Adam Sandler rose to fame as a cast member on Saturday Night Live in the early ‘90s, but it was his post-SNL career that turned the actor into a film force to be reckoned with. To date, Sandler’s Hollywood feature films have grossed more than $2 billion collectively at the box office. In recent years, he made the transition to industry-leading streaming video service Netflix, where he inked a four-film deal in 2014, followed by another four-film deal in 2017.
While most of his acting credits fall into the comedic genre, Sandler has taken a few dramatic turns that have received critical praise, proving that this funnyman has some serious acting chops. Sure, people love to clown on Sandler movies these days, but there’s no arguing the man has made some classics. Here are our ten favorite Adam Sandler movies to date.
10. Mr. Deeds (2002)
Not one of Sandler’s best-reviewed films – it earned three Razzie Award nominations and was critically panned – Sandler’s remake of the rags-to-riches story offers a full helping of two of Sandler’s signature elements: A silly premise and lots of cheap laughs. When a multi-billionaire passes away, his last living grandnephew is called to New York to inherit his wealth and company, worth a cool $40 billion. The film co-stars Winona Ryder and another actor commonly seen in Sandler’s films, Steve Buscemi. While Sandler is great, the real shining star of the film is the “sneaky, sneaky” butler Emilio Lopez, played by John Turturro.
9. Click (2006)
Dubbed a fantasy comedy, this film co-stars Kate Beckinsale and Christopher Walken, with Sandler playing an overworked family man who discovers that he can fast-forward through the boring parts of his life using a magical universal remote. He eventually realizes that the moments he considered dull are actually valuable time missed with his family. While it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup — making it the only Sandler film to date to receive an Oscar nod — the movie itself received mixed reviews. It was criticized for taking elements from both Back to the Future and It’s a Wonderful Life, but it’s precisely this imitation that makes Click such a sweet film.
8. Reign Over Me (2007)
In this buddy comedy-drama, Sandler is joined by another star-studded cast that includes Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. As one of his few films outside of the comedy genre, it uses the September 11 attacks as a backdrop to the story, which follows a man named Charlie (Sandler) who lost both his wife and daughter in the terrible tragedy. Having become withdrawn and a shell of his former self, Charlie’s life changes when he encounters his former college roommate, Alan (Cheadle). It’s a story of rekindled friendship, love, and loss, with Sandler’s performance earning praise from critics.
7. 50 First Dates (2004)
When Sandler unites with Drew Barrymore in a romantic comedy, it always seems to be box-office gold. That was the case with this 2004 film, which follows the story of a womanizing marine veterinarian who falls for an art teacher suffering from a fictional ailment called Goldfield’s Syndrome. The ailment repeatedly erases her short-term memory, leading Sandler’s character to attempt to win her over, again and again, each day. There’s no denying the beautiful chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore that solidified the pair as a romantic comedy dream team.
6. Murder Mystery (2019)
Sandler’s latest project for Netflix, this film co-stars Jennifer Aniston. Netflix reports that 30.9 million households watched it in just the first three days after release, making it the biggest opening weekend so far for any film on the streaming site. A comedy-mystery, Sandler and Aniston are a married couple who, while vacationing on a billionaire’s yacht, get caught up in a murder investigation. Less campy than most of the actor’s films but still full of big laughs, it pushed all the right buttons for Sandler’s fans and managed to have some mainstream appeal, too.
5. Big Daddy (1999)
A classic from Sandler’s earlier career, this hilarious comedy stars Sandler as Sonny, an immature 30-something bachelor who finds himself tasked with caring for his roommate Kevin’s illegitimate son when he’s dropped off on their doorstep after Kevin has left for China. The boy, Julian, is played by Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) and is the epitome of cuteness. The pairing with Sandler as the clueless Sonny makes for plenty of hijinks, and despite receiving lackluster reviews, the film remains Sandler’s highest-grossing live-action movie to date behind only the animated features Hotel Transylvania 2 and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
4. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
Sandler surprised viewers when he took a dramatic turn in this romantic comedy-drama, playing an entrepreneur with severe social anxiety who falls in love with a woman, but is faced with defending himself against thieves trying to steal his identity and extort him. One of his few films to receive universal praise as being “odd, touching, and unique,” Sandler was also singled out for his performance, with one critic citing his use of his “comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love.” Ironically, however, this is one of the few Sandler films that did not do well at the box office.
3. The Wedding Singer (1998)
Sandler’s first film with Drew Barrymore, the story follows a struggling wedding singer who falls in love with a waitress who is already engaged to be married to a wealthy, cheating, pompous fiancé. This film did retro-1980s justice before it was cool, and also produced one of the best original love songs from a romantic comedy, Grow Old With You, which was sung touchingly by Sandler in a memorable scene set on an airplane. The film made $123.3 million worldwide, and was such a sweet story that in 2006, it was made into a Broadway stage musical.
2. Billy Madison (1995)
Sandler’s first film wasn’t for the critics, but it was an instant cult-classic, as well as debuting atop the box office, proving that Sandler was someone worth watching in the film industry. Sandler plays the title character, a 27-year-old wealthy heir who still acts like a child, with no job or responsibilities. When his enabling father decides to hand his business down to his company’s comically villainous vice president instead of his son, Billy bucks up and commits to going back to grade school all over again when he finds out his father paid for his grades, all in an effort of changing his dad’s mind. It’s easy to imagine how this scenario would translate to non-stop hilarity in signature Sandler fashion, and it did, despite the film’s ridiculous premise and Sandler’s reveling in his own, truly bizarre comedic style.
1. Happy Gilmore (1996)
“Go to your home! Are you too good for your home!” There’s nothing better than Sandler screaming at a tiny golf ball, or Bob Barker punching him square in the face as the two get into an all-out brawl on live TV. The sports comedy that coined the name “Shooter McGavin” as a universal way to describe an arrogant jerk, Happy Gilmore was indisputably Sandler at his best. Portraying a failed hockey player who discovers that he has a hidden talent for golf, Sandler’s character enters a professional golf tournament and quickly becomes the story’s unconventional underdog. A commercial success, the film earned $41.2 million on just a $12 million budget.
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