15 Ways 'Forrest Gump' Changed Pop Culture – and Is Still with Us, 20 Years Later

The 1994 Tom Hanks classic may be heading back into theaters – in IMAX! – but it never really left us

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Twenty years ago, Tom Hanks inspired movie audiences around the world to reflect on the parallels between life and chocolate in the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump.

In honor of its anniversary, the film is screening in IMAX theaters for one week, starting Sept. 5. For Gump superfans out there, it’s a chance to relive some movie magic – just think how intense that floating feather will look on an IMAX screen!

To some observers, since its 1994 theatrical run, Forrest Gump has permeated pop culture, leaving a legacy that has inspired further creative efforts and manages to still make news today.

1. Tom Hanks’s Forrest Gump Audition Tape

What better place to start than with Tom Hanks’s first-ever moments on camera as Forrest? Notably, he had yet to perfect that distinctive Gump accent. That was inspired by Michael Conner Humphreys, the actor who played young Forrest and who actually talks that way. The video, which surfaced online only this past July, also features Robin Wright, who played Jenny, and a very young Haley Joel Osment, who played Forrest Jr.

2. Haley Joel Osment’s Career

Speaking of young Haley Joel, it’s worth pointing out that Forrest Gump was his first-ever acting role. From there he went onto sitcom work (The Jeff Foxworthy Show, Murphy Brown) and then onto The Sixth Sense, the movie most people remember as his big break. Osment was only 6 when Gump hit theaters.

3. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

How many movies inspire spin-off restaurants? Two years after Gump‘s theatrical run, the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Company opened in Monterey, California. Named after the fictional company that Forrest starts in the film, Bubba Gump today has 39 locations worldwide, every one offering Cajun-style seafood dishes inspired by the movie and its characters.

4. The Catchphrases

For a movie about a character who is supposedly not as quick as everyone else around him, Forrest Gump gives its title character ample opportunity to share his wisdom. His phrases became famous – from “Stupid is as stupid does,” to “Life is like a box of chocolates” – and have abounded ever since, both in earnest and in parody. To this day, anyone going on a run CAN expect to hear “Run, Forrest! Run!” shouted by someone who thinks it’s clever.

5. The Bench

Remember, if you will, that the majority of Forrest Gump is a flashback, as Forrest relates his life story to a series of strangers he meets while waiting on a bus bench. It should be no surprise, then, that the bench Hanks sat on instantly became a Hollywood artifact. It’s on display now at the Savannah History Museum in Georgia. The site where the scenes were filmed, Chippewa Square Bus Stop, has also become a tourist draw in its own right.

6. That Soundtrack

How many ’80s and ’90s children ended up learning midcentury pop and rock standards as a result of the Forrest Gump soundtrack? The two-disc chunk of American culture history sold big throughout the world, but it did best of all domestically, where it went platinum 12 times over. It occupied the No. 2 slot on the Billboard 200 chart for seven weeks, when it was finally displaced by that other big movie of 1994, The Lion King.

7. The Parodies

Forrest Gump has to be among the most parodied movies of all time. Right off the bat, in its first episode, MADtv blended it with that other major film from 1994, Pulp Fiction, and made Gump Fiction (Link is NSFW). The Simpsons did it. John Waters did it in Cecil B. Demented. Family Guy did it. And the parodies are still being done today, as the recent, rather artful Wes Anderson-meets-Forrest Gump video illustrates above.

8. The Lt. Dan Band

Since 2003, Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan in the film, has had a side career as the frontman for the Lt. Dan Band, a group of rockers who pay special attention to American servicemen and veterans. It’s a great way for Sinise to honor America’s armed forces, as well as the character he helped bring to life onscreen.

9. Gary Sinise’s Accidental Prediction About the Future

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Speaking of Sinise’s role in Forrest Gump, there’s a line in the movie that has Lt. Dan predicting the future. At one point, he says to Forrest: “If you’re ever a shrimp boat captain, that’s the day I’m an astronaut.” Of course, Forrest eventually does captain a shrimping vessel, but more notably, Sinise appeared as an astronaut just a year later in Apollo 13 – alongside Tom Hanks, no less. (Save this one for impressing friends during home Gump screenings.)

10. The Book Sequel, Gump & Co.

Author Winstom Groom wrote the novel Forrest Gump in 1986. One year after the movie came out, Groom wrote a sequel that had his newly famous protagonist “aww, shucks”-ing his way through history, 1982-1995. He crashes the Exxon Valdez, invents New Coke and meets everyone from the Ayatollah Khomeini to Tom Hanks himself. The novel has yet to be translated to the screen, but it’s a worthwhile read for anyone whose life is lacking in adequate Gumpage.

Groom, by the way, made news just last month when he objected to the fact that the re-release of Forrest Gump would skip his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. The original release, he said, was “the biggest thing to hit Mobile since Hurricane Frederic.”

11. The Benjamin Button Connection

Did you know that the same guy who wrote the Forrest Gump screenplay later wrote The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Because the guy who made this spot-on Funny or Die video did know this. Ahem.

12. Real-life Forrest Gumps Running Cross-Country

When news breaks about someone staging a run from one end of the United States to the other, just wait for the Forrest Gump references. August alone brought at least three different stories about people Forrest Gumping it: Michigan man Daren Wendell running from the Santa Monica pier to Times Square, Xie Zhanjun running from Shanghai to Kathmandu, and swimmer Diana Nyad celebrating the one-year anniversary of her Cuba-to-Florida swim by walking across the U.S.

13. The Other Real-Life Implications of “Real-Life Forrest Gump”

However, you’d best be clear when comparing people to Forrest Gump. For example, the character’s name still gets dropped in articles about top-tier ping-pong. And according to the USLegal online dictionary of legal terms, a Forrest Gump defense occurs when someone accused of a crime lacks the intelligence to understand the consequences of their actions, because “Forrest Gump [was] a fictional character who possessed limited intelligence.”

14. People Who Aren’t Sure if Forrest Gump Was a Real Person

The Internet is full of answers, but depending on where you look, it can also be full of questions. An oft-repeated one is some variation on “Was Forrest Gump real or fictional?” In such a person’s defense, the way the movie superimposes Hanks’s character into actual history would make it easy to think he was real.

15. But There Is a Real Forrest Gump!

And he’s not a runner or a ping-pong whiz. He’s a soldier: Sergeant First Class Sammy L. Davis, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Vietnam. Like the fictional character Forrest Gump, Davis was wounded but nonetheless fought to rescue his fellow soldiers. And it’s Davis’s Medal of Honor ceremony that was used in Forrest Gump, with Tom Hanks being superimposed over Davis. Ever since, Davis has had the nickname “The Real Forrest Gump.” And while that nickname could mean a great many things, Davis earned it for the best possible reasons.

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