One Flew Over the Cuckoos NestAFI Rank: #20
Year Released: 1975
Director: Milos Forman
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito
A con thinks an easy way out of work is to play insane. He learns that there are worse things than the bonds of prison.
Many murder shows have as a plotline that the murderer decides to plead insanity, rather than face the real consequences of his actions. It is thought that the easy life of an insane asylum is far better than the bars of a prison. Certainly RP McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) thinks so. All he's done is have sex with a 15 year old - she claimed she was 18 - and he doesn't feel like doing work duty to wile away his time. He plays insane and figures he'll sit around and talk with the loonies for a while instead.
Unfortunately for RP, the woman in charge of this ward is Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). She runs a tight ship, and likes everything just so. Into her tidy little world comes the freewheeling RP, out to get the inmates to do wild things like watch the World Series instead of sit around and talk therapy.
Even though Nurse Ratched denies RP's quest to watch baseball, still, she almost seems to be helping the inmates - talking reasonably with them, giving them logical reasons why things are the way they are. Still, as time goes on, you start to sense that her priorities aren't necessarily with the patients. What she says seems reasonable - but the manner in which she pursues things, even when it's clearly bothering the patients, makes you think otherwise.
By the end of the movie, it is quite clear that Nurse Ratched is deliberately taking actions to cause great harm to her patients, to keep them docile and dependant. RP is only inches away from escape ...
What is amazing about this movie is not the specific plot - which rambles in and out of the various insane inmates' minds - but is the ensemble of actors gathered. Many of these actors went on to win awards, and each one is pretty much perfect in his or her role. Yes, the two main characters richly deserve the Oscars they won. But the casting director did a stupendous job here, casting the cream of the crop in terms of who could play each of these individuals. It is that group effort that really allows the realism to shine through, and to make this movie just as powerful and relatable now as it was when it first came out.
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