Release Date: November 19th, 1975
Directed by: Miloš Forman
Written by: Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman
Based on: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, William Duell, Vincent Schiavelli, Michael Berryman, Nathan George, Scatman Crothers
N.V. Zvaluw, Bryna Productions, Fantasy Films, 133 Minutes
“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.” – McMurphy
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all-time. While it isn’t anywhere close to my top ten list, it is still a film that I like quite a bit because of the performances and how stacked this cast was without knowing it, at the time.
Jack Nicholson has given incredible performances throughout his entire career but this picture features one of his best. However, he’s also got immense talent all around him. In this, Nicholson kind of feels like Michael Jordan, as he’s surrounded by people with great skill but somehow his presence is able to elevate them even further and bring out their absolute best.
The scenes between Nicholson and Louise Fletcher are exceptionally well acted and legitimately give one chills. And this is why both of them won an Academy Award for this picture.
Beyond that, though, you’ve got a very young Brad Dourif, who hits the ball out of the fucking park. Also, Christopher Lloyd is great and Danny DeVito is impressive, so early into his acting career. You’ve also got what I would consider to be Will Sampson and Sydney Lassick’s best performances.
Rounding out the cast you’ve got Vincent Schiavelli, Michael Berryman and Scatman Crothers, who you really feel for when shit goes sideways for him after he just wanted to loosen up and have a little fun.
This film has some really good human moments but it’s full of more heartbreak and legitimate frustration. As someone that spent a few weeks in a mental institution once, this hits really close to home and it’s scarily accurate in how small people with just a little bit of power can easily abuse it.
Looking past the strong positives, the film is a bit slow but I think that’s deliberate to kind of make the audience feel like they’re trapped in this timeless hell with the characters. However, when the patients actually get to escape the asylum and go fishing for a day, that moment of freedom feels much more impactful due to what life on the inside is like.
The film ends rather tragically but also with a small feeling of joy for one patient in particular. But the feelings of hopelessness and anger are still too strong to really enjoy that final moment.
While this movie tries to teach a lesson to us all, everything within the story quickly returns to the status quo. But that’s not too dissimilar from how things are in the real world.