One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

8.7
  • R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1975 (1975-11-19)
  • Running time: 133 min
  • Original Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Voted: 840336
A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.
#PersonCharacters
1Jack NicholsonR.P. McMurphy
2Louise FletcherNurse Ratched
3Will SampsonChief Bromden
4Michael BerrymanEllis
  • Both uplifting and disheartening, sometimes both at once 1/14/2005 12:00:00 AM by pyrocitor 10

    I went into this film with the knowledge that it had been the second film in history to win the 'top five' Oscars (for Best Picture, Best actor, Best actress, Best director and best screenplay) and has been praised as "one of Jack Nicholson's finest roles" and "one of the classics of the 70's". Naturally, after hearing all this, I had high expectations for One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. But nonetheless, I was surprised at how easily the film surpassed my expectations and easily led me to understand how it merited all that praise.

    Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, the story follows Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), who, in an attempt to get out of spending more time in prison, pleads insanity for his crime, and is therefore sentenced to time in a mental institution. This was McMurphy's intention, as he believes the conditions in a "crazy house" will be significantly easier to contend with than another harsh stay in prison. However, he quickly finds out that surviving the institution with it's desolate patients (including Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Vincent Schiavelli and an absolutely brilliant Brad Dourif as the stuttering Billy Bibbit) and the monstrously repressive Nurse Ratchet (Louise Fletcher, in a career defining role) is considerably harder than he imagined. McMurphy plays pranks, horseplay, and is generally defiant to the rules of the institution in an attempt to raise spirits. His constant optimism and reckless defiance to the out of date rules in the institution can be very uplifting, and often quite funny as well, but much of the movie can be very depressing - the generally decrepit state of the institution is a consistently (and intentionally) bleak background to a superb story with a truly bittersweet ending.

    Jack Nicholson is at his best here, head and shoulders above other excellent performances such as in 'Chinatown' or 'As Good as it Gets'. McMurphy is an apparently unquenchable optimist, refusing to succumb to the defeated spirit of all the other patients. His livewire antics, inspiring the patients are generally uplifting, and when his indomitable spirit is finally broken, we really feel for him and his fellow patients. Nicholson conveys the essence of McMurphy to perfection, demonstrating his excellent understanding and interpretation of the character. When McMurphy announces that he is going to lift a huge stone fountain and hurl it through the window to escape, the other patients are so caught up in his intoxicating spirit of freedom that they honestly believe he can do it, despite the fact it would be impossible for a man much stronger than him. When McMurphy finally discovers that despite his best efforts, he cannot lift the fountain, he is so openly crushed that we can't help but feel for him. Beneath the frequent profanities and livewire antics, there are real human emotions, which come across as truly touching.

    What can be said about One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest which hasn't already been said? It has an excellent storyline, top notch acting, painfully bleak visuals, perfectly setting the tone for the movie, and alternates between being truly uplifting to devastatingly depressing. It features perhaps the most memorable film ending ever, next to a man on his horse riding off into the sunset, and leaves the viewer beaten down by the conflicting emotions, unaware what to think of the picture next to reveling in it's glorious entirety. It's hard to produce a final outcome any better than this.

    -10/10

  • Touching and moving, a great cinematic experience 7/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews 10

    Jack Nicholson is a great actor. No, not a great actor, a spectacular actor. This is a film from fairly early in his career, as well as it is for several other actors in this film, who later have had long, great careers too, including Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif. The film has some unforgettable moments... who could forget Louise Fletcher's icy stare, Jack Nicholson's smart-aleck remarks or Will Sampson's impressive, almost entirely silent performance? The film portrays the horrible truth about how patients were treated in mental institutions back then, and tells the story of someone who desperately wanted to break out, to rebel, to change things, for himself and for the others. I was compelled by this film, from the very first frame. I never took my eyes off it, and I will definitely be thinking about this film for a while. I thought it was great the way one of the very first frames depicted the institution as something far more similar to a prison than a hospital. Milos Forman did a great job of making that contrast very powerful to the viewer. The film is very moving and a truly beautiful cinematic experience. Every single actor gives a stellar performance, every single character is perfectly written, every single line, every single frame is absolutely perfect. I wouldn't change a thing in this film. It has a great pace, you never lose interest, but it never seems to be rushing to get through it, either. It's simply perfect. I have not read the original book, but if I ever come across it, I might check it out. I have only seen this film once, but I will definitely watch it many times in years to come. I recommend this amazing piece of great cinema to anyone who has at least a slight interest in the drama genre, or any fan of any of the actors, as they are all in their absolute prime in this film. 10/10

  • A great order vs. chaos tale that everyone can relate to 6/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by b1lskirnir 10

    Based on the amazing novel by Ken Kesey, Randall Patrick McMurphy is an antisocial and dangerous man no different than a petty criminal, placed in a mental ward to have his behavior studied. He makes friends with lunatics and starts his own circle of admiration within the hospital, much to the dismay of Nurse Ratched, the central authority figure in the story and one of the greatest movie villains ever.

