Top 5… Jack Nicholson performances

Jack Nicholson, arguably one of the greatest actors of all time, turned 75 on Sunday. Here is my list of his top 5 performances to celebrate the occasion!


5. The Joker/Jack Napier – Batman (1989)

Heath Ledger was fantastic as the Joker in Nolan’s recent masterpiece but Jack Nicholson had been there before and made the character his own in Burton’s gothic vision. Nicholson has heaps of fun playing this role to the extreme and totally steals the film from Keaton’s titular hero.

4. Melvin Udall – As Good as It Gets (1997)

Melvin is an author with OCD who is a total sociopath. His neighbours hate him and he hates them right back again. Into this grumpy old man’s life comes a small dog and a beautiful waitress. What follows was another Oscar win for Nicholson and one of my favourite comedies of all time.

3. J.J. Gittes – Chinatown (1974)

Nicholson is the PI who is hired to spy on an adulteress husband. This is just the first domino that sends Gittes all over California, getting embroiled in conspiracies and family plots that may not all make sense on a first viewing. Nicholson is amazing to watch in this modern noir masterpiece.

2. Jack Torrance – The Shining (1980)

“Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” Those immortal words will come to define Nicholson in this fantastic horror collaboration with Kubrick. Jack and family head up to the Overlook Hotel to look after the place over the snowy winter. But there is more to the hotel than just rooms and Nicholson terrifies as his character slowly goes a little bit mad. Amazing.

1. R.P. McMurphy – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

There was only one pick for first place though. R.P. McMurphy is Nicholson’s greatest achievement and his ability to balance drama and comedy in a mental institute is astounding. Nicholson’s best film and one of the greatest movies of all time. A must see for everyone.

Honourable Mentions

  • A Few Good Men – He’s not in it a lot but he still managed to be the most memorable thing about the film: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!”
  • The Departed – Nicholson clearly has a lot of fun in this film and cranks the bonkers meter up to 11 with his mob boss portrayal.
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