Your Top Three: Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies

Your Top Three: Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies

Sep 04, 2013

Your Top Three is a series where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.

Today it was announced that Jack Nicholson is retiring from acting due to memory impairment. This is sad news, but not too surprising from a 76  year old who has only been in one movie in the last five years, and that was a supporting role in 2010's How Do You Know? Still, it's not as if he's been lowering his legacy with a slew of awful late-career roles. In 2006, he gave us one of his greatest characters and performances ever in The Departed.

And with other more recent movies, we've been enjoying his continued old curmudgeon period, whether he's a widower or an OCD author or an aging lothario who finally falls for someone closer to his own age (when it's Diane Keaton, how could he not?). For many actors, About Schmidt, As Good As It Gets and Something's Gotta Give would be an exceptional trio to be best remembered for. Of course, most of us still prefer to hold on to his earlier work for examples of why he's so revered. 

Because there are sort of different phases and genres to be found in Nicholson's half century of film appearances it might be hard to narrow our favorites down to three. Just in his prime, in the 1970s there are the obvious classics like Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but what true Jack fan can ignore his Corman beginnings or his late '60s head trip era or his more romantic lead man period in the '80s? Oh, and how do you even compare what he did as the Joker in Batman and in dual roles for another Tim Burton collaboration, Mars Attacks!, with something like his quieter films for Sean Penn, The Crossing Guard and The Pledge?

Well, let's try this one anyway, in tribute to Jack. It's up to you if you want to focus on his performances or the movies overall. 


Here are my top three Jack Nicholson movies:

1. The Shining - Sure, Kubrick is a genius, but could he have done this movie so well without Nicholson? Just try to imagine anyone else in the role (and I don't mean Steven Weber). Maybe the film itself would still be great, but the character of Jack Torrance wouldn't be so incredibly iconic.

2. The Passenger - If The Shining shows us the hammiest side to Nicholson's awesomeness, this much sparer film from Antonioni -- also placing the actor in a memorable hotel setting -- gives us the best of his softer acting skills. It's almost like he was actually two different actors. But that would be too fitting for these two films especially.

3. The Witches of Eastwick - I don't know what the first Nicholson film I saw was, but this is the first one I really noticed him. It's the hammy Jack that's less refined, but whatever he's the Devil after all. I haven't seen this in probably 25 years (when I was 11) and maybe my bad memory and nostalgia are having a go at my judgment, but it's a performance that will always stick in my mind as something unlike I'd ever seen before. 



Your Picks (the top three in order being One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining and Chinatown):
















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