mugs, restaurants et al. began popping up in every store from sea to shining sea. So much so that my eyes started to roll every time I encountered it. And my eyes rolled a lot that year.
When the Academy Award nominations were announced in February of 1995, I was thrilled. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture. It was without a doubt my favorite movie at that time. I was even more excited a month later when it won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
Believe it or not, I was not angry that ‘Forrest Gump’ beat ‘Pulp Fiction’ for the top award, as I knew that that would be the outcome. But in my humble opinion, ‘Pulp Fiction’ is the better movie and I should be watching that now as part of this Academy Award Best Picture Movie Challenge, and not ‘Forrest Gump.’
Here is a little snippet of what I wrote about ‘Pulp Fiction’ for my 365 Day Movie Challenge back in 2020. You can read the unedited version of what I said by clicking here:
“Like I do with all movies I love, I recommended ‘Pulp Fiction’ to all of my family and friends. I was surprised to find out that fifty percent of the people I recommended the movie to hated it. I knew it was a graphic movie and wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I actually told my mother she probably wouldn’t like it and am pretty sure she never watched it. But I thought the artistry of the film would win most people over. I was wrong. There were just as many people that hated the film as loved it. I learned that year that in America, we are more of a ‘Forrest Gump’ society than a ‘Pulp Fiction’ one. It’s no wonder I always felt uncomfortable in society as you might have noticed ‘Forrest Gump’ is no where to be found (nor will be found) on my list of favorite movies.”
‘Pulp Fiction’ is currently ranked sixteenth on my list of all-time favorite movies. ‘Forrest Gump…’ not on that list. And it will never show up there. When I re-watch the movie, something I have done numerous times throughout its almost now thirty years, my disdain for it grows as I don’t feel it is a one that has stood the test of time. At least not for me and here’s why:
Plot: A white, upper-middle class “simple” man from the south who loves his mother and God, serves his country and does everything “by the book” impacts the world and makes it a better place. Juxtaposed with a white woman who was abused by her father and tries to escape her horrible life becomes a heroin addict, flirts with suicide and dies of AIDS. (No, not AIDS, an “unknown virus.” You know, because god-forbid they would mention a disease that affected the LGBTQ community. Mr. Gump touches every cliché and culture in the movie except that community, Because, fuck those queers, right?)
The movie is almost a handbook on how to live your life as a conservative in America. Live your life as a good conservative man, you’ll make the world a better place. Live your life like a free thinking liberal, die of a disease. It is less of a movie now and more conservative propaganda for society. You can almost hear “Let’s make America great again” chants in the background. I mean, those Bubba Gump Shrimp hats are eerily similar to MAGA.
Now please understand, I do not at all think that Robert Zemeckis, Tom Hanks and company went out of their way to create that movement. Not. At. All. I think they just wanted to make a sweet story about a sweet man to make people feel good. And they were successful at it. I am simply stating that now, in 2023, when I (me and me alone) watch that movie, my eyes and brain can’t help but think that way. Jaded? Maybe. But that’s how I feel.
I do not at all hate the movie either. I have ranked it 6.75 on my Oscar Scale for this challenge (not too shabby) and think that it is a well made fairy tale for adults. The soundtrack, visual effects (although a little outdated seeing them now), directing and acting are all stupendous. Gary Sinise and Robin Wright are both fantastic in their roles. As is Mr. Hanks.
Tom Hanks is by far one of my favorite actors of all time. Here is a little snippet I wrote about him during my 365 Day Movie Challenge back in 2020 while writing about 32. Philadelphia:
“I always credit Jimmy Stewart as my favorite male actor, but I could arguably throw in Mr. Hanks right there next to him. Both of them are incredible talents and have given us so many memorable performances. I mean, just look at Mr. Hanks’ past thirteen films represented here alone: 314. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 275. Apollo 13, 256. The Green Mile, 234. Saving Private Ryan, 224. Joe Versus the Volcano, 186. Toy Story, 167. Splash, 160. Bachelor Party, 145. Big, 101. The Money Pit, 63. Sleepless in Seattle, 43. Toy Story 2 and 35. A League of Their Own. Quite the list indeed. And I know what some of you out there are thinking, where’s Forrest? My simple retort would be, make your own damn list.”
Make your own damn list.
I think that sums it up the best. If you like something, love it and don’t care about what anyone else thinks. If you disagree with someone’s opinion, that’s okay. That’s actually what makes America great. We can disagree about things and still get along, especially when it revolves around something as subjective as art. So please stop with the hate mail about me not liking ‘Forrest Gump,’ ranking it higher or placing it on my favorite movie of all times list.
As already mentioned, make your own list.