Top 20 Movie One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975) ranks 3rd in Matt Lynn Digital‘s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. The film won five Academy Awards among four other nominations. Oscar wins included best picture, best director (for Milos Forman), and best adapted screenplay (for Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben).
Directly stated, I recommend you see this movie. Much of what follows from here falls into the category of spoilers. Take my strong recommendation to watch the movie if you have not, reading on at your own peril. Read on if you’ve seen the movie.
(Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy)
Jack Nicholson stars as R.P. McMurphy, a criminal that pleads insanity. Once inside the mental institution, McMurphy rebels against the oppressive actions of Nurse Ratched as portrayed by Louise Fletcher. Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Actor as Fletcher won the Oscar for Best Actress.
(Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched)
McMurphy discovers a number of patients with mental disorders in the mental ward he comes to inhabit. Everyone fears Nurse Ratched and her orderlies, though the larger principle at stake is not clearly visible. McMurphy looks to shake up the orderly operation of the ward. That operation includes frequent medication doses, talk therapy sessions, injections to control the patients, electroconvulsive therapy, or a lobotomy.
McMurphy bets the ward that he could get into Nurse Ratched’s head without getting punished. Ratched ran a tight ship, seeking control in a manner that McMurphy convinced many in the ward to challenge. This included Chief Bromden, the Native American character played by Will Sampson.
(Will Sampson as Chief Bromden)
Bromden would not speak, make eye contact, or listen to anyone in the mental institution as a defense against the insanity he saw there. The reserved approach led to less interventions from the orderlies or nurses. While not getting better, the idea was to reduce the abuses present in the institution. McMurphy led revolts among the patients to include things like watching baseball on television, turning down music, and other things.
Ratched started clamping down on the disruption to the order caused by McMurphy. Ratched aimed to break McMurphy’s will rather than cure him, so McMurphy’s attempts to get back into the nurse’s good graces only served to frustrate him. The nurse, after all, held the key to McMurphy earning his freedom.
McMurphy took the mental ward on a boating trip without approval from the medical staff of the hospital. The immensely strong Chief Bromden was asked to lift a heavy panel to breakout of the mental ward, aka the cuckoo’s nest. In getting off campus, McMurphy led the asylum patients to steal a boat, hire a prostitute, and have a decently human time that they would never get from the asylum.
(Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit)
When getting back, Nurse Ratched was particularly cruel to patient Billy Bibbit as portrayed by Brad Dourif. Bibbit was a shy and sensitive soul who was significantly concerned with being perceived as moral, careful sexually, and inactive in that respect of his life. After Ratched threatened to tell Bibbit’s mother about the boat trip with a prostitute, he committed suicide.
This instigated death by Ratched pushed McMurphy over the edge of frustration. McMurphy shattered a window to the nurses station in frustration for a second time, and was administered electroconvulsive therapy and a lobotomy. Now without the lucidity of normal brain function, Chief Bromden took action.
Bromden smothered McMurphy with a pillow, broke the window to freedom with the heavy panel, and walked to freedom. In essence, the revolt spurred by McMurphy prompted Chief Bromden, now revealed as the bird in the movie’s title, to fly over the proverbial cuckoo’s nest.
This is a movie that I watch over and over without tiring of it. The characters and deliberations of self are rich and dynamic. The characters feel authentic, even with the awareness that the situation is contrived. There is authenticity in the expression of the many aspects of the human condition. These factors all contribute to my high rating of this movie.
Matt – Tuesday, August 14, 2018