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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Movie Info

With an insane asylum standing in for everyday society, Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is a comically sharp indictment of the Establishment urge to conform. Playing crazy to avoid prison work detail, manic free spirit Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent to the state mental hospital for evaluation. There he encounters a motley crew of mostly voluntary inmates, including cowed mama's boy Billy (Brad Dourif) and silent Native American Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), presided over by the icy Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Ratched and McMurphy recognize that each is the other's worst enemy: an authority figure who equates sanity with correct behavior, and a misfit who is charismatic enough to dismantle the system simply by living as he pleases. McMurphy proceeds to instigate group insurrections large and small, ranging from a restorative basketball game to an unfettered afternoon boat trip and a tragic after-hours party with hookers and booze. Nurse Ratched, however, has the machinery of power on her side to ensure that McMurphy will not defeat her. Still, McMurphy's message to live free or die is ultimately not lost on one inmate, revealing that escape is still possible even from the most oppressive conditions. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
Rating: R (N/A)
Genre: Classics , Comedy , Drama
Directed By: Milos Forman
Written By: Bo Goldman , Lawrence Hauben , Bo Goldman /Lawrence Hauben
In Theaters: limited
United Artists


Jack Nicholson
as Randle McMurphy
Louise Fletcher
as Nurse Ratched
Will Sampson
as Chief Bromden
Danny DeVito
as Martini
Brad Dourif
as Billy Bibbit
Peter Brocco
as Col. Matterson
Dean R. Brooks
as Dr. John Spivey
William Duell
as Jim Sefelt
Josip Elic
as Bancini
Lan Fendors
as Nurse Itsu
Nathan George
as Washington
Ken Kenny
as Beans Garfield
Mel Lambert
as Harbor Master
Sydney Lassick
as Charlie Cheswick
Kay Lee
as Night Supervisor
Dwight Marfield
as Ellsworth
Ted Markland
as Hap Arlich
Sidney Lassick
as Charlie Cheswick
Phil Roth
as Woolsey
Mimi Sarkisian
as Nurse Pilbow
Vincent Schiavelli
as Frederickson
Tim Welch
as Ruckley
Tom McCall
as News Commentator
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (9)

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.

Full Review… | February 22, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | September 8, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

There's a lot here. But with a classic like Cuckoo's Nest, too much is never enough.

Full Review… | September 8, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | February 19, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | November 3, 2008
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | February 19, 2008
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Jack Nicholson in his grandest form. Nobody does it better. Nominated for an impressive Nine Oscars it was the winner of five Oscars including Best Picture of 1975. Original release date November 19, 1975

Mister Caple
Mister Caple

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.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

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.

Jens S.
Jens S.

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