Top 15 Garry Marshall Directed TV Shows and Movies

Garry Marshall Director

It was a regular event for me to attend super secret screenings of Hollywood movies at Harkins Theatres in the 1990’s, as my twin brother was the studio liaison for Harkins at the time. He would let me know of an advanced screening and in most cases I managed to get passes through the event company before the movie screening. Sure, it was cheating as I had inside knowledge of where and when a studio advanced screening was being held, but I knew that when asked to fill out the survey at the end, I would give my unbiased opinion. Over the years I saw films six months before they released to the public, with most of the stars, directors and producers in attendance. It was a great perk to being Adam’s brother. Studios will do these screenings to make sure they get what they need during post production to make an awesome movie, but from the screening to the final release, I’ve seen movies change quite a bit. It was an amazing education!

I was sitting in the advanced screening for, I believe it was Runaway Bride, and I knew where to sit to be next to the Director or Star that was coming in to see the movie with the audience. It was a great gauge to see how audiences were reacting to their film while they were in Post and able to still make changes. There’s always a few seats taped off, and the Director or Star would come in after the lights had gone down, so most people in the screening never knew that they just watched the movie with Tom Cruise (who attends ALL of his advanced screenings…if you saw one of these over the years, you didn’t know, but Tom was in the room with you!) or Tom Hanks ( I saw That Thing You Do with him!).

Anyway, I of course, LOVED Runaway Bride, but after the movie, just as I got up to leave I looked at the seat behind me, where Garry Marshall sat through the whole movie to find a whole box of toothpicks chewed down to splinters on the floor! He was so nervous that he brought a BOX of toothpicks with him to just give him something to chew on during the movie! I was stunned that this awesome Director still sat in great distress during his screenings and was so incredibly human at this moment. I realized that these filmmakers and actors are just like all of us. He had nothing to worry about the film is awesome, but I was happy that he was that passionate about every film he made. He has some truly great films and has arguably 3 of the biggest sitcoms of all time! He has made some genuine classics.

So, with that, here is my list of my favorite Top 15 TV Shows and Movies Directed by the incredible GARRY MARSHALL:


Rick Overton, Michael McKean, Sean Young, Taylor Negron, Ted McKinley, Gary Friedkin, Garry Marshall, Patrick Collins and Kyle T Heffner

Airplane (1980) created an explosion in Hollywood as every studio rushed to bring their own zany comedy parody to theaters. This was 20th Century Fox’s take on a parody of all the Hospital Soap operas that were all the rage at the time. It’s a pretty funny movie, but not written by Garry himself. But as the director of the movie, he really brings his instinct and funny bone to the production. What puts this film on the list over Marshall’s other titles is this was his first feature film, so without the success on this one, it’s doubtful he would have made the great movies that followed. The change is that he started to write or rewrite the movies he directed. He’s a better when he can write and direct on his films. Garry Marshall emphasized an eccentric fashion style as director and wore a different baseball jacket to the set every day. He said, “Wardrobe is very important, otherwise the actors would say, ‘This is not a director!'”. You can see in the photo above, he wore the Philly jacket on the day they took the picture. Another, thing I love about this movie is the huge cast! It has a lot of great actors before they made it truly big. Michael McKean, Sean Young, Hector Elizondo, Demi Moore, Dabney Coleman, Harry Dean Stanton and so many more recognizable faces.

14 – THE FLAMINGO KID (1984)

Garry Marshall, Matt Dillon, Producer Michael Phillips

So this is the result of his first writer/director credit for Marshall in a feature film and it’s a very good start. The film was originally offered to Matthew Broderick, but he declined and Matt Dillon was cast. Matthew Broderick was more skilled a comedic actor while Matt Dillon was a dramatic actor. The acting coach, and Marshall, had to help him hit the right comedic cues. What wound up working in this movie is that Dillon is different than the other characters at the El Flamingo, just like his character. Neal Marshall (no relation) wrote the original script and it eventually found its way to Producer Michael Phillips, who lined it up at ABC Motion Pictures (who did Young Doctors in Love). Garry Marshall took a writing credit as the production progressed as he really started to add his touch to the movie. The movie includes Richard Crenna, Jessica Walters, Hector Elizondo (get used to this name on this post), Janet Jones, Fisher Stevens and Bronson Pinchot.

13 – THE ODD COUPLE TV SHOW (1970-1975)

Garry Marshall With Tony Randall, Sheldon Leonard, Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall, and Jack Klugman on the set of The Odd Couple

Moving the popular stage play and movie from Neil Simon into a TV sitcom seemed like a match made in heaven. The Odd Couple thrived on TV in part to perfect casting of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman but also because of the writing and guidance by creators Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall. The show has gone down in history as a sitcom classic.


