Inside Film

Leave Forrest Gump alone – Tom Hanks’s Oscar-winning charmer doesn’t deserve the stigma

It may have won six Oscars and made nearly $700m at the box office, but ‘Forrest Gump’ remains violently polarising. Geoffrey Macnab looks at the disputed legacy of a modern classic

Friday 05 April 2024 06:28 BST
Down in the Gumps: Tom Hanks as Forrest in the 1994 Oscar winner
Down in the Gumps: Tom Hanks as Forrest in the 1994 Oscar winner (Paramount)

Sex. Psychedelia. Political assassination. Race riots. The Vietnam war. High-speed table tennis. Seafood commerce. Forrest Gump had anything and everything. The 1994 film was one of the most unlikely blockbusters of its era, a decades-spanning epic that combines portentousness with extreme whimsy. Its charmed, cartoonishly benevolent protagonist became Tom Hanks’s signature role. Lines from the screenplay (“Run, Forrest, run!” and “Life is like a box of chocolates”) passed into common usage. And yet, despite being a smash hit at the box office and winning six Oscars (including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture), Forrest Gump continues to polarise opinion.

Even during its original release, certain critics couldn’t resist lobbing stones at it with the same brutal glee as the Alabama schoolkids who treat young Forrest so abominably early on in the film. “Bleak yet saccharine”, “reactionary”, and “infantile stupidity alchemised into feel-good dopiness” were just some of the more caustic remarks made against the film.

Its screenwriter Eric Roth and director Robert Zemeckis were excoriated for taking all the satirical bite out of the Winston Groom novel upon which it was based. Detractors were appalled that what seemed to them such bland and ersatz fare was stealing Quentin Tarantino’s thunder at the 1995 Academy Awards, having steamrollered over Pulp Fiction in multiple major categories.

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