After playing various roles for over three decades on the silver screen, Jack Nicholson is one of the most versatile actors of all time. Nominated for the prestigious Oscar Awards a record 12 times, he has won three of them as well. He won it twice for the best actor playing a leading role and once as best actor in a supporting role. No other male actor in the history of the Oscar Awards has ever been nominated 12 times or has won it thrice. He exudes a very strong personality in whatever role he plays. Let’s have a look at the 15 best Jack Nicholson movies of all time:
15. Five Easy Pieces (1970)
A very powerful performance by Jack Nicholson won him his second Oscar nomination (the film was selected for three other Oscar nominations as well) and also pushed him into the limelight. This is one of the best Jack Nicholson movies from his younger times.
The story was written by Carole Eastman under the pen name Adrien Joyce and Bob Rafelson, with the latter, also directing it, that revolves around a rich pianist who leaves his boring life and sets out on an adventure by working as an ordinary oil rigger. The film was completed on a budget of $1.6 million but went on gross more than ten times that at the box office with a gross of $18.1 million.
14. Wolf (1994)
This is a romantic horror movie which was written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick with Mike Nichols directing it. The film focuses on the struggling life of Will (played by Jack) who is slowly being transformed into a werewolf after he gets bitten by one.
The music for the movie was composed by the versatile Ennio Morricone adding to the strong storyline and the tempo of the horror scenes. It was a high budget movie with $70 million being spent on it. The film did well at the box office and brought in more than $130 million.
13. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Another one of the best Jack Nicholson comedy movies where he is well supported by Diane Keaton. It’s a very moving romantic comedy where Harry (played by Jack) and Erica (played by Diane) are in their 60’s and 50’s respectively and fall in love with each other despite initially hating each other and despite the fact that Harry is actually dating Erica’s daughter.
The film was written, produced, and directed by Nancy Meyers. It took a whopping $266 million at the box office while having a production budget of just $80 million.
12. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
A dark fantasy movie with a twist of comedy also thrown in, it is based on the novel with the same name written by John Updike. The film was directed by George Miller and centers around the life of three frustrated women who wish for an ideal man who suddenly appears in their town, Daryl Van Horne (played by Jack), but with a twist (which we will leave for you to witness). Jack gave a strong performance as Daryl and was ably supported by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon.
The film received favorable reviews and brought in a moderate $63.8 million against a budget of $22 million.
11. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King’s novel with the same name is the base for the movie which depicts horror at its best. The film is considered to be one of the scariest movies of all time and that’s mainly because of Jack Nicholson’s epic portrayal of the possessed Jack Torrance, a writer who gets possessed by evil spirits in a remote hotel and wants to hurt his wife and psychic son.
The film was produced and directed by the versatile Stanley Kubrick and fared moderately well grossing over $44.4 million at the box office against a budget of $19 million. The film was loved by the critics as well as the audiences and still enjoys great reviews amongst horror genre fans.
10. The Pledge (2001)
The movie was based on the novel, “The Pledge” written by Friedrich Durrenmatt and was directed by Sean Penn, and revolves around a retired Police detective played by Jack Nicholson who pledges to the mother of a murdered girl to catch the real murderer who he believes is still on the loose.
It’s a great drama movie intertwined with mystery with a solid performance from Jack. He is ably supported by Aaron Eckhart, Helen Mirren, and Vanessa Redgrave in leading roles. Although the film did not bring in the envisaged box office returns, it was well critiqued nonetheless.
9. Easy Rider (1969)
Another film from the earlier days of Jack’s career where many big names like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper share screen space with him. It depicts the eye-opening journey of two friends Billy (played by Dennis) and Wyatt (played by Peter), who eventually teams up with George (played by Jack), to the Mardi Grass in New Orleans.
The film correctly portrays the developing drug culture that prevailed in the United States during the 1960s. Although the film was made with a very modest budget of around $360-400K, it earned a whopping $60 million at the box office.
