Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (2023)

Jack Nicholson is ranked as one of Hollywood's greatest stars and versatile actor starring in iconic films such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Chinatown and The Departed. The actor made his film debut as the lead in the teen drama, The Cry Baby Killer, but his career didn't take off until appearing in Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

Nicholson's known for portraying rebellious characters and delivering memorable performances in other signature films including The Shining and Terms of Endearment. Out of the actor's extensive filmography, these are 10 of the highest-rated Nicholson movies, ranked according to Rotten Tomatoes.


10 'Prizzi's Honor' (1985)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (1)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Charley's a hitman who is asked to take out a contract kill on a man in California. He manages to locate his target but at the same time, meets his target's wife, Irene (Kathleen Turner). As Charley tries to balance his assignment and new love interest, things are complicated when his boss gives him a new target.

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Prizzi's Honor is a dark comedy directed by John Huston featuring Robert Loggia, Anjelica Huston and Stanley Tucci in his film debut. In Huston's memoir, Watch Me, she recalled overhearing someone say that she wasn't talented claiming that she was only cast because her father was the director and her boyfriend was the star. Huston had the last laugh though when she went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

9 'The Passenger' (1975)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (2)
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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Journalist, David Locke, travels to northern Africa to report on a recent civil conflict but struggles to make progress on his story. He discovers the body of a businessman who he shares a striking resemblance to him and decides to assume his identity, but he soon finds himself in a dangerous situation when he learns that the man was a dangerous arms dealer.

The Passenger is a conventional melodrama directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. The movie also stars French actress, Maria Schneider who had been cast shortly after receiving an Oscar nomination for her role in the 1972 film, Last Tango in Paris starring Marlon Brando.

8 'Five Easy Pieces' (1970)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (3)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Robert has traded in his privileged, upper-class life for a blue-collar job in the California oil fields and spends most of his time with his girlfriend, Rayette (Karen Black). When Robert learns that his father is sick, he wants to reconnect with his family but struggles with the inevitable and awkward situation having to introduce his new life to his cultured family.

Five Easy Pieces is a 1970s essential directed by Bob Rafelson who had directed Nicholson a year earlier in Easy Rider. The director worked with Nicholson again on The King of Marvin Garden and the 1981 remake of The Post Man Always Rings Twice with Jessica Lange. Five Easy Pieces earned several Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Nicholson's second nomination for Best Actor.

7 'The Last Detail' (1973)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (4)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

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Navy lifers, Billy and Richard (Otis Young) are assigned to transport sailor Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) from Virginia to Maine where he'll serve an eight-year prison sentence. To make the trip easier, the officers indulge Meadows with various pit stops but along the way, they develop a bond that makes the officers' assignment difficult to complete.

The Last Detail is a dramaedy based on the 1970 novel written by Darryl Ponicsan.The movie earned three Academy Award nominations including Best Actor for Nicholson and Qauid for Best Supporting Actor. The Last Detail was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and earned Nicholson the festival's award for Best Actor.

6 'Reds' (1989)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

In 1915, journalist, John Reed (Warren Beatty) meets feminist, Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) and are soon living together in New York. When Reed travels to the Soviet Union to cover the Boleshivk Revolution, their relationship's put to the test by distance and politics.

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Reds is a historical drama about John Reed who gained prominence with his novel, Ten Days That Shook The World. In order to gain perspective on Reed and Bryant, director, Beatty chose to include interviews in the movie that featuring people who were alive at the same time which provides a vital historical context for audiences.

5 'The Departed' (2006)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (6)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

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Boston police officer, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes undercover to infiltrate an organization run by mob boss, Frank Costello. Meanwhile, state police officer, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has been secretly feeding inside information to Costello. When they both realize there's a mole, their only hope of staying alive relies on figuring out each other's identities.

Directed by Martin Scorsese,The Departed is a suspenseful game of cat and mouse that won four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. According to Movieweb, Nicholson wanted The Departed to be different from other traditional gangster films which led to screenwriter, William Monahan, suggesting Nicholson's character be based on notorious Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger.

4 'Ride in the Whirlwind' (1966)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (7)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Cowboys, Wes, Vern (Cameron Mitchell) and Otis (Tom Feller) are mistaken as members of a group of outlaws that recently robbed a stagecoach and murdered the driver. The trio manage to escape a trip to the gallows but are forced to lead their lives as outlaws with lawmen hot on their trail.

Ride in the Whirlwind was written by Nicholson and explores the deadly consequences of blind justice in the Old West. This Western also stars actor and musician, Harry Dean Stanton who was known for his supporting roles in notable films including Cool Hand Luke, Alien and Kelly's Heroes starring Clint Eastwood.

3 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (8)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

R.P. McMurphy's transferred from a prison farm to a mental health facility where he thinks he'll be more comfortable serving his sentence, but his hopes are dashed by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) who keeps her patients in line with abuse and treated with medications and electroshock therapy. As McMurphy rebels against the nurse and her staff, he starts to have an impact on the other patients.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a brilliant, bittersweet drama that features Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and Child's Play star, Brad Dourif. The movie was the second film to ever win Oscar's five major categories earning Nicholson his first Academy Award win for Best Actor. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also has some uncredited cameos including Anjelica Huston and Mary Costa who provided the voice of Princess Aurora in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

2 'Chinatown' (1974)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (9)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

Jake's a private investigator hired by Evelyn Mulwray to look into her husband's activities but while he thinks it's a usual case of infidelity, his investigation takes an unexpected turn when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). Jake soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy and when Mulwray's father (John Huston) is suspected of his son-in-law's sudden murder, he uncovers corruption and a dark family secret.

Chinatown is a twisted neo-noir written by Robert Townewho had originally developed the script for Nicholson.The two became friends after meeting in an acting class and went on to work together on The Last Detail. Even though Nicholson was earning decent roles at the time, Towne wanted to write a detective story for his friend that would establish him as a leading man and specifically wrote Chinatown for him.

1 'The Shooting' (1996)

Jack Nicholson's 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (10)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Willett (Warren Oates) is a former bounty hunter who is hired by a woman (Millie Perkins) to accompany her on a long journey to a town miles away. As Willett and his friend (Will Hutchins) embark on their journey, they notice that they're being closely followed by a gunslinger who appears to want them dead.

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The Shooting is the sequel to Ride in the Whirlwind and reunited Nicholson with Hellman. Nicholson collaborated with Hellman on several more films including Back Door to Hell and Flight to Fury. While the movie may leave audiences with more questions than answers, the thrilling adventure and raw performances are enough to make it worth the watch.



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