Benjamin Gump

The curious case of conjoined films

Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump (image copyright Paramount Pictures)

Exclusive to MeierMovies, March 2, 2024

Except for their Southern roots – one with an Alabama drawl and the other with a New Orleans lilt – Forrest Gump and Benjamin Button seem to have little in common. Think again.

Their similarities shouldn’t be surprising, as both of the famous movie characters were born of screenwriter Eric Roth, by way of original stories from Winston Groom and F. Scott Fitzgerald, respectively. Both were shaped by their military service (Forrest in Vietnam and Benjamin in World War II) and the men they served under (Lieutenant Dan and Captain Mike). And both were devoted – over the years and through numerous cross-purposed hardships – to women (Jenny and Daisy) who would change their lives and father their children.

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button (image copyright Warner Brothers / Paramount Pictures)

The overall movies have much in common too, as both the 1994 film directed by Robert Zemeckis and the 2008 one helmed by David Fincher were box-office successes and nominated for numerous Academy Awards. (Forrest Gump enjoyed more Oscar success, winning six, including best picture, while The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though nominated for a whopping 13, took home just three.) Thematically, the two films are portraits of America: its wars, its people, its cultural richness. Combine Forrest and Benjamin and you’ve got the 20th century in a nutshell. And they are both largely stories within stories, told by their subjects.

Ultimately, though, the two characters are mirror images: Forrest was an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances while Benjamin was an extraordinary man in ordinary circumstances. And while the former was mentally challenged, the latter was physically, though Forrest too overcame physical disabilities early in life. But whether life is “like a box of chocolates” or simply a “series of intersecting lives and incidents,” our lives have been incalculably enriched by Mr. Gump and Mr. Button. And as the latter taught us, “I hope you live a life you’re proud of, [and] if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

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For information on and photos of filming locations of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, go here. And for fun, watch the film again, paying close attention to Benjamin’s dog. (He ages backwards too.)