Forrest Gump was released in theaters 23 years ago today. I imagine you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump before, but if you haven’t, here’s the synopsis of the film, per Wikipedia:
“Several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted but kind-hearted, good-natured 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.”
Also, because I don’t think that this synopsis is totally accurate in describing what the movie is really about, here is the theatrical trailer for the movie, which is indisputably one of the greatest movie trailers ever produced:
As you can see, the individual we know as Forrest, Forrest Gump did a number of impressive things throughout his life. Today I’m going to rank the ten most impressive things Forrest ever managed to do.
Note #1: I’d like to concede the fact that in reality the most impressive thing Forrest Gump did was receive a Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam War. The second most impressive thing Forrest Gump did was become an All-American football player at the University of Alabama. These are obviously far greater feats than, say, sitting on a bus bench for two straight hours. However, what makes Forrest Gump such a fantastic movie and part of what makes Forrest Gump (the character) such an endearing human being is how he goes about re-living every chapter of his life with the exact same amount of spirit, making it mildly difficult to distinguish what accomplishments he values more than others.
Note #2: As you’ll soon see, I’m not concerned with only the physical accomplishments of Forrest Gump. This is a composite list of Forrest’s physical, emotional, mental, psychological and accidental accomplishments and triumphs.
10: Forrest remembers a pair of shoes he wore when he was five years old
This sounds like a minuscule detail, but let me ask you this: do you remember the pair of shoes you wore when you were five years old? And I don’t mean, “oh yeah, I’ve seen pictures.” I mean, like, “yeah, those were dope sneakers, I remember the first time I put them on. I remember what it felt like to run around in them. I remember how pissed off my parents were when I jumped in a puddle and ruined them.”
I remember plenty of obscure details about my life when I was around the age of five (from that age I mostly remember holidays, birthday parties, days where me and all my cousins would be swimming at my grandparents house, and the horrible first week I had in Kindergarten), but I definitely don’t remember what sneakers my parents bought me. The first sneaker-related memory I have was when I was maybe nine or ten years old and seeing a pair of And 1 basketball sneakers that had a big silver dollar sign on the bottom of them. I begged my Dad to buy me them for me for my upcoming 4th grade basketball season, and he agreed, but he said we’d have to come back the following week to get them. We came back the following week and they were sold out. 🙁
9: Forrest sits on a bus bench for two hours
To the naked eye, this one probably doesn’t seem all that impressive either. But think about this, if we assume that the film is operating in real time up until Forrest decides to leave the bus bench and go see Jenny (and, unbeknownst to Forrest, little Forrest too), that means he sat on the bus bench for 120 consecutive minutes without standing up and stretching, going to the bathroom, or doing the thing where he stands up, walks a little ways down the sidewalk and squints ahead to see if he could see into the distance if his bus may be approaching. He’s just chillin’ on the bench, making new friends and telling them his entire life story while he’s there.
Now, think about this: What if Forrest was on the bench even longer than two hours, and in real life, the people he sat next to on the bus bench were also telling Forrest their stories too? What if there is an alternate version of Forrest Gump that is two hours and twenty minutes of everybody Forrest sat next to on the bus bench telling him their life stories? What if Robert Zemeckis is planning on releasing that version of the film on the 25th anniversary of Forrest Gump‘s theatrical release? Guys, we’re only two years away from the coolest and best-kept-secret of a sequel in American film history. Get super pumped!
8: Forrest drinks fourteen Dr. Pepper’s in one sitting
I’m aware that the popular line is, “I must’ve drank me about fifteen Dr. Pepper’s,” but if you check the footage carefully there are fourteen empty Dr. Pepper bottles on the table in front of Forrest. This isn’t meant to be a critique of the film itself or of Forrest’s memory — it’s actually rather impressive that he could estimate that closely to the exact number so many years removed from that White House visit. This is all beside the point, with the point being it’s super impressive that Forrest could drink fourteen Dr. Pepper’s in one sitting.
