One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (film): Wikis



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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Saul Zaentz
Saul Zaentz
Written by Lawrence Hauben
Bo Goldman
Ken Kesey (Novel)
Starring Jack Nicholson
Louise Fletcher
William Redfield
Brad Dourif
Will Sampson
Danny DeVito
Scatman Crothers
Christopher Lloyd
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Haskell Wexler
Editing by Richard Chew[1]
Sheldon Kahn
Lynzee Klingman
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) November 19, 1975 (1975-11-19)
Running time 133 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,400,000
Gross revenue $108,981,275

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman. The film is an adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey.

The film was the second to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay) since It Happened One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991 by The Silence of the Lambs. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is frequently called one of the greatest films in the history of American cinema.

There had been an earlier stage version of the book, in 1963, but the film does not use the script of the stage version.

The movie was filmed at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon, which was the setting of the novel.



Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a recidivist criminal serving a short sentence on a prison farm for statutory rape, is transferred to a mental institution. This is a ploy to avoid hard labor and serve the rest of his sentence in a more relaxed environment. He is anti-authoritarian with a history of violence, but he exhibits no signs of mental illness.

McMurphy's ward in the mental institution is run by a calm but unyielding tyrant, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who employs a combination of subtle humiliation in group therapy, punishment disguised as unpleasant medical treatments and a mind-numbing daily routine. McMurphy finds that the other male and mostly-middle-aged patients are more institutionalized and afraid of Ratched than they are focused on becoming functional in the outside world. McMurphy befriends patients Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), a stuttering young man, "Chief" Bromden (Will Sampson), a silent 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) tall Native American, Charles Cheswick (Sydney Lassick), a man disposed to childish fits of temper, Martini (Danny DeVito), who is delusional, and Dale Harding (William Redfield), a high-strung, well-educated patient. Believed by the patients and staff to be a deaf-mute, Chief is mostly ignored but is respected because of his size, at which McMurphy marvels at first sight.

McMurphy baits Nurse Ratched at first merely to amuse himself, but he intensifies his efforts to loosen her control. Rather than have McMurphy transferred, Ratched bides her time and increasingly asserts power. McMurphy gambles with the other patients, acting as dealer and humorously narrating and entertaining them, while draining their petty cash accounts and their allotments of cigarettes. To break the monotony, McMurphy calls for votes on ward policy changes: watching a World Series baseball game on the television on the ward, and a pickup game of basketball against the orderlies. Then he makes a show of betting the other patients that he can lift an old hydrotherapy console — a massive and still-connected marble plumbing fixture — off the floor of the ward, and loses, storming out and delivering the line, "Well, at least I tried." McMurphy then learns that Ratched has the power to keep him involuntarily committed to the ward indefinitely, as the more sympathetic ward psychiatrist, while nominally her supervisor, is a figurehead. He accuses the voluntary patients on the ward of deliberately neglecting to let him know this.

To boost morale on the ward, McMurphy sponsors a deep sea fishing trip, by escaping over the asylum's fence and stealing a school bus. Mac brings along a party girl, Candy (Mews Small). This is the only location in the film outside the hospital. Later, McMurphy, the Chief and patient Charlie Cheswick are detained for fighting with the orderlies. Cheswick undergoes electroconvulsive therapy while McMurphy and Chief wait their turn on a bench. While they wait, McMurphy offers Chief a piece of Juicy Fruit gum, and Bromden comments "Thank you", and a moment later, when McMurphy hands him another stick of gum, Chief says,"Ah, Juicy Fruit". McMurphy is shocked to hear the Chief speak to anyone for the first time in decades, and discovers that Chief shares his distaste of the hospital establishment but stays silent to deflect attention, instead of attracting attention to himself as McMurphy does. The Chief becomes McMurphy's confidant, given their shared experiences with authority. McMurphy devises a plan for the Chief and him to escape, and unsuccessfully tries to persuade him to try to lift the huge plumbing console. After this round of electroshock therapy, McMurphy stiffly walks onto the ward feigning catatonia before humorously animating his face and loudly greeting his fellow patients, assuring everyone that the ECT was unsuccessful as an attempt to subdue him.

One night, McMurphy sneaks into the nurses' station and calls Candy and another lady friend, Rose (Louisa Moritz), and has them bring booze to the hospital. They enter the ward after McMurphy bribes the night watchman, Mr. Turkle (Scatman Crothers). The patients drink while Billy flirts with Candy. McMurphy goads Billy into trying to sleep with Candy, and Billy reluctantly agrees. After Billy and Candy go into a private room, the rest of the patients, including McMurphy and the Chief, who had been planning to escape that night, pass out after a long night of drinking.

