Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

In Milos Forman's Best Picture-winning drama (of the top five awards) based upon Ken Kesey's anti-establishment book about a wise-guy anti-hero pitted against the Establishment, institutional authority and status-quo attitudes (personified by a supervisory nurse):

  • the early scene of non-conformist, rebellious patient/prisoner Randle Patrick (R. P.) "Mac" McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) admitted from a prison work farm into an institution; he was informed by the hospital's head, Dr. Spivey (Dr. Dean Brooks) that he would be tested "to determine whether or not you are mentally ill"; McMurphy responded that his crime of statutory rape was unjustified: "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 bein' crazy is, then I'm senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that's it"; he also described himself as "a god-damn marvel of modern science"
  • some of the memorable inmates/patients, including:
Memorable Patients
"Chief" Bromden, aka "Broom" (Creek Indian Will Sampson
Dale Harding
(William Redfield)
Billy Bibbit
(Brad Dourif)
Charlie Cheswick
(Sydney Lassick)
(Christopher Lloyd)
(Danny De Vito)
  • the memorable scene of McMurphy playing basketball in the fenced-in, outdoor exercise yard; on the shoulders of Bancini (Josip Elic), a Frankenstein-like inmate, he demonstrated how to dunk the ball in the hoop "It's called, uh, put the ball in the hole"
  • McMurphy's introduction of card games (with pornographically illustrated cards) and black jack gambling (betting cigarettes as currency)
  • McMurphy's faking of taking his pills, after asking assistant Nurse Pilbow (Mimi Sarkisian) about the ingredients of his "horse-pill" medications during one of the compulsory lineups for pill delivery: "But I don't like the idea of taking something if I don't know what it is...(joking) I don't want anyone to try and slip me salt-peter. You know what I mean?"; afterwards, he showed Harding that he hadn't swallowed
  • his growing opposition to the stern, rigid and authoritarian Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), and his determination to oppose her restrictive rules: "I bet in one week, I can put a bug so far up her ass, she don't know whether to s--t or wind her wristwatch"
  • McMurphy playfully squirting water on the other patients as they played Monopoly in the tub room, and then betting them that he could escape incarceration by lifting and smashing his way out of the ward with a heavy, marble-sided watering station - but his efforts to do so failed, although he claimed victory: "But I tried, didn't I? God-damn it. At least I did that"
Squirting Everyone with Water
Struggling to Lift Watering Station
Defeated But Claiming Victory
  • the two scenes in which votes were taken to change the daily schedule so that the patients could watch the second game of the World Series - followed by McMurphy's defiance to tyrannical Nurse Ratched's technicalities (when they were denied TV privileges) by a recreation of the play-by-play action of an imaginary ballgame in front of a blackened TV set - contagiously infecting the other inmates with his enthusiasm
  • the scene of McMurphy's hijacking of the field trip bus for a fishing trip, and pretending that the inmates were a group of doctors from the state mental institution; along the way he picked up prostitute friend Candy (Marya Small) at the Riverside Trailer Court, who innocently asked all the "boys": "You all crazy?"; the group returned triumphant with a full catch of fish and smiles on their faces - but they were greeted at dockside by the police and Dr. Spivey
  • during a therapy session, McMurphy's challenge to the other inmates to leave the institution after learning that he wouldn't be automatically released: ("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!...You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around the streets"); also the moment that went horribly wrong when neurotic inmate Cheswick experienced a temper tantrum with Nurse Ratched about rationed cigarettes: "I AIN'T NO LITTLE KID! WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE CIGARETTES KEPT FOR ME, LIKE COOKIES, AND I WANT SOMETHING DONE!"
"You're no crazier than the average asshole..."
  • while awaiting electro-shock treatments as punishment for causing the disturbance, McMurphy's shocked realization that huge and towering "deaf and dumb" Indian giant inmate Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) could actually talk when he lent him a stick of Juicy Fruit gum: "You fooled 'em, Chief! You fooled 'em. You fooled 'em all"
  • the scene of McMurphy's electro-shock therapy, and his faked, zombie-like return to the ward: "How about it? You creeps, you lunatics, mental defectives. Let's hear it for Bull Goose Randall back in action...You ding-a-lings"
  • the midnight celebration (a pre-escape party with alcohol and prostitutes, his two girlfriends Candy and Rose (Louisa Moritz)), when he encouraged Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif) to lose his virginity with Candy; the next morning when Bibbit was forced to confess to Nurse Ratched, he felt such shame and guilt that he committed suicide by slitting his throat with a piece of broken glass
The Consequences of a Party - Gone Wrong
  • beserk over Billy's death, McMurphy made an enraged strangulation attack on Nurse Ratched - the disastrous consequences were his complete lobotomization - he returned glassy-eyed, catatonic, totally passive, and obediently captive to the ward
Complete Lobotomization
The Chief's Last Hug
  • in the conclusion, the scene of Chief Bromden's suffocation/mercy killing of his lobotomized friend with a pillow, and his escape from the institution ("the cuckoo's nest") by heaving the previously-immovable water fountain/sink through a window

Randle P. "Mac" McMurphy (Jack Nicholson): "I'm a god-damn marvel of modern science"

Nurse Ratched
(Louise Fletcher)

Teaching Basketball

Playing Cards for Cigarettes

Challenge about Nurse Ratched: "I bet in one week..."

Voting on the Ward for Watching the World Series

Pantomiming the Play-by-Play of the Baseball Game

Infuriated Nurse Ratched

Candy: "You all crazy?"

Charter Fishing Trip

"You fooled 'em, Chief!"

Electro-Shock Therapy - Faked

Strangulation Attempt on Nurse Ratched

Freedom for the Chief


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