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7 Roles That Defined Jack Nicholson's Career

By    |   Tuesday, 24 March 2015 05:34 PM

Jack Nicholson has given many unforgettable film performances since his acting debut in 1958, but these are his seven most memorable roles:

1. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Perhaps his most iconic role, playing Randle P. McMurphy didn’t turn Nicholson into a star but it cemented his legacy as a Hollywood legend.

Filmed in 1975 and based upon the play of the same name, it became the first movie in the 41 years prior to its release to sweep the “Big Five” Oscar categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Director.

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Nicholson won his first Oscar, although he had been nominated three times previously, according to Turner Classic Movies.

2. “As Good As It Gets”

This role earned Nicholson his third career Oscar. His character, Melvin Udall, wasn’t the easiest person to like at the outset of this 1997 classic, but Nicholson’s portrayal of the outspoken, obsessive-compulsive writer certainly was a hit with audiences.

Critics, though, didn’t always rave.

“None of the major critics’ groups picked him; they preferred stronger turns in much smaller films,” The Dissolve wrote of Nicholson’s Oscar for the performance.

3. “The Shining”

Not only did Nicholson star in another hit with “The Shining,” based on the novel by Stephen King, but he also added a new catchphrase to his repertoire. The “Here’s Johnny” scene has consistently ranked as one of the most frightening moments in cinema history, The Guardian reported.

4. “Chinatown”

Jack Nicholson took home yet another Oscar statue for his portrayal of hard-boiled detective J.J. Gittes in this Los Angeles-set thriller. Nicholson is all over this film. Literally, his character appears in every single scene of this 131-minute movie, and as film critic Roger Ebert pointed out, “His performance is key in keeping ‘Chinatown’ from becoming just a genre crime picture.”

5. “A Few Good Men”

Conversely, Nicholson barely appeared in this '90s classic. In his role as Col. Nathan Jessup, he was only in four scenes but who among us doesn’t know the phrase, “You can’t handle the truth!”? Uttered during Nicholson’s classic courtroom diatribe, it soon became a part of the cultural lexicon.

6. “Easy Rider”

This overlooked treasure perfectly encapsulated the spirit of '60s counter culture and turned Jack Nicholson into the household name that he is today. Prior to this, he was a character actor who did a lot of B-movies. But upon rendering this stirring performance, among established acting greats Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, he obtained lasting recognition as a once-in-a-generation talent.

7. “Batman”

According to CNN, this was Nicholson’s most lucrative role ever, and he earned between “$60 million and $90 million” for his turn as the “Clown Prince of Darkness.”

When casting was initially announced, the media and Batman fans alike derided the selection of the ubiquitous star, preferring lesser-known actors for the part. However after its release, nobody could deny that Nicholson turned in yet another career-defining role.

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Jack Nicholson has given many unforgettable film performances since his acting debut in 1958, but these are his seven most memorable roles.
jack nicholson, roles, defined, career
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 05:34 PM
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