The TV Movie You Never Knew Tom Hanks Was In

Ah, 1982. Cassettes were replacing vinyl, feathered and shag hairdos were replacing straight bobs, and satanic panic was replacing common sense. Based on unfounded rumors and a questionable case involving a preschool, America developed a widespread worry that devil worshipers were infiltrating the nation. Some felt that role-playing fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons promoted black magic and might lead players to suicide (via The New York Times). 

Capitalizing on this fear, CBS released a TV movie called "Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters." It was based on a bestselling novel, which in turn was based on the case of a real student whose disappearance was thought to be related to D&D, according to Fandom. The promotional copy on the Fandom page reads, "Four players in a dangerous game . . . Risking their hearts, their minds, and their lives." The star of the film was none other than Tom Hanks, who was just making a name for himself in the sitcom "Bosom Buddies." He was 26 at the time, not far removed from his early days when he worked as a hotel bellboy (per The Washington Post). 

When you're a young actor trying to get your big break, you take any project that sounds promising, even if it's a TV movie in which your character starts believing that imaginary monsters are real. So Hanks took on the challenge of "Mazes and Monsters," playing troubled college student Robbie Wheeling, as noted by IMDb. How does it stand up in the whole of his body of work? Well, let's just say it's no "Forrest Gump."

Tom Hanks played a delusional, game-obsessed student

"Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters" is viewable on YouTube, but here's the nutshell version (as confirmed by Den of Geek): Four misfit college students play a fantasy role-playing game in an abandoned cavern for an extra touch of realism. Robbie, played by Tom Hanks, becomes delusional and thinks that he really is his cleric character, Pardieu.

Believing that he is on a quest, Robbie wanders off to New York City to find his brother, who ran away from home three years earlier. His friends track him down just in time to save him from jumping off one of the towers of the World Trade Center (this is 1982, remember). According to The New York Times, the film is a bit more of a rite of passage story than many expected. 

The movie was meant to warn against playing the "evil" Dungeons & Dragons game, but to today's viewers, it comes off as campy. Still, it helped keep Hanks in the public eye, and two years later, "Splash" made him a genuine star.

Hanks apparently has never talked about his time battling pretend demons, but when asked by "Today" what his three favorite movies are, it's not surprising that "Mazes and Monsters" wasn't among them.