Jack Nicholson turns 78 today. During his five-decade career, Jack’s won three Academy Awards and has been nominated a whopping 12 times, making him the most nominated actor in history. To commemorate the birthday of this iconic actor, this list doesn’t compile his best performances. What we’re doing here is celebrating Nicholson’s best on-screen tirades. What’s better than seeing Jack go nuts in a movie? Nothing, that’s what!
Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Not to be confused with the Frank Oz-directed film from 1986, the above clip comes from the Roger Corman classic. This is one of Nicholson’s earlier on-screen performances. Jack plays a creepy version of Arthur Denton which was later portrayed rather comically by Bill Murray.
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Jack plays Robert Dupea, a man coming to grips with his upper class roots and estranged relations with his family. Also, he really just wants some f*cking toast!
Easy Rider (1969)
Jack plays the role of alcoholic lawyer George Hanson in the Dennis Hopper-directed film. While this role doesn’t find him going emotionally batsh*t much, it’s rather amusing to watch the man drink his Jim Beam.
Jack re-united with director Mike Nichols here to play the dickish role of Mark Forman. Personality quirks aside, I fully back Mark’s anger over the lack of a kitchen door. Yakov Smirnoff really lucked out in landing this gig. What a country!
The Last Detail (1973)
In The Last Detail, Jack plays Navy officer Billy “Badass” Buddusky, who decides to show Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) one last good time before he’s sent off to serve an eight-year prison sentence. If for some reason you didn’t get the memo, he is the motherf*cking shore patrol!
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Nicholson won an Academy Award for his performance as Randle Patrick McMurphy in the Miloš Forman-directed film. Jack carries the film in true form with many scenes to choose from. Although this one, involving the imaginary ball game, truly is as crazy as it is touching.
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Mike Nichols’ Carnal Knowledge found Nicholson playing a womanizer by the name of Jonathan. After a while, he decides to try his hand at a monogamous relationship with a beautiful but needy woman named Bobbie (Ann-Margret), and, as you can see from the above clip, they both had some issues to work through.
The Witches Of Eastwick (1987)
In The Witches Of Eastwick, Jack plays a womanizing playboy named Daryl Van Horne who’s actually the Devil. The scene above follows Horne into a church while the witches he seduced earlier in the movie play with a voodoo doll they made in his likeness. Between vomiting all over himself, and others, Horne loses his sh*t while making the case that women may in fact be God’s mistake.
The Departed (2006)
Nicholson has shown range throughout his career, but one thing he’s really good at is showcasing an intimidating presence on screen. In The Departed, he plays mob boss Frank Costello, and, as you can see above, he doesn’t f*ck around when it comes to vetting a poor schmuck — in this case, undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) — with a broken arm.
In Tim Burton’s Batman, Nicholson put his unique stamp on Gotham’s notorious anarchy-loving villain, the Joker. You can almost choose any scene he’s in from the film for a list such as this, but there’s something about the flesh-toned makeup rubbing off to reveal the white underneath that really adds a nice touch of creepy to his comically insane performance.
A Few Good Men (1992)
Nicholson was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Col. Nathan R. Jessup. It’s worth noting, Jack appeared in only four scenes in the film. It doesn’t really matter, though, as Jack’s classic freakout in the above scene is probably the best reason to sit down and watch Rob Reiner’s classic film.
The Shining (1980)
When discussing classic Nicholson on-screen freakouts, it’d be crazy to leave out Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Kubrick put Jack through the ringer during the film’s production to get the over-the-top kabuki-esque performances that makes the character of Jack Torrance extra crazy on film. Also, the above scene is my absolute favorite from the film.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw in this other clip from The Shining, as well. I mean, Jack did put a lot of intense prep work into making this iconic scene happen.