8. A Few Good Men (1992)
This courtroom thriller revolves around the mystery surrounding the murder of a United States Marine. The film has a star-studded cast including Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollack, Kiefer Sutherland, and many others. Jack Nicholson portrays the strong character of US Marine Corps officer Nathan R. Jessep who commands Guantanamo Bay where the murder took place.
The movie grossed around $244 million on a mere $40 million budget and received commendable reviews from the critics. The film earned 4 Oscar Nominations (including the nomination for Best Picture) and 5 Golden Globe Nominations (including the nomination for Best Motion Picture – Drama).
7. As Good as It Gets (1997)
A romantic comedy where Jack Nicholson gives a very strong performance as a rude obsessive author, Melvin Udall, who unwillingly has to look after the dog of his neighbor while maintaining a difficult relationship with a single mother waitress (played by Helen Hunt). The film was directed by James L. Brooks and was made on a budget of $50 million.
Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson both won Oscars for their lead roles thanks to their sterling performances, and the film went on to earn $315 million at the box office. It is one of the rare movies where both the female and male lead actors won Oscars for their respective roles.
6. About Schmidt (2002)
A comedy-drama in which Jack Nicholson plays the role of a newly retired father, Warren Schmidt, who has to attend his alienated daughter’s wedding. The movie was written and directed by Alexander Payne which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Louis Begley.
The movie was a commercial and critical success taking in $106 million at the box office (on a budget of just $30 million) while securing 2 Oscar nominations, including the nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Jack’s role.
5. Terms of Endearment (1983)
ِِAnother comedy-drama movie where Jack plays the character of Garrett Breedlove, a retired astronaut who gets into a short relationship with a troubled mother Aurora (played by Shirley MacLaine), who has a long difficult relationship with her daughter Emma (played by Debra Winger). The film grossed $109 million at the box office against a meager budget of $8 million.
The film was produced and directed by James L. Brooks and received eleven Oscar nominations and won five of them, with Jack Nicholson winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
4. Carnal Knowledge (1971)
A film written by Jules Feiffer and directed by Mike Nichols, it shows the life of two friends Jonathan (played by Jack) and Sandy (played by Art Garfunkel) who have opposite nature when it comes to women as one treats them like tissue paper while the other treats them like a gentleman respectively.
The film performed well at the box office, earned an Oscar nomination, and received positive reviews from the critics, pushing Jack’s career further.
3. The Last Detail (1973)
A comedy-drama from the earlier career of Jack Nicholson, the film features the journey of two Navy Petty Officers who are escorting a young harmless offender to prison and decide to give him some good time during the course of their journey. The screenplay was written by Robert Towne and the film was directed by Hal Ashby.
Jack Nicholson was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Actor in a leading role category and the film grossed $10 million at the box office.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Based on the novel by the same name by Ken Kesey, the movie is directed by Milos Forman and is another comedy-drama that shows the life of a new mental asylum inmate McMurphy (played by Jack), that faked insanity to avoid working in a labor camp, who is constantly kept in check by the head nurse, Mildred Ratched (played by Louise Fletcher).
The film is a masterpiece and with a budget of $3.0 million it brought home a whopping $110 million. It is preserved in the National Film Registry and was the second film after 1934 to win all major Oscar awards for a single movie. It bagged Oscars for the Best Picture, Best Actor in the lead role, Best Actress in the lead role, Best Director, and Best Screenplay nominations. It is definitely one of the best Jack Nicholson films ever.
1. Chinatown (1974)
This is a mystery movie where Jack plays the role of a private detective caught in a complicated case where everyone seems to be lying to hide their corruption, crime, and adultery. Jack gave a memorable performance and was ably supported by the versatile Faye Dunaway. The film grossed a comfortable $30 million at the box office and earned critical acclaim.
The movie was directed by the famous Roman Polanski and was written by Robert Towne. The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars, of which Towne won one for the Best original screenplay.
We can’t complete our list without mentioning these outstanding movies of Jack as well:
- The Departed (2006)
- Batman (1989)
- Anger Management (2003)
Did we miss any of the best Jack Nicholson movies of all time? Please let us in the comments below!