Henry Roth is a veterinarian at Sea Life Park on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. He has a reputation of womanizing female tourists and does not display any interest in committing to a serious relationship. Henry's closest friends are Ula, a marijuana-smoking Islander; his assistant Alexa, whose gender is unclear; Willy, his pet African penguin; and Jocko, a walrus.
One day Henry’s boat breaks down while he is sailing around Oahu. He goes to the Hukilau Café to wait for the Coast Guard. There he sees a young woman named Lucy Whitmore, who makes architectural art with her waffles. Henry thinks she is a local, which prevents him from introducing himself, but the next day he comes back. Lucy and he hit it off instantly and she asks him to meet her again tomorrow morning.
When Henry goes back to the café, Lucy does not have any recollection of ever meeting him. The restaurant owner Sue (Amy Hill) explains to Henry that in the previous year, Lucy and her father Marlin went up to the North Shore to pick a pineapple for his birthday. On the way back, they had a serious car accident that left Lucy with anterograde amnesia and she wakes up every morning thinking it is October 13, 2002.
To spare Lucy the heartbreak of reliving the accident every day, Marlin and Doug, Lucy's lisping steroid-addicted brother, re-enact Marlin's birthday by following a script, including putting out October 13's Sunday newspaper, refilling Lucy's shampoo bottles, re-watching the same Minnesota Vikings game, and re-watching the movie The Sixth Sense where Marlin and Doug halfheartedly say, "Wow. Didn't see that coming," during the famous plot-twist.
Despite Sue's warning, Henry invites Lucy to have breakfast with him. Eventually she does, but it ends poorly when Henry unintentionally hurts Lucy’s feelings. He follows her home to apologize where Marlin and Doug instruct Henry to leave Lucy alone. Henry begins concocting ways to run into Lucy on the following days, such as pretending to have car trouble, creating a fake road block, or by having Ula beat him up. Eventually, Marlin and Doug figure this out due to Lucy singing The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on the days when she meets Henry.
One day, as Henry is about to sit with Lucy at breakfast, she notices a police officer writing her a ticket for her expired plates. Lucy attempts to argue that they are not yet expired, and takes a newspaper to prove herself, but sees that the date on all the newspapers is not October 2002 as she thought. When she rushes home, Marlin and Doug are forced to admit their ruse (and presumably not for the first time; when Marlin sees Lucy's frantic behavior as her truck pulls up to the house, he immediately realizes what happened and loudly announces to Doug that Lucy "had a bad day").
Henry comes up with an idea to make a video explaining to Lucy her accident and their relationship. Although Lucy is upset over understanding about her accident and memory loss, Henry believes that she is more upset realizing her life is a lie every day. Because of this, Henry, Marlin and Doug show Lucy the tape every morning and help her spend her days by picking up where the tape says she left off. She spends more time with Henry and goes to see some of her old friends. Lucy decides to erase Henry completely from her life after learning of his decision not to take a sailing trip to Bristol Bay to study walruses, something he has been planning for the past 10 years. Although Henry would rather spend that year making Lucy fall in love with him everyday rather than go on the sailing trip, Lucy is convinced she is a burden on him and is preventing Henry from really living his life. Henry reluctantly helps Lucy destroy her journal entries of their relationship.
A few weeks later, Henry is preparing to leave for his sailing trip. Before he departs, Marlin tells him that Lucy is now living at the brain institute and teaching an art class. He also tells him that she sings. Then he gives Henry a Beach Boys CD. Listening to the CD, Henry becomes emotional and curses Marlin for giving him the CD and causing him to miss Lucy. He then remembers that Marlin once told him that Lucy only sings after she meets him. Concluding that Lucy remembers him, he returns home. Henry rushes to the brain institute where Lucy now resides and asks if she knows who he is. Lucy says she does not know him but shows him the pictures she has painted of him, saying she dreams about him every night.
Some time later, Lucy wakes up and plays a video tape marked "Good Morning Lucy." It again informs her of her accident, but ends with her and Henry’s wedding. On the tape, Henry says to put a jacket on and come have breakfast when she is ready. Lucy then sees that she is on Henry’s boat, which finally made it to Alaska. She goes up on deck and meets Marlin, Henry and their daughter, Nicole.Adam Sandler as Henry Roth, a marine veterinarian with a talent for wooing women and a fear of commitmentDrew Barrymore as Lucy Whitmore, Henry's love interest with short-term memory lossRob Schneider as Ula, Henry's marijuana-smoking, native Hawaiian assistant and best friend; he is unhappily married to an overweight native woman and has five young, athletically talented childrenSean Astin as Doug Whitmore, Lucy's older brother, a lisping, steroid-dependent bodybuilderBlake Clark as Marlin Whitmore, Lucy's widowed father, a professional fishermanLusia Strus as Alexa, Henry's ambiguously gendered assistantDan Aykroyd as Dr. Joseph Keats, a physician specializing in brain disordersAmy Hill as Sue, the Hukilau café manager and friend of Lucy and her late motherPomaika'i Brown as Nick, the Hukilau café chef.Allen Covert as Ten-Second Tom, a hospital patient with severe memory impairment (reprised as 220 Tom in Blended)Missi Pyle as Noreen, a tax attorney Henry meets at a bar but then tries to fix up with AlexaMaya Rudolph as Stacy, pregnant friend of Lucy's at beach partyKevin James as Factory workerLynn Collins as LindaJoshua Seth (uncredited) as a painterGreg Cipes (uncredited) as a painterDee Bradley Baker (uncredited) as a man at the restaurantScott Menville (uncredited) as a man at the restaurantJessica DiCicco (uncredited) as a teenager at the zoo
The film was originally titled "50 First Kisses", but this was changed to avoid confusion with Never Been Kissed, another film with Drew Barrymore.
