Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

5 Serious Adam Sandler Movies That Fans Need To Watch

Few can balance the line between drama and comedy, but somehow the guy that introduced us to Scuba Steve and taught us how to tap, tap, tap in a golf ball managed it. He might have made a career out of splitting sides and creating some of the most iconic comedy characters in movie history, but some of Adam Sandler's high points have been when he wasn't playing it for laughs. Well, not completely, at least. Held in just as high regard as "The Waterboy," "Happy Gilmore" and "The Wedding Singer," Sandler has occasionally played it straight, and the results have been brilliant in a totally different but very effective way.

Delivering performances that felt Oscar-worthy, Sandler has dramatic levels that prove that he's just as good at making audiences flat-out cry as he is at making them cry with laughter. But which are the best of the bunch among the Sandman's serious outings? Listed here are a select few entries that have warmed hearts, broken others, and one in particular that should really come with a pre-warning for heightened levels of stress. For the uninitiated fans, it's good to start off slow, and what better way to do so than to watch one of Sandler's most meta-movies that has him getting a public beating from a former Incredible Hulk.

Funny People brings a perfect balance of heart and humor for Adam Sandler

Back when Adam Sandler was churning out hot humorless messes way more consistently than he does now, he took a beat to appear in the Judd Apatow-directed "Funny People" opposite Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Eric Bana. The film sees him play George Simmons, a once great comedian-turned-actor, who, after being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, attempts to make amends and go back to stand-up to ensure he goes out on a high. Joining him on the journey is Ira Wright (Rogen), who initially signs on as Simmons' assistant before becoming a writer for him. Given the nature of this beast, "Funny People" comes with more laughs than other entries on this list, while still holding a meta-tinted mirror up to Sandler and his career up to this point.

Simmons signing up for what sound like terrible comedy cash-ins allows Sandler to be somewhat the butt of the joke, while still honing in an honest performance that highlights what it's like to be in the business for as long as he has. He works wonderfully with Rogen, and "Funny People" ranks as one of Sandler's best films and one of his most accessible dramedies simply because the star took the route of being himself. See it for Sandler, but stay for scene-stealing moments like Bana as the jealous husband of his on-screen love interest (Mann) and Eminem yelling at Ray Romano.

Hustle turned Adam Sandler into an underdog hero

Like "Funny People," "Hustle" is another film that excels thanks to a reserved performance from Adam Sandler honing in on something he clearly has a passion for. There are enough videos on X and TikTok to confirm the actor is a basketball fan, so taking on the role of Stanley Beren, washed-up NBA scout, is a match made in heaven. An underdog story that could've easily gone to anyone, it feels like a project built around Sandler, who takes the ball and dances around "Hustle," which has an ending that doesn't fit your conventional sports movie.

Focusing just as much on the star player, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), as Beren, the partnership these two share rivals the likes of Rocky and Adonis in the first Creed film as two characters at different points in their career who both deserve a shot. Not only is it great to see Sandler playing it straight once again, but he also lands a great motivational sports movie. "I love this game. I live this game," he says to Cruz in the film's turning point. "There's a thousand other guys waiting in the wings who are obsessed with this game. Obsession is going to beat talent every time." Maybe, but Sandler's talent shines on this occasion.

Uncut Gems gives a diamond performance from Adam Sandler

Quite possibly Adam Sandler's greatest performance, under the frantic filmmaking skill of the Safdie brothers, "Uncut Gems" really is the turn he deserved an Oscar for. As Howard Ratner, Sandler, who even performed a life-threatening stunt for the film, bobs and weaves through the unpredictable ordeals of New York City's Diamond District, often causing more problems than he solves. There's an energy here that really feels like nothing he's done before, moving on a different kind of vibration that results in any viewer facepalming on repeat. Just when something can't get any worse, Sandler's Ratner dive-bombs through a problem to make it even more catastrophic, hooking audiences.

The film plays like an endurance test, which (and this is said in the most complimentary way), by the end, feels like a movie worthy of a single viewing so as not to go through it all again. Besides being listed as one of Sandler's greatest, "Uncut Gems" also marked the final collaboration from the Safdie brothers before they parted ways. There's no telling if the two will reunite further down the line, but as last efforts go, this is a high and teeth-gratingly brilliant exit to go on thanks to their leading man. No matter how much Howard claims that this is how he wins, we're the real winners for being lucky enough to see Sandler at his finest.

Reign Over Me is a bittersweet buddy movie with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle

A heartfelt entry that cuts deeper than most, Adam Sandler in "Reign Over Me" really feels like the funny man at his lowest, which makes for a brilliant performance. Directed by Jack Binder, the film follows Charlie Fineman (Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), two pals who have been friends since college. Charlie is fighting through depression after losing his family during the September 11 attacks, and Alan tries to help his buddy out after they reconnect following years of being out of contact.

In hindsight, "Reign Over Me" feels like a film released just shy of the perfect time, considering how it deals with men's mental health, which feels like a more prominent talking point now. As for the performances, while Cheadle delivers the balance of laughs and love of a friend with ease, this feels like one of Sandler's most reserved efforts, and understandably so. Pried out of his shell following a great loss, he shuffles in and out of scenes with a weight that hangs in every frame. It's another testament that when he needs to, Sandler can pull on your heartstrings just as easily as he can tickle your funny bone. It's even more impressive given that the role was written for Tom Cruise before Sandler stepped in to turn on the tears instead. Mission accomplished.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Punch-Drunk Love was Adam Sandler's breakout dramatic role

If you want to see Sandler give serious stories a go, your best bet is to go back to when he first tried it out. Somehow, director Paul Thomas Anderson had faith that a "Saturday Night Live" alum could tap into something more than just laughs for "Punch-Drunk Love," and the results ultimately changed the trajectory of Sandler's career. As Barry Egan, Sandler plays a loner desperate for love who tries to find it by calling a phone-sex hotline, only for things to turn south. The situation becomes even more complicated when a true shot at romance risks falling apart.

It was a meant-to-be role for Sandler, given that Anderson was actually inspired by the "SNL" star after watching a skit in which the timid Sandler unleashes an outburst of rage. It's this that provides a normality to Sandler's performance that hadn't been seen before. There was no funny voice or slapstick on show, but a reserved and frustrated character that Sandler would occasionally go back to with other performances further down the line. When it comes to Sandler's serious roles, "Punch-Drunk Love" is simply an absolute essential.

To read more about the actor, check out the unspoken truth of Adam Sandler.