1975 • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975 Best Picture Winner

Was it Nicholson who flew over the nest?

Well, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the 1970s are the greatest decade of Best Picture winners. Wednesday night, Lauren and I sat down for 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, one of the very few movies to this point in the project that I’ve seen before.  I believe we watched this in high school for Psychology class, though I had long forgotten most of the movie.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the rare movies to win the Big 5 Oscars—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay—along with 1934’s It Happened One Night and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. I already knew it was a very good movie, and as my mother recently stated, it is one of her all-time favorites, but Lauren had never seen it before.

The story of Cuckoo’s Nest begins with Randall Patrick McMurphy, or Mac, (Jack Nicholson) being transferred to a mental hospital after faking his way out of the prison workhouse.  He befriends the oddball men of the ward, including the silent giant Chief and stuttering youngster Billy.  McMurphy has it out for the nasty Nurse Ratched, who refuses to allow the patients to watch the World Series.  At one point McMurphy escapes and steals a school bus and takes the patients fishing.  Later, he invites some “party girls” over to the asylum for some heavy drinking.

Spoiler alert!  Cuckoo’s Nest‘s most powerful scene shows young Billy committing suicide, and Mac furiously going after Nurse Ratched, holding her responsible. Mac tries strangling her to death and nearly succeeds. We later find out Mac is given a lobotomy, and Chief puts him out of his misery by suffocating him before making his own triumphant escape by busting out a window.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I sure backed McMurphy’s hatred of Nurse Ratched.  She was clearly making things worse for everyone and not curing anyone’s mental illnesses!  McMurphy was doing much more good for these patients by befriending them and showing them some real fun on the fishing boat and the wild party at the ward.

Overall, this was another excellent movie.  The 1970s (again, minus Patton) have been outstanding.  I will decide soon where to rank Cuckoo’s Nest, but almost certainly it belongs in the top 10.  The ensemble cast of young Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and others was among the best so far. I like these kinds of movies that I understand and don’t have to rely on Wikipedia to get me through the plot. And I always like these character development types of movies where seldom “big” things happen. As for Lauren, she seemed to be waiting for something big to happen… at least bigger than anything that did happen, so I’m not sure if it gets rave reviews from her or not.

Next up, 1976’s Rocky.

1 Comment

  1. […] night with 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I reviewed the movie over on my Best Picture Review blog, for anyone […]

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