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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

tomatometer

96

Average Rating: 8.9/10
Reviews Counted: 55
Fresh: 53 | Rotten: 2

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.

75

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 2

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.

audience

96

liked it
Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 272,516

My Rating

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),

R,

Drama, Classics, Comedy

Bo Goldman /Lawrence Hauben

Dec 9, 1997

United Artists

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All Critics (55) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (2) | DVD (37)

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

September 9, 2010 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop 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.

February 20, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (46)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop 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.

November 4, 2008 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop 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.

February 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy as if he were born to it, and the supporting cast provides fine, detailed performances.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Set in an insane asylum, the film involves the oppression of the individual, a struggle spearheaded by an ebullient Nicholson, turning in a star performance if ever there was one.

February 11, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This film is one of the classic movies of the 1970s, thanks in no small measure to the talents of director Milos Forman.

February 3, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The movie is both timeless and indicative of its own era, a period of anti-establishment movements.

January 19, 2014 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Cast, direction, score, look -- perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.

February 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

I enjoyed the picture because it is an action romance, worked out in wonderfully inventive detail and presented with mesmeric immediacy by one of the screen's most resourceful directors.

February 12, 2013 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

Nicholson gets to use all the colors on his palette, from quiet, troubled contemplation to the disturbingly truthful, live-wire jesting with which he has become best associated. [Blu-ray]

October 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

A marvel of contemporary filmmaking...

September 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

It's mostly Nicholson that makes the film work, with his fun, but very intelligent, canny turn.

September 16, 2010 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A great cast, great screenplay and great performance makes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest an enjoyable and thought provoking movie.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

A rare screen adaptation of a beloved novel that maintains the emotional and dramatic power of the original while establishing its own distinctive approach to the story...

May 15, 2010 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

The genius of the film is that you never feel you're being preached at, but rather being allowed a fly-on-the-wall view of a systematic crushing of humanity.

August 5, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

The film remains as fresh, shocking, depressing and exhilarating as when it was released.

February 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

A terrific adaptation of Ken Kensey's 1962 novel (first done as play) that became timelier in the 1970s, positing a free-spirited hero (the excellent Jack Nicholson) against repressive authoritarianism, embodied by Fletcher's nurse.

December 23, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Ken Kesey's grim satire of institutionalized authority, bracingly filmed by Milos Forman.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide | Comment (1)
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A stirring indictment of how we determine who's sane and who's crazy.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Audience Reviews for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

In 1934, Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" made Academy Awards history by becoming the first film to win all top five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress & Screenplay. 80 years on, this is an accomplishment that has only been achieved twice since that time. Most recently was in 1991 with Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" and the other (that's the most deserving of them all) is this 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey's radical novel.

Randall Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is a convict who fakes insanity to escape the confines of prison and instead, spend his remaining years of incarceration in a mental hospital. McMurphy gets more than he bargain for though, when he comes across the tyrannical Head Nurse (Louise Fletcher). Rebelling against her control over the vulnerable patients, McMurphy turns the hospital ward upside-down with his wildly infectious and challenging personality, which incurs the wrath of the embittered Nurse.

Now widely considered a classic of American cinema, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was not without it's problems in making it to the screen. The film rights to Kesey's novel were actually owned by Kirk Douglas who starred in the 1963 Broadway production. However, there wasn't a major studio that was interested in financing it. Douglas' intention was to reprise the leading role but the film took so long to get off the ground, that it left him too old to play the part.
Before passing the rights down to his son, Michael Douglas, he recruited Czechoslovakia's Milos Forman as a suitable director and even had a screenplay drafted up by Ken Kesey himself. It was Forman who rejected this version, though, as Kesey wanted to retain the mute, Native American, Chief Bromden as the narrator of the story (as it was in the novel) while Forman's intention was to focus on McMurphy. This proved to be only the beginning of the films problems; Kesey was so incensed with the filmmakers approach to his material that he sued the producers and vowed never to watch the completed film while numerous actresses including; Audrey Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Faye Dunaway turned down the, supposedly coveted, role of Nurse Ratched. Nicholson wasn't even the first choice for McMurphy either; Marlon Brando and (Kesey's proffered choice) Gene Hackman turned down the part while Forman had his heart set on Burt Reynolds.

With a sense of irony, it could be said that these fraught production issues actually reflected the fraught and rebellious themes of the material but despite the hiccups, the film opened to widespread critical acclaim and went from a $3 million budget to gross over $100 million and as well as sweeping the board at the Academy Awards, it received a further four nominations.

