Happy Gilmore | Universal Pictures

LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM, you can’t deny that Adam Sandler has firmly established himself a key player in the film industry and has held that position for more than three decades. Now, after appearing in nearly 50 movies, the actor has a new best—at least according to popular review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes.

Sandler’s latest flick, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, premiered on Netflix last week and has debuted with a 96 per cent ‘fresh’ Rotten Tomatoes score, which is higher than anything else the actor has lent his talents to over his 34 years in the business.

Sandler has a less-than-leading role in his latest film, taking a backseat behind his own daughters, Sunny and Sadie Sandler. The senior Sandler does serve as the film’s producer though, and his contributions to its success cannot be understated, even if he’s not in the typical main-man role that audiences are accustomed to seeing him in.

Based on Fiona Rosenbloom’s young adult novel of the same name, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitsvah’s synopsis reads: “Lifelong best friends Stacy and Lydia have long dreamt of epic bat mitzvahs, but when popular boy Andy Goldfarb and Hebrew school drama come between them, their perfect plans go comically awry.” It’s not exactly the raunchy brand of comedy Sandler has made a living on, but has proved far more appealing to critics.

Despite his recent transition into more serious films, Sandler has a reputation as a relative expert on slapstick comedy and schmaltzy romance—but he hasn’t always been loved by critics. Sandler was snubbed by the Academy and missed out on an Oscar nomination after arguably the best performance of his career in Uncut Gems. Fans, and Sandler himself, have speculated that the snubbing was due to the actor’s comedic past.

In a recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Sandler opened up on the impact of his films not being received particularly well in the critical sphere. “When the critics started hating me, I just felt bad for my family, and I just felt bad for the people who worked really hard on the movies,” he said, before reiterating that clearly, everything worked out fine. “It’s great, everything has turned out excellent. And I get it, critics aren’t going to connect with certain stuff and what they want to see. I understand that it’s not clicking with them.”

What are Adam Sandler’s best films?

While he hasn’t always been loved by critics, audiences have always had a soft spot for Sandler. After undertaking a more serious tone in his recent films, it seems like Sandler has also conquered his final frontier: critical acclaim.

To celebrate Sandler turning a corner, we’re counting down ten of the megastar actor’s best films.

10. Just Go With It

A testament to the notion that critics have never really appreciated Sandler’s work, Just Go With It cracks the top ten, despite having a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 19 per cent. While it’s not loved by critics, this film is the quintessential Sandler rom-com.

Featuring Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nicole Kidman, the stunning natural beauty of Hawaii, and an innocuous but complex cover-story, Just Go With It ticks all the right boxes regarding Sandler’s usual brand of provocative hilarity.

9. Billy Madison

Billy Madison was where Sandler rose above the mediocrity of mid-90s comedians and emerged as an influential force in the industry. Sandler’s breakthrough performance positions him as a dim-witted, spoiled-rotten man-child who’s forced to go back to school to prove he deserves to inherit his family’s sizeable fortune.

The film includes some of Sandler’s most quotable lines. Billy declaring to a classroom full of grade-schoolers that “I hate cursive and I hate all of you,” is as funny as it is relatable.

8. Big Daddy

Perhaps the Sandler film with the highest rewatch value, Big Daddy has it all. The McDonalds breakdown. Scuba Steve. Sandler and one of the young Sprouse twins (who’s to say which one) peeing on the wall. But beyond the expected laughs, there’s a story that’s actually quite sweet.

In a bid to attract a woman’s gaze, Sandler’s character, without much thought, takes custody of a child. Cute-as-hell hijinks ensue, on top of an underlying message about the love fathers have for their sons. Big Daddy is emblematic of fatherhood and reminds us that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.

7. 50 First Dates

Adam Sandler seems to make the ideal date night movies. 50 First Dates is one of the most riveting chapters in the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore saga, and while it’s basically a rehash of The Wedding Singer but with amnesia instead of ’80s vibes, it delivers a handful of guaranteed laughs. What’s not to like?

6. Happy Gilmore

Is this Sandler’s most watched movie? Probably. It seems like everyone has either seen Happy Gilmore, or at least has a generalised understanding of the plot. And deservedly so.

Happy Gilmore is Sandler’s best pure comedy movie. And by pure comedy, we mean a comedy that isn’t entirely watered down with Sandler’s usual attempts at awkward romance. Sandler may never return to this unique brand of filmmaking, but it made him famous, and Happy Gilmore will always be a classic.

5. The Wedding Singer

The Wedding Singer is perhaps the seminal piece of work in what has become a recurring theme of Sandler casting himself as the love interest of far more attractive co-stars in rom coms.

The shining moment in Sandler’s golden years, The Wedding Singer is nostalgia disembodied and placed in a film. Take a trip down memory lane and give this one another shot.

4. Hustle

Symbolic of Sandler’s transition into more serious subject matter, Hustle is a celebration of the American basketball experience. This realism focused film follows an aging NBA scout who discovers an unknown prospect who he wholeheartedly believes is destined to be the next big thing.

Hustle lands right in that sweet spot between Sandler’s recent acclaimed work and his trademark goofiness. The film is what made many realise that the old Sandler was gone, and that the new Sandler isn’t messing around.

3. The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)

If you told someone in the ’90s that an Adam Sandler movie would premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, they wouldn’t believe you. If you then told them that the film received a multi-minute standing ovation, they’d likely slap you for your blasphemy. Sandler’s appearance in The Meyerowitz Stories staked the actors place in one of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions and gave us a glimpse of what was to come as the actor turned to drama instead of comedy.

2. Punch Drunk Love

That’s right, Adam Sandler is not only in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, it’s also some of his best work. Sure, Punch Drunk Love is very much a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, but Sandler steals the show in his own distinctive way.

While similar to much of his other stuff, there really is nothing else like Punch Drunk Love in Sandler’s filmography. So, to those who disregard this film as just another stock standard Sandler rom-com, we say this: It’s not a rom-com, it’s an absurdist romance!

1. Uncut Gems

We’ve reached the end of this list and rightfully, we’ve saved the best for last. A small parenthesis here, if you’re a highly-strung kind of person, Uncut Gems is probably not for you, because you don’t know stress until you’ve seen this film

Sitting pristinely atop that strange genre of films where everything goes from bad to worse and by the end we’re just glad it’s all over (in a good way), Uncut Gems shows us exactly what Sandler is capable of when at his best. Seriously, how did he not get an Oscar nomination for this? Oh well, academy be damned, this is Sandler’s best work. If he keeps making this kind of stuff, we could soon be seeing ‘Oscar winner’ under Sandler’s list of accolades.


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