Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field. The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted and naïve, but good-hearted and athletically prodigious man from Alabama who witnesses, and in some cases influences, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States; more specifically, the period between Forrest's birth in 1944 and 1982. The film differs substantially from Winston Groom's novel, including Gump's personality and several events that were depicted.
Principal photography took place in late 1993, mainly in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Extensive visual effects were used to incorporate the protagonist into archived footage and to develop other scenes. A comprehensive soundtrack was featured in the film, using music intended to pinpoint specific time periods portrayed on screen. Its commercial release made it a top-selling soundtrack, selling over twelve million copies worldwide.
Released in the United States on July 6, 1994, Forrest Gump became a commercial success as the top grossing film in North America released in that year, being the first major success for Paramount Pictures since the studio's sale to Viacom, earning over US$677 million worldwide during its theatrical run. In 1995 it won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, Best Adapted Screenplay for Eric Roth, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It also garnered multiple other awards and nominations, including Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards, and Young Artist Awards, among others. Since the film's release varying interpretations have been made of the film's protagonist and its political symbolism. In 1996, a themed restaurant, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, opened based on the film and has since expanded to multiple locations worldwide. The scene of Gump running across the country is often referred to when real-life people attempt the feat. In 2011, the Library of Congress selected Forrest Gump for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In 1981, Forrest Gump watches a feather fall from the sky at a bus stop in Savannah, Georgia. He recounts his life story to strangers who sit next to him on the bench, recounting his childhood in the town of Greenbow, Alabama.
On his first day of school, Forrest meets a girl named Jenny Curran, whose life is followed in parallel to Gump's at times. Despite his below average intelligence quotient, his ability to run at lightning speed (despite being a victim of polio as a young child) gets him into college on a football scholarship. After his college graduation, he enlists in the army, where he makes friends with Bubba, who convinces Gump to go into the shrimping business with him when the war is over. They are sent to Vietnam, and during an ambush, Bubba is killed in action. Gump ends up saving much of his platoon, including his Lieutenant, Dan Taylor, who loses both his legs as a result of injuries. Gump is awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
While Gump is in recovery for a shot to his buttocks, he discovers his uncanny ability for ping-pong, eventually gaining popularity and rising to celebrity status, later playing ping-pong competitively against Chinese teams in ping-pong diplomacy. At an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., Gump reunites with Jenny, who has been living a counterculture lifestyle.
Returning home, Gump endorses a company that makes ping-pong paddles, earning himself US$25,000, which he uses to buy a shrimping boat, fulfilling his promise to Bubba. Lieutenant Dan joins Gump, and although they initially have little success, after finding their boat the only surviving one in the area after Hurricane Carmen, they begin to pull in huge amounts of shrimp. They use their income to buy an entire fleet of shrimp boats. Lieutenant Dan invests the money in Apple and Gump is financially secure for the rest of his life. He returns home to see his mother's last days.
One day, Jenny returns to visit Gump and he proposes marriage to her. She declines, though feels obliged to prove her love to him by having sex with him. She leaves early the next morning. On a whim, Gump elects to go for a run. Seemingly capriciously, he decides to keep running across the country several times, over three and a half years, becoming famous in the process.
In present-day, Gump reveals that he is waiting at the bus stop because he received a letter from Jenny who, having seen him run on television, asks him to visit her. Once he is reunited with Jenny, she introduces him to his son, also named Forrest. Jenny tells Gump she is suffering from an unknown virus (possibly HIV, though this is never specified). Together the three move back to Greenbow, Alabama. Jenny and Forrest finally marry but she dies soon afterward.
Father and son are waiting for the school bus on little Forrest's first day of school. Opening the book his son is taking to school, the white feather from the beginning of the film is caught on a breeze and drifts skyward.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Based on Forrest Gump
by Winston Groom
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by Arthur Schmidt
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
June 23, 1994 (Los Angeles)
July 6, 1994 (United States)
Country United States
Budget US$55 million
Box office US$677.9 million
The film is based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. Both center on the character of Forrest Gump. However, the film primarily focuses on the first eleven chapters of the novel, before skipping ahead to the end of the novel with the founding of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and the meeting with Forrest, Jr. In addition to skipping some parts of the novel, the film adds several aspects to Gump's life that do not occur in the novel, such as his needing leg braces as a child and his run across the United States.
