Tom Hanks’ four straight-to-streaming movies – and what happened next

Tom Hanks and a robot in Finch
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Four of Tom Hanks last seven major roles have ended up on streaming services – yet have the films been pretty much forgotten already?

In February of 2023, we got something of an endangered species: a surprisingly positive box office story. That a movie had overperformed against fairly gloomy expectations, and turned into a success on the quiet.

That film was A Man Called Otto, released by Sony and directed by Marc Forster. An English-language remake of Oscar-winning Swedish film A Man Called Ove, what was interesting about the movie’s success is it’s the kind of film that’s apparently not supposed to work in cinemas. Aimed at an older audience, without showboaty effects or Roman numerals, and with a fairly morose central character: this is the stuff that streaming services want to devour.

But Sony gambled, put it into cinemas, and took home over $100m worldwide. That’s not Spider-Man money obviously, but it was the springboard for the film to enjoy success on home formats too.

It’s become an interesting outlier in the post-2020 career of Tom Hanks, in that it’s troubled the inside of a cinema. He remains, now in his late 60s, one of the biggest and most recognisable movie stars on the planet, and yet of the seven films he’s taken a major role in since 2020, only three have found their way to the big screen (those being supporting turns in Elvis and Asteroid City).

This isn’t, on the surface, a conscious choice. Adam Sandler taking the Netflix dollar was a calculated decision in his case, and you’d have to admit it’s paid off. In the case of Tom Hanks’ work, the shift to streaming has been a by-product of Covid. Films originally intended for cinemas were instead picked up by streamers. The profile of those films took a hit as a result of this. Set against the success of A Man Called Otto, I do wonder – accepting hindsight is easy, and that we were all blagging it more than usual in 2020 – if the right decision was made.

Greyhound (2020)

Greyhound (2020)
Greyhound (2020)

Made for $50m and based on a script that Tom Hanks himself penned, Greyhound is an engaging World War II story about a convoy of ships heading across the Atlantic Ocean. Amongst them is the USS Keeling, captained by Hanks’ Commander Ernie Krause, and the large cast also finds roles for Stephen Graham, Elisabeth Shue, Matt Helm, Rob Morgan and more.

Adapted from the novel The Good Shepherd by CS Forester, Greyhound was directed by Aaron Schneider, and – lord bless it – came in at a slim and welcome 91 minutes. A well-received film, its sound work attracted BAFTA and Oscar nominations.

Sony backed the film, and was originally intending to release it in cinemas in the summer of 2020. Clearly that wasn’t going to be possible, though, and it turned out to be one of the first big films to be sold to streaming services once the pandemic bit. Apple picked the film up, and released it on the Apple TV+ service in July 2020.

Read more: Greyhound review | A pared-back Tom Hanks WW2 thriller

The problem there is that Apple TV+ isn’t the biggest of streaming services, and as we previously discussed with the Oscar-winning Coda, it’s home to really good films that don’t seem to have left much footprint beyond their original release window.

Still, it must have worked for Apple: in 2022, it inked a deal with Hanks’ Playtone production company, and among the projects under its umbrella was a Greyhound 2. Given how the first film felt made for cinema, hopefully a sequel will see the big screen – and might even bring its predecessor along for some double-bill screenings too.

News Of The World (2020)

News Of The World
News Of The World

Director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks reuniting should have been a much bigger deal than it turned out to be. Their first film together, 2013’s Captain Phillips, remains a quite superb piece of cinema, and their second, News Of The World, is a really good film too. Thing is, it’s buried under a wealth of Netflix menus, and lots of people simply haven’t found it.

Based on the novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, and not in any way related to the newspaper that once bore the same moniker, this was a big prestige project that was originally set up at 20th Century Fox. It then became a casualty of the Disney purchase of Fox, which saw around 100 films abandoned, but found a new home at Universal Pictures. Shot in the autumn of 2019, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect News Of The World to get an awards run at the end of 2020. Then, of course, 2020 happened.

What ended up happening was something of a fudge. Universal put the film out in cinemas in the US at Christmas, and Netflix released it elsewhere in the world. By the end of December 2020, the film was widely available, and earning solid critical notices. Hanks and Helena Zengel in particular were singled out for praise.

Read more: The Two films that came out of Tom Hanks’ Oscar runs

The split distributor cost the film some awards campaigning juice. News Of The World ended up with $12m at the US box office – which in the context of late 2020 releases feels pretty much like The Avengers – and a quartet of Academy Award nominations. Yet Netflix was never going to throw millions at an Oscar run for it, given that it didn’t have the rights to the film in the US. And my memory in the UK is that it got a bit of promotional work, but that Netflix’s interest in the film was time-limited.