    The movie exists to show not only how corrupt and poorly-constructed society's approach to the "mentally unstable" is, but it creates characters that we have all met in life and shows how the McMurphy-like figure that we all wish we had fights for freedom of choice and basic human rights. In addition to the movie's great spirit, the acting is fantastic. Jack Nicholson is at his best and Danny DeVito can be seen in his very first acting role ( which he absolutely triumphs in ). And of course, there's the unforgettable Chief Bromden. The directing by Milos Forman is very well-done, as the camera-work is excellent and follows the pace of the movie perfectly in how it is used. What really impressed me was the editing, especially as far as the use of audio goes: some parts just made me go "...wow."

    My only complaint is that I believe the movie could've been slightly more effective if it were based more closely on the novel at certain points, but the modified point of view of the film does make a great point; anyone who has ever hated their job, been accused of something, had some person so self-righteous and convinced of their own authority and dependency on order get in your way, or attended the American public school system at any point in their life should be able to identify with this movie.

  • "What an excellent movie" is all that went through my mind after seeing this masterpiece 9/14/2004 12:00:00 AM by Philip Van der Veken 10

    What a movie, what an excellent movie!!! That is what first went through my mind after seeing this masterpiece. I've seen many movies, but there aren't much movies which had such an impact on me. Nowadays almost all filmmakers believe they can only make a good movie by adding loads of special effects and lots of huge explosions ... This movie is so good, so convincing without them. The actors played their roles in such a convincing way that you would think these weren't actors at all, but real psychiatric patients.

    This movie may be 30 years old, but it hasn't lost any of its relevancy. OK, we don't put our mentally ill people in that kind of prisons anymore, the bars in front of the windows have gone and now we call it hospitals in stead of nut houses. But the treatment hasn't changed all that much. I once worked in such a hospital as a volunteer and still saw things like forced feeding, giving people so much medication until they no longer know who or where they are,...

    When the movie first came out, some people were shocked because when you watch the movie, you can't help it feeling more attached to the patients than to the doctors and nurses. This movie shows that cinema can make a difference. It can help to open people's eyes. If there is a movie that should be seen by everyone, this sure is the one. I give it a well deserved 10/10.

  • Poetic - Powerful - Simple: The Greatness of Cuckoo's Nest. 1/22/2000 12:00:00 AM by Donald J. Lamb 10

    The opening shot of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is a bleak glance at an Oregon morning. Stirring, haunting music plays gracefully on the soundtrack and a car approaches. Inside the car is one of film history's most remarkable characters. "Randle McMurphy" is about to bring hope, humor, and a glimmer of reality to some disturbed people in a mental hospital. Jack Nicholson as "McMurphy", is something of a paradox. Is this guy crazy or is he really the lazy, conniving criminal most believe him to be? That is the magical mystery and start to a journey into mental illness and the effect this man will have on some truly messed up men.

    Milos Forman directs this all-time classic, which swept the Oscars deservedly, and holds up so well 25 years later. It is a simplistic film about small people living in their own small worlds. Manic moments are mixed with poignant acting all leading to an astounding climax. Not before or since CUCKOO'S NEST has a collection of different characters had such an impact on me. You could write a book report about each of the patients in the ward. The two most important people here are, of course, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.

    Nicholson has his greatest moments in this picture. One brilliant scene has him doing an imaginary play-by-play commentary of the 1963 World Series to the group, who are not allowed to watch the game on TV. It is a poetic sequence and Nicholson goes crazy with his delivery, describing baseball with colorful anecdotes and profanity. "McMurphy" immediately makes an impression on the crazies and shows them how they don't have to stick to the "normal routine". He knows their names right away, he sprays them with water, he makes impossible bets with them, he introduces them to fishing, and he even gets a suffering young kid (played well by Brad Dourif) a "date".

    Louise Fletcher plays one of the more reprehensible human beings in film as "Nurse Mildred Ratched". She is a hardened woman, one who makes the daily meetings with the group a contest to see who will win. Her stubbornness and lack of compassion for the poor guys is rather one dimensional. That's perfect because that is exactly who she is. Her strong will to keep things monotonous leads to a final showdown with the free spirited "McMurphy" in what is easily one of the most shocking and disturbing climaxes in recent memory.

    ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST does not try to make a statement about mental illness or how the unstable should be treated. Rather, it is a very simple portrait of the long days and hilarious scenarios that can come about when a mixed bag of suffering people are thrown together. Mental illness is nothing to laugh about, but the fact that Nicholson is not really crazy (at least in my opinion) allows us to be amused. He seems to love his compadres in the hospital. He is mislead, however, into thinking he can do as he pleases.

    There is no denying the power of CUCKOO'S NEST. The two main powerhouse performances are golden, the cinematography is morbid and gritty like it should be, the "Chief" is great as Nicholson's right hand, ah, protagonist, and you care a lot about what will happen as the film moves on. The famous, final shot ironically happens to be an exit of a major character into that bleak, Oregon morning.

    NOTE: I have never read the book and I find it hard to believe author Ken Kesey has never watched the filmed version. Comparing a book to a movie is impossible. They are 2 distinctly different artistic methods of story-telling.

#PersonCrew
1Milos Formandirector
2Michael Douglasproducer
3Lawrence Haubenwriter
4Bo Goldmanwriter
5Ken Keseywriter
6Dale Wassermanwriter