14/30 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Your Favourite Drama Film

As the header picture might indicate to some, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is absolutely one of my favourite films of all time. Here’s why :

1. Jack Nicholson
One of the greats. Charming, unpredictable and owner of a silver tounge with that slow, New York drawl, Jack is one rear piece of talent. Nominated for an acting oscar in five different decades (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s) this guy has the potential, at 74, become the first to make that into 6 consecutive decades (unless Michael Caine beats him to it). In Cuckoo his role as the rebellious R.P. McMurphy, (that indeed earned him his first of three Best Actor Oscars) a criminal accused of statutory rape that’s sent to a mental institution for evaluation, for me at least, is his best performance ever (next to As Good As It Gets and Batman, two of his favourite roles).

2. The Book
A book that is not only brilliant narratively and through its characters, but a book that had a massive influence on the psychological practices of then present day mental instutions, ‘psych wards’, and supported theories of Michael Foucault’s reformation of the prison system, and misconducts of power discipline. The book is told from a supposed deaf-mute’s, Chief’s perspective who has great insight into the characters, and finds new sides to life through R.P’s antics. The relationship between the two is Of Mouse and Men-like and heartfel and as they find a surprising connection between eachother, they both grow into better people. As they plan an escape, things go south and brings us to possibly the best ending to a book ever.

3. Milos Forman
I always forget how much I usually enjoy Forman’s movies. He’s not very prolific, but all of his films are done with great consideration and unique style. He’s produced a few unmissable classics, like Amadeus and a few quirky hits like my favourite Jim Carrey film, Man on the Moon. Born in Czechoslovakia [now Czech Republic] Forman always had two sides to his work, the comedic side shown in his earlier work in Czech, and the dramatic, lead character driven depictions of unsympathetic people. In Cuckoo he keeps a balance between the two, finds humour in little things, but tells the main story of the people in such detail and depth.

4. Chief

Chief Bromden : My pop was real big. He did like he pleased. That’s why everybody worked on him. The last time I seen my father, he was blind and diseased from drinking. And every time he put the bottle to his mouth, he don’t suck out of it, it sucks out of him until he shrunk so wrinkled and yellow even the dogs didn’t know him.
McMurphy : Killed him, huh?
Chief Bromden : I’m not saying they killed him. They just worked on him. The way they’re working on you.

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10 responses to “14/30 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

  1. I have to agree wholly on this one. Not only does Jack Nicholson deliver his best performance here, but also one of the best performances ever in cinema history. Brilliant and touching.

    Mental institution in the movie is undoubtedly a micro-level depiction of our society with its methods of “healing” people while sacrificing one’s individual freedom.

    I’ll give this 10/10.

  2. I love this movie. It’s the first genuinely good movie, AFI Top 100ish movie, that I ever watched. We saw it in a high school psychology course. It’s the movie that turned me into a huge Nicholson fan.

    If you’re looking for more Forman, his Czech movies are very very good- Loves of a Blonde, and Firemen’s Ball.

  3. Great post! The acting is superb, N is so good. I heard Ken Kesey wrote the book after having worked in a ward in California for war veterans. It’s interesting how the line between crazy and sane is blurred, and you feel for the character’s yearning to be normal. We the audience are unsure if Nicholson really is crazy, so we have a doctor role almost, haha. If I had to be critical, I thought the film seemed to be kind of prejudice to women, most of them are bimbos it has to be said, and the nurses are all strict.

    • Yeah in no way is Nicholson’s character a typical movie psych patient.

      The women thing is true, but I think the author had an especial goal of critisizing the immasculated man in society, and to do that the women needed to be in service of that message. Of course in a more balanced story, this would’ve been done with more care towards how the book/film portrays all of its female characters. But TBF the women aren’t really shown as individual women (so their sex doesn’t really matter), but rather as a part of the machine, within the ward.

  4. @5plitreel : Good point about the goal of criticizing the immasculated man in society, didn’t think of that.
    Could also be a sign of the times(the girlfriends in cuckoos nest that is). I remember watching Monty Python episodes from late 60/70s and my mum thought the way women were portrayed was often like an object. I think its improved a lot, and women are treated more as equals on screen these days.

    • That is true, it is better now, but still the stereotypical women appear on screen more often than not,(I’m not saying that men aren’t being portrayed as stereotypical either.) especially when it comes to films ment for a female audience (romcoms mostly, or period dramas, or super-dramas) they still showcase a lot of assumed “female” behaviours.

  5. Your right, men get portrayed stereotypically as well, and there is so much assumed female behaviour in movies. I guess that’s why I’m a Mike Leigh fan, because its more like reality. If you’re interested in how women are represented in media, I heard about a new doc from Sundance: Miss Representation (2011)

  6. Pingback: Sika’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time! 80. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) « Lunki and Sika – Movie, TV, Celebrity and Entertainment News. And Other Silliness.·

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