Yes, FORREST GUMP is Still a Masterpiece, You Horrible, Cynical People

Somehow defending an American touchstone classic as it debuts on 4K UHD Blu-ray

Forrest Gump makes its UHD home video debut this week with a 4K Blu-ray release from Paramount.

Forrest Gump was a smash hit in 1994, conquering the box office and winning acclaim with its potent mixture of drama and comedy. Audiences and critics fell in love with the unique charms of Forrest, a mentally challenged man who recalls his story of living through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, bumbling through major world events, meeting and influencing numerous famous figures, and generally being an unknown mover and shaker behind the scenes of American history while amassing fortune and glory as a businessman, athlete, and war hero.

He never really sets out to do any of these incredible things, but falls into them simply by being himself and rising up in his own way to whatever challenges present themselves.

But you know this, right? Like most people, you’ve probably seen Forrest Gump. If not, please go experience this wonderful film and then come back and read this later because I’m definitely going to spoil it.

Maybe it’s because it’s been played endlessly on cable and become all too familiar. Maybe it’s just resentment against something for being too popular. Maybe it’s disaffection for nostalgia. Whatever the reason, in recent years, I’ve heard growing criticisms of the film that can be summarized more or less like this:

The film asserts itself as something profound and inspirational, but Forrest’s good fortunes are the result of accidents and coincidence. With his lack of intelligence, Forrest has little agency or awareness and everything good that happens to him is mere accident and circumstance, not his own doing. His beloved Jenny pushes him away throughout her adult life while destroying herself in a flurry of sex and drugs, but marries him once she has AIDS, giving him only the worst leftover part of herself, and strands him with their young son, whom he only recently discovered existed. How can people possibly love this? It’s just the worst!

The marvelous irony in these arguments is that they are precisely what the film is responding to. These are cynical arguments about a character who is incapable of cynicism.

Forrest is mentally challenged, and it’s true that he’s often not fully aware of everything transpiring around him, but kindness and perseverance are what define him. Forrest is absolutely a motivated character with incredible fortitude and agency. He overcomes a debilitating physical condition to become a world class athlete. He overcomes the racist environment of 1950s Alabama (heck, he’s named after Nathan Bedford Forrest) and finds kinship with a black man as his “best good friend”. Moreover, his heroism in saving several of his fellow soldiers while under heavy fire in Vietnam is no lessened for being more lucky or less intelligent than any of them.

Most of all, he meets the cynicism of others with endless hope and friendship over many years, and his influence is transformative for Lt. Dan and Jenny, people who love him but also want to keep him at arm’s length (I think there’s probably more than a little sad truth in this regarding the mentally handicapped). Both characters acquire physical ailments in the course of the film, but achieve mental and spiritual healing as a result of Forrest’s friendship — beautifully encapsulated when a rejuvenated Dan and his fiance attend Forrest and Jenny’s wedding.

The film isn’t perfect. I feel it’s perhaps overlong, and the latter chapter where Forrest runs across America feels like just one too many — both because it’s a less critical part of the story and it happens immediately after what feels like the narrative is naturally winding to a conclusion. But overall, the film is analyzing goodness against a backdrop of awfulness. Throughout decades of war, disease, racism, political and social upheaval, and personal struggles, Forrest maintains the course.

He may not have been directly responsible for the many incredible positive coincidences and accidents in his life, but his character and attitude are what made them possible. Moreover, he is humble and takes little credit for his achievements. What the audience may understand as accidents and coincidences, Forrest also recognizes as elements outside of his control — but he gives them attribution. The miraculous happened.

God showed up.

The Package

Forrest Gump’s 4K edition comes in a 3-disc set that pairs the new 4K movie disc with the full content of the previous 2-disc Sapphire Series Blu-ray and a digital copy. My review copy came with a slipcover.

The film has always been beautiful and features some impressive cinematography, and that’s fully on display here in this 4K edition. Some aspects of the effects work, such as the digital integration with archival footage, do show their age, but that’s not really a new criticism — Richard Nixon had a puppet mouth in the Blu-ray, too. Forrest Gump already looked astounding on Blu-ray and I loved experiencing it in 4K.

Special Features and Extras

The 4K disc includes both commentary tracks, while all other additional features — which are substantial — are on the Blu-ray discs.


  • Commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Rick Carter
  • Commentary with Wendy Finerman

Blu-ray Disc 1

  • Commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Rick Carter
  • Commentary with Wendy Finerman
  • Musical Signposts to History (31:23) — a superb exploration of the film’s famously extensive soundtrack hosted by journalist Ben Fong-Torres. A must watch for lovers of classic rock.

Blu-ray Disc 2

  • Greenbow Diary (25:59)
  • The Art of Screenplay Adaptation (26:58)
  • Getting Past Impossible — Forrest Gump And The Visual Effects Revolution (27:04)
  • Little Forrest (14:48)
  • An Evening With Forrest Gump (55:08)
  • The Magic of Makeup (8:03)
  • Through The Ears of Forrest Gump — Sound Design (15:34)
  • Building The World Of Gump — Production Design (7:18)
  • Seeing Is Believing — The Visual Effects Of Forrest Gump (30:28)
  • Screen Tests (9:15)
  • Trailers (3:57, 1:13)

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:

All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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