Most of the film was shot on location in Kaneohe, Kaʻaʻawa, Wahiawā, Makapuʻu, and Waimānalo, Oahu, as well as in Kāne'ohe Bay. Due to the high cost of filming outside of the studio zone, some interior scenes (such as inside the Whitmore residence) were shot on sets in Los Angeles carefully decorated to look like they were in Hawaii.
The walrus tank is actually in Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California, and the golf course is the Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 48% based on 172 reviews, and the site's consensus states [that the] "Gross-out humor overwhelms the easy chemistry between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who bring some energy and yucks to this tale of a girl with short-term memory loss and the guy who tries to get her to love him."
Critics who enjoyed the film (such as The New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott) praised the uplifting story while lamenting the seemingly excessive and incongruous amount of crude humor and drug references. Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars, saying "The movie is sort of an experiment for Sandler. He reveals the warm side of his personality, and leaves behind the hostility, anger and gross-out humor... The movie doesn't have the complexity and depth of Groundhog Day... but as entertainment it's ingratiating and lovable."
Sandler and Barrymore won the award for Best On-Screen Team at the MTV Movie Awards. The two actors, who had previously worked together in the popular film The Wedding Singer, are said to regard 50 First Dates as one of their favorite personal efforts.
In an article in the BMJ on depictions of amnesia in film, clinical neuropsychologist Sallie Baxendale writes that 50 First Dates "maintains a venerable movie tradition of portraying an amnesic syndrome that bears no relation to any known neurological or psychiatric condition". A 2010 article in the Daily Mail newspaper claimed a similar condition afflicted a UK woman who cannot remember anything after 1994 as a result of two car accidents (one in 1985 and the other in 1990). The article quotes Dr. Peter Nestor, a neuroscience specialist at Cambridge University, who said "It is reasonably rare to have this kind of amnesia but it does exist."
In 2010, researchers described a woman who developed the kind of memory impairment after she was involved in a car accident. She described that her memory was normal for events on the same day and that overnight memories for the previous day were lost. However, a neuropsychological test did reveal some improvement in recall for tasks which she had, unknowingly, performed the previous day. Though the woman claimed not to have seen 50 First Dates prior to her 2005 accident (but has watched it several times since), she stated that Drew Barrymore was her favorite actress, leading researchers to conclude that her condition might have been influenced by some knowledge of the film's plot, and its impact upon her understanding of amnesia. Similarly, in the Truman Show delusion, patients believe that they are living inside a reality television show, as in the 1998 film The Truman Show.
In July 2015, two people were discovered to be afflicted with a form of anterograde amnesia that resembles the one depicted in the movie. One is a man in the UK, originally from Germany. He wakes up every day thinking it is March 14, 2005, because that is the day he underwent anesthesia for a dental procedure which led to this condition as a rare, unexplained complication. The other is a woman named Nikki Pegram who believes every day is October 15, 2014. Nikki used to be a pub manager and was visiting Kettering General Hospital for a kickboxing injury when she slipped and hit her head on a metal pole.
Ten-second-Tom's ten-second memory is similar to the second-to-second consciousness of Clive Wearing, a British man whose long- and short-term memory centers were destroyed from a viral infection of the brain caused by the herpes virus.
The Hebrew Home of Riverdale, New York has started an experimental program in which residents with early dementia watch a video every morning in which they see comforting messages and reminders from family members that they may still know. After April 2015, the program may include more residents. Robert Abrams of NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital considered this idea "both innovative and thoughtful." Charlotte Dell, director of social services for the home, said the program was inspired by 50 First Dates.
The soundtrack contains cover versions of songs that were originally recorded in the 1980s. This includes mostly reggae covers, due to their emphasized upbeat that gives a tropical or Hawaiian feel. It was a moderate commercial hit, reaching #30 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Top Soundtracks chart and Top reggae Albums chart in the United States.
Despite being prominently featured in the film, neither Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"/"What a Wonderful World" nor The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" were included on the soundtrack.
The soundtrack was produced by 311's frontman, Nick Hexum. 311 provided a cover of The Cure's Lovesong for the soundtrack. It is heard over the film's end credits.Other songs in the filmThe Beach Boys – "Wouldn't It Be Nice"The Cure – "Boys Don't Cry"The English Beat – "Hands Off She's Mine"The Flaming Lips – "Do You Realize??"Wyclef Jean – "Baby"Israel Kamakawiwo'ole – "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"/"What a Wonderful World" medley (Originally recorded by Judy Garland/Louis Armstrong)The Maile Serenaders – "My Sweet Sweet"The Makaha Sons of Ni'Ihau – "Aloha Ka Manini"Manfred Mann – "Blinded by the Light"Bob Marley & The Wailers – "Could You Be Loved" and "Is This Love"Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney – "Another Day"No Doubt – "Underneath It All"O-Shen – "Throw Away The Gun"Harve Presnell – "They Call the Wind Mariah"Leon Redbone & Ringo Starr – "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii"Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider – "Ula's Luau Song"Snoop Dogg – "From tha Chuuuch to da Palace"311 – "Amber" and "Rub A Dub"Toots & the Maytals – "Pressure Drop"The Ventures – "Hawaii Five-O"Patty and Mildred Hill – "Happy Birthday to You"