Milos Forman Remembered: A Rebel in His Time, and for the Future

Milos Forman, who died on April 14 at the age of 86, has left behind some of the most sharply observed portraits of human behavior in cinema.

When I think of Forman’s work, my mind doesn’t necessarily go first to his two Oscar-winning juggernauts — “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) or “Amadeus” (1984) — or the Czech films that garnered him worldwide acclaim in the 1960s, such as “Loves of a Blonde” (1965) or “The Firemen’s Ball” (1967). Rather, I think of the opening scene from his lesser-known comedy, “Taking Off” (1971): a series of static shots of young women, one after the other, performing songs for an off-screen producer.

Most of the women are earnest and serious; some seem awkward or shy, dressed in contemporary hippy-ish clothes; their hair is often long and frizzy. Some of these audition singers include Carly Simon, Kathy Bates (credited as Bobo Bates) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Jessica Harper. What is remarkable about these relatively straightforward snippets is that Forman isn’t nudging the audience for what to make of these young people, or their songs. He’s not telling the audience how to react; he’s simply presenting these young people as they are.

Also Read: Milos Forman, ‘Amadeus’ and ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ Director, Dies at 86

The first 5-10 minutes of this film paints a picture of these flower children of the Woodstock era that feels authentic, admiring and compassionate. And kind. It’s a quality in Forman’s cinema I can see throughout his career.

Forman sprang forth from the extraordinary group of filmmakers known as the Czech New Wave, most of whom were trained at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (including Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš, Ján Kadár, Jan Němec and Ivan Passer), and, like his cinematic compatriots, Forman’s early films are often political in nature, portraying figures of authority as inept and corrupt. In “The Firemen’s Ball,” the volunteer fire department in a small town decides to organize a ball in honor of their recently retired chairman.

Also Read: Milos Forman Hailed as ‘Champion of Artists’ Rights’ by Directors Guild of America

At the event, the firefighters’ committee decide to host a beauty contest and proceed to procure some of the unsuspecting young women to pose for them. The women appear hesitant, guarded, and a few are even somewhat amused by the ramshackle way they are being put on display by these old men. (Most of the actors were local to the area of Vrchlabí, where it was filmed.) The spunkiest of the young women seems to have an awareness of how ridiculous and sexist this is. She laughs and then runs off halfway through her walk for the judges, triggering a mass exodus by the other contestants, and the scene ends in comedic chaos.

Clearly, the characters who buck the system, like the young woman in “The Firemen’s Ball,” are what hold director’s greatest interest. Forman is fixed on the idea of the outsider as being the true hero of his work: Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy, Treat Williams’ George Berger, Howard E. Rollins’ Coalhouse Walker Jr., Tom Hulce’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Woody Harrelson’s Larry Flynt and Jim Carrey’s Andy Kaufman are all individuals that won’t fit into society’s prescribed mold for them.

Also Read: Milos Forman Remembered by Larry Flynt, Judd Apatow and More: ‘Genius of Cinematography’

Forman’s rebels, though clearly stemming from his Czech roots, found fertile ground in America. His two most critically and financially successful films, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (adapted by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman from Ken Kesey’s novel) and “Amadeus” (Peter Shaffer adapting his own stage play), both impeccably produced by Saul Zaentz, together garnered 13 Oscars total, including two for Forman for directing.

At his best, Forman’s greatest work (I would include the woefully underrated musical adaptation of “Hair”) shows both compassion for his characters and wry humor in the predicaments in which these characters find themselves. His work with actors is exemplary, and his filmography is flooded with memorable performances and ensemble work: from Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in “Cuckoo’s Nest” to Rollins, Elizabeth McGovern and James Cagney in “Ragtime” (1981), F. Murray Abraham and Hulce in “Amadeus,” Harrelson and Courtney Love in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996), and back to Hana Brejchová in “Loves of a Blonde” and Lynn Carlin, Buck Henry, Georgia Engel and Audra Lindley in “Taking Off,” to name a few.

Cinematically, I’m just so impressed with the way he and his cinematographers captured these actors’ faces and performances. This is filmmaking that is not trying to impress you with flashy editing and swirling cameras (though the camerawork in the opening “Aquarius” number in “Hair,” accompanied by Twyla Tharp’s wonderful choreography, is a wonderful exception), it’s focused on its characters and story.

