Jack Nicholson’s charismatic performance – which portrayed every inch of the rebel hero – still captivates audiences today and beat off stiff competition from the likes of Robert De Niro’s inspirational impersonation of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (2nd place), and Al Pacino’s iconic role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (4th place).
Total Film Deputy Editor, Jamie Graham says "Few actors are as magnetic as Jack Nicholson, and R.P. McMurphy is his definitive performance. Perfectly capturing the anti-hero, anti-establishment spirit of the time, he combines danger, charisma, courage, anguish and humour, while the wild-haired, wild-eyed lunacy that would consume some of his later performances is here deployed sparingly and strategically. This is Nicholson the man and Nicholson the beginning of the myth."
Emily Watson also breaks into top 5 with her spellbinding performance as Bess in Breaking The Waves. Although not an obvious classic, the completely unknown actress was a revelation in this intensely demanding role causing some critics to wonder whether Watson was really acting or perhaps just wasn’t quite right in the head.
The top 10 Greatest Movie Performances Of All Time are:
- Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest)
- Robert De Niro (Raging Bull)
- Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
- Al Pacino (The Godfather, Part II)
- Emily Watson (Breaking The Waves)
- Marlon Brandon (On The Waterfront)
- Denzel Washington (Malcolm X)
- Jane Fonda (Klute)
- Paul Newman (The Hustler)
- Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List)