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Films to See Before You Die: #19 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Director: Milos Forman

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Will Sampson

Synopsis: Randall Patrick “R.P.” McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), is a career criminal and in an attempt to avoid more prison time pleads insanity and is sent to a mental institution where he believes everything will be easier for him. Upon his arrival he meets Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who is the head nurse and dictator of his ward. McMurphy and Ratched clash almost immediately when he will not adhere to her orders and he proves to be to much of a free spirit. He often encourages the other patients to think outside the box and that maybe they aren’t that crazy after all. He starts to take a liking to Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), a giant Native American who has been rendered mute, but it doesn’t take long for McMurphy to get him and the others out of their shells and enjoying life. His upbeat attitude is no match for Nurse Ratched’s icy demeanor with her shutting him down at every corner and eventually leading to him and others to receive shock therapy. The battle of wills comes to a crashing halt when Ratched bullies a younger patient with tragic results McMurphy loses it almost killing Ratched which forever alters his stay at the institution.

Trivia: Most of Jack Nicholson’s scene with Dean R. Brooks upon arriving at the hospital was improvised – including his slamming a stapler, asking about a fishing photo, and discussing his rape conviction; Brooks’s reactions were authentic. Director Milos Forman relied heavily on reaction shots to pull more characters into scenes. In some group therapy scenes, there were ten minutes of Jack Nicholson’s reactions filmed even if he had very little dialogue. The shot of Louise Fletcher looking icily at Nicholson after he returns from shock therapy was actually her irritated reaction to a piece of direction from Forman.

Why I think you should see this: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the quintessential Jack Nicholson film there is no comparison as to his best performance because it has always been R.P. McMurphy. Milos Forman won his first Best Director Oscar with what I believe to be his best film it is also not too much different than his other Oscar win for Amadeus about a brash young rebel who is basically killed by those who think they know better. That said Louise Fletcher is amazing as Nurse Ratched and Brad Dourif does a great job in his feature film debut. Look for very young Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito. This is a masterpiece and if you haven’t got around to seeing it check this one out you won’t be disappointed.


About Trevor

Hi my name is Trevor and this is my blog! Films are a passion of mine. I am a total film geek. I own over 700 films and the collection is ever growing. I studied Film Studies and Scriptwriting in College. What I have learned about films is mostly self taught.

10 responses to “Films to See Before You Die: #19 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

  1. I actually saw the film long before i watched the film and was pleasantly suprised that they were both great normally once I read the book can no longer stand watching the film

  2. jazfagan

    Trevor, loved the book, loved the movie, ADORE Jack! Peace Jaz

  3. This is as powerful a movie today as it was when it was originally released. I saw it at the theater as a teen. My father took my sister and I and we all laughed and cried. This is a must see! πŸ˜‰

  4. My favourite movie. Without fail you post movies I absolutely love. My partner is a film ‘geek’ too…owns over 12,000 dvds and 400 blu rays…it’s still a struggle to decide what to watch sometimes. I love your blog πŸ™‚

    • Trevor

      Well thank you for the nice compliment. I agree the movies you own the harder it is sometimes to choose because you have so many options. I hope you enjoy the rest of my list πŸ™‚

  5. asterisk * photography ⋅

    AMAZING film! Kim*

  6. qualitytw ⋅

    A very classic movie that I love watching over and over. A big fan of Jack ! I remember the movie when it first came out – a big hit!

  7. This may be my favorite Nicholson role and some of his finest work.
    Also, if you haven’t already…READ THE BOOK! It is entirely different from the film since it is told from the perspective of The Chief.

  8. Moriah LaChapell Schalock ⋅

    As an Oregonian and a Kesey fan, this is a great movie. Though, Kesey did have some issues with this movie. I hope that you have seen Sometimes a Great Notion.

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