Possibly because of his lack of flash and cutting-edge technique, there is a danger that Forman’s work may not be immediately appreciated by younger filmmakers — though in this current era where young people are rising up to stand for their beliefs to their schools, their City Halls, and the world at large, Forman’s filmography is ripe for rediscovery by a new generation of rebels.

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Milos Forman, who died on April 14 at the age of 86, has left behind some of the most sharply observed portraits of human behavior in cinema.

When I think of Forman’s work, my mind doesn’t necessarily go first to his two Oscar-winning juggernauts — “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) or “Amadeus” (1984) — or the Czech films that garnered him worldwide acclaim in the 1960s, such as “Loves of a Blonde” (1965) or “The Firemen’s Ball” (1967). Rather, I think of the opening scene from his lesser-known comedy, “Taking Off” (1971): a series of static shots of young women, one after the other, performing songs for an off-screen producer.

Most of the women are earnest and serious; some seem awkward or shy, dressed in contemporary hippy-ish clothes; their hair is often long and frizzy. Some of these audition singers include Carly Simon, Kathy Bates (credited as Bobo Bates) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Jessica Harper. What is remarkable about these relatively straightforward snippets is that Forman isn’t nudging the audience for what to make of these young people, or their songs. He’s not telling the audience how to react; he’s simply presenting these young people as they are.

The first 5-10 minutes of this film paints a picture of these flower children of the Woodstock era that feels authentic, admiring and compassionate. And kind. It’s a quality in Forman’s cinema I can see throughout his career.

Forman sprang forth from the extraordinary group of filmmakers known as the Czech New Wave, most of whom were trained at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (including Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš, Ján Kadár, Jan Němec and Ivan Passer), and, like his cinematic compatriots, Forman’s early films are often political in nature, portraying figures of authority as inept and corrupt. In “The Firemen’s Ball,” the volunteer fire department in a small town decides to organize a ball in honor of their recently retired chairman.

At the event, the firefighters’ committee decide to host a beauty contest and proceed to procure some of the unsuspecting young women to pose for them. The women appear hesitant, guarded, and a few are even somewhat amused by the ramshackle way they are being put on display by these old men. (Most of the actors were local to the area of Vrchlabí, where it was filmed.) The spunkiest of the young women seems to have an awareness of how ridiculous and sexist this is. She laughs and then runs off halfway through her walk for the judges, triggering a mass exodus by the other contestants, and the scene ends in comedic chaos.

Clearly, the characters who buck the system, like the young woman in “The Firemen’s Ball,” are what hold director’s greatest interest. Forman is fixed on the idea of the outsider as being the true hero of his work: Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy, Treat Williams’ George Berger, Howard E. Rollins’ Coalhouse Walker Jr., Tom Hulce’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Woody Harrelson’s Larry Flynt and Jim Carrey’s Andy Kaufman are all individuals that won’t fit into society’s prescribed mold for them.

Forman’s rebels, though clearly stemming from his Czech roots, found fertile ground in America. His two most critically and financially successful films, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (adapted by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman from Ken Kesey’s novel) and “Amadeus” (Peter Shaffer adapting his own stage play), both impeccably produced by Saul Zaentz, together garnered 13 Oscars total, including two for Forman for directing.

At his best, Forman’s greatest work (I would include the woefully underrated musical adaptation of “Hair”) shows both compassion for his characters and wry humor in the predicaments in which these characters find themselves. His work with actors is exemplary, and his filmography is flooded with memorable performances and ensemble work: from Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in “Cuckoo’s Nest” to Rollins, Elizabeth McGovern and James Cagney in “Ragtime” (1981), F. Murray Abraham and Hulce in “Amadeus,” Harrelson and Courtney Love in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996), and back to Hana Brejchová in “Loves of a Blonde” and Lynn Carlin, Buck Henry, Georgia Engel and Audra Lindley in “Taking Off,” to name a few.

Cinematically, I’m just so impressed with the way he and his cinematographers captured these actors’ faces and performances. This is filmmaking that is not trying to impress you with flashy editing and swirling cameras (though the camerawork in the opening “Aquarius” number in “Hair,” accompanied by Twyla Tharp’s wonderful choreography, is a wonderful exception), it’s focused on its characters and story.

Possibly because of his lack of flash and cutting-edge technique, there is a danger that Forman’s work may not be immediately appreciated by younger filmmakers — though in this current era where young people are rising up to stand for their beliefs to their schools, their City Halls, and the world at large, Forman’s filmography is ripe for rediscovery by a new generation of rebels.

