Stalwarts of the entertainment industry since their career beginnings in the 1980s, collectively, the films of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have managed to gross over USD 6.4 billion worldwide, a testament to their enduring popularity in the minds of film fans globally.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have appeared in four films together, namely Ithaca (2015), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You’ve Got Mail (1998) (Credit: Startraksphoto)
Despite their popularity, however, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have only managed to star alongside each other a total of 4 times, although each time has produced a film that is certainly worth watching.
Starting with Joe Versus the Volcano in 1990, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have continued to star in classics such as Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), and finally, their most recent collaboration in Ithaca, which was released in 2015.
With this in mind, let’s retrospectively take a look at these four films and how they’ve held up over the years since their premiere. Read through to the end to learn about any Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks projects currently in the pipeline as well!
How Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan Started in Hollywood
Before diving into the films they’ve made together, let’s see how Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan got their big break in Hollywood.
Tom Hanks was born in Concord, California, in 1956. Growing up, Hanks’ parents often moved houses, and Hanks has confirmed that he lived in ten different locations across the United States before settling down in Red Bluff, California, when he was ten years old.
Tom Hanks decided to become an actor after moving to California and majored in drama at California State University (Credit: Cover Images)
While attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California, Hanks got his first taste in acting by starring in stage plays like South Pacific. He decided to pursue acting and studied theater at Chabot College and California State University.
By 1980, Hanks had landed his first role in New York City in a low-budget slasher film called He Knows You’re Not Alone when he was 24 years old.
Tom Hanks, in his feature film debut as Elliot with Elizabeth Kemp as Nancy in the 1980 American slasher film He Knows You’re Alone (Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists)
He continued to land small roles in television productions before landing his breakout role in Splash (1984), a film about a man who falls in love with a mermaid (played by Daryl Hannah) – the film was a surprise success and kickstarted Hanks’ career.
Meg Ryan, on the other hand, grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut, after being born there in 1961. Opting to study journalism at the University of Connecticut and later at New York University, Ryan began her acting career to earn some extra money and pay off her university tuition and starred in soap operas like As The World Turns when she was in her early 20s.
Billy Crystal as Harry Burns and Meg Ryan as Sally Albright in the 1989 American romantic comedy-drama film When Harry Met Sally… (Credit: Columbia Pictures)
Her first leading role came in 1989 when she starred alongside Billy Crystal in the rom-com classic When Harry Met Sally…. She would then star alongside Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano, their first film together.
1. Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) – 66% Critics Score, 54% Audience Score
If you’ve ever seen this film, you know it has a plotline that is hard to forget. Tom Hanks stars as Joe Banks, a man who is diagnosed with a terminal illness that will kill him in 6 months.
After being propositioned by a mining capitalist, Hanks is hired to throw himself into a volcano on a South Pacific island to complete an indigenous ritual within 20 days.
Tom Hanks as Joe Banks and Meg Ryan as DeDe/Angelica/Patricia in the 1990 American romantic comedy film Joe Versus the Volcano (Credit: Amblin Entertainment)
Things get complicated, however, when he manages to fall in love with Patricia (one of three roles played by Meg Ryan), the daughter of the mining capitalist who sent him on this fatal escapade.
Joe Versus the Volcano was a flop at the box office but managed to garner a cult following in the years following its release. The film is now remembered for its philosophical themes on death and for being the first picture that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan worked alongside each other on. Hanks was 34 years old when the film premiered, and Ryan was 29.
2. Sleepless in Seattle (1993) – 75% Critics Score, 75% Audience Score
It’s hard not to think of this film when looking back at some of the best films of the 1990s.
Sleepless in Seattle was conceived by Jeff Arch, a struggling writer in Malibu, Florida. Inspired by the French film And Now My Love (1974), Arch had a hard time pitching the film to Hollywood studios, who were skeptical of a romantic comedy in which the leading actors rarely share screen time.
Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin, Meg Ryan as Annie Reed, and Ross Malinger as Jonah Baldwin in the 1993 American romantic comedy-drama film Sleepless in Seattle (Credit: TriStar Pictures)
The film follows Sam Baldwin, a recently widowed architect whose son calls into a radio station with the goal of finding a romantic partner for his lonely father. He meets journalist Annie Reed, who falls in love with Baldwin despite being recently engaged.
Eventually, director Nora Ephron settled on Meg Ryan after enjoying working with her on When Harry Met Sally. For the role of Sam Baldwin, Ephron initially considered Dennis Quaid, although she found that he lacked the comedic chops to handle the role and cast Hanks instead.
In addition to Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, actors considered for Sleepless in Seattle include Dennis Quaid, Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger, Sharon Stone, and Jodie Foster (Credit: TriStar Pictures)
Sleepless in Seattle is now considered one of the greatest romcoms of all time, and for good reason.
It’s an unusual way of telling a romance story (with the two leads rarely sharing a scene together until the climax) that managed to win over audiences and critics alike and solidified Hanks and Ryan’s status as performers with undeniable chemistry. Hanks was 37 years old when the film premiered, and Ryan was 31.
3. You’ve Got Mail (1998) – 69% Critics Score, 73% Audience Score
Directed by Nora Ephron (who also directed Sleepless in Seattle), You’ve Got Mail was inspired by a 1937 Hungarian play entitled Parfumerie by famous playwright Miklos Lazslo.
You’ve Got Mail follows Joe Fox (Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), two business rivals in the literature space. Kelly runs a small children’s book store, while Fox runs Fox Books, a large national chain.
They unwittingly fall in love when meeting in an anonymous chatroom, unaware of the fact that Fox’s book store chain is killing Kelly’s small shop.
Tom Hanks as Joe Fox and Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in the 1998 American romantic comedy-drama film You’ve Got Mail (Credit: Warner Bros.)
Eventually, they discover each other’s identities and fall in love. What a sweet story.
During the production of You’ve Got Mail, Ephron always had Hanks and Ryan in mind for the lead roles, saying: “I always have both of them in mind. It’s very hard if you write a comedy to not think about both of them, because they are so good. And it’s a short list of people who can do comedy, much less do it well.”
Unsurprisingly, You’ve Got Mail was a massive success at the box office, and critics also found the film the be endearing as well. Hanks was 42 when the film premiered, and Ryan was 36.
4. Ithaca (2015) – 22% Critics Score, 32% Audience Score
It would take a total of seventeen years before Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would appear onscreen alongside one another again, with this film actually being directed by Ryan herself.
Based on a classic 1943 novel by William Saroyan, Ithaca follows Homer McCauley, a young boy in 1942 who desires to be the fastest cyclist messenger in his small fictional town of Ithaca, California.
In her directional debut, the 2015 American drama film Ithaca, Meg Ryan portrays Kate Macauley (Credit: Momentum Pictures)
Tom Hanks plays the role of Homer’s father, who dies before the events of the film, while Meg Ryan plays the role of his widowed mother, Kate.
The film is a bittersweet reunion for Hanks and Ryan, despite the fact that they are certainly not the film’s leads in this WWII tale.
Tom Hanks has a small role as Matthew Macauley in Meg Ryan’s drama film Ithaca based on the 1943 novel The Human Comedy by William Saroyan (Credit: Momentum Pictures)
The reception to the film was certainly bittersweet as well, seeing as this film is easily the most-poorly received film in the catalogs of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
To date, it’s the last film starring the two star-crossed actors. Hanks was 59 years old by the time the film premiered, and Ryan was 53.
Did Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan Date in Real Life?
Despite their continued chemistry onscreen, the pair has seemingly never actually dated in real life. They still have a great working relationship and an enduring friendship, but never anything more than that.
By the time Ryan and Hanks worked together on Joe Versus the Volcano, Hanks had already married Rita Wilson, to whom he is still married.
Tom Hanks met his future wife Rita Wilson on the set of Bosom Buddies in 1981 (Credit: Startraksphoto)
Do you have a favorite Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film? We think that this cinematic pair should team up again for another rom-com classic.