When Nurse Ratched arrives the next morning she orders the attendants to lock the window and clean up the patients and conduct a head count. Billy is found undressed with Candy. When Ratched scolds him and asks if he is ashamed of his behavior, Billy announces, without stuttering, that he is not. Nurse Ratched promises to tell his mother what Billy had done. Billy panics and his stutter returns, and after being carried into the doctor's office, he kills himself by slitting his throat. Ratched blames McMurphy. McMurphy, appalled at Nurse Ratched's handling of the situation and her killing whom he viewed as a younger brother, chokes her. Everyone is appalled, but can do nothing but watch. She almost dies, but one of the male nurses knocks Mac away at the last second and she coughs and gasps on the floor.

After some time has passed, the patients in the ward are shown playing cards as before, only this time without McMurphy present. Harding, now dealing, mimics McMurphy's narration of the game. Nurse Ratched, still recovering from the neck injury from McMurphy's attack, is forced to use a microphone in the nurses' station to be heard by her patients.

Later that night, Chief Bromden sees McMurphy being returned to his bed. When the Chief looks closely at McMurphy's unresponsive face, he is horrified to learn that McMurphy received a lobotomy. Unwilling to allow McMurphy to live in such a state, or be seen this way by the other patients, the Chief smothers McMurphy. The Chief carries out McMurphy's escape plan by lifting the hydrotherapy console off the floor of the ward and hurling the massive fixture through a grated window. The Chief is last seen by patient Max Taber (Christopher Lloyd), who immediately starts cheering, which wakes up the confused patients.

Differences between novel and film

The main difference between the two is that the novel is narrated by Chief Bromden, and the reader knows straight away that he is neither mute nor deaf. This was a major source of controversy in developing the screenplay, and eventually the reason why the author, Ken Kesey, was not the final writer. He felt as though the narration of a schizophrenic was an important aspect of the novel, because it produced a hallucinogenic perspective where the reader/viewer is not always sure exactly what is true.


Actor Role
Jack Nicholson Randle Patrick McMurphy
Louise Fletcher Nurse Mildred Ratched
William Redfield Dale Harding
Brad Dourif Billy Bibbit
Sydney Lassick Charlie Cheswick
Will Sampson "Chief" Bromden
Danny DeVito Martini
Christopher Lloyd Max Taber
Dean R. Brooks Dr. John Spivey
William Duell Jim Sefelt
Vincent Schiavelli Frederickson
Nathan George Attendant Washington
Scatman Crothers Orderly Turkle
Mews Small Candy
Louisa Moritz Rose
Mimi Sarkisian Nurse Pilbow
Harry Yates New Night Supt

Kirk Douglas originated the role of McMurphy in a presidential stage production, and then bought the film rights, hoping to play McMurphy on the screen. He passed the production rights to his son, Michael Douglas, who decided his father was too old for the role. Kirk was reportedly angry at his son for a time afterward because of this. Actor James Caan was originally offered the McMurphy role, and Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were considered as well. According to the director on the latest Special Edition DVD, he wanted Burt Reynolds to play the lead.

The role of domineering Nurse Ratched was turned down by Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine and Angela Lansbury, until Louise Fletcher accepted casting only a week before filming began.

The film marked the credited film debuts of Sampson, Dourif and Lloyd. It was one of the first films for DeVito. DeVito and Lloyd co-starred several years later on the television series Taxi.

Title interpretation

The title is derived from an American children's folk rhyme.[2]

"Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest."

It loses a bit of the significance it has in the novel, where it is part of a rhyme Chief Bromden remembers from his childhood. This detail was not included in the film, but the line retains its relevance since the story ends with two patients dead from different causes and one who escapes from the hospital. It is worth noting that the cuckoo in folklore parlance is implied as having no nest, given its custom of laying its eggs in other birds' nests.


The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert (who won a Pulitzer Prize later that year) claimed that "Miloš Forman's 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is a film so good in so many of its parts that there's a temptation to forgive it when it goes wrong. But it does go wrong, insisting on making larger points than its story really should carry, so that at the end, the human qualities of the characters get lost in the significance of it all. And yet there are those moments of brilliance".[3] Ebert would later put the film on his "Great Movies" list.[4] A.D. Murphy of Variety wrote a mixed review as well.[5] The film went on to win a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (who played McMurphy), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (who played Nurse Ratched), Best Direction for Miloš Forman, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman. The film currently has a 96% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

The film is considered to be one of the greatest American films. Kesey himself claimed to have disliked the movie, a fact revealed by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk in the foreword of the 2007 edition, "The first time I heard this story, it was through the movie starring Jack Nicholson. A movie that Kesey once told me he disliked".[7]

In 1993, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.

The film was shown in Swedish cinemas between 1975 and 1987 — twelve years, which is still a record. When Miloš Forman learned that, he said, "I'm absolutely thrilled by that... It's wonderful."