Now technically, we don’t know the exact amount of time that Forrest was afforded to stand around and pound soft drinks. With that said, I can’t imagine that the gathering for the All-American Football Team is an affair that lasts more than a few hours. So let’s say Forrest and the rest of the All-Americans are given three hours (an awfully generous amount of time, I believe) to eat food, drink sodas and mingle before their ceremony with President John F. Kennedy begins. That means Forrest was drinking almost five Dr. Pepper’s per hour for three straight hours. I couldn’t imagine drinking fourteen bottles of Aquafina in three hours without feeling bloated and borderline disgusted with myself.
7: Forrest teaches Elvis Presley how to dance
Man, just think about this: if Forrest doesn’t teach Elvis how to dance, then “The King” probably doesn’t reach the heights he did as a music icon and sex symbol, and if that doesn’t happen, Uncle Jesse on Full House is just a completely different character.
6: Forrest meets three United States Presidents
I can’t imagine that I’ll ever do anything prolific enough in my life to receive a single White House invitation. While saying something like that may sound like an indictment of my character or my career prospects, the truth is you need to be a really big deal in a very meaningful profession (or at least a field that comes off as meaningful) or do something way more heroic than I could ever imagine even having the opportunity to do. This means the closest I’ll ever come to meeting a United States President was when I went WrestleMania 28 and saw future U.S. President Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson defeat John Cena in the main event.
Forrest had the honor of meeting John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in a span of about ten years, and even more impressively, Forrest received those three White House invitations because three very different accomplishments. He visited Kennedy because he was an All-American college football player, Johnson because of his Army service in the Vietnam War, and Nixon because after the war he became the greatest American Ping Pong player to ever live (or at least until 1992, which was when I was born).
Now while I can’t prove this to be true, I would speculate that the percentage of the population who are non-government officials that receive an invitation from the President to visit the White House is very low. I also can’t prove this next statement to be true, but I speak with a great deal of confidence when I say that I’m almost certain Forrest Gump is the only person to ever receive a White House invitation from three different United States Presidents.
5: Forrest teaches himself how to sail a boat and become a shrimperman
I have no clue if shrimperman is the correct title of someone who makes a living fishing for shrimp, but regardless, it’s a job well done by Forrest to teach himself how to sail a boat. Remember, before Forrest met Bubba while serving in Vietnam, Forrest knew nothing about the shrimping business. He hadn’t even been on a real shrimping boat. And even though Bubba knew everything there was to know about the shrimping business, we never hear him explain to Forrest how to sail a boat or how to be a proper shrimperman. We just hear Bubba telling Forrest about the best ways to cook shrimp.
Now sure, that’s useful information to have (I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the inside scoop on how to properly cook up the best fried shrimp in the world), but I still don’t see how any of this helps Forrest when he climbs aboard a boat and sails into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and tries to take all of the shrimp out of the water. But even without that more useful inside scoop, Forrest and his first mate Lt. Dan managed to become the premiere shrimpermen in the Southeast United States. What a success story. Hey, speaking of Lt. Dan …
4: Forrest maintains a friendship with Lt. Dan Taylor –
Now look, I sympathize with Lt. Dan. It’s at least implied that he probably didn’t have the best home life, and it’s understandable that his psyche was probably a little off since he was heading into the Vietnam War with not just the intention of, but the hope to die in battle because a relative of his had fought and died in every single American war. I get all of this. But man, Lt. Dan had to be a serious bummer to be around for like any amount of time.
He was bossy, dirty, needy, drunk and rarely appreciative of the fact that Forrest put his life on the line to attempt to save Lt. Dan (and Bubba, and Tex, and a number of other Vietnam soldiers). In fact, more than once he voiced his displeasure in the fact that Forrest saved him. He even turned down ice cream. Who the hell does that?