Related stories from TheWrap:

R Lee Ermey, 'Full Metal Jacket' Actor, Dies at 74

Mitzi Shore, Comedy Store Founder and Owner, Dies at 87

Animator Isao Takahata, Co-Founder of Studio Ghibli, Dies at 82

Susan Anspach, 'Five Easy Pieces' Actress, Dies at 75

Miloš Forman, Oscar-Winning Director of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Dies at 86

He also directed “Amadeus,” “Man on the Moon,” and several others.

Miloš Forman, who rose to prominence as a key figure in the Czech New Wave before establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after directors, has died at 86. A two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director, the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus” helmer also won three Golden Globes, the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prize of the Jury (for “Taking Off”), the Golden Bear at Berlin (“The People vs. Larry Flynt”), a BAFTA award, and numerous other accolades.

He died last night in Warren, Connecticut following a short illness.

“Miloš was truly one of ours. A filmmaker, artist, and champion of artists’ rights,” Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme said in a statement. “His contribution to the craft of directing has been an undeniable source of inspiration for generations of filmmakers. His directorial vision deftly brought together provocative subject matter, stellar performances and haunting images to tell the stories of the universal struggle for free expression and self-determination that informed so much of his work and his life.”

Born Jan Tomáš Forman on February 18, 1932 in Čáslav, Czechoslovakia, Forman began his career in his native country before moving to the United States following the Prague Spring in 1968. He became a naturalized American citizen nine years later. His two most acclaimed films from that early period, “Loves of a Blonde” (1965) and “The Firemen’s Ball” (1967), were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Forman made his English-language debut with 1971’s “Taking Off,” and from there directed such films as “Hair,” “Ragtime,” and “Man on the Moon.” His final work as director was 2006’s “Goya’s Ghosts.”

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of only three films to win what are considered the five most important Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay (adapted, in this case); the other two are “It Happened One Night” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Forman is survived by his wife, Martina Zborilova-Forman, and four children. Two of them, twin sons named Jim and Andy, are named after Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman; Forman directed Carrey in “Man on the Moon,” a biopic about Kaufman.

Update: Carrey has tweeted a tribute to Forman:

Milos Forman, Oscar-Winning Director of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Dies at 86

Czech-born director Milos Forman, who won best directing Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” has died. He was 86. Forman died Friday in the U.S. after a brief illness, Reuters reported, quoting the director’s wife, Martina, as telling the Czech news agency CTK that “his departure was calm, and he was […]

Czech-born director Milos Forman, who won best directing Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” has died. He was 86. Forman died Friday in the U.S. after a brief illness, Reuters reported, quoting the director’s wife, Martina, as telling the Czech news agency CTK that “his departure was calm, and he was […]

Ryan Murphy’s Nurse Ratched Series With Sarah Paulson Lands at Netflix

Ryan Murphy’s “Ratched” series starring Sarah Paulson has landed a two-season, 18-episode order at Netflix.

The story is set in the 1940s and centers on the professional beginnings for a young version of the villainous Nurse Ratched, who originated in the 1962 Ken Kesey novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Michael Douglas and Murphy are executive producers on the prequel project that has a script from newcomer Evan Romansky.

Also Read: Why ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Is the Show’s Best Season Since ‘Murder House’

Douglas was a producer of the classic 1975 Milos Forman-directed film of the same name that earned five Oscars, including one for Louise Fletcher as the heartless nurse.

This series comes from Fox 21 Television Studios, where Murphy has an overall deal.

Also Read: Ryan Murphy on Criticism of FX’s ‘Versace’ From Gianni Versace’s Boyfriend: ‘See the Show, Then Comment’

“Ratched” continues a long professional relationship for Murphy and Paulson that includes “American Horror Story: Cult,” which is currently airing on FX. Paulson earned an Emmy for playing Marcia Clark in Murphy’s “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and will appear in the anthology series’ upcoming installment “Katrina.”

Ryan Murphy’s “Ratched” series starring Sarah Paulson has landed a two-season, 18-episode order at Netflix.

The story is set in the 1940s and centers on the professional beginnings for a young version of the villainous Nurse Ratched, who originated in the 1962 Ken Kesey novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Michael Douglas and Murphy are executive producers on the prequel project that has a script from newcomer Evan Romansky.

