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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 newfound 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
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Produced by Robert Simonds
Written by Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Judd Apatow
(uncredited rewrite)
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 an aspiring ice hockey player who possesses a powerful and dangerous slapshot that his father taught him as a child before he was apparently struck and killed by a wayward hockey puck, though his overaggressive nature (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. His girlfriend Terry, a schoolteacher, leaves him because of his hockey obsession.

His grandmother, 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 repossessed. Happy has only ninety days to come up with the money or else the house will be auctioned off. Grandma Gilmore is forced to temporarily move into a retirement home, run by a sadistic manager named Hal. While repossessing his Grandma's furniture, a pair of removals men challenge Happy to hit golf balls. With his unorthodox, hockey slapshot-style swing, Happy hits a ball that strikes a house some 400 yards away. He wins $40 after the guys bet he can't do it again. As a result, he starts hustling golfers with his swing at the driving range. He is spotted by Chubbs Peterson, a one-handed former golf star and current club pro, who convinces Happy to enter a local tournament for a chance to win "big bucks". Happy wins the tournament and earns a spot on the Pro Golf Tour, though Chubbs advises him to wait six months so he can improve Happy's short game. However, Happy enters the Pro Golf Tour immediately, knowing that he has to come up with the money before the house is auctioned off.

On the tour, Happy encounters Shooter McGavin, who sees Happy as both a detriment to golf and a threat to his career. Although Happy has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible, and his violent outbursts and lack of golf etiquette quickly draw the attention of Commissioner Doug Thompson who wants to expel him from the tour. PR head Virginia Venit convinces him to reconsider, citing higher television ratings, increasing attendance, and drawing more youthful sponsors, while offering to work with Gilmore on his anger issues. Thompson threatens to fire her as well if there are any further incidents. Happy begins to improve his performance and behavior on the course and also develops a friendship with Venit, but his career is temporarily derailed when a heckler (planted by McGavin) throws him off his game during a pro-am with Bob Barker. Barker and Gilmore then get into a physical brawl, which Barker ends up winning. The fight leads to Gilmore getting suspended from the tour and fined $25,000.

Without being able to play on the tour or win prize money, Venit secures endorsement deals with Subway for Gilmore, allowing him to make the $275,000 necessary to buy back his grandmother's house; he is too late, however, and the house is already slated to go to auction. At the auction, McGavin, in a move of pure spite, outbids Gilmore for the house. He offers Gilmore the house in exchange for him quitting the tour. Happy accepts but Venit talks him out of it, telling him that his grandmother would rather see Happy be successful in life than get her house back. Gilmore instead makes a wager with Shooter on the upcoming Tour Championship: if Happy wins, McGavin will give up the house, and if McGavin wins, Happy must quit the tour for good. Happy seeks the help of Chubbs, admitting his past mistakes, and the two head to a mini-golf course. Happy makes good progress, and later that night in his apartment, he presents Chubbs with a gift – the head of the alligator that bit his hand off years ago. However, Chubbs is startled by this and stumbles backwards, causing him to fall to his death through an open window.

Determined to win the tournament for Chubbs, Happy is evenly matched with Shooter after the first two rounds and leads Shooter by the end of the third day. On the fourth and final day, McGavin is forced to play a ball off the foot of Mr. Larson, a truculent former boss of Happy's who has become one of his most devoted supporters. When the crazed fan McGavin hired earlier hits a tower with his car, Gilmore's shot is blocked. McGavin forces Gilmore to take the shot. Gilmore than manages to make a hole in one with a trick shot Chubbs had taught him at Mini-Golf. Afterwards, an angry and hysterical Shooter attempts to steal Happy's gold jacket, but is chased down by Mr. Larson and an angry mob of spectators and brutally beaten. Back at Grandma's house, the film closes with Happy being congratulated by the two-handed ghost of Chubbs, Abraham Lincoln, and the alligator, as Grandma, Virginia, and his homeless caddy look on in confusion.


  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a high-strung former hockey player who discovers a unique talent for golf. He went to pro golf tour to win some money to save her grandmother's house.
  • 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 who becomes Happy's romantic interest.
  • 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. He becomes Happy's coach and mentor to help him win the tournament championship. 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 effectEdit

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]

LegacyEdit, 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]

Long drive champion and professional golfer Jamie Sadlowski, also a former hockey player who can hit golf balls over 400 yards, has been called "the real-life version of Happy Gilmore."[14]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Result
1997 Kid's Choice Awards Best Movie Nominated
1996 MTV Movie Award Best Comedic Performance - Adam Sandler Nominated
1996 MTV Movie Award Best Fight - Adam Sandler and Bob Barker Won


  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.      
  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. 
  14. ^ "Golf Channel Digital - Meet real-life version of Happy Gilmore". 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 

External linksEdit