One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Movie review by
Carly Kocurek, Common Sense Media
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Classic and brilliant, but violence makes it teens only.
  • R
  • 1975
  • 128 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 27 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 42 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive 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.

Positive 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.


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.


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.


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."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichael O. January 24, 2019

One of the best movies ever made

Kids won't want to see it, but it wasnt made for them in mind either
Adult Written bycian93 April 27, 2011

Great movie, suitable for 12+

Excellent film, one of the best of all time. Does not deserve its 16+ rating, although most kids won't appreciate something like this anyway. Any film fans... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byClorox bleach October 16, 2020

Good look at mental health

Good look at mental health. I say it's for kids 11 and up
Teen, 13 years old Written byQwerty3214 January 7, 2022

One of the best movies made

This movie is amazing and 12 ywar Olds could probably handle it, the violence is more disturbing than it is bloody

What's the story?

Three decades have done little to diminish the power of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. Based on Ken Kesey's novel by the same name, the film addresses the trials of Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a petty criminal who decides to feign insanity to get out of time behind bars and into the easy life at the mental ward. Once inside the white-walled hospital, McMurphy finds himself pitted against Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). While Nurse Ratched manipulates patients in group therapy and uses a regime of medication and electroshock to maintain control, McMurphy demands the right to watch baseball playoffs and takes the men outside the hospital grounds on a fishing trip. As the conflict escalates, the line between the crazy and the sane grows increasingly blurry.

Is it any good?

Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel is a classic for good reason, starting with Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher who turn in near-perfect performances. Supporting cast members, including Danny DeVito as Martini and Christopher Lloyd as Taber, create a band of institution residents who are warm despite evidence of their insanity. Forman's direction is dead-on, as he manages to capture the monotony of routine on the ward without allowing the film to drag.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • 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?

Movie details

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