Adam Sandler: All Films Considered

  • Publish Date: June 23, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 24 user comments


Average Metascore 43
Films Starring Adam Sandler
Average User Score 6.9
Average Gross (U.S. only) $77.6M

Maturity is not a concept that's often associated with Adam Sandler. Unsurprisingly, then, the ironically titled Grown Ups doesn't require the actor-comedian to take on a role he hasn't already played a dozen times. Instead, the new comedy (in theaters this week) finds Sandler reuniting with childhood friends -- played by fellow comedians Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade -- for a weekend of juvenile fun at a lake house.

Of course, the few times where Sandler has stretched his limits in the past have resulted in the best reviews of his film career. And good reviews have been hard to come by for the one-time stand-up comedian, Cosby Show guest star, and Saturday Night Live cast member. Since launching his film career in earnest with 1995's Billy Madison, Sandler has starred in 20 films, almost all of them mass-appeal comedies. His film career peaked in the late 1990s with enjoyable comedies such as The Wedding Singer, and major box office hits like Big Daddy and The Waterboy. But only a pair of departures for the actor -- the unusual comedy Punch-Drunk Love and the post-9/11 drama Reign Over Me -- have earned positive reviews from critics, with another mostly dramatic role (in Judd Apatow's Funny People) coming close.

Mitigating the negative reviews to a large extent has been Sandler's appeal at the box office; the actor's films have collectively earned nearly $2.5 billion worldwide. But, as you can see from the table below, the new Grown Ups comes at a time when Sandler's box office appeal seems to be slipping; his past five years have not been especially fruitful.

Comparative Box Office Performance of Adam Sandler's Films
Year Title Metascore Users Opening Weekend / Domestic Gross *
1989Going Overboardn/an/a n/a 
1994Airheads n/an/a $3.6M / 10.9barbar
1994Mixed Nuts 146.44.4 / 12.7barbar
1995Billy Madison 168.712.1 / 46.8barbar
1996Happy Gilmore 319.015.3 / 69.8barbar
1996Bulletproof n/an/a10.8 / 38.8barbar
1998The Wedding Singer 598.232.0 / 136.0barbar
1998The Waterboy 419.266.8 / 272.0barbar
1999Big Daddy 418.065.0 / 255.8barbar
2000Little Nicky 386.723.7 / 58.2barbar
2002Mr. Deeds 246.350.9 / 172.8barbar
2002 Punch-Drunk Love **786.0 ** / 24.4barbar
2002Eight Crazy Nights 236.512.9 / 32.3barbar
2003Anger Management 526.155.7 / 178.8barbar
200450 First Dates 487.351.0 / 154.8barbar
2004Spanglish 486.711.3 / 54.0barbar
2005The Longest Yard 486.359.0 / 196.1barbar
2006Click 457.148.6 / 166.7barbar
2007Reign Over Me 618.28.6 / 22.7barbar
2007I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 375.239.6 / 138.7barbar
2008You Don't Mess with the Zohan 545.442.7 / 110.7barbar
2008Bedtime Stories 334.330.4 / 121.9barbar
2009Funny People 606.524.1 / 55.3barbar
2010 Grown Ups Opens June 25, 2010

* All box office figures in the table above are adjusted for inflation for purposes of comparison.
** Film opened in limited release; opening weekend grosses are not available.
Cameos and other minor roles excluded. Grosses are in millions and reflect U.S. receipts only. Source: Box Office Mojo.

How bad are they?

Make no mistake: many of Sandler's comedies -- especially his earlier ones -- have a lot of fans, for good reason: there are a lot of laughs to be had in many of them. (Maybe not so many in his recent releases, which even Metacritic users haven't liked.) But critics have never taken to his work on the big screen. And it's not necessarily a case of not being offered the right material; many of Sandler's films were written by the comedian himself. In fact, the average Metascore for the seven films on which Sandler is a credited writer is 35, eight points lower than the actor's overall average. So perhaps he is better off with less control over a project. (Warning sign: he co-wrote Grown Ups, and the early reviews are not good.)

More evidence: Sandler's production comedy, Happy Madison Productions, also has a poor record with critics for films not starring Sandler (think gems like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo 30, Joe Dirt 20, The Hot Chick 29, and The Master of Disguise 12). Overall, Happy Madison films -- including most of Sandler's own comedies since 2000 -- also have an average Metascore of 35, though there have been a few box office successes like Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Below, we look at some of Sandler's best and worst films in greater detail.

