Penny Marshall, Who Died at 75, Broke Barriers as a Female Director: A Look at Her Biggest Hits

Penny Marshall, who died at 75, was the first woman in Hollywood history to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the box office

Penny Marshall first rose to Hollywood fame as an actress in the late ’70s, as spunky factory worker Laverne DeFazio in the hit show Laverne & Shirley.

But she later had even greater success behind the camera, directing massive blockbusters hits and paving the way for a new wave of female directors.

“For me it was just something to do,” Marshall said in 1996, reflecting on how she transitioned from acting to directing. “If I failed, I had my excuse: I was an actress, not a director.”

In 1988, with Big, she became the first woman in Hollywood history to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the box office. Two years later, her drama Awakenings earned a Best Picture nomination. And in 1992, she topped $100 million again with A League of Their Own.


In a Tweet, director Ava DuVernay gave a nod to the pioneering director:

Below, a look at the best and biggest films that she directed:

Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)

Jumpin' Jack Flash - 1986
20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Marshall got her first stab at directing when she stepped into replace the original director. It starred Whoopi Goldberg and went on to raise $29.8 million.

Big (1988)

Film and Television

Marshall made history when she became the first female director to helm a movie that grossed over $100 million at the box office after its $8 million opening. The Tom Hank classic went on to make $115 million domestically and $151.9 million worldwide.

Awakenings (1990)

Awakenings - 1990

After the success of Big, Marshall once again gained acclaim for Awakenings, which starred Robert De Niro and the late Robin Williams. The movie was nominated for Best Picture at the 1991 Academy Awards. It was her third most successful film with $52 million at the box office.

A League Of Their Own (1992)

A League Of Their Own - 1992

Striking gold a second time, Marshall’s A League of Their Own also crossed the $100 million mark and became a classic hit with Geena Davis, Madonna, Tom Hanks and Rosie O’Donell putting in memorable performances. It was her second most successful film with $107.5 million.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

The Preacher's Wife - 1996
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Starring the late great Whitney Houston, The Preacher’s Wife found medium success at the box office with $48 million grossed.

Riding In Cars With Boys (2001)

Riding In Cars With Boys - 2001

The 2001 movie Riding in Cars with Boys was the last one Marshall directed, though she did occasionally step back in as producer on other films afterwards. The movie was her least successful, only making $30 million during its run.

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