Douglas was a producer of the classic 1975 Milos Forman-directed film of the same name that earned five Oscars, including one for Louise Fletcher as the heartless nurse.

This series comes from Fox 21 Television Studios, where Murphy has an overall deal.

“Ratched” continues a long professional relationship for Murphy and Paulson that includes “American Horror Story: Cult,” which is currently airing on FX. Paulson earned an Emmy for playing Marcia Clark in Murphy’s “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and will appear in the anthology series’ upcoming installment “Katrina.”

Ryan Murphy’s Nurse Ratched Origin Series Starring Sarah Paulson Scores Big Netflix Order With Michael Douglas As EP

EXCLUSIVE: In very competitive situation, Netflix has landed Ratched, a marquee new drama series from Ryan Murphy, with Sarah Paulson set to star as a younger version of the diabolical Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the film’s producer Michael Douglas set to executive produce alongside Murphy. In one of the biggest deals of the year, which I hear followed a bidding war among Netflix, Hulu and Apple, Ratched scored a two-season, 18-episode…

EXCLUSIVE: In very competitive situation, Netflix has landed Ratched, a marquee new drama series from Ryan Murphy, with Sarah Paulson set to star as a younger version of the diabolical Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the film’s producer Michael Douglas set to executive produce alongside Murphy. In one of the biggest deals of the year, which I hear followed a bidding war among Netflix, Hulu and Apple, Ratched scored a two-season, 18-episode…

Jack Nicholson Turns 80: All of His Major Roles, Ranked (Photos)

Jack Nicholson has had a long career playing brooding rebels, crazed villains and sneering charmers on screen. Soon he’ll star opposite Kristen Wiig in a remake of “Toni Erdmann.” He’s a fixture of American cinema and the Lakers courtside seating. For his 80th birthday, we aimed to rank all of Jack’s major, already iconic roles, from worst to best.

“Man Trouble” (1992)

“Man Trouble” is a ridiculous screwball crime comedy in which Nicholson and Ellen Barkin get upstaged by horny dogs. It seems impossible the same guy who did “Five Easy Pieces” made this.

“A Safe Place” (1971)

This bizarre, formless ’70s relic based on a play stars Tuesday Weld and Orson Welles opposite Nicholson about a girl living a fantasy in which she never grows up.

“The Terror” (1963)

Nicholson gives a stiff performance in this Roger Corman picture opposite Boris Karloff, but he gets to kiss a woman who transforms into a corpse.

“The Bucket List” (2007)

Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are purely saccharine in this cornball comedy about two cancer patients trying to live out their dying wishes.

“How Do You Know” (2010)

Nicholson’s most recent role as a business tycoon and one of many collaborations with James L. Brooks might be the most memorable thing about this rom-com.

“Heartburn” (1986)

Nora Ephron based this story about a cheating husband on her own marriage, but while Nicholson and Streep have fleeting moments of chemistry, his character is too sleazy to suggest meaningful romance.

“Blood and Wine” (1996)

Despite re-teaming with Bob Rafelson and having Michael Caine as his co-star, Nicholson couldn’t save this generic heist thriller.

“The Cry-Baby Killer” (1958)

Nicholson’s first ever movie was a sensationalized B-movie about how new music is making kids run wild on killing sprees.

“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1970)

Nicholson has only a minor role in this lavish, fantastical film from Vincente Minnelli starring Barbra Streisand, and he looks wildly out of place. His sweet duet with Streisand was ultimately cut from the final film.

“Anger Management” (2003)

Adam Sandler plays the rare straight man to a comedic performance that’s Nicholson without any of the nuance: a lot of shouting, grinning and even a bit of singing.

“The Two Jakes” (1990)

Nicholson directed himself in this sequel (that no one asked for) to “Chinatown” where he reprised his role as J.J. Gittes.

“Hoffa” (1992)

Not only is Danny DeVito’s “Hoffa” essentially fiction, Nicholson’s portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa is loud, cold-blooded and foul-mouthed (it is a David Mamet script) with an unnecessarily thick accent.

“The Shooting” (1966)

Nicholson made two existential Westerns both released on TV in 1966. In this film, he’s a quick-draw hired gun helping a woman with a revenge scheme.

“Ride in the Whirlwind” (1966)

Like “The Shooting,” “Ride in the Whirlwind” is an unusual, bitter and morally ambiguous Western, and Nicholson’s still green.