Adam Sandler's Best Movie
Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
  Punch-Drunk Love 2002 78 6.0
"The film is exhilarating to watch because Sandler, liberated from the constraints of formula, reveals unexpected depths as an actor."
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
When does Adam Sandler as a dorky man-child qualify as him playing against type? When the role is created by Paul Thomas Anderson. As the awkward and obsessive loner Barry Egan, Sandler showcases a darker side while inhabiting his most fully developed and intriguing character yet, helping to make this quirky, funny, and violent love story a success -- at least with critics, and fans of Anderson's films. Sandler followers expecting one of his typically broad comedies, on the other hand, didn't know what to make of it, and the film was a financial failure.
  Budget: $25M U.S. Gross: $18M
Adam Sandler's 5 Worst Movies
Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Going Overboard 1989 n/a n/a
Adam Sandler's first feature film isn't in our database, but if IMDb users have voted it the 53rd worst film of all time, who are we to argue? (And, to answer your next question, no, there aren't any other Adam Sandler movies ranked even lower.) Filmed well before Sandler's SNL days, the low-rent "comedy" Overboard finds the actor repeatedly -- and annoyingly -- addressing the camera as Schecky Moskowitz, a would-be stand-up who works as a cruise ship waiter. What little plot there is must compete with frequent interruptions from fantasy sequences, while terrible acting, direction, and dialogue mean that it's tough to stomach more than a few minutes of the film.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: n/a
2 Mixed Nuts 1994 14 6.4
"The cast ... inspires good will whenever possible. But in the case of Adam Sandler, it's out of the question. Mr. Sandler dresses as a gondolier, plays the ukulele and sings stupid little nonsense songs in an irritating falsetto. If you didn't know this was part of his established shtick on 'Saturday Night Live,' you might think 'Mixed Nuts' was simply crazy. "
-- Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Certainly not writer-director Nora Ephron's finest hour, Mixed Nuts -- a joyless, tiresome remake of a 1982 French comedy -- finds Sandler playing a ukulele-strumming songwriter in an ensemble of dysfunctional characters brought together one Christmas Eve. Sandler is at his most annoying here, but he's certainly not alone; Madeline Kahn may be the worst culprit, but stars from Steve Martin to Juliette Lewis seem to sink to the level of the sub-par material.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $7M
3 Billy Madison 1995 16 8.7
"Adam Sandler's creative songs and silly expressions on 'Saturday Night Live' may have turned him into a celebrity, but this movie based solely on his antics doesn't work."
-- David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
Sandler's first major starring role came in this vehicle, which cast the comedian as a 28-year-old slacker forced to repeat grades 1-12 in order to convince his hotel magnate father that he is worthy of running the family business. The comedy was panned by critics as mindless and immature upon its release -- and barely eked out a profit at the box office -- but has developed a cult following among Sandler fans in the years since its release. In fact, it's hard to find a bigger disconnect between user and critic scores.
  Budget: $20M U.S. Gross: $26M
4 Eight Crazy Nights 2002 23 6.5
"In this vile contribution to the animated holiday genre, Sandler proves himself once again determined to get rich by setting the bar just a little bit lower each time out."
-- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
On one hand, Sandler's attempt to add a Hanukkah film to Hollywood's tradition of holiday-themed movies is admirable. On the other hand, there are few reasons to celebrate Eight Crazy Nights. While this animated musical did include a new version of the comedian's hit "The Chanukah Song," the film was mean-spirited and crude, and few if any of its other songs will ever be considered holiday classics.
  Budget: $34M U.S. Gross: $24M
5 Mr. Deeds 2002 24 6.3
"It's not just that the movie itself is wicked awful, it's that Mr. Deeds brings out the worst in Adam Sandler."
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
An unnecessary, dumbed-down remake of Frank Capra's 1936 film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, this comedy remains one of Sandler's better-performing releases despite its lousy reviews. This fish-out-of-water story casts a relatively low-key Sandler as an unlikely heir to a multi-billion-dollar fortune, a role first played (to greater success) by Gary Cooper. While Sandler is likeable enough in the film, the few laughs present are mostly generated by the supporting characters (including a memorable turn by John Turturro).
  Budget: $50M U.S. Gross: $126M

What do you think?

Which Adam Sandler films are among your favorites or least favorites? Do you have high hopes for Grown Ups? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (24)

  • Chad  

    The critics don't hate comedy.There are plenty of great comedies on Metacritic with high scores. The critics just don't think Adam Sandler is particulary funny, and I agree. Most of the movies that I've seen him in are just ok, and all of them are pretty juvenile. The problem with critics isn't that they have no sense of humor, it's that none of them is 14.

  • Daelin  

    Its because Roger Ebert can no longer laugh

  • Sean  

    All of his movies are panned by critics upon release and then considered cult classics by the rest of us 10 years later. I guess people like Roger Ebert don't really enjoy screwball comedies as much as the rest of planet earth.

  • Steve  

    The Wedding Singer is a very close 4th. You can't talk to Billy Idol like that!!!

  • Steve  

    Critics just hate comedies. They don't know what's good from what's bad. Stupid old people. Anyway, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are his 2 best, bar none. After that, I personally can't decide between Little Nicky and The Waterboy. LOL I still remember watching them when I was like 10. They still make me laugh.

  • AB  

    I love the whining about negative reviews. Critics don't like silly comedy huh? I guess that's why Shaolin Soccer and Black Dynamite have positive ratings on this site.

  • trent  

    how did joe dirt get a 20? critics are retarded old douches when it comes to comedys

  • Daelin  

    Billy Madison as his third worst film, are you joking? Oh wait you're Metacritic so you're serious. Apparently you guys have your a-holes wound up so tight you void from your mouths.

  • Christian  

    This much can't be denied: The better the director (Judd Apatow, Paul Thomas Anderson), the better the film. Funny People and Punch Drunk Love both have depth and move way beyond basic laughs. Happy Gilmore is about the only film here I can say I like in a guilty way. I like cheap laughs and dumb comedy too (Blazing Saddles comes to mind), but Sandler just seems to go through the motions too often. I mean, how much money does this guy need? Really, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Bedtime Stories seemed like good ideas? Come on, man. You're better than that!

  • David  

    Haha @ some of those user scores. As much as I like Adam Sandler -- and I consider myself a pretty big fan of his -- movies like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore certainly do not deserve a rating of 8.5 or higher. And I'm not just trying to bash em either, I actually like both movies, but I wouldn't give them an 8 or above.

    But I guess it all evens out, because I think the critics' reviews are too harsh... they just don't know how to appreciate immaturity. Sometimes I think people, when voting on IMDb or Metacritic, purposely inflate their scores and ratings for movies that they like if the critics absolutely hate em.

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