One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Critic Consensus: The onscreen battle between Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher serves as a personal microcosm of the culture wars of the 1970s -- and testament to the director's vision that the film retains its power more than three decades later.
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as Randle McMurphy
as Nurse Ratched
as Chief Bromden
as Billy Bibbit
as Col. Matterson
as Dr. John Spivey
as Jim Sefelt
as Nurse Itsu
as Beans Garfield
as Harbor Master
as Charlie Cheswick
as Night Supervisor
as Hap Arlich
as Charlie Cheswick
as Nurse Pilbow
as News Commentator
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Critic Reviews for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Nicholson explodes on the screen in a performance so flawless in timing and character perception that it should send half the stars in Hollywood back to acting school.
There's a lot here. But with a classic like Cuckoo's Nest, too much is never enough.
One Flew over the Cuckoo 's Nest is an earnest attempt to make a serious film. But in the end the movie backs away from both the human reality and the cloudy but potent symbolism that Ken Kesey found in the asylum.
Viewed 30 years after its release, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains a very good motion picture, although one that perhaps just misses the pinnacle of greatness where its reputation suggests it resides.
Jack Nicholson stars in an outstanding characterization of Ken Kesey's asylum anti-hero, McMurphy, and Milos Forman's direction of a superbly-cast film is equally meritorious.
Audience Reviews for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Jack Nicholson in his grandest form. "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" from 1975 is one of the greatest American films of all time that represented the apex of what was the essence of 1970's cinema. A $4.4 million dollar effort directed by Czech Milos Forman. It's allegorical theme is in the world of an authentic mental hospital during the early-1960's(Oregon State Hospital in Salem,Oregon) a place of rebellion exhibited by a energetic,flamboyant,wise-guy anti-hero against the establishment,institutional authority and status-quo attitudes(personified by the patients' supervisory nurse). Expressing his basic human rights and impulses,the protagonist protests against the heavy-handed rules about watching World Series,and illegally stages both a fishing trip and a drinking party in the ward-leading to his own paralyzing lobotomy. Jack Nicholson's acting persona as the heroic rebel McMurphy,who lives free or dies(through an act of mercy killing),had been earlier been set with his breakthrough performances in "Easy Rider"(1969), and "Five Easy Pieces", not to mention "Chinatown"(1974). The mid-1970's baby-boomers counter culture was ripe for a motion picture dramatizing rebellion and insubordination against oppressive bureaucracy and an insistence upon rights,self-expression,and freedom. The role of the sexually-repressed,domineering Nurse Ratched was turned down by six actresses-among them were Faye Dunaway, Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, Ellen Burstyn, and Angela Lansbury-until Louise Fletcher accepted casting(in her debut film)only a week before filming began. Several actors including Al Pacino and even James Caan were originally offered the lead role of McMurphy,and Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were considered as well. The lead role went to Jack Nicholson. The entire film was shot in sequence,except for the fishing scene(which was shot last). Opening on November 19,1975 in only four theaters and expanded into more cities the following week, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" surprised everyone by becoming enormously profitable-becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of 1975 ranking in on its opening weekend $99,761 and expanding into more cinemas by December 7, 1975 bringing in $87,238 having a domestic total gross of $108 million and bringing in almost $300 million worldwide. The independently produced film also made motion picture history by sweeping the Oscars; it made history in 1975 to become the first film to take all the major awards including Best Picture, Best Director(Milos Forman), Best Actor(Jack Nicholson with his first win after losing the previous year for "Chinatown" in 1974), Best Actress(Louise Fletcher in her first win), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Brad Dourif), Best Cinematopgraphy(Bill Butler and Haskell Wexler), It was nominated for Nine Academy Awards in total being victorious in winning five including Best Picture. Jack Nicholson's historic win beat out some strong competition which included Al Pacino(Dog Day Afternoon); Ryan O' Neal(Barry Lyndon), Roy Scheider(Jaws),and Kris Kristofferson(Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea). "Cuckoo's Nest" also beat out some tough competition for Best Picture by Robert Altman's "Nashville", Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon", Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon",and Steven Spielburg's "Jaws"(which went on to break historic boxoffice records by becoming the Number One top grossing picture of 1975). "Cuckoo's Nest" became the second motion picture to win all five major awards following 1934's "It Happened One Night" which was an accomplishment not repeated until 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs"(also won all five major awards but also became the first horror movie in motion picture history to win the Oscar in 1991 for Best Picture). The film is Number 33 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest Movies Ever Made,and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. "Cuckoo's Nest" also swept the Golden Globes winning six in all including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay(Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman who also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay based on Ken Kesey's best selling novel is based on Kesey characters that were from real-life psychiatric ward patients at a VA Hospital in Menlo Park California where he once worked during the late-1950's). The novel on which it was based originally was dramatized on Broadway(an adapted play by Dale Wasserman) beginning in 1963 with actor Kirk Douglas starring in the lead role as McMurphy and Gene Wilder as stuttering Billy Bibbit. Kirk Douglas bought the rights to the novel,but couldn't convince film studios to produce(studios from 20th Century-Fox to Universal rejected it before United Artists inquire interest). Many years after its short theatrical run,Douglas transferred the rights to his son, actor/writer/producer Michael Douglas,who co-produced the United Artists film with Saul Zaentz. Michael Douglas had considered playing the starring role,but by the time of the film's production, he judged himself too old. Interesting points about this film.....the movie was a stepping stone for up and coming actors who would carve there own careers in Hollywood with the debut of actors Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in supporting roles. Even after some 41 years later the film is a prime and brilliant example of a society that will not bow down to authority and will take any chances necessary to stand his own ground in an institution that refuses to stand for what is right....This was the example of great 1970's cinema.
At first, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest would seem a depressing film. The setting is a mental institution. The colors are drab. The milieu is bleak. Many of the patients look unkempt wearing robes. This is most assuredly a condemnation of psychiatric institutions as an emblem of compassionless bureaucracy. The chronicle contributed to the departure of electroshock therapy from mainstream mental health care for example. However Randle is a strong-willed individual bucking the system. He represents hope in a place where there seemingly is none. He can snare an audience with a cocked eyebrow and a winking glance. He charms the patients in the asylum like he does the viewer. His foil is the equally strong-willed Nurse Ratched, an emasculating presence portrayed by Louise Fletcher. The two play a game of one-upmanship while we sit and watch, basking in the glory of their finely tuned characters. That the atmosphere can go from tense to hilarious to unrelentingly grim, all in the same scene is a tribute to the script by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman. Their screenplay highlights the complexity of the dual nature of the narrative. It builds to an emotionally shattering conclusion that could either be considered the saddest or the most inspiring ending in the history of film. fastfilmreviews.com
Jack Nicholson steering up shit in a mental institution is one of the greatest films of the 70s and maybe his best performance among so many outstanding ones. The gripping story can rely on great acting down to the smallest parts, Fletcher creates one of the most hate-worthy "villains" of all times. A funny, tragic, depressing and hopeful gem.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Quotes
|Dr. John Spivey:||Do you think there's anything wrong with your mind really?|
|Randle McMurphy:||Not a thing, doc. I'm a goddamn marvel of modern science.|
|Randle Patrick McMurphy:||Chief, just jump up, and put it in the basket. Jump and put it in the basket. No, not you Machini.|
|Randle Patrick McMurphy:||I tried, god dammit. At least I did that.|
|Randle Patrick McMurphy:||You guys complain how much you hate it here, and then don't even have the guts to leave! You're all crazy!|