“Flight to Fury” (1964)

Nicholson co-wrote the screenplay for this adventure film shot in the Philippines, and his meaty villain role was enough to get him noticed.

“Hells Angels on Wheels” (1967)

Nicholson was a star ready to pop in his last B-film before “Easy Rider.” He snaps at a customer and fully embodies the rebellious spirit he carried throughout the ’70s.

“Tommy” (1975)

Nicholson plays “The Specialist” in The Who’s rock opera, singing “Go to the Mirror” and shooting seductive glances at Tommy’s mom.

“The Fortune” (1975)

We don’t often get to see Nicholson playing a bumbling dimwit, so that’s one reason to watch him play off Warren Beatty in Mike Nichols‘s farce, which some consider a cult classic.

“Wolf” (1994)

Mike Nichols and Nicholson take the idea of a man turning into a werewolf quite seriously. While Nicholson gives a fairly carnal performance full of snarling, it’s not all ridiculous.

“Mars Attacks!” (1996)

If you love or hate Tim Burton’s campy cult film, part of its charm is Nicholson’s bellowing “Shut up” at his general or pleading with the new alien overlords.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1981)

Nicholson goes hard-boiled in this steamy remake of a classic noir novel and film. He has a torrid love affair with Jessica Lange, but the original holds up better.

“The Last Tycoon” (1976)

Nicholson squares off against De Niro in a tense take on F. Scott Fitzgerald as directed by Elia Kazan, but neither actor gets fully unhinged.

“Goin’ South” (1978)

Nicholson directed this Western-comedy in which he gets hitched as a way of escaping the gallows. But his performance is memorable only because it’s opposite the first film roles of John Belushi and Mary Steenburgen.

“The Crossing Guard” (1995)

This Nicholson performance gets histrionic and melodramatic quick as he raves to his wife (Angelica Huston) that he’ll seek vengeance on a drunk driver who killed his daughter.

“The Wild Ride” (1960)

Nicholson does a great James Dean impression as the lead in this black and white, low budget B-movie, just his second film. He plays a slick, laid back, too-cool-for-school street racer who lets his ego get the better of him.

“The Missouri Breaks” (1976)

It’s odd that a movie where Nicholson stars opposite arguably an even greater screen legend in Marlon Brando isn’t more widely remembered. Arthur Penn’s Western is curious thanks to its two eccentric, unusual leads.

“The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960)

Nicholson’s brief appearance as a pain-obsessed dental patient finds him at his most giddy, and it’s a highlight of this cult horror classic before Bill Murray took a stab at the character.

“Something’s Gotta Give” (2003)

Nancy Meyers and Diane Keaton collectively bring out Nicholson’s awkward charm as an aging playboy learning to fall in love with someone his own age.

“The Witches of Eastwick” (1987)

Director George Miller molded Jack into his most lascivious, crude and manipulative version of himself for this peculiar blend of fantasy and comedy, successfully seducing Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher.

“Broadcast News” (1987)

While his cameo was essentially just a favor to James L. Brooks, Nicholson has a scene-stealing moment as an executive threatening layoffs.

“Reds” (1981)

Nicholson and Diane Keaton are sharp, intellectual equals with a strong romantic chemistry in Warren Beatty‘s epic about an American journalist in Communist Russia.

“Ironweed” (1987)

Meryl Streep and Nicholson star in this weepy, Oscar-bait period piece as two hard-on-their-luck bums in Albany. At times his ragged, old-fashioned look makes him almost unrecognizable.

“The Passenger” (1975)

Nicholson goes existential working with Michelangelo Antonioni for this drama of ennui and despair. It’s an underrated project for both star and director.

“The Border” (1982)

“The Border” stars Nicholson as a corrupt border patrol agent who likewise has to deal with his own moral divide, a performance that recalls his work in “Chinatown.”

“Carnal Knowledge” (1971)

Nicholson anchors Mike Nichols‘s character study of sexual mores along with Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret and Candice Bergen, delivering an intense, serious, dramatic performance culminating in one powerful bedroom rant.

“The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972)

Bob Rafaelson perhaps was first to cast Nicholson against type, introverted, bookish, reserved and depressive as a radio broadcaster trading in tragedy, but he’s still brilliant.

“The Pledge” (2001)

In this underrated pairing with director Sean Penn, Nicholson plays a retiring police chief coping as much with his own despair and anxiety as finding a missing girl.

