Highlights: Jack Nicholson

By Jason Barney

January 26, 2010

With all due respect to Heath Ledger, this is my favorite Joker.

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As we watch careers rise and fall, it is always fun to measure which films are memorable and earned respect within the body of work of a particular actor or actress. As time passes and more films enter a performer's resume, it's interesting to see how certain films stack up against others. Such discussions are totally based on point of view, but every so often Box Office Prophets will be taking a look at an actor/actress and providing a list of their top five movies.

There is no secret formula. Money earned in the theaters isn't added to critical reception and then divided by how many times people have seen these films. The square root of how many quotable lines a film is not multiplied by how many people own a flick on DVD.

A number of factors are taken into account for each Career Highlights list. First, limited or small roles naturally hold down a film's chances of making anyone's top five. The screen time of a role that merely lasts a few minutes is difficult to weigh against a film where they appeared as the star. In addition, box office success is not major factor. There have been some really awful movies that have made mountains of money. Perhaps the best way to define how a movie makes the Career Highlights list is by acknowledging the"Enjoyment Factor. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and offer a comment or two... and if you disagree, let us know which films should have been included!


Jack Nicholson is one of the biggest names in the business. From the eyebrows that seem to allow the actor to deliver every possible facial expression, to his fanatical viewing of Los Angeles Lakers home games, he is one of the most recognizable actors over the last 40 years. Here is a look at the most memorable work from one of the best actors to ever perform on the big screen...

1. As Good As It Gets (1997)

Jack Nicholson had a lengthy history of fine work before As Good As It Gets but his performance and role in this film are one of the reasons why it is so popular. Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a successful writer whose life is dominated by his obsessive-compulsive disorder. His portrayal of Udall, with all of his character faults and shortcomings, is absolutely marvelous. In a short few minutes he's able to broadcast his racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic views. It's hard not to think about people we all know when Udall starts spouting his ignorance, and it is even tougher not to cringe when he really gets going. One of the best scenes early in the film is when Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear), his gay neighbor, knocks on his door. Udall rips into him. His interest in Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) sparks him to do things he otherwise wouldn't, which is a major evolution for the character.

The movie delivers some truly touching moments. They are perfectly balanced with instances where Udall manages to put his foot in his mouth. The dinner scene, where he tells Connelly about his medical condition, her affect on him, and his desire to improve himself, was very nicely done. When Udall agrees to drive Simon to see his parents, the dialogue and character interaction is priceless. The film made a very impressive $148 million domestically, but perhaps the best measure of the respect it got was from critics. Nicholson walked away with an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best Actor. As Good As It Gets also received a nomination for best picture. The film proved that after 30 years of being in movies, and playing some of the most memorable characters in the entertainment industry, Nicholson was still one of the best.

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