Once Lt. Dan joined Forrest on his shrimping expedition (to Lt. Dan’s credit, this was a promise he made to Forrest and kept even though Forrest wouldn’t have held it against him if he didn’t) their relationship started improving, and when Lt. Dan showed up at Forrest and Jenny’s wedding with his magic legs, it’s a downright touching moment to watch. Just remember though, if it weren’t for Forrest’s efforts early on, we would never know a version of Dan Taylor that was actually pleasant.
3: Forrest runs across the country multiple times over a three year period
I’m sure many people reading along expected that this was going to be #1 on the list, however, this isn’t even Forrest’s most impressive running feat (we’ll get there). Theoretically, you or I are just as capable of running across the United States of America over a three year span as Forrest was. We may not make five full trips across the country like he did, but if we’re only concerned with matching the duration of time that Forrest ran — which is what I always thought was the main point of that scene in the film; the distance he traveled was only briefly mentioned, but Forrest very clearly spelled out the fact that he had been running for “3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours” — then anyone who is physically capable of running could choose to do so for that duration of time.
Forrest obviously enjoyed running more than the average individual does, but he also had a ton of time on his hands. At this point in Forrest’s life, Jenny had run off on him again, Lt. Dan was handling the business side of Bubba Gump Shrimp, and his Momma and Bubba had both died. Forrest was a Gazillionaire (his words, not mine) and he spent his days cutting the grass in the town of Greenbow, Alabama for free. My point is this … there wasn’t really anything holding Forrest down that would prevent him from deciding on a whim that he would spend the next one-thousand or so days running. And remember, Forrest wasn’t running every second of every day. He had the luxury of making his own daily schedule. When he got tired, he slept. When he got hungry, he ate. When he had to go, you know, he went. And so he just ran. Yeah.
2: Forrest outraces a car
This is the more impressive running feat that I alluded to two paragraphs ago. It doesn’t matter how much spare time any of us have on our hands, how badly we wish we could do something like this, or how hard we train our bodies, nobody reading this is capable of outracing a speeding car that is filled with three douchebags who are throwing rocks at you and attempting to run you over.
It’s a known fact that the human body is incapable of moving at a speed close to that of a nearly fully-accelerated motor vehicle. Forrest didn’t let this common knowledge stop him from doing the impossible. Even without opportunity to get a good stretch in, Forrest was able to accelerate from “casual walk along a dirt road with Jenny” to “oh boy I need to get into a dead sprint right now” without any issues. And don’t forget, Forrest wasn’t wearing gym shorts, a cut-off shirt and a fresh pair of Nike running shoes. He was in a button up shirt, khaki pants and a pair of brown dress shoes that definitely did not provide quality ankle or sole support. Forrest never had a great pair of shoes until Jenny bought him a pair of Nike Cortez’s in the mid-seventies. Just imagine how badly he could have beat that car in a race if he had those Nike’s on then.
1: Forrest never gives up on Jenny
The biggest and most important accomplishment of the movie and of Forrest’s life, because if he didn’t continue to love and pursue Jenny, there is no Forrest Gump. It’s hard to distinguish whether Forrest Gump is a Comedy or Drama since there are aspects of both all throughout the film, but in reality, it’s one of the great Romance stories ever told … a story about the love a man feels for a woman, which is a love he’s felt for her since he was just a boy. It wasn’t infatuation or just a fling, and he doesn’t feel this way because he’s stupid. To paraphrase what Forrest told Jenny, he may not have been a smart man, but he knew what love was. And I’d be willing to bet that if you’ve seen Forrest Gump, when it was all over you too had a firm grasp on the idea of love, because it’s impossible not to love Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump was a character that probably turned out to be far more profound than anyone who was involved in bringing this story to life would have ever imagined he could be, simply because of the unnatural and completely unconditional love he felt for not only Jenny, but for nearly everyone who entered his interesting and impressive life. His story is a celebration of both the simple and remarkable things in life, and how if you approach life with the right attitude, those things could easily overlap.