Adam Sandler Reflects On Getting Harsh Reviews For Billy Madison And His Other Early Movies: ‘They Hate Us’

Adam Sandler screaming at the dinner table in Billy Madison
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Adam Sandler is no stranger to criticism. Since his first starring role in Billy Madison, a film that the SNL alum co-wrote, he has had to deal with critics writing harsh words about him and his collaborator's hard work. Negative reviews aren’t an aspect of the job the comedy star says he had a concept of when he got into the business at the young age of 17. He recently revealed in an interview that all he was concerned about when he began acting was the fact his name might appear in New York!--a publication he grew up reading. Sandler soon realized dealing with critics was part of being in entertainment. Though bad reviews can be a demoralizing aspect of the work, the actor says he tries to remain optimistic when it comes to poor reviews of his comedies.

Sandler, now 56, revealed in a recent interview promoting his critically praised basketball dramedy, Hustle, that when Madison was released, he was shocked by the amount of hate the film received. According to the actor, 90% of the reviews called the film “garbage.” He told Netflix via Entertainment Weekly:

When I was 17, and I got into this, I didn’t think about critics ... I didn’t even realize that stuff was coming. I just thought you made movies, people go see it. When Billy Madison came out, me and my friend who wrote it. We were just like, ‘Oh yeah, they’re going to write about this in New York!’ We grew up reading the papers, we were going to NYU. And then we read the first one and we were like, ‘Oh my god, what happened? They hate us.’ And then we were like, ‘It must have been this paper,’ but then 90 percent of the papers are going ‘This is garbage.’

One has to imagine poor critical reception would be a difficult thing to navigate when you’re as new to the business as Sandler was when Billy Madison was released. This is probably why the actor stopped reading reviews pretty quickly after its release. However, he would still hear about what the critics had to say from friends up until The Wedding Singer. Ironically, some believe Singer to be one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Sandler continued:

I say the first two or three, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, we would still kinda hear about it. People would call us up, “Can you believe they said this about you?’ I’d be like, ‘I didn’t read it, man.’

Though negative reviews might have gotten to Adam Sandler at the beginning of his career, it’s clear the comedian hasn’t let it slow him down. The comedic superstar is the first to admit that his comedies aren’t for everyone and are often met with bad critical reception. Still, they tend to resonate with his fans. So everything has seemingly worked out for him. On this note, the SNL alum said: 

It’s great, everything has turned out excellent. And it’s okay, 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.

Critical darling Adam Sandler might not be, but the comedian knows precisely what he’s doing. He’s been making comedies for himself, his friends, and his fans for a very long time, and not caring what critics have to say about them has helped him create a body of work that will outlast any lousy review while making him a truckload of money along the way. His fans keep coming back, so it’s doubtful he will stop anytime soon, and why should he?

Several of Sandler’s best movies, such as Hustle, are available to stream with a Netflix subscription. For all other movie-related news, stay tuned to CinemaBlend. 

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.