Tom Hanks shines in A League of Their Own, currently streaming on Netflix.
Sports movies like the high school football classic Friday Night Lights and the recent Michael B. Jordan Creed III are often male-centric and male-dominated. One classic sports movie featuring Tom Hanks stands out as a feel-good story with strong female representation both in front of and behind the camera. Sports movie need to watch (or revisit) A League of Their Own now streaming on Netflix.
A League of Their Own tells the story of the Rockford Peaches, one of the teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League created during World War II when most of the male baseball players were overseas. The Rockford Peaches consist of a number of small-town athletes with big-league talent led by Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, an alcoholic former baseball player turned coach of the Rockford Peaches. He had a chance to show off both his comedic and dramatic chops, and his line “There’s no crying in baseball!” has become a classic catchphrase. As the story progresses, the Rockford Peaches gain popularity and fight for a chance to win the World Series.
The Tom Hanks film was directed by Penny Marshall, known for her role as Laverne DeFazio on the television sitcom Laverne & Shirley and for directing films like Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Big, Awakenings, Renaissance Man, The Preacher’s Wife, and Riding in Cars with Boys. Marshall expertly balanced comedy, emotion, and sports action all in one in A League of Their Own.
A League of Their Own isn’t just a movie about baseball; it’s a movie about friendship, family, and the struggles of women in a male-dominated society.
Outside of Tom Hanks, the ensemble cast, including stars like Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty brought the characters to life. These were not generic stock athletes, but rather a group of well-rounded individuals with their own struggles on and off the baseball field.
Tom Hanks’ role in the film was one in a string of legendary performances in the 1990s after his career started to percolate in the 1980s. Tom Hanks debuted in film in the 1980s He Knows You’re Alone in a minor role before his first leading role in 1984’s Splash. His breakthrough came in his first collaboration with Penny Marshall when he was cast in her comedy Big, which garnered him his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
A League of Their Own preceded Tom Hanks’ starring roles in a slew of critically acclaimed films in the 1990s, such as Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, the iconic Forrest Gump, Ron Howard’s space drama Apollo 13, Pixar’s Toy Story, and Steven Spielberg’s classic war drama Saving Private Ryan. Capping the decade off he starred in the fantasy drama The Green Mile.
He began the 2000s with the survival drama Castaway and starred in many hits, including Catch Me If You Can, The DaVinci Code, Captain Phillips, and most recently 2022’s A Man Called Otto.
Although Tom Hanks’ character and the movie are fictional, it is all based on historical events. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League really existed, and thousands of women played in it from 1943 to 1954. A League of Their Own shines a light on this little-known part of American history and celebrates the pioneering women who played the game.
A League of Their Own inspired a 2021 television adaptation on Amazon Prime of the same name, which takes place several years after the events of the movie and follows a new group of women who join the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Although Tom Hanks does not reprise his role, the cast of the TV show includes some rising stars such as Abbi Jacobson, D’Arcy Carden, and Chanté Adams, as well as established actors like Utkarsh Ambudkar and Nick Offerman.
The television adaptation has been praised for its diverse cast, tackling issues such as racism and homophobia in the 50s, and for its ability to balance comedy with more serious subject matter. A League of Their Own has been officially renewed for a four-episode second and final season, although a release date has not been confirmed as of the time of this writing. With Rosie O’Donnell making a cameo in the first season, it’s definitely possible that Tom Hanks and other stars from the original movie will make appearances somewhere in the future.
A League of Their Own is a funny, heartwarming movie that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. But it’s also an essential piece of history that deserves to be remembered and celebrated, with Tom Hanks at the beginning of some of his best years of acting.