Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Jack Nicholson: 5 Of His Most Underrated Performances

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 23, 2012 at 10:56AM

There can be little doubt that Jack Nicholson is one of the greatest movie stars in the history of the medium. He's had more Oscar nominations and wins than any other actor -- twelve, having won three -- and has been an A-list star for over forty years now, remaining a legitimate box office draw in films like "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Departed" even in his seventh decade. He's worked with everyone from Antonioni to Scorsese, and given some of the most iconic screen performances ever, from "Easy Rider" to "The Shining."
13
Jack Nicholson

There can be little doubt that Jack Nicholson is one of the greatest movie stars in the history of the medium. He's had more Oscar nominations (twelve) and wins (three) than any other actor and has been an A-list star for over forty years now, remaining a legitimate box office draw in films like "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Departed" even in his seventh decade. He's worked with everyone from Antonioni to Scorsese, and given some of the most iconic screen performances ever, from "Easy Rider" to "The Shining."

Indeed, ask a cinephile for their favorite Nicholson performance, and the same few films are likely to come up: "Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces," "Carnal Knowledge," "The Last Detail," "Chinatown," "The Passenger" (an amazing, nearly back-to-back six-year-run), "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," "The Shining." But this means that some of the actor's equally strong performances never quite made it into the canon, overshadowed by his better-known works. Jack turned 75 yesterday, on April 22nd, and to celebrate the occasion, we've picked out five underseen, undersung and underrated Nicholson performances that deserve to be talked about in the same breath as his most acclaimed fare. Check them out below, and weigh in with your own favorite Nicholson performance.

King Of Marvin Gardens

"The King Of Marvin Gardens" (1972)
By 1972, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson were old collaborators. Rafelson had directed Nicholson's script for "Head" in 1968, before producing "Easy Rider," the film that made Nicholson a star, through his Raybert banner (soon to change its name to BBS), the following year. And in 1970, Rafelson took his place as one of the most promising young filmmakers around with "Five Easy Pieces," which won a number of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor. Their follow-up, two years later, was far less well-received. Indeed, "The King of Marvin Gardens" was virtually savaged by critics at the time. But with a few decades of distance, it's gained far more critical respect, and if nothing else, stands as a early demonstration of Nicholson's range. Riffing on the same dysfunctional family dynamics as "Five Easy Pieces," the actor plays David, a late-night talk radio host sunk in a deep dark depression, whose brother Jason (Bruce Dern), a wild-spirited con-man, brings him into a real estate scam in run-down Atlantic City, along with his unpredictable girlfriend Sally (Ellen Burstyn) and her step-daughter Jessica (Julia Anne Robinson), with inevitably tragic consequences. The film (co-written by journalist & Carly Simon lyricist Jacob Brackman) is a decided oddity, a difficult, episodic watch with jarring, surreal scene after jarring, surreal scene. But even to those who don't respond to it, the relationship between the two brothers is complex and affecting, with Nicholson's introverted turn made all the more impressive when put up against Dern's, the friendship between the two giving the fraternal bond real heft. Despite the critical brickbats, the film was an impressive success -- the thirteenth biggest-grosser of 1972 -- and Nicholson and Rafelson would continue to work together many, many times, up to 1996's "Blood and Wine."

Reds

"Reds" (1981)
As staggering as he can be in the spotlight, Nicholson's always shown an admirable willingness to take the back seat to other stars for the right people or project, and one of the best examples of that is his performance in his friend Warren Beatty's "Reds." An unlikely epic about the affair between radical journalist John Reed (Beatty) and socialite-turned-activist Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), the film is an enormously ambitious, unruly affair, with moments of both transient brilliance and eye-rolling artifice. But one of the undoubted highlights is Nicholson, who plays playwright Eugene O'Neill (writer of "Long Day's Jounrey Into Night," among others), who had a long, tumultuous affair with Bryant. Nicholson's drunken turn is a neat contrast with Beatty's more earnest lead, but this isn't Jack off the chain: lost in an alcoholic melancholy, he's entirely aware of how destructive his relationship with Bryant is, but unable to do anything to stop it. The film is full of great performances (it was the last movie to pick up Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, with Beatty, Keaton and Nicholson joining the winning Maureen Stapleton), but Nicholson's is the one that lingers.

This article is related to: Jack Nicholson, Features, On This Day In Movie History


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates