24 of The Greatest Films Starring Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson is one of the most iconic actors of our time, with a career spanning over five decades. He has delivered some of the most memorable performances in film history, cementing his place as a true Hollywood legend.

From drama of any genre to comedy, Nicholson has tackled a wide range of roles with his signature wit, charm, and intensity. Here are the greatest films starring Jack Nicholson, in no particular order.

1. The Shining (1980)

The Shining
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In this horror masterpiece directed by Stanley Kubrick, Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a writer who takes a job as a caretaker at a remote hotel. As he and his family settle in for the winter, Jack experiences disturbing visions and descends into madness.

2. Chinatown (1974)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This neo-noir crime thriller stars Nicholson as Jake Gittes, a private investigator hired to investigate an extramarital affair. He soon discovers a web of corruption and deceit involving influential figures in Los Angeles and finds himself in over his head.

3. As Good as It Gets (1997)

As Good as It Gets
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

As Good As It Gets is a romantic comedy-drama in which Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a misanthropic writer with obsessive-compulsive disorder who becomes involved with a single mother and her son. Nicholson's performance earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in the film.

4. Batman (1989)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In Tim Burton's gothic take on the Caped Crusader, Nicholson plays the Joker, and his over-the-top performance steals the show. He brings with him a manic energy to the character that is both terrifying and hilarious.

5. A Few Good Men (1992)

A Few Good Men
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Just call it a courtroom drama. Here, Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, a Marine officer who becomes the center of a high-profile trial. His “you can't handle the truth” monologue in the movie is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history.

6. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Nicholson won his second Oscar for his performance in this dramedy about a free-spirited astronaut who falls in love with a single mother. His character, Garrett Breedlove, is a charming rogue who brings a much-needed dose of humor to the film.

7. Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

This counterculture classic stars Nicholson as George Hanson, a lawyer who joins two bikers on a road trip across America. Nicholson's performance is a standout, and his character's speech about freedom and individuality is still relevant today.

8. Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Five Easy Pieces
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Five Easy Pieces stole my heart. In this drama, Nicholson plays Robert Dupea, a former piano prodigy who has given up music to work in the oil fields. Through Nicholson's performance, we see the character's vulnerability, and the film's final scene is a masterclass in acting.

9. The Departed (2006)

The Departed Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

If you have watched this movie, you'll testify that Nicholson's performance is intense and unpredictable, and his scenes with DiCaprio are electric.

Martin Scorsese directed the film, a crime drama, where Nicholson plays Frank Costello, a Boston mob boss who is being pursued by an undercover cop played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

10. About Schmidt (2002)

About Schmidt
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

After his retirement, an insurance sales agent decides that he needs to go in search of purpose — a journey to self-discovery — after the death of his beloved wife. Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, the retired insurance sales agent. Again, Nicholson's performance is exquisite, bringing quiet dignity to the character.

11. The Passenger (1975)

The Passenger
Image Credit: Cinema International Corporation.

In this existential thriller directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, Nicholson acts as a journalist who takes on a new identity after accidentally assuming a dead man's identity. His subtle and haunting performance makes this film a must-see for any Nicholson fan.

12. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

The Postman Always Rings Twice Jessica Lange, Jack Nichols
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In this steamy film noir, Nicholson plays a drifter who becomes involved in a passionate affair with a married woman, played by Jessica Lange. His performance is intense and brooding, making this film a classic.

13. Hoffa (1992)

Hoffa Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

I saw this movie based on a recommendation from a friend. I was initially skeptical about it because of the title, but my mind was blown after the first few scenes.

Nicholson plays the title role in this biopic of controversial union leader Jimmy Hoffa. He was able to play this complex and nuanced character so effortlessly, showing the many facets of a man who was both beloved and reviled.

14. The Crossing Guard (1995)

The Crossing Guard
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

This is an emotional drama directed by Sean Penn. Nicholson plays a grieving father who seeks revenge against the drunk driver who killed his daughter. His performance is raw and heartbreaking.

15. Ironweed (1987)

Ironweed Jack Nicholson, Carroll Baker
Image Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.

Ironweed is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. Nicholson steals the show as he takes on the character of a homeless man struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Through his professional acting skills, he could show a character's humanity that many would ignore.

16. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

The King of Marvin Gardens
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

In this surreal drama, Nicholson plays a dreamer embroiled in a scheme to develop a fantasy island off the coast of New Jersey. His enigmatic and captivating performance contributes to one reason this film is a cult classic.

17. The Border (1982)

The Border Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

In this crime drama, Nicholson plays a border patrol agent who becomes disillusioned with his job after witnessing the mistreatment of immigrants. His phenomenal performance makes this film stand out in his filmography.

18. Mars Attacks! (1996)

Mars Attacks! Jack Nicholson, Rod Steiger
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Directed by Tim Burton, this comedy tells the story of the President of the United States, who must fend off an alien invasion. Of course, you know, but I must warn you that this is only a fictional President of the United States, even if the movie made it look so factual.

19. Wolf (1994)

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Wolf tells the story of a book editor who a wolf bites. He then has to transform into a wolf himself. Nicholson brought his A-game to the movie. His acting is both menacing and tragic in this film, making it stand out in the werewolf subgenre.

20. Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Carnal Knowledge
Image Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures.

This provocative drama follows two college friends, played by Nicholson and Art Garfunkel, as they navigate their sexual relationships and personal struggles over several decades. This movie will stir many emotions in you as it did to me, that's for sure.

21. The Missouri Breaks (1976)

The Missouri Breaks Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Lloyd
Image Credit: United Artists.

In this western, Nicholson plays a notorious horse thief pursued by a ruthless rancher, played by Marlon Brando. The film features stunning landscapes and intense performances from both actors.

22. The Last Detail (1973)

The Last Detail Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Otis Young
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

This is an anti-establishment classic, in which Nicholson plays a Navy “lifer” tasked with escorting a young sailor to prison. His performance as the rebellious and irreverent Billy “Badass” Buddusky is hilarious and heartbreaking.

23. The Bucket List (2007)

The Bucket List
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The most memorable thing you might find in this movie is Nicholson's high-class performance. In this heartwarming drama, Nicholson plays a wealthy businessman diagnosed with cancer and fulfills his bucket list with the help of a hospital roommate played by Morgan Freeman.

24. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

The Witches of Eastwick
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Yeah, there are witches in this film, except they are not cruel. Nicholson plays a charismatic and devilish bachelor in this supernatural comedy who becomes involved with three witches, played by Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Nicholson's performance here as the seductive and mysterious Daryl Van Horne is hilarious and unsettling.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Boloere Seibidor, fondly called B.S. is a Nigerian-based writer and poet. Her favorite topics to cover include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She's been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sites. When she's not writing, she's delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.