“Prizzi’s Honor” (1985)

For “Prizzi’s Honor,” Nicholson donned a thick Brooklyn accent that netted him an Oscar nod opposite Angelica Huston in John Huston’s mobster satire.

“The Last Detail” (1973)

Hal Ashby’s “The Last Detail” is Nicholson at his saltiest, playing a sailor unabashedly breaking rank in order to give a convicted young private some last moments of glory.

“As Good as It Gets” (1997)

Nicholson won his third Oscar walking a nuanced, fine line for his portrayal of a misanthropic, unlikable and obsessive compulsive author in James L. Brooks‘s rom-com.

“About Schmidt” (2002)

Director Alexander Payne brought out Nicholson’s age and vulnerability for this road trip comedy. He has a gut-wrenching moment as he tears up in the film’s closing moments.

“Terms of Endearment” (1983)

Nicholson manages to romance Shirley MacLaine even while shooting off some of his best, most insulting and hilarious barbs. “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes!”

“Batman” (1989)

Before Heath Ledger, Nicholson’s Joker was eloquent, surreal, colorful and the perfect foil to Michael Keaton’s Batman.

“A Few Good Men” (1992)

“You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s few scenes in this courtroom drama show him at his most domineering, barking an incredible monologue at Tom Cruise along with one of the most famous movie quotes.

“Easy Rider” (1969)

Nicholson’s brief stint in “Easy Rider” was enough to make him a star. His paranoid energy as he chugs whiskey and lays truth bombs about freedom is captivating.

“The Departed” (2006)

It’s amazing Jack didn’t work with Scorsese sooner. His coked-out Frank Costello is over the top menacing in the best way.

“Chinatown” (1974)

Nicholson’s J.J. Gittes is in every scene of Roman Polanski’s esoteric neo-noir, and he exudes as much sleaze and charm even though he’s got a broken nose through half of it.

“Five Easy Pieces” (1970)

Nicholson’s best anti-hero role finds him trying to escape his silver-spoon upbringing and coming up lost. Watch it for his scathing, sarcastic takedown of an uptight waitress.

“The Shining” (1980)

“The Shining” is Jack at peak crazy, bug eyed, limping and unpredictably erratic. His leering grin as he says “Here’s Johnny” is an indelible image.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

Nicholson rolled his rebellious spirit as bikers and drifters throughout his career into this sobering look at mental illness for the role that would win him his first Oscar.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Jack Nicholson, Kristen Wiig to Star in ‘Toni Erdmann’ Remake

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Jack Nicholson Leaves Young Fan Hanging at Clippers Game (Video)

Jack Nicholson has had a long career playing brooding rebels, crazed villains and sneering charmers on screen. Soon he’ll star opposite Kristen Wiig in a remake of “Toni Erdmann.” He’s a fixture of American cinema and the Lakers courtside seating. For his 80th birthday, we aimed to rank all of Jack’s major, already iconic roles, from worst to best.

“Man Trouble” (1992)

“Man Trouble” is a ridiculous screwball crime comedy in which Nicholson and Ellen Barkin get upstaged by horny dogs. It seems impossible the same guy who did “Five Easy Pieces” made this.

“A Safe Place” (1971)

This bizarre, formless ’70s relic based on a play stars Tuesday Weld and Orson Welles opposite Nicholson about a girl living a fantasy in which she never grows up.

“The Terror” (1963)

Nicholson gives a stiff performance in this Roger Corman picture opposite Boris Karloff, but he gets to kiss a woman who transforms into a corpse.

“The Bucket List” (2007)

Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are purely saccharine in this cornball comedy about two cancer patients trying to live out their dying wishes.

“How Do You Know” (2010)

Nicholson’s most recent role as a business tycoon and one of many collaborations with James L. Brooks might be the most memorable thing about this rom-com.

“Heartburn” (1986)

Nora Ephron based this story about a cheating husband on her own marriage, but while Nicholson and Streep have fleeting moments of chemistry, his character is too sleazy to suggest meaningful romance.

“Blood and Wine” (1996)

Despite re-teaming with Bob Rafelson and having Michael Caine as his co-star, Nicholson couldn’t save this generic heist thriller.

“The Cry-Baby Killer” (1958)

Nicholson’s first ever movie was a sensationalized B-movie about how new music is making kids run wild on killing sprees.

“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1970)

Nicholson has only a minor role in this lavish, fantastical film from Vincente Minnelli starring Barbra Streisand, and he looks wildly out of place. His sweet duet with Streisand was ultimately cut from the final film.

