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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100


    Brilliant cinema theatre.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    A masterpiece. (9 Jan 1998, p.3D)

  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    A comedy that can't quite support its tragic conclusion, which is too schematic to be honestly moving, but it is acted with such a sense of life that one responds to its demonstration of humanity if not to its programmed metaphors.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    So good in so many of its parts that there's a temptation to forgive it when it goes wrong. But it does go wrong, insisting on making larger points than its story really should carry, so that at the end, the human qualities of the characters get lost in the significance of it all. And yet there are those moments of brilliance.

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  • See all One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 16+

Classic and brilliant, but violence makes it teens only.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this adult drama laced with humor deals with life-and-death issues and is set in a hospital psychiatric ward. Intense situations alternate with comic moments, and underlying all are the weighty topics of tyranny, sacrifice, and the fragility of the human mind. There are scenes of sustained cruelty, forcible restraint of mental patients, fighting, and two deaths (including a suicide). Language is strong throughout: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "jerk off," and a multitude of other expressions, including slurs such as "queer," "dumb Indian" and more. Characters smoke constantly, drink, and get drunk in one out-of-control party sequence.

  • Families can talk about classics. Why do you think this film has lasting appeal? Does it seem dated to you in any way? How does it compare to the book?
  • What are the messages in this movie? Are there any role models? Who is crazy in the movie?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: The hospital psychiatric ward can be seen as a metaphor for one individual’s fight against a power-hungry, cruel oppressor. McMurphy shows the astounding difference one courageous person can make in many lives. He lifts the spirits of the weak, takes steps toward the toppling of a tyrant, and has a lasting effect on those who have been subjected to inhuman treatment.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: McMurphy is grandly heroic. An outrageous character, he’s loud, assertive, and flaunts all rules and regulations in order to rescue those whom he sees as powerless. The positive role models are the patients, whom despite some unstable, even dangerous behavior, prove to be loyal, compassionate, and honest. In almost every instance, the ward staff is seen as enjoying unrestrained power over the mental patients. Led by the quiet evil of Nurse Ratched, they seem to delight in coercive, patronizing, and even abusive behavior towards those in their care. Senior hospital staff is portrayed as in constant denial, avoiding confrontation, and perpetuating a quiet, untroubled status quo.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Patients intermittently get upset, lose control, and have to be forcibly restrained by staff, sometimes very roughly. There are some violent outbursts, an occasional fight, including one in which a patient attempts to strangle his adversary. A sadistic nurse causes great harm to several of the patients. (Spoiler alert) There are two deaths in the film: one is a bloody victim of suicide, the other dies at the hands of a patient.

  • sex false2

    Sex: No overt sexual activity, however, there is brief partial nudity. There are several sly sexual jokes, as well numerous humorous references to masturbation. One patient discusses his sexual problems. On two occasions female "party girls" join the patients and ultimately disappear behind closed doors.

  • language false5

    Language: Frequent swearing and obscenities including multiple uses of "Goddamn," "son-of-a-bitch," "hell," "s--t", "c--t," "crap," bulls--t," "a--hole," many forms of forms of "f--k" and more. There are several ethnic and homophobic slurs, usually delivered with a sense of humor, such as: “"Mormon a--hole," "dumb Indian," and "queer."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Patients smuggle liquor into the ward and drink heavily during a wild and unorthodox party sequence. Characters smoke cigarettes continuously.