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):

  • in an early scene, non-conformist, rebellious patient/prisoner Randle Patrick (R. P.) "Mac" McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) was being transferred from a 6 month term in a prison work farm into a mental ward institution in Oregon; 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 of a 15 year old 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, included:
Memorable Patients

Strong and Silent "Chief" Bromden, aka "Broom" (Creek Indian) (Will Sampson)

Articulate, Repressed Gay Man Dale Harding (William Redfield)

Anxious and Stuttering Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif)

Childish Temper Tantrum-Prone Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick)

Belligerent and Tall Max Taber (Christopher Lloyd)

Delusional, Impish Martini (Danny De Vito)
  • in a memorable scene, McMurphy played 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 introduced card games (with pornographically illustrated cards) and black jack gambling (betting with cigarettes as currency)
  • McMurphy faked taking his pills, after asking Nurse Ratched's 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 pill
McMurphy's Pill-Taking Regimen - Faking
  • McMurphy's opposition to the stern, rigid and authoritarian Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) increased, and he was determined 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 squirted water on the other patients as they played Monopoly in the tub room, and then bet them that he could escape incarceration by lifting and smashing his way out of the ward with a heavy, marble-sided hydro-therapy 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 The Hydro-Therapy Watering Station

Defeated But Claiming Victory
  • in two scenes, 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
  • McMurphy hijacked a field trip bus for a fishing trip, and pretended 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 delivered a 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")
  • 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 was shocked to realize that huge and towering giant "deaf and dumb" Indian 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"
  • after McMurphy's electro-shock therapy, he faked a zombie-like return to the ward, greeting them with: "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 last straw was McMurphy's organization of a midnight Christmas party or 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

McMurphy's Complete Lobotomization

The Chief's Last Hug

McMurphy's Mercy-Killing
  • 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 hydrotherapy water fountain/sink through a window

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

Stern and Tyrannical Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher)

"Mac" Playing Basketball

Card-Games - Betting for Cigarettes

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

Voting on the Ward for Watching the World Series on TV

Pantomiming the Play-by-Play of the Baseball Game

Infuriated Nurse Ratched

Candy: "You all crazy?"

Charter Fishing Trip

Realizing The Chief Wasn't a Deaf-Mute: "You fooled 'em, Chief!"

Electro-Shock Therapy - Faked

Strangulation Attempt on Nurse Ratched by McMurphy

Freedom for the Chief From the Institution ("The Cuckoo's Nest")


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