Billy Madison

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Billy Madison
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTamra Davis
Written byTim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Produced byRobert Simonds
CinematographyVictor Hammer
Edited byJohn Gilroy
Jeffrey Wolf
Music byRandy Edelman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
February 10, 1995 (1995-02-10)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$26.4 million[1]

Billy Madison is a 1995 American comedy film directed by Tamra Davis. It stars Adam Sandler in the title role, Bradley Whitford, Bridgette Wilson, Norm Macdonald, Darren McGavin, Mark Beltzman, and Larry Hankin. The film was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy and produced by Robert Simonds, and was Macdonald's feature film debut. It made over $26.4 million worldwide and debuted at number one at the box office.[1]

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics at the time of its release, the film is now considered one of Sandler's best and has garnered a cult following over the years.[2][3][4]


Billy Madison is the dimwitted, childish, and spoiled 27-year-old heir to Madison Hotels, a Fortune 500 chain of 650 hotels founded by his father, retiring tycoon Brian Madison. Billy spends his days drinking with friends and creating disturbances across his father's estate. One evening, Billy ruins an important dinner meeting between his father and his associates by acting obnoxiously. Brian loses confidence in his son and chooses his devious executive vice president Eric Gordon to take over Madison Hotels. When Billy begs his father to reconsider his decision, as he knows how callous and cruel Eric is, Brian reveals that he secretly bribed Billy's school teachers to give him passing grades. The two finally compromise: Billy must complete all 12 grades of school, with two weeks for each grade, to prove he is competent enough to manage the company.

Shortly after enrolling into elementary school, Billy becomes attracted to a third grade teacher named Veronica Vaughn, who initially ignores him. Nevertheless, Billy successfully progresses through his first two grades. He finds himself as one of Veronica's students in third grade and earns her respect by standing up for Ernie, his friend and classmate. Billy becomes popular among the third graders and misses them as he advances through school. Billy's progress alarms Eric. Desperate to take over Madison Hotels, he blackmails Billy's elementary school principal, Max Anderson, into lying that Billy bribed him for passing grades, with a wrestling magazine containing pictures of Max's previous career as the "Revolting Blob", a masked professional wrestler who accidentally killed a man in the ring.

Angered, Brian calls off his deal with Billy and renames Eric as chairman to the company. Billy grows distraught and reverts to his previous carefree lifestyle. Veronica motivates him to return to school, while his grade school classmates convince Max to retract his false accusations, infuriating Eric. Brian agrees to give Billy another chance, but Eric cites that Billy failed the challenge by not finishing ninth grade within two weeks. He then threatens to sue Brian if he does not pass the company onto him. Billy intervenes and challenges Eric to an academic decathlon to finally settle their feud with the winner getting to take over Madison Hotels.

Both men excel in different activities, but Billy manages to take a single-point lead before the contest's final event, a Jeopardy!-style academic test. Billy gives a completely dimwitted answer for the opening question in the event, and Eric is given the chance to win the contest by answering a question regarding business ethics. Eric, being a highly unscrupulous businessman, cannot conceive of an answer and breaks down. He brandishes a revolver, but Max (in his wrestling gear) tackles Eric from backstage before he can harm Billy. Eric recovers from the attack and attempts to shoot Veronica, but he is shot in the buttock by Danny McGrath, a rifle-wielding madman whom Billy apologized to earlier for bullying him years ago.

At his graduation ceremony, Billy, deciding that he is not fit for running a hotel company, announces he will pass Madison Hotels to Carl Alphonse, Brian's more polite and loyal operations manager, and reveals he plans to attend college in order to become a teacher. Eric, recently fired by Brian and now walking on crutches due to his wound, watches on and fumes in frustration over Billy's decision.



Filming took place from June 26 to August 29, 1994, in and around Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Sandler had initially tapped Stephen Kessler to direct the film; however, after two weeks of production, Universal was unhappy with the footage and had replaced him with Tamra Davis,[5] who was Universal's initial top choice to helm the project.[6] The Madison's Mansion exterior and grounds were shot at the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa while the interior was filmed in Casa Loma in Toronto. The entrance to the mansion was filmed at Marylake Augustinian Monastery in King City.[7]

While on Norm Macdonald Live, Adam Sandler revealed that the role of Jack was intended for Allen Covert. Sandler wanted Bob Odenkirk for the role of Eric Gordon, but the studio rejected it. Sandler also wanted Philip Seymour Hoffman for the role; Hoffman auditioned and later turned it down.[8] For his scene as the Bus Driver, Farley drank six shots of Espresso to prepare for his scene.[9]


