Adam Sandler may be known as a comedian and his lighthearted films Big Daddy, Billy Madison, and Happy Gilmore, but he’s also proven himself to be much more than a comic. Yes, Sandler is a comedian who sometimes hires all of his friends for his movies, but he’s shown consistently throughout the years that he’s got serious acting chops as well when it comes to drama. Here are eight roles that prove Adam Sandler is much more than a comedian.
Sandler’s most recent film and dramatic performance are in his 2022 film produced by LeBron James, Hustle, where he plays a basketball scout for the NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers. While Sandler still cranks out comedies, he’s been largely focused on dramas of late, and they have certainly paid off for the actor. Critics and fans alike have praised him for his performance as a jaded scout who helps train an outcast basketball player who is seriously talented. With an impressive cast with the likes of Robert Duvall, Sandler still outshines everyone with his performance. This Netflix flick instantly became one of his highest-rated films, with a 93% rating for both critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes.
7/8 Uncut Gems
While Sandler has had numerous dramatic performances throughout his career, Uncut Gems was the film that made everyone stop and notice how extremely talented Sandler is as a performer. The 2019 crime thriller sees a completely transformed Sandler as an addicted gambling jeweler who needs to obtain a precious gem to pay off his debts. It was hard to find a critic or a fan who did not sing praises towards Sandler and the film itself, noting that it was perhaps the greatest performance of his entire career. Critics heavily praised the film which has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6/8 Punch Drunk Love
One of the first examples of the dramatic talent Sandler possesses came in the 2002 comedy-drama Punch Drunk Love. The plot is fairly simple, with Sandler playing a socially awkward novelty item entrepreneur that starts to fall in love with a co-worker of his sister’s. Again, Sandler finds himself in a cast of stellar talent, but his charisma and dedication always seem to make him stand out. While the film was not a box office hit, it was critically praised as well as his performance. While not as acclaimed as Uncut Gems or Hustle, the film garnered a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
5/8 The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
This 2017 comedy-drama by Noah Baumbach is a feast of talent, with performances by not only Sandler but Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson to name a few. Everyone is at the top of their game, with Sandler at the helm as an unemployed musician who feels jaded by his father. The story follows a group of siblings who try to find themselves with their father’s presence looming over them and lets Sandler express an entire range of emotions as he tries to process his feelings for his father and the anger that has taken hold of him. It was enjoyed by both critics and fans with a 93% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
4/8 Reign Over Me
While this 2007 buddy film didn’t perform as well with critics, fans seemed to enjoy it as well as one of the rare Sandler dramatic performances of the 2000s. The story follows a man who lost everything after the attacks of 9/11 and reconnects with his old college roommate (played by Don Cheadle) who seems to have everything in life. It’s a quiet film about loss, grief, and connection, that shows Sandler is at his best when he pulls at an audience’s heartstrings, regardless of the ratings.
Another 2000s romantic comedy-drama, Spanglish may have received mixed reviews and bombed at the box office, but Sandler was still praised regardless, setting a pattern. In the film, he plays a chef and family man who, along with his uptight wife, welcomes a Mexican single mother into their home as a housekeeper. Sandler is romantic, easygoing, angry, and sad all at the same time throughout the film, letting the audience know that the ship might be sinking, but he’ll go down with it giving it his all.
2/8 The Cobbler
This magical comedy-drama from 2014 was one of the few films that started to catch audiences’ attention in terms of Sandler’s dramatic prowess. While the film was both a box office bomb and critically destroyed, it allowed Sandler to prove his talents as a serious actor to audiences who might not have been aware of his gift outside of comedy. Sandler stars as the great-grandson of a talented cobbler who after fixing a pair of shoes and trying them on realizes that he can transform into whoever owns the shoes – bringing to life the old saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. The message of the film was well intended, but it fell flat – besides Sandler’s performance.
1/8 Funny People
The 2009 comedy-drama directed and written by Judd Apatow, Funny People, is definitely funny, but it also sees some of the best dramatic performances by not only Sandler but other comedians like Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann. Performances were praised, and the film became a critical success, even if it didn’t do well at the box office. Sandler portrays a retired stand-up comedian turned movie star, who is diagnosed with terminal leukemia. He’s convinced to try and fix the relationships that have been strained or ruined in his life as well as help an aspiring comedian.