One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

“Which one of you nuts has got any guts?”

Cast:  Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher and Michael Berryman

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Jack Nicholson stars in the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Con artist Randle McMurphy thinks he can skip having to work while in prison by claiming he is insane. His plan is to spend the remainder of his prison sentence at a mental institute where he thinks it’ll be a breeze, having fun with the “nuts” and getting out of having to do hard labour. What he doesn’t plan for is the head Nurse Ratched and her repressive attitude. Mac only sees her temper as an obstacle to conquer though, which he spends most of his time trying to soften and overcome.

Bringing a new life to the ward with card games, basketball and day trips out, Mac becomes a symbol of hope and joy to the other guys on the ward.  What unfolds is a beautiful story full of humour, love and courage with a bittersweet ending. It’s simple to see why One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a classic and after watching the film, it’s top of my list of ‘books to read’. It was the second film in history to win the ‘Big Five’ at the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

All of the performances are fantastic; we see Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Vincent Schiavelli and Brad Dourif as the main “nuts”, each give an outstanding performance, especially Dourif as stuttering Billy Bibbit. Fletcher’s portrayal as harsh Nurse Ratched was a career-defining role for her and Nicholson’s performance really goes without saying, flawless. Most of his lines seem improvised which just shows his talents as an actor, it’s this great naturalness from him that allowed the film to be so well received and accessible. I really can’t fault any of the actors; they were all on form making the film one of the strongest I have seen cast-wise.

The appearance of the ward is very bleak and hostile. Sitting in a depressive state and sense of limbo, when Mac comes he certainly makes his mark. By having this stark contrast the film it really works to establish the dim and lacklustre atmosphere that had engulfed the ward before Mac arrived. With a brilliant story overlaid on the plain, dull setting though, a great piece of film is produced.

The film tells a beautiful story and is full of memorable, outstanding performances, a great piece of cinematography that still stands as one of the best films even 35 years after its release. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a must watch.

Star rating:  10/10

Directed by Miloš Forman.

Running time 133 minutes.

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