Adam Sandler is widely thought to make the worst movies ever. He’s the poster boy for the Razzie Awards and his work is slated by the critics every time he shows his face on the screen. But the problem with most of his films is that they suffer from weak scripts. Sandler himself is a talented comic actor. When he really applies himself and digs deep into the nuances of his character – in a comedy or in a drama – then he can deliver a performance that is truly special.
So, for those who unjustly malign the guy, here are the most underrated Adam Sandler movies.
This wacky skewering of rock music and ‘90s youth culture stars Adam Sandler alongside Brendan Fraser and Steve Buscemi. They’re a trio of idiotic L.A. metalheads who decide to instigate a hostile takeover of a radio station to force them to play their demo on the air. This is a must-see for any fan of rock ‘n’ roll, especially if you’ve ever thought about starting your own band, or started one and failed. The great thing about this movie is that underneath all the absurdity and the crime caper, it’s simply a story about three starry-eyed guys who want to follow their dreams. That’s something we can all get behind.
9 That’s My Boy
While its unabashedly lewd humor might not be everyone’s cup of tea, That’s My Boy finds Adam Sandler in refreshingly R-rated form following a string of family movies like Bedtime Stories. He plays the reckless adult that a kid who became famous for getting his teacher pregnant grew up to be, as he tracks down his son Andy Samberg on the eve of his wedding. This is very dark comedy, and it’ll be too awful for the faint of heart, but it’s just nice to see Sandler go all out. We’re used to seeing him watered down with a PG-13 rating, so it’s a breath of fresh air that when he goes for the R rating, he goes for a hard R rating.
Out of Adam Sandler’s three collaborations with Drew Barrymore, this is the latest and least popular. But there’s a lot to love in the movie. For starters, it has its heart in the right place. Barrymore plays a single mother going through a divorce and Sandler plays a widower trying to raise three daughters on his own.
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The movie’s message is one of love and unity and working together, as both families fit together perfectly and fill in each other’s gaps. Plus, it’s just a fun movie. The families go on vacation together and have a whale of a time. And as ever, Sandler and Barrymore are endlessly likable.
7 Funny People
This movie might be a little long, clocking in at around two and a half hours, but Adam Sandler is terrific in the lead role of George Simmons. Written and directed by Sandler’s old roommate Judd Apatow, Funny People tells the story of a legendary comedian who has fallen from grace as he stars in schlocky high-concept comedies (sound familiar?) and reevaluates his life choices when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Things take a nosedive when Apatow’s family are shoehorned into the story, but this is Sandler at his best – funny, earnest, and very human.
If you had a movie night coming up and saw that this movie has an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you wouldn’t even think twice. It would be out. But it deserves reevaluation, because there’s a lot to love. Pairing cop Damon Wayans with fugitive Adam Sandler, Bulletproof is a lesser-known buddy cop movie that race-swaps 48 Hrs. and has a zanier sense of humor to bat. There’s a lot of talent behind the camera, too: it’s directed by close Spike Lee collaborator Ernest Dickerson and the score is composed by the great Elmer Bernstein, the man behind the music of some of Hollywood’s classics.
This is what the Adam Sandler version of an uplifting Frank Capra movie would look like. It might have Sandler’s signature slapstick humor for the first half as plenty of gags are wrung out of his ability to control real life at the click of a button, but as he discovers the dark side of his new gadget, the second half of the movie just becomes really sad and heartbreaking. However, it carries a positive message, telling you to appreciate what you have in the present, rather than wishing for a brighter future and missing it. It’s an underrated emotional ride.
4 The Week Of
In this movie, Adam Sandler plays an actually relatable human character for the first time in years opposite his buddy Chris Rock. The pair have excellent chemistry that writer-director Robert Smigel exploits brilliantly as they play the dads at a wedding as the quintessential odd couple – Rock is rich, while Sandler is poor, and yet, as the father of the bride, insists on paying for the wedding. There are no absurdist sight gags or slapstick in this movie; the dialogue is very naturalistic and the humor comes out of real situations. As Sandler’s fourth Netflix movie, a lot of people had given up on him by the time it was released, but it’s well worth watching.
This James L. Brooks dramedy stars Adam Sandler as a chef with a lot of personal problems who manages to make a connection with his new maids, who have just emigrated from Mexico, despite the fact they can’t speak English. It’s rare that Sandler shows this much depth, as he’s forced to communicate non-verbally with the rest of the cast to overcome the language barrier. Acting drunk isn’t easy, and doing it sincerely and not for cheap laughs is even harder, but there’s a scene in this movie where Sandler plays his character drunk and it’s one of the most accurate drunken performances ever put on film.
2 Punch-Drunk Love
When Paul Thomas Anderson said at a press conference to promote Magnolia that he wanted Adam Sandler to star in his next movie, a lot of people thought he was joking. But sure enough, his next movie was a small, intimate romantic comedy with strong dramatic elements starring Adam Sandler as a mentally unstable man who falls for a mild-mannered woman.
It’s interesting to see how easy the same sort of acting seen in Billy Madison can become disturbing when it’s framed in a different light and when Sandler doesn’t have a goofy grin when he’s doing it and he’s playing a character with serious psychological problems. It’s powerful stuff.
1 The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Not many people consider that Adam Sandler is a great actor, but if he manages to hold his own in a Noah Baumbach movie about a dysfunctional family, then there’s no question about it.
He plays the older brother to Ben Stiller, whose character was always favored by their father, Dustin Hoffman. The relationships that Sandler develops on-screen with Stiller and Hoffman are so beautifully bittersweet – you genuinely feel that this is a real family. They’re real brothers and they’re a real father and son, and they struggle to communicate with one another, which in itself says volumes about their characters.