The Greatest Things About Forrest Gump
Background and History:
“Forrest Gump” is one of my favorite movies and one of the most outstanding American classic films ever made. It won numerous awards in 1995 including six Academy Awards. The director, Robert Zemeckis, won the Oscar for best director, Tom Hanks was deemed best actor for his role as Forrest Gump, and the film won best picture, best film-editing, best visual effects, and best adapted screenplay. Simply put, it was the best, and it still remains a critically acclaimed and beloved movie today, almost twenty years later. Tom Hanks is incredible in the role of Forrest, and the movie has so many wonderful qualities and life lessons compacted into it. It spans throughout Forrest’s life in conjunction with some of the most crucial moments of American history, often interlacing the two and comically placing Forrest in the midst of political drama. After his success playing ping pong for the U.S. Army, he’s invited to the White House to meet President Nixon, who offers him a room in the Watergate Hotel. Forrest notices men with flashlights in the White House and calls security to complain about it keeping him awake, unknowingly exposing the Watergate Scandal and leading to President Nixon’s resignation. Forrest is such a sincere and friendly character who moves through life doing the best he can and using the lessons his mama taught him. The movie is witty, moving, and universal in it’s portrayal of the human experience. I hadn’t known it was based off of a novel of the same name by Winston Groom published in 1986, but now I intend to read it since I love the movie so much. I also learned that Tom Hanks won the Oscar for best actor the previous year for his role in “Philedelphia,” making him the first person to win back-to-back Oscars since 1937-8. He is amazing in my favorite romantic comedies, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” he’s epic in “Cast Away,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Green Mile,” and “Captain Phillips,” and he’s witty in some of his earlier movies like “Turner & Hooch” and “Big” as well as more recent ones like “The Terminal,” “Larry Crowne,” and “Saving Mr. Banks.” He has had a monumental impact on the film industry, not only as one of the most talented and successful actors, but also as a writer, director, and executive producer.
Since I love “Forrest Gump” so much, I decided to compile a list of everything that makes the film awesome:
1. Humor – The desegregation of Forrest’s college, the University of Alabama, was a rather serious and tense event in the South during the time period, and Forrest’s lighthearted and innocent take on the situation is pretty humorous. Forrest asks a friend,”What’s goin’ on?” Student: “Coons are trying to get into school.” Forrest replies, surprised, “Coons? When raccoons try to get on our back porch mama just chase ’em off with a broom.” Forrest has an innocent and hilarious way of making conversation with people. While saying goodbye to Jenny, he tells her, “They sendin’ me to Vietnam. It’s this whole other country.”
A few more funny examples:
Lieutenant Dan: “Where you boys from in the world?” Bubba and Forrest simultaneously respond: “Alabama, Sir!” Lt. Dan asks, jokingly, “You twins?” They look at each other seriously thinking about it before Forrest says, “No, we are not relation sir.” The fact that they have different colored skin and different racial backgrounds is completely lost on them and they don’t realize that Lieutenant Dan was joking.
Forrest says, while telling his story to a man on the bus bench, “Oh, yes sir, bit me directly in the buttocks. They said it was a million dollar wound but the army must keep that money cause I still ain’t seen a nickel of that million dollars.” In case you don’t know (I had to look it up), a “million dollar wound” is an injury that’s serious enough to get a soldier out of battle but does not cause permanent damage. He’s so serious in contemplating that the army must keep the million dollars, but in reality it’s a funny misunderstanding of the slang on Forrest’s part. He goes on to say, “The only good thing about being wounded in the buttocks is the ice cream. They gave me all the ice cream I could eat.” I mean, who wouldn’t love such a sweetheart?
He says a few funny things in the Vietnam War: “Now I don’t know much about anything, but I think some of America’s best young men served in this war. There was Dallas from Phoenix, Cleveland, he was from Detroit. And Tex…well, I don’t remember where Tex come from.”…”The good thing about Vietnam is there was always some place to go. And there was always something to do.” He says this in the midst of explosions and checking a possibly dangerous hole. The irony is not lost on the viewer, and Forrest’s sincerity makes it really funny.
After becoming a shrimp boat captain, he spots Lt. Dan on the docks and dives off his boat to get to him. He says, “Lieutenant Dan! What are you doin’ here?!” Lt. Dan says, “Well, I thought I’d try out my sea legs.” Forrest responds, “But you ain’t got no legs Lietenant Dan.” He’s just purely, innocently funny. The boat, then crashes into the next dock over, and he proudly announces, “That’s my boat.”
