Top 365 Films – #020 – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Top 365 Films - One Flew Over The Cuckoos NestDIRECTED BY: Miloš Forman

STARRING: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, William Redfield, Dean Brooks, William Duell, Vincent Schiavelli, Delos V. Smith, Michael Berryman, Nathan George, Lan Fendors, Mimi Sarkisian, Marya Small, Scatman Crothers, Louisa Moritz, Christopher Campagna, Peter Brocco, Alonzo Brown, Mwako Cumbuka, Josip Elic, Ken Kenny, Mel Lambert, Kay Lee, Dwight Marfield, Phil Roth and Tin Welch

BUDGET: $4.4m

EARNED (Domestic): $109m

AWARDS: 5 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), 6 Golden Globes (Best Picture Drama, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Acting Debut) and 6 BAFTAs (Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing)



Upon admittance to a mental institution, a brash rebel rallies the patients to take on the oppressive head nurse.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest has us following Randle McMurphy, a criminal that is very much anti-authority, is sentenced by the court for statutory rape and decides to have himself declared insane so he can be transferred to a mental institution where he expects to serve the rest of his prison term in comfort and luxury at the hospital. When he arrives on the ward he meets a variety of patients which are dejected and institutionalised by Nurse Ratched, leading to a power battle between the two of them for the hearts and minds of the patients.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a film that has earned it’s classic status not only over time but for being one of the few films to win the Big Five at the Oscars during award season, it really stands the test of time not only for the way its simple premise is executed, but the performances that are provided in it, mainly between the protagonist and the antagonist. The film works perfectly well on the levels that film viewers can take it on face value – one view is that you can see it as a tale of a sane man taking on the establishment and injecting some humanity and freedom amongst those that he sees around him living a zombie-life routine and the other view is that the patients are there to get the help they feel they need and McMurphy is delaying the inevitable of acceptance. Jack Nicholson is superb as McMurphy, a man who does not like what he sees on the ward and how Nurse Ratched has power over the patients and decides to buck the system as she represents everything he can’t stand and uses his charismatic charm to win over the group and Louise Fletcher is terrific as Nurse Ratched, the woman in question who believes she is doing what is best for her patients yet is cold and at times sadistic in using their flaws against them especially in the films final act. It helps how we see this battle affect those around them with a great ensemble cast with the highlights in particular being Will Sampson playing ‘Chief’ Bromden, a giant of a Native-American who is deaf and mute and Brad Dourif playing a young-stuttering man named Billy Bibbit.


FAVOURITE SCENE: Awaiting electroconvulsive therapy, McMurphy and Chief have a surprisingly wonderful moment together.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘Jesus, I mean, you guys do nothing but complain about how you can’t stand it in this place here and you don’t have the guts just to walk out? What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it.’ – Randle McMurphy

DID YOU KNOW?: Louise Fletcher was so upset with the fact that the other actors could laugh and be happy while she had to be so cold and heartless that near the end of production she removed her dress and stood in only her panties to prove to the actors she was not “a cold-hearted monster”. Will Sampson, who plays Chief Bromden, was a park ranger in Oregon in a park near where the movie was filmed. He was selected for the part because he was the only Native American the Casting Department could find who matched the character’s incredible size. The script called for McMurphy to leap on a guard and kiss him when first arriving at the hospital. During filming, director Milos Forman decided that the guard’s reaction wasn’t strong enough and told Jack Nicholson to jump on the other guard instead. This surprised the actor playing the second guard greatly, and in some versions he can be seen punching Nicholson.