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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman. The film is an adaption of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. The movie was the first movie to win all five major Academy Awards since It Happened One Night in 1934. more...

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This accomplishment was not repeated until the early 1990s, with The Silence of the Lambs.


Randle Patrick McMurphy, a serial petty criminal who has been sentenced to a fairly short prison term, decides to have himself declared insane so he'll be transferred to a mental institution, where he expects to serve the rest of his time in (comparative) comfort and luxury.

McMurphy's ward in the mental institution is run by an unyielding tyrant, Nurse Ratched, who has cowed the patients—who are mostly there by choice—into dejected institutionalised submission.

McMurphy becomes ensnared in a number of power-games with Nurse Ratched for the hearts and minds of the inmates. All the time, however, the question is in the mind as to just how sane any of the players in this actually are. Eventually McMurphy is lobotomized after he explodes into a violent rage when one of Nurse Ratched's psychological power games results in the death of a patient.

The film was widely acclaimed and won Academy Awards for Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (who played McMurphy), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (who played Nurse Ratched), Best Direction for Miloš Forman, as well as Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It ranked number 20 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest American films, Nurse Ratched was ranked number 5 on the Institute's list of 50 Greatest Villains, and the film consistently ranks in the top 15 on the Internet Movie Database. However, some mental health advocates have criticized the film for having unrealistic portrayals of mental hospitals and mental illness.

Kesey himself also did not hide his dislike of the film, particularly the casting of Nicholson as McMurphy. The characters were based on actual people from the hospital, however in real life the Native American did talk. (Although another source says that Kesey, under the influence of drugs, saw a hallucination of a Native American sweeping the floor.) Kesey also loathed the fact the film was not told through the eyes of Chief Bromden, like the book was, for he saw this as fundamental to the story. For these reasons Kesey never saw the film.

The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.


  • The role of domineering Nurse Ratched was turned down by five actresses - Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, Ellen Burstyn, and Angela Lansbury - until Louise Fletcher accepted casting (in her debut film) only a week before filming began.
  • Actor James Caan was originally offered the lead role of McMurphy, and Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were considered as well.
  • Louise Fletcher was nominated (and ultimately won) the Academy Award for Best Actress. One of the other nominees was Ann-Margret, who was nominated for her role in Tommy. Both of these films feature Jack Nicholson.
  • Kirk Douglas originated the role of McMurphy in a stage production, and then bought the film rights, hoping to play McMurphy on film. He passed the production rights to his son, Michael Douglas, who decided his father was too old for the role. Kirk was in fact angry at his son for a time afterwards because of this.


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