This is the problem with prestige Netflix movie releases. Once the awards season run is done, those films get thrown down into the platform’s basement. They don’t get billing on the front of the service, unless the algorithm determines it’s your bag. Nobody’s going to find News Of The World on a whim, and it’s hiding away with the likes of Mank and The Trial Of The Chicago Seven, in the corner where you have to really go looking for it.

A pity: there’s lots to like in News Of The World. It might just have been the right film at the wrong time.

Finch (2021)


A jump into science fiction followed with Finch. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik – of Repo Men and Game Of Thrones vintage – Finch started life at Universal Pictures under the name BIOS. It was shot before News Of The World, in the middle of 2019, and stars Hanks as an ageing man who teaches a robot how to look after his dog for the day he meets his maker.

Set on a dystopian Earth, it’s understandable why Universal looked at this, a sci-fi movie that screams big screen. The studio popped it into an October 2020 slot, and you know what happened next.

Still, it took some time to work out what to do next. Inevitably, that October release was delayed, and then the films that did eke out a cinema release over the next six months were pretty much shot down as they arrived. Whether Universal was spooked by the performance of News Of The World, the broader state of the industry, or both, it decided to cut its losses. A deal was struck with Apple to acquire Finch, and it was announced in May 2021.

The film debuted on the Apple service in November 2021, without the kind of cinema release it’s more recently afforded to the likes of Argylle and Killers Of The Flower Moon. Apple was buoyed by the initial success of the film, with Finch enjoying the best opening for a film on its service (taking the previous record from, yep, Greyhound).

Reviews for Finch were hardly raves, but they were warm enough, and Apple was happy. Quite how many people have seen the film is impossible guess, such are the dark arts of streaming numbers. I’m still going to go with ‘not as many as watched Allied’, though.

Disney’s Pinocchio (2022)


There was a period in the 1990s when Francis Ford Coppola, keen to keep on making films and also help fund some other things he wanted to do, took on a pair of director-for-hire jobs. One was Jack, a pretty rubbish, by-the-numbers family comedy starring Robin Williams. The other was John Grisham novel adaptation The Rainmaker, which did a little business.

Robert Zemeckis hit a similar patch in the 2020s. After seeing the ambitious and costly Welcome To Marwen stumble in 2018 (and that followed commercial disappointments The Walk and Allied), he steered Warner Bros’ remake of The Witches, based on the novel by Roald Dahl. And then he signed up for a new take on Pinocchio, which appeared on Disney+ in 2022.

He roped in his old mate Tom Hanks for it, the pair having made Forrest Gump, Cast Away and A Christmas Carol together. And they both got the news they you don’t want to hear when making a fresh take on Pinocchio for the big screen: that Guillermo del Toro is having a go too.

Ironically, both of these Pinocchio movies would be funded by and released on streaming services. One would fare a lot, lot better than the other. del Toro picked up another Academy Award for his work, while the Disney+ Pinocchio? Few have even seen it, let alone talked about it. There’s little way around the fact that the endeavour felt like product, and isn’t particularly revered. Would that have been different had it enjoyed a cinema release? Hard to say, but Disney’s collection of remakes have at least tended to attract a moderate crowd.

Either way, Hanks’ next collaboration with Robert Zemeckis, Here, looks a lot, lot more interesting. At the time of this piece being written, it doesn’t have a UK cinema distributor attached.


What unites these four films is, appreciating it may be the online and offline circles I exist in, I never hear anybody talking about them. Clearly they’re doing well to varying degrees somewhere: Apple’s opened its chequebook for its deal with Tom Hanks’ company for Greyhound 2, and it’s hard to quarrel when funds are going into films that nobody else seems to be making.

But I do think each of these in different ways has paid a price by not getting a full cinema release around the world. Circumstances are such that it wasn’t possible in each case, and in truth, the turbulent theatrical marketplace may have barely made a difference.

Yet I hear people talk about A Man Called Otto. Not as much as they do about The Batman, but it’s at least caused some conversation. My local supermarket picked it as one of the handful of DVDs it chooses to stock (although the other week, it was hiding behind Wonka). It feels, for better or worse, like it exists just a little bit more.

Times have moved on of course, and the fact that people are still giving Tom Hanks money to make films that others aren’t suggests I might be the out-of-touch person yelling at clouds.

Still: ask your average moviegoer to name Tom Hanks’ last seven movie roles. I’d wager most will plump for his work in Elvis. Some may mention Asteroid City. But see if anyone offers up Greyhound or News Of The World. I’d be very happy to be proven wrong.

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