“Anger Management” (2003)

Adam Sandler plays the rare straight man to a comedic performance that’s Nicholson without any of the nuance: a lot of shouting, grinning and even a bit of singing.

“The Two Jakes” (1990)

Nicholson directed himself in this sequel (that no one asked for) to “Chinatown” where he reprised his role as J.J. Gittes.

“Hoffa” (1992)

Not only is Danny DeVito’s “Hoffa” essentially fiction, Nicholson’s portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa is loud, cold-blooded and foul-mouthed (it is a David Mamet script) with an unnecessarily thick accent.

“The Shooting” (1966)

Nicholson made two existential Westerns both released on TV in 1966. In this film, he’s a quick-draw hired gun helping a woman with a revenge scheme.

“Ride in the Whirlwind” (1966)

Like “The Shooting,” “Ride in the Whirlwind” is an unusual, bitter and morally ambiguous Western, and Nicholson’s still green.

“Flight to Fury” (1964)

Nicholson co-wrote the screenplay for this adventure film shot in the Philippines, and his meaty villain role was enough to get him noticed.

“Hells Angels on Wheels” (1967)

Nicholson was a star ready to pop in his last B-film before “Easy Rider.” He snaps at a customer and fully embodies the rebellious spirit he carried throughout the ’70s.

“Tommy” (1975)

Nicholson plays “The Specialist” in The Who’s rock opera, singing “Go to the Mirror” and shooting seductive glances at Tommy’s mom.

“The Fortune” (1975)

We don’t often get to see Nicholson playing a bumbling dimwit, so that’s one reason to watch him play off Warren Beatty in Mike Nichols‘s farce, which some consider a cult classic.

“Wolf” (1994)

Mike Nichols and Nicholson take the idea of a man turning into a werewolf quite seriously. While Nicholson gives a fairly carnal performance full of snarling, it’s not all ridiculous.

“Mars Attacks!” (1996)

If you love or hate Tim Burton’s campy cult film, part of its charm is Nicholson’s bellowing “Shut up” at his general or pleading with the new alien overlords.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1981)

Nicholson goes hard-boiled in this steamy remake of a classic noir novel and film. He has a torrid love affair with Jessica Lange, but the original holds up better.

“The Last Tycoon” (1976)

Nicholson squares off against De Niro in a tense take on F. Scott Fitzgerald as directed by Elia Kazan, but neither actor gets fully unhinged.

“Goin’ South” (1978)

Nicholson directed this Western-comedy in which he gets hitched as a way of escaping the gallows. But his performance is memorable only because it’s opposite the first film roles of John Belushi and Mary Steenburgen.

“The Crossing Guard” (1995)

This Nicholson performance gets histrionic and melodramatic quick as he raves to his wife (Angelica Huston) that he’ll seek vengeance on a drunk driver who killed his daughter.

“The Wild Ride” (1960)

Nicholson does a great James Dean impression as the lead in this black and white, low budget B-movie, just his second film. He plays a slick, laid back, too-cool-for-school street racer who lets his ego get the better of him.

“The Missouri Breaks” (1976)

It’s odd that a movie where Nicholson stars opposite arguably an even greater screen legend in Marlon Brando isn’t more widely remembered. Arthur Penn’s Western is curious thanks to its two eccentric, unusual leads.

“The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960)

Nicholson’s brief appearance as a pain-obsessed dental patient finds him at his most giddy, and it’s a highlight of this cult horror classic before Bill Murray took a stab at the character.

“Something’s Gotta Give” (2003)

Nancy Meyers and Diane Keaton collectively bring out Nicholson’s awkward charm as an aging playboy learning to fall in love with someone his own age.

“The Witches of Eastwick” (1987)

Director George Miller molded Jack into his most lascivious, crude and manipulative version of himself for this peculiar blend of fantasy and comedy, successfully seducing Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher.

“Broadcast News” (1987)

While his cameo was essentially just a favor to James L. Brooks, Nicholson has a scene-stealing moment as an executive threatening layoffs.

“Reds” (1981)

Nicholson and Diane Keaton are sharp, intellectual equals with a strong romantic chemistry in Warren Beatty‘s epic about an American journalist in Communist Russia.

“Ironweed” (1987)

Meryl Streep and Nicholson star in this weepy, Oscar-bait period piece as two hard-on-their-luck bums in Albany. At times his ragged, old-fashioned look makes him almost unrecognizable.

