Jack Nicholson’s Best Movies Ranked, From ‘Batman’ to ‘Cuckoo’s Next’
One of the finest actors of his generation, Jack Nicholson has built a prolific career of rich, dynamic, emotionally complex and often terrifying performances. Narrowing down his “best” performances is a daunting task and will likely get varying responses from people when asked, “What is your favorite thing about Jack?” To celebrate the man who turns 85 today, Variety ranks his top 15 performances.
Born in New Jersey, the hardcore Los Angeles Lakers fan has been an integral part of the cinematic landscape for seven decades. Her first credited film role was in the small B-movie “The Cry Baby Killer” (1958). After more than a dozen roles in the 1960s, his big breakthrough came in Dennis Hopper’s timeless classic “Easy Rider” (1969), leading him into the 1970s, in which he dominated with memorable turns in “Five Easy Pieces” (1970), “Carnal Knowledge” (1971), “The Last Detail” (1973) and “Chinatown” (1974). He even entered the director’s chair during this period with his first film “Drive, He Said” (1971). What a race.
His first Oscar came for Milos Forman’s ‘Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975), which is one of three films to win the ‘Oscar Big Five’ (photo, director, actor, actress and script). The others are “It Happened One Night” (1934) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). But the accolades didn’t stop there and were seemingly endless. He received 12 Oscar nominations during his career, the most nominated male performer in Oscar history. Specifically, with eight nominations for lead actor, he’s tied for second alongside Paul Newman and Peter O’Toole, and behind Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy. He is also the most nominated supporting actor with four nods alongside Walter Brennan, Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Arthur Kennedy, Al Pacino and Claude Rains. He won three statuettes in total for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), “Terms of Endearment” (1983) and “As Good as It Gets” (1997), one of seven who won three or more – alongside Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Frances McDormand, Walter Brennan and Katharine Hepburn (the only one to win four).
With 10 films nominated for Best Picture throughout his career, he is currently tied for second place for the most credited appearances in the Academy’s top category alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. He is behind Robert DeNiro, who has 11.
People might not know that Nicholson also won a Grammy for Best Recording for Children for “The Elephant Child,” alongside Bobby McFerrin and Mark Sottnick.
The actor never expanded into the television realm outside of guest spots on shows like “Bronco” and “The Andy Griffith Show,” but sadly never hosted “Saturday Night Live,” which would have been perfect to see. He also presented best picture a few times, including the controversial ‘Crash’ (2005) and his own film, ‘The Departed’.
It’s been over 12 years since his last credited role in James L. Brooks’ “How Do You Know” (2010) starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson, which failed to light up the box office (or to get closer to make this list). Aside from rumors that he will be starring in an American remake of the international feature “Toni Erdmann,” there have been no signs of a new role for Nicholson on the horizon.
Let’s get all of our prayer groups together and ask the almighty for one more from one of our quintessential greatest movie stars.
Read the list below and watch a clip of his best scene from each film.
Honorable mentions: “Carnal knowledge” (1971), “The Departed” (2006), “Something must give” (2003)