The Ten Best Performances from Adam Sandler

If you ask me, Adam Sandler gets a bad rap these days. Sure, he doesn’t always challenge himself with the comedic projects he chooses, but when he picks a drama or a dramedy, he’s almost always aces at it. I happen to mostly enjoy Sandler’s work, even when it’s far from high art. In a way, he lately has chosen not to make “good” movies, but simply fun ones. There are times though, especially earlier in his career, when he took risks. Particularly when it comes to his dramatic outings, he has an aptitude that few give proper credit. As such, with his action comedy Pixels opening this weekend, I wanted to pay tribute to Sandler by running down his ten best performances to date. As always, this is just my take on his career, but I hope you enjoy this look at his top acting jobs!

Here now is what I feel to be Sandler’s best work so far…

10. Big Daddy – One of Sandler’s more popular movies, I don’t think people realize how subtly effective he is at the emotion during the third act. Sure, this is a dumb comedy, but it’s also a coming of age story, so the trail sequence towards the end gives him more to do than I think many even remember. Again, not high art, but it’s an effective performance.

9. The Cobbler – This film was savaged last year on the festival circuit and again this year upon release, but while I think it’s a mess, it’s an interesting one that offers a hybrid Sandler performance. Sure, he’s doing a lot of what he normally does, but it’s with this added layer of innocence and sadness. Truly, this is what an independent Sandler fantasy comedy would be like. It doesn’t quite work, but it’s almost shockingly watchable.

8. 50 First Dates – Sandler is an underrated romantic comedy lead. This second pairing with Drew Barrymore is probably the romance highlight of his career. Never has he been sweeter than here, playing a man required to make someone fall in love with him day after day. It gets broad at times, but it’s adorable and is very much a Hollywood leading man role for him.

7. Click – A film I like more than most, Sandler again comes on dramatically strong in the third act. This is a moral message movie framed within science fiction comedy, urging you to think that family comes first. He does his schtick like usual, but there’s heart on display as well. That’s something I notice in his work a lot, perhaps even more than most.

6. Spanglish – As toned down as Sandler will probably ever get, this is a very effective performance, if sometimes a slightly boring one. That’s the intent though, as he’s meant to be as average as possible. There’s an aptitude for that in his drama/dramedy performances that might even get him awards attention one of these days. He’s had one brush with awards, but I’ll get to that below.

5. The Wedding Singer – His first pairing with Barrymore is probably the epitome of the “Adam Sandler” character’s effectiveness. Amusing, romantic, and as close to one of his Saturday Night Live routines as anything else he’s ever done. This helped make him a star, and rightly so. In terms of his more overt comedies, this is basically the zenith for Sandler.

4. Men, Women & Children – Last year’s criminally underrated drama easily features some of Sandler’s best work to date. It’s one part of an ensemble, but he gets a moment to really shine at the end. As dark a part as he’s ever played, he infuses the role with sadness, an everyman quality, and the bubbling anger beneath the surface that he’s basically trademarked. This time though, it’s used for tragedy instead of just for broad comedy.

3. Funny People – I probably like this flick more than anyone else, since I think it’s close to Judd Apatow’s masterpiece. It’s also one of Sandler’s best performances ever, a meta role that shines a light on his paycheck comedies and lets you know that he knows what we think of some of them. This is another dark role, offering him a chance to show what he’s got. I love the film and I love his performance in it.

2. Reign Over Me – Another underrated film and part, Sandler gets to outwardly display grief for the first time, with the result being a heartbreaking character study. On first glance it seems like he’s going broad, but close inspection reveals the depth of the role and the effectiveness of his work. He makes you cry, which is not something you often get from him.

1. Punch Drunk Love – Sandler’s only Golden Globe nomination came for this Paul Thomas Anderson reinterpretation of a Sandler movie. It’s funny, sad, and peculiar, often all at once, but with the actor doing his best work to date all throughout. It’s as complex a part as he’s ever been given, but he nails it. It’s just beautiful…plain and simple.

Honorable Mention: Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore


Pixels is in theaters everywhere on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow us

Breaking Hollywood News   


Comments are closed.