#7 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Jack Nicholson’s breakout role was as mental institution inmate R.P. McMurphy in Milos Forman’s classic 1975 film (based on the book by Ken Kesey). McMurphy, with the help of the Chief (Will Sampson) overcame the terrifying Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and taught the oppressed patients how to stand up for themselves.
Tragically, his victory doesn’t last long. After the suicide of a particularly fragile inmate, McMurphy goes off the rails and, despite being perfectly sane by modern standards, is lobotomised. He is left a shell of his former self until the Chief, in an act of kindness, smothers him with a pillow (allowing him to “escape”) before breaking out of the institution. Is this movie uplifting, and does it ultimately convey a message about freedom? Yes. Is it cheerful? No.