“The Passenger” (1975)

Nicholson goes existential working with Michelangelo Antonioni for this drama of ennui and despair. It’s an underrated project for both star and director.

“The Border” (1982)

“The Border” stars Nicholson as a corrupt border patrol agent who likewise has to deal with his own moral divide, a performance that recalls his work in “Chinatown.”

“Carnal Knowledge” (1971)

Nicholson anchors Mike Nichols‘s character study of sexual mores along with Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret and Candice Bergen, delivering an intense, serious, dramatic performance culminating in one powerful bedroom rant.

“The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972)

Bob Rafaelson perhaps was first to cast Nicholson against type, introverted, bookish, reserved and depressive as a radio broadcaster trading in tragedy, but he’s still brilliant.

“The Pledge” (2001)

In this underrated pairing with director Sean Penn, Nicholson plays a retiring police chief coping as much with his own despair and anxiety as finding a missing girl.

“Prizzi’s Honor” (1985)

For “Prizzi’s Honor,” Nicholson donned a thick Brooklyn accent that netted him an Oscar nod opposite Angelica Huston in John Huston’s mobster satire.

“The Last Detail” (1973)

Hal Ashby’s “The Last Detail” is Nicholson at his saltiest, playing a sailor unabashedly breaking rank in order to give a convicted young private some last moments of glory.

“As Good as It Gets” (1997)

Nicholson won his third Oscar walking a nuanced, fine line for his portrayal of a misanthropic, unlikable and obsessive compulsive author in James L. Brooks‘s rom-com.

“About Schmidt” (2002)

Director Alexander Payne brought out Nicholson’s age and vulnerability for this road trip comedy. He has a gut-wrenching moment as he tears up in the film’s closing moments.

“Terms of Endearment” (1983)

Nicholson manages to romance Shirley MacLaine even while shooting off some of his best, most insulting and hilarious barbs. “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes!”

“Batman” (1989)

Before Heath Ledger, Nicholson’s Joker was eloquent, surreal, colorful and the perfect foil to Michael Keaton’s Batman.

“A Few Good Men” (1992)

“You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s few scenes in this courtroom drama show him at his most domineering, barking an incredible monologue at Tom Cruise along with one of the most famous movie quotes.

“Easy Rider” (1969)

Nicholson’s brief stint in “Easy Rider” was enough to make him a star. His paranoid energy as he chugs whiskey and lays truth bombs about freedom is captivating.

“The Departed” (2006)

It’s amazing Jack didn’t work with Scorsese sooner. His coked-out Frank Costello is over the top menacing in the best way.

“Chinatown” (1974)

Nicholson’s J.J. Gittes is in every scene of Roman Polanski’s esoteric neo-noir, and he exudes as much sleaze and charm even though he’s got a broken nose through half of it.

“Five Easy Pieces” (1970)

Nicholson’s best anti-hero role finds him trying to escape his silver-spoon upbringing and coming up lost. Watch it for his scathing, sarcastic takedown of an uptight waitress.

“The Shining” (1980)

“The Shining” is Jack at peak crazy, bug eyed, limping and unpredictably erratic. His leering grin as he says “Here’s Johnny” is an indelible image.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

Nicholson rolled his rebellious spirit as bikers and drifters throughout his career into this sobering look at mental illness for the role that would win him his first Oscar.

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‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ Trailer: BFI Re-Releasing the Best Picture Winner for Jack Nicholson’s 80th Birthday — Watch

It’s the film’s first new trailer in more than 40 years.

For the first time in more than 40 years, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has a new trailer. BFI is re-releasing the multiple Oscar winner to mark the occasion of Jack Nicholson’s 80th birthday, which the actor will celebrate on April 14. Watch the new trailer below.

READ MORE: Watch: 13 Minutes of Deleted Scenes From ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Miloš Forman’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Ken Kesey belongs to an exclusive club: “Cuckoo’s Nest” is just one of three films to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay, the other two being “It Happened One Night” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” Made for $3 million, it grossed more than $100 million.

READ MORE: Watch: Exploring the Set-Ups in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, William Redfield, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito co-star in the film. “Jack was not an actor but a miracle,” Forman has said of his leading man. “He is McMurphy in real life.” Nicholson is now set to make his first onscreen appearance since 2010 with the English-language remake of “Toni Erdmann.”

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