As the legendary award-winning actor Jack Nicholson turns 75 this weekend, we've decided to look back at some of his most memorable movie roles and some iconic and often quoted lines.
THE LINE: âThis used to be a helluva good country. I canât understand whatâs gone wrong with it.â
THE MOVIE: A 1969 biker drama starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, this misadventure movie was a seminal film in the counterculture movement of the time. Nicholsonâs character is a drunken lawyer who leaves square-dom behindâ¦at the same moment the rest of the country does. Nicholson got his first Oscar nomination for the part.
THE LINE: âI move around a lot, not because Iâm looking for anything really, but âcause Iâm getting away from things that get bad if I stay.â
THE MOVIE: In this 1970 drama, Nicholson plays a former classical musicianâwho can easily play the five pieces possibly referenced in the titleâwho works on an oil field but has to come to terms with his hoity-toity family, the people and life he ran away from. Nicholson was nominated for an Oscar for the role.
THE LINE: âWhat can I tell you, kid? Youâre right. When youâre right, youâre right, and youâre right.â
THE MOVIE: The most famous line in ChinatownââForget it, Jake. Itâs Chinatown.ââis actually said to Nicholson rather than by him, but the 1974 private-detective movie has plenty of runners-up. Nicholson plays said detective, hired to investigate an affair (or so he thinks), and was nominated for an Oscar for the part.
THE LINE: âHeeereâs Johnny!â
THE MOVIE: This 1980 horror film, based on a Stephen King story and directed by Stanley Kubrick, remains one of Nicholsonâs most famous rolesâand the movie, in which he plays a writer losing his mind in a remote hotel, is full of contenders for his most famous quote.
THE LINE: âI donât know what it is about you, but you do bring out the devil in me.â
THE MOVIE:Nicholson plays the astronaut neighbor (and more) to Shirley MacLaine and Debra Wingerâs mother-daughter protagonists in this 1983 tearjerker. But, even though heâs not part of the central duo, romantic affairs taking backseat (in a convertible) to familiar ones. Nicholson won an Oscar for his role.
THE LINE: âDo I ice her? Do I marry her?â
THE MOVIE:This 1985 crime comedy stars Nicholson as a hit man in love with another assassin (Kathleen Turner) and who must contemplate the essential dilemma summed up in this line. Nicholson was nominated for an Oscar for the role.
THE LINE: âWell, if thatâs how you feel about it, then thatâs how you feel about it. Is that how you feel about it?â
THE MOVIE: This 1987 horror/comedy film, based on a John Updike novel, stars Nicholson as a mysterious man who appears in an uptight New England town and begins to seduce three single women who donât yet know their own witchy powers. Not that Nicholsonâs seductive stranger doesnât have his own powers, too.
THE LINE: âNice outfit.â
THE MOVIE: In the 1989 installment of the Batman films, Nicholson plays the smiling, psychotic villain opposite Michael Keatonâs Dark Knight. Although the Batman-baddie stable is a crowded one, Nicholson did a memorable turn in the plaid pants of evilâand managed to wear that ensemble while being fully underwhelmed by the batsuit.
THE LINE: âYou canât handle the truth!â
THE MOVIE: The 1992 military procedural thriller stars Tom Cruise as a naval lawyer in over his head, but the most memorable moment of the movie goes to Nicholsonâs unhinged Colonel character, who gets to say one of the actorâs most famous lines ever and for whom he received another Oscar nod.
THE LINE: âYou make me want to be a better man.â
THE MOVIE:In a 1997 romantic turn, Nicholson plays opposite Helen Hunt as a misanthrope who discovers what itâs like to actually care about another person for once. In his attempt to woo Huntâs waitress character, he utters the line that can turn any man from âewwâ to âaww.â Nicholson won an Oscar for the role.
THE LINE: âI know weâre all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?â
THE MOVIE:As a retiring insurance man traveling from Nebraska to Colorado in an RV, a bedraggled and lonely Nicholson leads this 2002 film and scored another Oscar nomination for the role. The physical and emotional journey of the title character provides plenty of fodder for insightful dialogue.
THE LINE:Â âWhen I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what Iâm saying is this. When youâre facing a loaded gun, whatâs the difference?â
THE MOVIE:Â In this Boston-set 2006 mob drama, directed by Martin Scorsese, Nicholson plays a gang leader who lets a police mole into the organizationâat the same time that he has placed his own mole with the police. And those moles arenât even the only ones playing for both sides.source