Happy Gilmore

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Happy Gilmore
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Produced by Robert Simonds
Written by Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Arthur Albert
Edited by Jeff Gourson
Steve R. Moore
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • February 16, 1996 (1996-02-16)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $41.2 million[1]

Happy Gilmore is a 1996 American sports comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and produced by Robert Simonds. It stars Adam Sandler as the title character, an unsuccessful ice hockey player who discovers a talent for golf. The screenplay was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy. The film was released in cinemas on February 16, 1996 by Universal Pictures. Happy Gilmore was a commercial success, earning $41.2 million on a $12 million budget. This film was the first of multiple collaborations between Sandler and Dugan. The film won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Fight" for Adam Sandler versus Bob Barker.


Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an aspiring hockey player who possesses a powerful slapshot that his father (Louis O'Donoghue) taught him as a child (Donnie MacMillan) before he was apparently struck and killed by a wayward hockey puck. Happy's over-aggressive streak — which once resulted in him trying to stab a guy to death with an ice skate — and lack of skating talent consistently preclude him from joining a hockey team, and his girlfriend, Terry (Nancy McClure), leaves him because of his hockey obsession.

Happy's grandma, (Frances Bay) who raised him after his father's death, has not paid her taxes for many years; as such, she owes the IRS $270,000 in back taxes, and her house is about to be seized. Happy has 90 days to come up with the money, or Grandma's house will be auctioned off. Grandma is forced to temporarily move into a retirement home, run by a sadistic manager named Hal (Ben Stiller in an uncredited role) who secretly uses the retirees for sweatshop labor. While repossessing Grandma's furniture, a pair of movers challenge Happy to hit golf balls. With an unorthodox, slapshot-style swing, Happy hits the ball 400 yards three times, winning $40 from the movers as a result. He starts hustling golfers at a local driving range, leading one-handed club pro and former golf star Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) to convince Happy to enter a local tournament. Happy wins the tournament and earns a spot on the Pro Golf Tour.

On the tour, Happy encounters Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), an arrogant pro who sees Happy as both a detriment to golf and a threat to his career. Though Happy has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible. In addition, he lacks basic golf etiquette, often breaking into violent outbursts after poor shots, and hires a homeless window cleaner named Otto (Allen Covert) as his caddy. Tour commissioner Doug Thompson (Dennis Dugan) plans to expel him from the tour, but public relations head Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) convinces him to reconsider, citing higher TV ratings, rising attendance, and interest from more youthful sponsors. She also says she will work with Happy to control his temper, so Thompson threatens to fire her if there are any further incidents; with Virginia's help, Happy begins to improve both his performance and behavior.

During a pro-am tournament in which he is partnered with Bob Barker, Gilmore gets distracted by an insulting fan named Donald (Joe Flaherty). Irked by Donald's jabs, Happy starts to play poorly and, after several comments from the game show host, punches Barker, starting a raucous fistfight. It's revealed that Shooter hired Donald to infuriate Happy and get him kicked off the tour. Thompson has a meeting with Happy, Virginia, and Shooter about the fight with Barker; Happy tells Thompson about Donald and says he wanted to attack him, not Barker. Thompson decides not to kick Happy off the tour because the tournament had very high TV ratings, but he feels still has to punish Happy, giving him a one-month suspension and a $25,000 fine. Shooter protests that Happy should be kicked off the tour, but Thompson tells Shooter that the board committee suggested that a suspension is better. Happy tries to plead his case, as the fine and suspension mean he will be unable to buy back Grandma's house at the upcoming auction, but Thompson sends him away.

Happy, distraught that he will be unable to get Grandma her house back, goes to Subway with Virginia and mentions how much he enjoys the sandwich. Virginia sets up an advertising deal with Subway; the deal, plus Happy's remaining prize money, adds up to $275,000, just enough to buy back Grandma's house. Despite bidding all $275,000 at the real estate auction, Happy is outbid by Shooter, purchases the house for $350,000. Happy makes a bet with Shooter for the upcoming Tour Championship: If Happy wins, he gets Grandma's house; if Shooter wins, Happy will quit golf forever. To prepare for the tournament, Happy seeks the help of Chubbs, admitting his past mistakes, and the two head to a miniature golf course, where Chubbs teaches him how to putt and Happy makes a complex trick putt. Though Happy makes progress, Chubbs falls out a window to his death after being startled when Happy presents him with the head of the alligator that bit off his hand years ago.

Happy becomes determined to win for Grandma and the late Chubbs. He and Shooter are evenly matched for first two rounds; Happy leads Shooter narrowly at the end of the third round. As the fourth and final round nears its conclusion, Happy and Shooter are neck and neck at the top of the leaderboard. In the final holes, multiple bizarre scenarios play out: Happy is struck by a car driven by a furious Donald, but he continues to play against a doctor's advice; Shooter's ball comes to rest on the foot of Mr. Larson, an enormous friend of Happy's who threatens Shooter; and, as Happy putts for the win on the 18th green, a large TV tower falls onto the green, blocking Happy's putt's path. Rather than putt around the tower and try to two-putt and force a playoff, Happy tries a trick shot similar to the one he pulled off at the mini golf course with Chubbs. After many bounces and turns, the putt goes in, and Happy wins the tournament by a single stroke.

The crowd of joyous spectators gather around Happy as he is declared the winner. An angry and hysterical Shooter attempts to steal Happy's first-prize gold jacket but is chased down and beaten up by Mr. Larson and other angry spectators. The film ends as Happy, Virginia, Grandma, and Otto return to Grandma's house, where Happy is congratulated by the massive ghosts of Chubbs, the alligator, and Abraham Lincoln.