Forrest says of Lt. Dan, “He got me invested in some kind of fruit company. And so then I got a call from them saying we didn’t have to worry about money no more, and I said, ‘That’s good. One less thing.'” The fruit company was Apple, Inc.
2. Life Lessons – Mama teaches Forrest about the world and he relays pieces of advice to whoever listens to his story. My favorite is, “Mama always says that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Mama tells him, “Well, I happen to believe you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you.” Forrest: “My mama always said, ‘You got to put the past behind you before you can move on.’ and I think that’s what my run was all about.” At Jenny’s grave, Forrest says, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.” His honest and insightful perspective on life emanates throughout the whole movie.
3. Famous References – Elvis Presley (Forrest is responsible for showing him hip-thrusting dance moves), the All-American football team, President JFK, the Vietnam War, the Black Panthers, President Nixon and the Watergate Scandal (tipped off by Forrest), and other funny, historical inserts. While running, Forrest is responsible for million dollar ideas and American cultural icons such as the “Shit Happens” bumper sticker and the smiley face t-shirt. Forrest’s life seems to tie in seamlessly with the events of the time period, and he inadvertently affects many of them.
4. Acceptance – I love that the overarching theme of the movie is accepting all different kinds of people. Though Forrest is mentally disabled, he proves that he can do anything he sets his mind to. When people put him down, his friends and family stick up for him. His mama tells him, “Don’t ever let anybody tell you they’re better than you, Forrest. If God intended everybody to be the same, he’d have given us all braces on our legs…You’re the same as everybody else. You are no different.” The kids on the bus won’t let Forrest sit, until Jenny says, “You can sit here if you want,” and Bubba offers the same friendship in the army. Acceptance i
5. Friendship – Another theme carried throughout the movie is the strength of friendship. Jenny, Bubba, and Lieutenant Dan are Forrest’s closest friends, and he loves them with all his heart. “From that day on, we was always together. Jenny and me was like peas and carrots.” “Bubba was my best good friend. And even I know that ain’t something you can find just around the corner.”
6. Amazing Cast – Beside Tom Hanks were some awesome supporting actors and actresses:
Jenny – Robin Wright Penn
Mama – Sally Field
Lietenant Dan Taylor – Gary Sinise
Bubba (Benjamin Buford Blue) – Mykelti Williamson
7. Great Music – The movie soundtrack is comprised of many classic songs – I’ve listed some of my favorites below:
- Hello, I Love You and Break On Through (To The Other Side)– The Doors
- California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas
- For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
- Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
- Turn! Turn! Turn! – The Byrds
- I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) – Four Tops
- Respect – Aretha Franklin
- Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan
- Against The Wind – Bob Seger
- For the full list of songs go to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109830/soundtrack
8. Shrimp Is Delicious – Bubba: “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbeque it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s, um, 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’s, that’s about it.” Bubba Gump Shrimp Company was the name of Forrest’s shrimping business, after his lost friend and partner. After the movie, a successful restaurant chain used the name and is an iconic representation of all things Forrest Gump.
9. Love Knows No Bounds – It’s cheesy, but it’s true, and the movie shows, in the end, that love is the best answer. Forrest never judges, he always chooses the path of love. His relationships are the strongest bonds because of his openness and loving personality. I think it’s one of the greatest messages of the movie. When Forrest finds out that Jenny’s little boy is his son, I get teary-eyed, and the whole end of the movie forces me to keep tissues nearby. My favorite passage at the end is when he’s taking care of Jenny: “Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out. And then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bay… There was over a million sparkles on the water. Like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny. It looks like there were two skies, one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up… I couldn’t tell where the heavens stopped and the earth began. It was so beautiful.” She says, “I wish I could have been there with you,” and he tells her, “You were.” He was thinking about her the entire time and carrying her in his heart.
The movie ends with him sending little Forrest off to school at the same bus stop where his mama sent him in the beginning as a little boy. The feather that started the movie also ends it, floating away in the breeze. A wonderful, cyclical ending with a mixture of destiny and accidental. I absolutely adore “Forrest Gump,” and if you’ve never seen it, or if it’s been awhile, I hope you watch it and appreciate all the good things about the film.
Photo credits: Bubba Gump’s, Bumper Sticker, Smiley Face, Sally Field, JFK, Jenny, Bubba, Lieutenant Dan, Bubba and Forrest, Forrest Gump, Info Source