Gump's core character and personality are also changed from the novel; among other things his film character is less of an autistic savant—in the novel, while playing football at the university, he fails craft and gym, but receives a perfect score in an advanced physics class he is enrolled in by his coach to satisfy his college requirements. The novel also features Gump as an astronaut, a professional wrestler, and a chess player.
Two directors were offered the opportunity to direct the film before Robert Zemeckis was selected. Terry Gilliam turned down the offer to direct. Barry Sonnenfeld was attached to the film, but left to direct Addams Family Values.
The film received generally positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 72% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 83 reviews. At the website Metacritic, the film earned a rating of 82/100 based on 19 reviews by mainstream critics. CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade.
The story was commended by several critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "I've never met anyone like Forrest Gump in a movie before, and for that matter I've never seen a movie quite like 'Forrest Gump.' Any attempt to describe him will risk making the movie seem more conventional than it is, but let me try. It's a comedy, I guess. Or maybe a drama. Or a dream. The screenplay by Eric Roth has the complexity of modern fiction...The performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths...What a magical movie." Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the film "has been very well worked out on all levels, and manages the difficult feat of being an intimate, even delicate tale played with an appealingly light touch against an epic backdrop." The film did receive notable pans from several major reviewers. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker called the film "Warm, wise, and wearisome as hell." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film "reduces the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of Disney's America."
Critics had mixed views on the main character. Gump has been compared with various characters and people including Huckleberry Finn, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan. Peter Chomo writes that Gump acts as a "social mediator and as an agent of redemption in divided times". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called Gump "everything we admire in the American character – honest, brave, loyal." The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called Gump a "hollow man" who is "self-congratulatory in his blissful ignorance, warmly embraced as the embodiment of absolutely nothing." Marc Vincenti of Palo Alto Weekly called the character "a pitiful stooge taking the pie of life in the face, thoughtfully licking his fingers." Bruce Kawin and Gerald Mast's textbook on film history notes that Forrest Gump's dimness was a metaphor for glamorized nostalgia in that he represented a blank slate by which the Baby Boomer generation projected their memories of those events.
The film is commonly seen as a polarizing one for audiences, with Entertainment Weekly writing in 2004, "Nearly a decade after it earned gazillions and swept the Oscars, Robert Zemeckis's ode to 20th-century America still represents one of cinema's most clearly drawn lines in the sand. One half of folks see it as an artificial piece of pop melodrama, while everyone else raves that it's sweet as a box of chocolates."
Box office performance
Produced on a budget of $55 million, Forrest Gump opened in 1,595 theaters in its first weekend of domestic release, earning $24,450,602. Motion picture business consultant and screenwriter Jeffrey Hilton suggested to producer Wendy Finerman to double the P&A (film marketing budget) based on his viewing of an early print of the film. The budget was immediately increased, per his advice. The film placed first in the weekend's box office, narrowly beating The Lion King, which was in its fourth week of release. For the first ten weeks of its release, the film held the number one position at the box office. The film remained in theaters for 42 weeks, earning $329.7 million in the United States and Canada, making it the fourth-highest grossing film at that time (behind only E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, and Jurassic Park).
The film took 66 days to surpass $250 million and was the fastest grossing Paramount film to pass $100 million, $200 million, and $300 million in box office receipts (at the time of its release). The film had gross receipts of $329,694,499 in the U.S. and Canada and $347,693,217 in international markets for a total of $677,387,716 worldwide. Even with such revenue, the film was known as a "successful failure"—due to distributors' and exhibitors' high fees, Paramount's "losses" clocked in at $62 million, leaving executives realizing the necessity of better deals. This has, however, also been associated with Hollywood accounting, where expenses are inflated in order to minimize profit sharing. It is Robert Zemeckis' highest-grossing film to date.