Top 5(ish) - Jack Nicholson Films

Susan Omand discovers it's not that easy to pick her top five Jack Nicholson films...

Browsing IMDb at the weekend, as you do if you’re me, I noticed that 22nd April is the birthday of one John Joseph “Jack” Nicholson. “Great!” I thought. “I can do a top 5 films!” I thought. Yeahhhhh. Where do you even start for a man who has over 70 acting roles listed?!

Eventually I got my list trimmed down to 20 and then… I got stuck. I couldn’t trim it back any more, there was nothing more to cut out. Each film on my list has so much to commend it. Each Nicholson performance, although many radically different from one another, is absolutely compelling. And putting it in any kind of order of preference? You’re having a laugh aren’t you – how on earth do you rank the roles of such a versatile actor?

Here, then, in alphabetical order [cop out! – Ed] are the 20 best Jack Nicholson films, according to me, along with some of my favourite Nicholson quotes from them. Also, these are films where Nicholson was a headline name, so it doesn’t count things like Broadcast News and Tommy, where he was brilliant in a smaller role. And I know that there will be others that I will have missed, or that you will be yelling at me should have been included (waits for the howl about leaving out Mars Attacks and Anger Management) but I’m sure you’ll let me know. In the meantime, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” 

A Few Good Men

I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don't think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous. 

About Schmidt

Helen, what did you really think of me deep in your heart? Was I really the man you wanted to be with? Was I? Or were you disappointed but too nice to show it? 

As Good as it Gets

Never, never, interrupt me, okay? Not if there's a fire, not even if you hear the sound of a thud from my home and one week later there's a smell coming from there that can only be a decaying human body and you have to hold a hanky to your face because the stench is so thick that you think you're going to faint. Even then, don't come knocking. 


Now comes the part where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But, as my plastic surgeon always said: if you gotta go, go with a smile. 

The Bucket List

Here's something to remember when you're older Thomas - never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart.

China Town

All right, Curly. Enough's enough. You can't eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.

The Departed

When you decide to be something, you can be it. That's what they don't tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I'm saying to you is this: when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?

Easy Rider 

I guess I really tied one on last night. I must have had a helluva good time. I wish I could remember it.

Five Easy Pieces

I move around a lot, not because I'm looking for anything really, but 'cause I'm getting away from things that get bad if I stay.


I'm gonna give ya a piece of advice. Don't ask for something if it's a burden to ya if ya get it.


Goddamn dead men, travelling around together.

The Last Detail

I would like to drink a toast to Batman... Shuperman... and the Human Torch.

The Missouri Breaks

The closer you get to Canada, the more things'll eat your horse.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it.

The Passenger

People will believe what I write. And why? Because it conforms to their expectations - and of mine, as well - which is worse.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

They hang people for that, Cora...

Prizzi's Honor

I met her in a church. It just happened. I knew she was the woman for me. She'd organized the scam in Vegas. I go looking for the bad guy and it turns out to be my woman, can you imagine this?

The Shining

Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?

The Witches of Eastwick

What's the matter? You don't think God makes mistakes? Of course He does. We all make mistakes. Of course, when WE make mistakes they call it evil. When God makes mistakes, they call it nature.


You know, I think I understand what you're like now. You're very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you're beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you're you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you're not very interesting.

Images & quotes - IMDb
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