Milos Forman's acclaimed adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel. After being imprisoned for statutory rape, an unrepentant Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is transferred to a state mental hospital. Here he sets about leading his fellow inmates (including Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd) in a revolt against the cold and inflexible Nurse Ratchet (Louise Fletcher) and the hospital's systematic oppression of its patients. The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher, Best Director for Milos Forman, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Lawrence Hauben.
One of the key movies of the 1970s, when exciting, groundbreaking, personal films were still being made in Hollywood, Milos Forman's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
emphasised the humanistic story at the heart of Ken Kesey's more hallucinogenic novel. Jack Nicholson was born to play the part of Randle Patrick McMurphy, the rebellious inmate of a psychiatric hospital who fights back against the authorities' cold attitudes of institutional superiority, as personified by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). It's the classic antiestablishment tale of one man asserting his individuality in the face of a repressive, conformist system--and it works on every level. Forman populates his film with memorably eccentric faces, and gets such freshly detailed and spontaneous work from his ensemble that the picture sometimes feels like a documentary. Unlike a lot of films pitched at the "youth culture" of the 1970s, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
really hasn't dated a bit, because the qualities of human nature that Forman captures--playfulness, courage, inspiration, pride, stubbornness--are universal and timeless. The film swept the Academy Awards for 1976, winning in all the major categories (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay) for the first time since Frank Capra's It Happened One Night
in 1931. --Jim Emerson