A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Patients smuggle liquor into the ward and drink heavily during a wild and unorthodox party sequence. Characters smoke cigarettes continuously.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.