Critical response[edit]

On the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 41% based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Audiences who enjoy Adam Sandler's belligerent comic energy may find him in joyously obnoxious form as Billy Madison, but this thinly-plotted starring vehicle surrounds its star with an aggressively pedestrian movie."[10] On Metacritic, the film received a weighted average score of 16 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[11]

Richard Schickel panned the film, calling it "one of the most execrable movies ever made".[12] Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times commented; "Sandler has a bad habit of thinking he is funnier than we are".[13] On At the Movies, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film thumbs down, and Roger Ebert said of Sandler, "... Not an attractive screen presence. He might have a career as a villain or as a fall guy or the butt of a joke, but as the protagonist his problem is that he recreates the fingernails on the blackboard syndrome." Gene Siskel added "... you don't have a good motivation for the character's behavior".[14] Owen Gleiberman also panned the film, saying "By the end, you feel like a drill sergeant — you want to wipe that stupid grin off Sandler's face".[15] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post said the film was trying to be "A more kid-friendly version of 'Dumb and Dumber.' And there's even a moral: 'Yahoo for education,' though the movie doesn't really put any muscle behind it."[16]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, saying "It succeeds as a reasonably smart no-brainer. If you've ever had a yearning to relive the third grade, this must be the next best thing."[17] Brian Lowry of Variety also gave the film a mixed review, saying "There are a few bursts of sheer, irresistible idiocy — along the lines of 'Wayne's World' or even 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' — but not enough to sustain the more arid stretches."[18]

Billy Mowbray of Film4 gave the film a positive review, writing: "When you get that Sandler's comedic persona is meant to be annoying, like Beavis and Butt-Head or Cartman, the laughs come thick and fast".[19] Kevin N. Laforest said, "Okay, the plot is inane, but it's the basis of a series of really funny scenes."[20]

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Result
1995 MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance — Adam Sandler Nominated


Songs featured in the film


  1. ^ a b c "Billy Madison". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 2012-11-17. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  2. ^ "The Best Adam Sandler Comedies, Ranked From 'Little Nicky' to 'The Wedding Singer'". Collider. 7 February 2022. Archived from the original on 28 June 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  3. ^ "What Is the Best Adam Sandler Movie?". Vulture. 10 June 2022. Archived from the original on 15 June 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  4. ^ "The 10 best Adam Sandler movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  5. ^ "BILLY MADISON: A Love Letter | The Lowbrow Reader". Archived from the original on 2022-08-20. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  6. ^ "Twenty years ago, I directed 'Billy Madison.' It's still the most relevant work of my career. - the Washington Post". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2019-02-03. Retrieved 2023-05-31.
  7. ^ "Hollywood North: Star-studded movies filmed in York region". May 29, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Adam Sandler Says Philip Seymour Hoffman Turned Down Role as the Villain in 'Billy Madison'". Archived from the original on 2022-12-20. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  9. ^ "'Billy Madison' at 25: Director Tamra Davis saw 'Uncut Gems' potential in Adam Sandler, recalls X-rated story involving Chris Farley, Gwyneth Paltrow". 10 February 2020. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  10. ^ "Billy Madison (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  11. ^ "Billy Madison Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 28 February 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  12. ^ Schickel, Richard (March 1995). "Billy Madison Review". Time.
  13. ^ Rainer, Peter (February 11, 1995). "MOVIE REVIEW: No New Lessons When 'Billy' Goes Back to Public School". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2013-10-06. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  14. ^ "The Brady Bunch Movie, Just Cause, Billy Madison, Mr. Payback, 1995". Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews. Archived from the original on 28 July 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2019. Event occurs at 4:40-6:55.
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (February 24, 1995). "Billy Madison". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  16. ^ Kempley, Rita (February 11, 1995). "Billy Madison". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 11, 1995). "FILM REVIEW; Repeating Grades 1-12: Do the Daiquiris Help?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  18. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 12, 1995). "Review: 'Billy Madison'". Variety. Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  19. ^ Mowbray, Billy. "Billy Madison Review". Channel 4. Archived from the original on October 15, 2003. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  20. ^ Laforest, Kevin (May 1, 2002). "Billy Madison". Montreal Film Journal. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.

External links[edit]