Nicholson may not have been the first choice but there's no doubt that he was born to play McMurphy. He's an actor that has always produced high quality performances and has even become synonymous with rebellious characters but this is the absolute definitive, The only difference between actor and character is that Nicholson‚(TM)s appearance is nothing like the flame-haired Irishman described in the book (where it's easy to see why Kesey might prefer Hackman) but he‚(TM)s McMurphy in every other hazardous and feral way. He's the perfect embodiment of the character's reactionary behaviour against the repressive and authoritarian figurehead of Louise Fletcher's villainous and castrating Nurse Ratched. Although it's these two stupendous performances that anchor the film, the rest of the supporting cast are equally solid - with particular mention going to Brad Dourif and his nominated turn as the stuttering, immature Billy Bibbit. Also not going unnoticed is the haunting score by Jack Nitzsche and the striking cinematography by Haskell Wexler in capturing the stark, enclosed environment that reflects the perceived insanity of the inmates.

Whether observed from the point of view of Chief Bromden or R. P. McMurphy, it doesn't matter, as there's still no denying that it retains the free-spirited theme's of Kesey's novel and the revolutionary and anti-establishment ethos that was rife throughout a generation. A masterful adaptation where Milos Forman and screenwriters Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman put their own stamp on the indicting material without losing any of it's emotive or uplifting power. Simply superb!

Mark Walker
November 27, 2013
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

Don't be fooled by how old this film is, it still holds up today. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is one of my all time favorites, and rightly so. It has amazing acting and a powerful story.

What you don't expect from this film is suspense, but to be honest, I was on the edge of my seat. Everything builds up to a certain point; tensions rise as the narrative reaches the end. It's mostly due to McMurphy (Nicholson) going back and forth with Nurse Ratchet (Fletcher). Sometimes the things that happen are funny, sometimes brutal. Each actor plays their role perfectly and it really brings the film to life.

I was surprised at how good this film is. It definitely is better than most of the crap released nowadays, and it should be viewed by everyone.
June 17, 2013
Market Man
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

Among a superb cast, Jack Nicholson is super charismatic as a free-spirited character who refuses to abide by the rules at a mental institution. A great drama that has its best moments when showing his obstinate attempts to get through to people who have given in to conformism.
November 9, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a terrific, well acted and told Drama film. Jack Nicholson delivers a strong, funny and dramatic performance as Randle McMurphy. Louise Fletcher also delivers as Nurse Ratchet, one of the greatest film villains in cinematic history; she plays the head nurse of the psychiatric ward. Nurse Ratchet is definitely one of the most memorable villains in film. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a terrific film that has stood the test of time. This a definite must see for every serious film buff. This is a superb film from start to finish, one that merits its status as one of the greatest films ever made. Director Milos Forman directs a stunning film, and the result is apparent on-screen. I really enjoyed how Fletcher and Nicholson had that chemistry on-screen, and both were absolutely wonderful in their parts. The script itself is well written, and there's plenty of very entertaining and memorable moments in the film to keep you interested. What makes this film work so well is that it shows both sides of authority, how one man can ignore the rules while one person tries to keep the order. I really loved the sense of conflict between Ratchet and McMurphy, and that's where the strength of the film lies. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a powerful and memorable that is sure to delight anyone that loves well executed cinema. Milos Forman is at his peak here, and along with Amadeus, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is among his greatest works.
August 16, 2012
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Randle Patrick McMurphy: Chief, just jump up, and put it in the basket. Jump and put it in the basket. No, not you Machini.
    – Submitted by Augusta M (14 months ago)
    1. Randle Patrick McMurphy: I tried, god dammit. At least I did that.
    – Submitted by Augusta M (14 months ago)
    1. 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!
    – Submitted by Augusta M (14 months ago)
    1. Randle Patrick McMurphy: Harding, give him one of your cigarettes.
    2. Harding: But it's my last one.
    3. Randle Patrick McMurphy: That's a fucking lie. Now just give him one.
    – Submitted by Augusta M (14 months ago)
    1. Charlie Cheswick: Rules?! Piss on your fucking rules, Nurse Ratchet!
    – Submitted by Alexander R (15 months ago)
    1. Randle Patrick McMurphy: Jesus Christ Almighty! Do you nuts wanna play cards or do you wanna fucking jerk off!?
    – Submitted by Alexander R (15 months ago)
View all quotes (19)

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Foreign Titles

  • Einer flog Łber das Kuckucksnest (DE)
  • Vol au-dessus d'un nid de coucou (FR)
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