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Birthday special: Top 10 iconic roles of Jack Nicholson

With 12 Oscar nominations and three wins, Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in the history of Academy Awards. As the legendary actor turns 78 today, we look back at 10 of his iconic performances that catapulted him to success and acclaim.

'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)
Jack Nicholson in a still from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. 'Pic/YouTube

Jack Nicholson earned his first Oscar award for his portrayal of Randle Patrick McMurphy in this drama based on the 1962 novel of the same name. Nicholson plays a criminal who gets himself transferred to a mental institution to avoid regular prison. However, on discovering how mental patients are being treated worse than prisoners by Nurse Ratched, he turns a rebel championing to shake up the 'system'.

'Batman' (1989)Jack Nicholson as The Joker in ‘Batman'
Jack Nicholson as The Joker in 'Batman'. Pic/YouTube

Who was better as The Joker? Jack Nicholson or the late Heath Ledger? This question is sure to find its way into your conversations and spark a raging debate. Nicholson gives a cartoonish, quirky and goofy spin to the costumed criminal, while Ledger's portrayal, on the contrary, is dark, brutal and that of a mentally disturbed psychopath. Playing the Joker in 'Batman' earned Nicholson the BAFTA and Golden Globe Award nominations.

'The Shining' (1980)Jack Nicholson in a still from ‘The Shining'.  Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson in a still from 'The Shining'. Pic/YouTube

The reason why Jack Nicholson seems a perfect fit to any role that requires a terrifying and insane antagonist is because of his performance in this film! Nicholson's frightening portrayal of a disturbed hotel caretaker in this Stanley Kubrick-helmed horror film is sure to send chills down your spine.

'Terms of Endearment' (1983)Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in a still from ‘Terms of Endearment'. Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in a still from 'Terms of Endearment'. Pic/YouTube

Jack Nicholson starred alongside Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in this comedy-drama about a mother and daughter's search for true love. He won his second Oscar, this time, for the Best Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing role as the retired alcoholic astronaut Garrett Breedlove, who strikes up an unexpectedly affectionate relationship with Shirley MacLaine's grieving character, Aurora Greenway.

'As Good As It Gets' (1997)Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear in ‘As Good As It Gets'. Pic/YouTube
Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear in ‘As Good As It Gets'. Pic/YouTube  

Jack Nicholson earned his third Oscar award for playing Melvin Udall, a neurotic writer who develops an unlikely bond with a waitress (Helen Hunt) and a troubled neighbour (Greg Kinnear).

'Hoffa' (1992)
Jack Nicholson in and as ‘Hoffa'. Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson in and as 'Hoffa'. Pic/YouTube

This French-American biographical film directed by Danny DeVito is based on the life of an American trade union leader, Jimmy Hoffa, essayed by Jack Nicholson. His performance in the film received mixed reviews. It is interesting to note that Nicholson earned himself a Golden Globe as well as a Razzie nomination for the same role.

'Wolf' (1994)
Jack Nicholson in ‘Wolf'. Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson in 'Wolf'. Pic/YouTube

We get to see yet another horrifying side of Jack Nicholson in this romantic horror film where he transforms into a werewolf and takes on nocturnal escapades.

'The Witches of Eastwick' (1987)'The Witches of Eastwick' (1987)
Jack Nicholson in a still from 'The Witches of Eastwick'. Pic/YouTube

Jack Nicholson unleashes his devilish side in this film featuring Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer as three lonely women who are unaware they are witches. Nicholson plays Daryl, a mysterious man, who seduces the women one by one, leading to disastrous consequences.

'A Few Good Men' (1992)
Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men'. Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men'. Pic/YouTube 

In this courtroom drama based on a play by Aaron Sorkin, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup, a base commander caught up in the trial of two US Marines accused of murder. Best remembered for his dialogue, “You can't handle the truth!”, his role earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

'About Schmidt' (2002)
Jack Nicholson in a still from 'About Schmidt'. Pic/YouTube
Jack Nicholson in a still from 'About Schmidt'. Pic/YouTube

In this moving comedy-drama, Jack Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a lonely man who struggles to find meaning in his life post retirement. Nicholson's portrayal is a far call from the typical neurotic dark roles we have seen him play, and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

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