Study Guide

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump Introduction


Release Year: 1994

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Eric Roth, Winston Groom (novel)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field


If you want to see a movie about the cruel world destroying the innocence of a simple-minded country boy, keep on looking. There's no room for your big-city cynicism in Forrest Gump; we don't serve your type around here.

This one is for the dreamers, the idealists, and the magical realists—the ones who can believe that a boy with a below-average IQ and an above-average heart can make millions, take part in the major events of 20th-century American history, and get the girl along the way.

Okay, okay, we admit that it's a bit hard to swallow. But, the core of this movie is just as simple as Forrest: all of the worldly success in the world doesn't mean a thing without love.

Released in 1994 in, let's be honest, a pretty optimistic era of American history, Forrest Gump ranks an amazing 8.8 on the IMDB viewers' ratings, making it the 13th most popular movie of all time. In 1995, the movie also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and (deep breath) Best Visual Effects. 

It's that popular.

And, did we mention that the movie made $677 million worldwide and cost only $55 million to make? That's a payday worthy of Forrest himself.

Forrest Gump has been such an enduring success because it speaks to a part of us that never really goes away—the Forrest-like part of us that wants to stay innocent and unjaded by the cynical and immoral world of adulthood. If you want to see movies about the corruptibility of the human character and the cruelty of the universe, take your pick; Netflix probably has a special genre just for you.

But, if you need a break from the harsh reality of underemployment and crushing student loans, click on Forrest Gump and bathe in the warm, fuzzy glow of knowing that, for the next two hours and 25 minutes, everything is going to work out perfectly.

Well, unless you're Jenny. Don't do drugs (or be a woman), Shmoopers.

What is Forrest Gump About and Why Should I Care?

Either you love Forrest Gump's message of innocence and kindness triumphing over cynicism and despair, or you think the movie irresponsibly privileges sentiment over taking a stance on some of the most important moments of recent political history.

(Yes, those are the only two options; and no, you are not allowed to think that it's a silly but harmless romp through 20th-century America, with a few moments of deeper truth along the way.)

Forrest Gump is so polarizing that the way you understand this movie is better than a BuzzFeed quiz as a key to your personality. Like, maybe you're an incurable optimist who loves the way the movie showcases Forrest's innocence while basically painting all of the "politically" motivated people as immoral or delusional.

Or, maybe you're a cynical realist who thinks that Forrest Gump tells us to think that everything will work out fine if we just munch on our box of chocolates, share our mom's pithy sayings, and don't think about scary stuff like politics or war or structural inequality. (We bet you're really fun at parties.)

Does Forrest Gump teach us to be good people, or does it teach us to avoid taking on the difficult responsibilities of the adult world? Either way you lean, it's comforting to know that a whole bunch of people are on your side.

Trivia

Believe it or not (we hardly can), John Travolta was the first choice to play Forrest Gump. The producers also thought Bill Murray might fit the role, but they went with Tom Hanks and got him a second straight Academy Award for Best Actor in the process. (Source)

You know how Forrest and Lt. Dan found the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in the movie? After the movie's release, some folks actually started a real life Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which currently has 43 locations around the world for all of your crustacean needs. (Source)

Whenever Forrest meets people, he likes to introduce himself this way: "My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump." You can't thank the scriptwriters for that bit of dialogic genius: Tom Hanks just made it up while filming those scenes. (Source)

Forrest Gump is based on a book, and that book has a sequel, and that sequel is totally nutty. At one point, Forrest ends up working as a janitor at a strip club; in another, he crashes the Exxon Valdez. (Source)

Forrest Gump Resources

WEBSITES

Paramount Pictures Presents
For some great high-quality clips and movie info you can whip out at trivia night, check out the official Forrest Gump presence at Paramount Pictures.

Shrimp Boil
Have a look to find the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. location nearest you.

Nice and Official
Here's your spot for all things official when it comes to the life and times of Forrest Gump.

BOOK OR TV ADAPTATIONS

Forrest Gump (Novel)
This is the novel that the screenplay is based on. There are some major differences; there was also a bit of conflict between the author, Winston Groom, and the film's producers. Everything was settled when the producers paid Groom over $1 million for the rights to his Forrest Gump sequel. Yeah, that'll ease the pain.

Gump & Co.
That's right, folks. Winston Groom wrote a sequel to Forrest Gump, and Eric Roth turned it into a screenplay. But in the end, Tom Hanks decided not to go ahead with it. After perusing the reviews, we approve of that decision.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Forrest Gump, 20 Years Later
People magazine looks back 20 years later to see how Forrest Gump managed to leave a lasting legacy of love, laughter, and, uh, lobster-like crustaceans? Okay, so we ran out of alliteration.

The Critics Have Spoken
By this point, you might be wondering if there's anyone out there who doesn't love Forrest Gump, and the answer is definitely yes. In this article, a New York Times reviewer talks about how Robert Zemeckis' love for special effects can't make up for his lack of storytelling ability. Ouch.

VIDEO

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
Here's what would have been whetting audiences' appetites in 1994.

America the Beautiful
In this video clip, powerhouse duo Siskel & Ebert tell us what makes Forrest Gump so great.

Run, Forrest, Run
Who doesn't want to see Forrest running across America over and over?

For Your Consideration
Here's the audition that helped Tom Hanks win the role of Forrest Gump. Would you hire him?

AUDIO

A Little Night Music
All of the magic of Alan Silvestri's music can be found at the click of a button. (Pssst, we're talking about this link.)

Wendy Finerman Explains It All
Play this YouTube video at the same time as the movie for some running commentary you won't find on the DVD set.

Forrest Lump
The one and only "Weird Al" Yankovic gives us his own take on Gump, to the tune of "Lump" by The Presidents of the United States of America. Yeah, we got nothing.

IMAGES

Sir, Yes, Sir
Here's a drill sergeant telling Forrest what a genius he is for always following orders. It's probably the first and last time anyone called him a genius, so we figure it's worth a look.

Three-Hanky Moment
Here's Forrest saying goodbye to Bubba. Hey, at least Forrest ends up with a fortune in the end.

Movie Magic
Here's a look at the completely fictional moment when Forrest meets President Kennedy. Back in 1994, this was cutting-edge technology. Ah, the simple life!