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won all of the "Big Five" Academy Awards at the 48th Oscar ceremony

It was nominated for an additional four

Golden Globes

The film won all nominated six awards:

BAFTA Awards

The film won 6 BAFTAs

It was nominated for


American Film Institute recognition

See also


  1. ^ Chew was listed as "supervising editor" in the film's credits, but was included in the nomination for an editing Academy Award.
  2. ^ "What children's song is also known as "William Trimmytoes"?". 
  3. ^ - Roger Ebert review, Chicago Sun-Times, January 1, 1975
  4. ^ - Roger Ebert review, Chicago Sun-Times, February 2, 2003.
  5. ^ - A.D. Murphy, Variety, November 7, 1975
  6. ^
  7. ^ Foreword of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Copyright 2007 by Chuck Palahniuk. Available in the 2007 Edition published by Penguin Books

External links

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The Godfather Part II
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
BAFTA Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
Annie Hall
Preceded by
Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama
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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is 1975 film about R.P. McMurphy, a petty criminal who has been sentenced to a relatively short prison term but has been transferred to a mental institution. Upon his arrival, he rallies the patients to take on the oppressive Nurse Mildred Ratched. The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, Screenplay) since 1934.

Directed by Milos Forman. Written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey.
If he's crazy, what does that make you?


R.P. McMurphy

  • She was fifteen years old, going on thirty-five, Doc, and she told me she was eighteen. She was very willing, if ya know what I mean. I practically had to take to sewing my pants shut. Between you and me, uh, she might have been fifteen, but when you get that little red beaver right up there in front of you, I don't think it's crazy at all and I don't think you do either. No man alive could resist that, and that's why I got into jail to begin with. And now they're telling me I'm crazy over here because I don't sit there like a goddamn vegetable. Don't make a bit of sense to me. If that's what's being crazy is, then I'm senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that's it.
  • [to Billy] You're just a young kid. What are you doin' here? You oughta be out in a convertible, why... bird-doggin' chicks and bangin' beaver. What are ya doin' here, for Christ's sake? What's funny about that? Jesus, I mean, you guys do nothin' but complain about how you can't stand it in this place here and then you haven't got the guts just to walk out!
  • They, uh, was givin' me ten thousand watts a day, you know, and I'm hot to trot. The next woman who takes me out is gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars.
  • Jesus, I must be crazy to be in a loony-bin like this.

Nurse Ratched

  • If Mr. McMurphy doesn't want to take his medication orally, I'm sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way.


  • Chief Bromden: Mac, they said you escaped. I knew you wouldn't leave without me. I was waiting for you. Now we can make it, Mac. I feel big as a damn mountain. [he sees the lobotomy scars] Oh, no. [suffocating McMurphy] I'm not goin' without you, Mac. I wouldn't leave you this way. You're coming with me. [laying him down] Let's go.


Dr. Spivey: It said you've been belligerent, talked when unauthorized, been resentful in attitude toward work. In general, that you're lazy.
McMurphy: Chewing gum in class. Ha-ha.
Dr. Spivey: Well, the real reason that you've been sent over here is because they wanted you to be evaluated to determine whether or not you are mentally ill. This is the real reason.
McMurphy: Well, as near as I can figure out, it's 'cause I, uh, fight and fuck too much.
Dr. Spivey: In prison?
McMurphy: No, no!
Dr. Spivey: Well, you've had five prior arrests for assault.
McMurphy: Five fights, huh? Rocky Marciano's got forty and he's a millionaire.

Dr. Spivey: The funny thing is that the person that he's the closest to is the one he dislikes the most... That's you, Mildred.
Nurse Ratched: Well gentlemen, my opinion, if we send him back to Pendleton or we send him up to Disturbed, it's just one more way of passing on our problems to somebody else. You know, we don't like to do that. So I'd like to keep him on the ward. I think we can help him.

McMurphy: What do you think you are, for Christ's sake, crazy or something? Well, you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walking around on the streets, and that's it!
Nurse Ratched: Those are very challenging observations you made, Randall.

Chief Bromden: My pop was real big. He did like he pleased. That's why everybody worked on him. The last time I seen my father, he was blind and diseased from drinking. And every time he put the bottle to his mouth, he don't suck out of it, it sucks out of him until he shrunk so wrinkled and yellow even the dogs didn't know him.
McMurphy: Killed him, huh?
Chief Bromden: I'm not saying they killed him. They just worked on him. The way they're working on you.

[Billy is discovered in bed with Candy.]
Nurse Ratched: Aren't you ashamed?
Billy: No, I'm not. [the other patients applaud]
Nurse Ratched: You know, Billy, what worries me is how your mother's going to take this.
Billy: Um, um, well, y-y-y-you d-d-d-don't have to t-t-t-tell her, Miss Ratched.
Nurse Ratched: I don't have to tell her? Your mother and I are old friends. You know that.
Billy: P-p-p-please d-d-don't tell my m-m-m-mother.


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