  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a high-strung former hockey player who who discovers a unique talent for golf.
  • Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin, an arrogant golfer who is one of the top stars of the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Julie Bowen as Virginia Venit, a public relations director for the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Frances Bay as Grandma Gilmore.
  • Carl Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who was forced to retire early when his hand was bitten off by an alligator. Weathers reprises the role in Sandler's 2000 film Little Nicky, despite Little Nicky being produced by New Line Cinema.
  • Allen Covert as Otto, a homeless man who becomes Happy's caddy. The character is unnamed in the film (although his name is revealed in a deleted scene but is listed in the end credits). Covert reprises the role in Sandler's 2011 film Jack and Jill.
  • Kevin Nealon as Gary Potter, an eccentric pro who Happy plays with in his first tournament.
  • Peter Kelamis as Gary Potter's caddy.
  • Richard Kiel as Mr. Larson, Happy's towering former boss.
  • Dennis Dugan as Doug Thompson, the commissioner of the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Joe Flaherty as Donald, an unruly fan hired by Shooter to distract Happy.
  • Jared Van Snellenberg as Happy Gilmore's caddy at the Waterbury Open.
  • Will Sasso as mover
  • Lee Trevino as himself
  • Bob Barker as himself
  • Verne Lundquist as himself
  • Mark Lye as himself
  • Ben Stiller as Hal L. (uncredited), the sadistic orderly running the nursing home


Critical response [edit]

On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, they received a 60% rating based on 52 reviews with a consensus review of "Those who enjoy Adam Sandler's schtick will find plenty to love in this gleefully juvenile take on professional golf; those who don't, however, will find it unfunny and forgettable."[2] On Metacritic, It holds a 31% rating based on 14 reviews, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews." [3] Brian Lowry of Variety stated that "The general tone nevertheless makes it difficult to elevate the gags beyond an occasional chuckle". Lowry only noted a few scenes he found inspired, including the fight scene with Bob Barker and when Happy attempts to find his "Happy Place" which was described as "Felliniesque".[4] Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars out of four, stating that Adam Sandler's character "doesn't have a pleasing personality: He seems angry even when he's not supposed to be, and his habit of pounding everyone he dislikes is tiring in a PG-13 movie". Ebert also noted the film's product placement stating that he "probably missed a few, but I counted Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Subway, Budweiser (in bottles, cans, and Bud-dispensing helmets), Michelob, Visa cards, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Sizzler, Red Lobster, Wilson, Golf Digest, the ESPN sports network, and Top-Flite golf balls".[5]

Ratings effect[edit]

The scene with Barker beating up Gilmore increased ratings for The Price Is Right amongst younger demographics. Barker claimed that someone in the audience asked him about Happy Gilmore almost every day. The show's producers had previously tried, but failed, to appeal to a younger demographic with a syndicated variation of the game hosted by Doug Davidson.

Box office [edit]

The film was a commercial success, ranking #2 at the US box office on its debut weekend with $8.5 million in revenue. The film was made for $12 million and grossed a total of $41.2 million worldwide, with $38.8 million of that at the North American domestic box office.[1]


Golf.com, Consequence of Sound, and Golf Digest discussed the film, predominantly praising the villain Shooter McGavin.[6][7][8] Other articles have covered relatively unknown trivial facts, such as Carl Weathers's missing arm, which was the same arm from the movie Predator, and the number of times nurse orderly Hal committed nursing home abuse.[9][10]

The "Happy Gilmore swing," featuring a walking or running approach, is often imitated or attempted for fun, including by touring golf professionals.[11] Three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington is particularly well-known for his impression and even uses the technique in training.[12] The TV series Sport Science has featured Harrington's "Happy Gilmore swing," demonstrating how it can indeed generate additional distance, though at the cost of accuracy.[13]


Adam Sandler earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor for the film.

The film was nominated for a Sound Effects award; foley artists spent over 40 hours designing, improving, and perfecting the sound of Adam Sandler’s golf swing.

The film won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Fight" between Sandler and Bob Barker.

Pop culture references[edit]

In 2015, Adam Sandler and Bob Barker performed a sketch as part of "Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars" (in support of Autism Awareness). In the sketch, the two engage in another fight similar to the one in the movie this time in a hospital with both dying when each uses a sample of ebola as a biological weapon against the other. The end of the sketch has the two fighting in heaven, with Carl Weathers (as Chubbs) criticizing Sandler (calling him Happy), then quickly relenting and telling him to "kick his (Barker's) ass." The alligator and Abraham Lincoln are also seen.


  1. ^ a b "Happy Gilmore". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  2. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  4. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 19, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2010. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 2, 2010.  1.5/4 stars
  6. ^ "Happy Gilmore Turns 20: In Praise of Shooter McGavin". 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  7. ^ Myers, Alex. "Shooter McGavin is still winning tournaments, is now officially the best villain ever - Golf Digest". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  8. ^ "Tiger Woods Takes Selfie With Shooter McGavin". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  9. ^ "12 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  10. ^ "4 Instances of Nursing Home Abuse In Happy Gilmore - J Antonio Tramontana - Personal Injury Attorney". 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  11. ^ "Happy Gilmore - European Tour". 2013-06-12. Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  12. ^ "Padraig Harrington demonstrates his Happy Gilmore shot at The Open Zone". Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  13. ^ "Sport Science Happy Gilmore". 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2017-04-14. 

External links[edit]