Garry Marshall, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Al Pacino

The movie is a good version of the play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Playwright Terrence McNally originally wrote the role of Frankie for Kathy Bates. Johnny was played by Kenneth Welsh in the 1987 Off-Broadway production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” that starred Bates. Kathy Bates originated the role of Frankie on the stage. She campaigned to get the role in the film, but lost out to Michelle Pfeiffer. Michelle Pfeiffer took on the role of the emotionally fragile waitress in part to work with Al Pacino again after having filmed Scarface (1983) with him nearly a decade before. This was the first feature film Garry Marshall directed for Paramount Pictures, having earlier created or developed several sitcoms for the studio’s television division, including “The Odd Couple” and the “Happy Days” franchise.

11 – THE OTHER SISTER (1999)

Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi in The Other Sister

I think that Garry Marshall really shines when the film is a mix of comedy along with some great dramatic moments and this film really is a great example of that. It’s a wonderful cast with some really fine performances by Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, Diane Keaton, Tom Skerritt, Sarah Paulson, Hector Elizondo and Juliet Mills. I really felt like both Juliette and Giovanni deserved at the very least Academy Award nominations for their performances in this film.

10 – RAISING HELEN (2004)

Kate Hudson and Garry Marshall on Raising Helen

The first thing that comes to mind is the amazing soundtrack on this film. The next thing that occurs to me is that Marshall had worked with both the mother and the daughter over the years; Goldie Hawn (Overboard 1987) and her daughter Kate Hudson in this movie. While filming, Marshall kept referring to Kate Hudson as Goldie. He said they looked and acted so much alike. The actress was a good sport about it, but the crew put up a box for Marshall to pay five dollars for every time he called her by the wrong name. By the end of the shoot, the money in the box provided for a lavish party, thrown by Hudson for the entire crew. The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Helen Mirren; and four Oscar nominees: Joan Cusack, Abigail Breslin, Felicity Huffman and Kate Hudson.


Anne Hathaway, Garry Marshall and Julie Andrews from The Princess Diaries

During auditions, Anne Hathaway fell out of her chair, and was immediately given the part as clumsy Mia Thermopolis. This was her true nature, as in several outtakes Anne Hathaway can be seen tripping, falling and being an all around klutz. The scene where Mia slips and falls in the bleachers was real. Hathaway had slipped on a puddle while doing the scene, and director Marshall thought it was so funny, he inserted it in the final cut. Marshall previously directed Pretty Woman (1990), regarded by many as a modern-day My Fair Lady (1964), with several scenes directly copied. Dame Julie Andrews’s first major role was as the original Eliza Doolittle on stage.


Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in Laverne and Shirley

Obviously Penny Marshall and Garry Marshall are brother and sister in real life, but this is not just a case of nepotism as Penny Marshall is an accomplished actor and fit the part of Laverne perfectly. Laverne and Shirley were introduced to audiences in Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley became the first of MANY spin-offs from the series. One other spin-off made our list at number 5, if you want to cheat and scroll down a bit. Hard to say which was the better spin-off because they are both so good. Interesting to note, After The Odd Couple (1970) (also #13 on this list) ceased production, the apartment set on that show was modified to become Laverne and Shirley’s apartment.


Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks in Nothing in Common

Rumor has it that director Marshall would not go ahead with the making of this film without the inclusion of Jackie Gleason. In poor health, Gleason had grown tired of filmmaking, and wished to retire from the business. After several attempts to get him on board, Marshall finally called Gleason on the phone and insisted that if he didn’t do this film, that the last film he would be remembered for was the box-office bomb Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983). Gleason immediately accepted the offer on the condition that this would be his last acting role. In Marshall’s 2012 memoir, “My Happy Days in Hollywood,” he credits Ray Stark with asking Gleason the question about if he wanted “Smokey and the Bandit 3” being how he would be remembered. How did Tom Hanks feel playing the son of the inimitable “Great One”, Jackie Gleason? He said that there was a certain amount of awe beforehand, “but the first day on the set Jackie came over to me and said, ‘How ya doin’ kid?… let’s make history. We threw our arms around each other, embraced, and it was easy from then on.”

6 – BEACHES (1988)

Garry Marshall, Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey on Beaches

In the DVD commentary, Marshall says that, during the scene at the Pink Palm, when Cece says, “You’re smart; you’re beautiful,” Midler ad-libbed, “You have hair that moves”. Though he liked the ad-lib, he did not include it because it didn’t match the tone of the scene. It was, however, included in the theatrical trailer. This shows what a great director Marshall was as this is exactly right for the movie and the tone of the scene. The Barbara Hershey screen test scenes for Beaches were filmed on the Plaza Hotel lobby set of Big Business (1988). The scene where Hillary and C.C. fight at the store, around the middle of the movie, is filmed on the same set (notice the carpet).

5 – MORK AND MINDY TV SHOW (1978-1982)

Robin Williams Ron Howard Mork Meets Richie Cunningham

A lot of people forget that Mork and Mindy was a spin-off of Happy Days on an episode called, “My Favorite Orkan”. And although, Happy Days was set in the 1950’s and Mork and Mindy was set in the 1980’s, the show never explains why Mork never aged between shows. During casting, when asked to take a seat, Robin Williams sat in the chair upside down. Marshall selected him because “He was the only alien to audition.” Many of the gags seen on the show were on-the-spot improvisations by Williams. The improvisations proved to be so effective and popular that the series’ writers soon included specific sections in the scripts where Williams was allowed to perform freely, marked as “Robin goes off here.” If you pay attention to Pam Dawber, you can often see her having difficulty not laughing at the ad-libs. Mork’s “Nanu Nanu” hand gesture greetings was inspired by Mr. Spock’s “Live long and prosper” hand salute from Star Trek, a show which Williams loved. Plus, Mork’s Orkan space suit had earlier been a costume from The Savage Curtain (1969).

4 – PRETTY WOMAN (1990)

Hector Elizondo, Julia Roberts, Garry Marshall and Richard Gere for Pretty Woman

Most people will be surprised by this film not being #1 on my list, but the simple answer is I didn’t like it as much as the others placed above it. It’s a fun film, and it’s no doubt Julia Roberts career skyrocketed after this but my list is about favorites to me. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts had obvious chemistry upon their first meeting; however, Gere was not planning on taking the role. He was on the phone ready to turn down the part when Roberts slid him a Post-it note with the words “please say yes” written on it. He accepted the role right then. The movie was originally titled ‘3,000’ (named after the agreed-upon price in the movie), but it was later changed because it sounded too much like a science fiction movie. They ended up naming the movie after the song which made it indelibly memorable.

3 – HAPPY DAYS (1974-1984)

Ron Howard, Penny Marshall, Garry Marshall, Cindy Williams, Robin Williams, Pam Dawber and Henry Winkler

This TV Show really started a lot of great collaborations for Marshall that would serve him well throughout his life. He worked with a lot of the same people from project to project and it goes to show you how really good he was at what he did and how well liked he was. Marshall started a baseball league that would tour and play different casts of different TV shows. The purpose of this was to keep the cast out of trouble and off drugs. People don’t realize it but Happy Days, itself was a spin-off of another popular sitcom. It originated as a segment on “Love, American Style (1969)” in an episode titled, “Love and the Happy Days (1972)”. Henry Winkler has said that he based some of Fonzie’s movements and speech pattern on Sylvester Stallone. Winkler had worked with Stallone years earlier in The Lords of Flatbush (1974). Winkler vowed Fonzie would never comb his hair on camera or have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve, and he never did.

2 – RUNAWAY BRIDE (1999)

Julia Roberts Garry Marshall and Richard Gere for Runaway Bride

This movie is just so good all around. I had a tough time picking which one would be #1 and which one would be #2. There is a playful tone in this film that I’m sure was on the set, it looks like it was a lot of fun to make. The “platypus” face that Julia Roberts makes was added after Garry Marshall saw her making that face to entertain his grandchildren. During the scene where Julia Roberts drives through the town square and sees Richard Gere playing slide guitar with some “locals”, Gere not only played the guitar for real but he improvised the part he was playing. Early in the movie when Roberts runs out to her front yard to get the paper, she quite obviously flashes her legs as she does so. Marshall has been quoted as having given the advice, “When in doubt during the movie, cut to an animal . . . or Julia’s legs.” In the softball game scene, Joan Cusack wears a “Peaches” baseball cap, a reference to A League of Their Own (1992) which was directed by Penny Marshall (Garry Marshall’s sister) and which co-starred Ann Cusack (Joan’s sister).

1 – OVERBOARD (1987)

Kurt Russell Goldie Hawn and Garry Marshall For Overboard

I just love this movie. Looking back on the film, Garry Marshall thinks that it’s “still one of the funniest pictures I ever made,” he said later. I talked about it in another blog post for a blog I wrote called, “Top 15 Kurt Russell Movies“. Not only did it reach #5 on my favorite movie list for Kurt Russell and #1 for my list for Garry Marshall, I’m sure it would also make top 5 in a list of my favorite Goldie Hawn movies. In fact, I think it’s time I wrote that list too! It’s a loose remake of the Cary Grant-Sophia Loren comedy Houseboat (1958), which just happened to make it as #12 on my blog post for Cary Grant, “Cary Grant’s Top 15 Movies“. So there really is a lot to love here.