The Highest-Grossing Jack Nicholson Movies
Few movie stars can boast of a career that spans decades. One of those long-burning stars is Jack Nicholson.
The actor first played a leading role in the 1958 thriller “The Cry Baby Killer,” and went on to star in more than 40 movies across multiple genres. Even more impressive, a huge number of the films were successes. Through it all, he’s remained at the top of his craft. He’s one of the most celebrated male movie stars of all time, with twelve Academy Award nominations. He’s won three.
He’s also one of our most popular View From the Top profile subjects.
Here’s a rundown of the highest-grossing Nicholson movies, not including his bit-part roles like in “Broadcast News” or the films he directed. The lifetime gross for each movie has been adjusted for inflation and is based on the available domestic gross. Numbers are from Box Office Mojo, unless otherwise noted.
Budget: $35 million
Unadjusted gross: $24,276,506
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $52,777,800
Trivia: Nicholson says this is one of his favorite film roles.
This story follows the infamous union boss who made a deal with a notorious crime syndicate then went missing. It follows the decades of his life leading up to his disappearance through the eyes of one of his friends. Nicholson plays Jimmy Hoffa and Danny DeVito, who also directed the film, plays his friend Bobby Ciaro.
Unadjusted gross: $25,314,189
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $61,477,300
Trivia: Nicholson got this role only two days before shooting began when the director realized Meryl Streep and the original actor playing opposite her didn’t have the necessary chemistry to pull the story off.
A food critic played by Streep and newspaper columnist played by Nicholson meet and fall in love. She leaves everything behind to give their relationship a chance, only to have him continuously question if he’s able to give up his old life as well to be with her. When she gets pregnant, they celebrate at first but soon it becomes obvious the transition to family man will be more challenging than either one thought.
18. ‘Prizzi’s Honor’
Unadjusted gross: $26,657,534
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $67,657,600
Trivia: Nicholson gained 30 pounds for this role.
A man who happily carries out murder contracts finds himself in an identity crisis when he falls for a woman. His newfound calm life becomes upended when he’s ordered to finish one last contract.
17. ‘Mars Attacks!’
Unadjusted gross: $37,771,017
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $75,711,300
Trivia: Director Tim Burton was told that Nicholson’s character — the President of the United States — could not be killed off. As a result, Burton had Nicholson play two characters, and killed the non-president character.
When a group of Martians make first contact on Earth, their intentions are at first unclear. Suddenly, it becomes very clear that they’re out to annihilate humankind so Nicholson’s president must retaliate quickly and in full force. Though it may sound somewhat apocalyptic, Burton’s film is comedic and playful.
16. ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’
Unadjusted gross: $14,000,000
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $81,380,600
Trivia: Nicholson’s role in the original script was larger than it is in the final film, with many of his scenes ultimately getting cut.
Nicholson has a smaller role in this genre-bending musical/comedy/drama/fantasy film that stars Barbra Streisand. She plays a woman willing to give hypnosis a shot to try and stop her smoking habit. She soon uncovers another part of her psyche with a totally different personality.
15. ‘About Schmidt’
Budget: $30 million
Unadjusted gross: $65,016,287
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $97,244,800
Trivia: Nicholson won the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a drama, but later quipped that he thought the movie was a comedy.
Despite living a seemingly safe and predictable life, a former insurance actuary (played by Nicholson) discovers after his wife’s sudden death that his world was filled with more surprises than he expected. He attempts to stop the wedding of his somewhat estranged daughter but is thwarted by her soon-to-be-mother-in-law.
14. ‘The Bucket List’
Budget: $45 million
Unadjusted gross: $93,466,502
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $117,304,900
Trivia: At one point in the hospital, Nicholson’s character wore mirrored glasses. Those weren’t originally in the script, but the director allowed them when Nicholson brought them to the set and explained that he got them when he had been recently hospitalized.
An unlikely friendship is formed when two strangers in a hospital room, characters played by Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, bond over the fact that they share both the same impending fate and a desire to finish a number of life’s adventures before that fate strikes.
Budget: $32 million
Unadjusted gross: $40,382,659
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $124,441,200
Trivia: Nicholson’s character gives Diane Keaton’s character a poem at one point. Nicholson actually wrote Keaton a poem for the scene.
When a journalist travels to Russia to cover the Bolshevik revolution, he finds himself radicalized. Upon his return to America, he dedicates his life to left-wing political policies and bringing that same revolutionary spirit and ideas to the United States. He wins over the respect (and eventual love) of a woman with the same political spirit, played by Keaton. Nicholson plays the playwright Eugene O’Neill.
Budget: $70 million
Unadjusted gross: $65,002,597
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $140,113,300
Trivia: Nicholson wanted to get this film made for twelve years.
Nicholson’s character finds himself slowly becoming more wolf-like after being bitten by a black wolf. The signs aren’t obvious at first; he simply feels more youthful and energized. But soon his rage and his instincts take over as his wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, must adapt to the new dynamics of their relationship.
Unadjusted gross: $29,200,000
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $140,690,900
Trivia: Nicholson’s character is interrogated by John Huston’s character in the film, with many of the questions being directly related to Nicholson’s relationship with his daughter. In real life, Nicholson had just begun dating Huston’s daughter, Anjelica Huston.
One of the most famous modern noir films ever, Nicholson’s character is a detective who is hired by someone who turns out to be an imposter. Death, lies and tightly kept secrets make it difficult if not impossible for him to get to the bottom of everything that’s been going on in Chinatown.
10. ‘The Witches of Eastwick’
Budget: $22 million
Unadjusted gross: $63,766,510
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $146,940,200
Trivia: In a scene at an ice cream counter, Nicholson seems to be whistling. That is actually not him whistling, but the composer John Williams making the sound.
Three women (played by Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer) live in the small town of Eastwick and feel something missing in all their respective lives. Suddenly, Nicholson’s character shows up and begins courting each of their characters in a different and specific way. He eventually reveals the trio are actually witches.
9. ‘The Shining’
Budget: $19 million
Unadjusted gross: $44,781,695
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $148,233,700
Trivia: His famous line “Here’s Johnny” was apparently improvised, with Nicholson being so intensely in the moment.
When a novelist takes over care of the property of an ominous and beautiful hotel in Colorado, he brings his wife and child with him. Unfortunately, the hotel seems to have a dark energy. Nicholson’s character slowly becomes unhinged.
8. ‘The Departed’
Budget: $90 million
Unadjusted gross: $132,384,315
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $181,288,200
Trivia: Nicholson’s character was inspired by the real life crime boss, Whitey Bulger.
In this stacked cast, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are on opposite ends of the law in a South Boston drug trade investigation. Both have gone undercover to get information, and both have been quietly discovered. Nicholson plays the main gang’s chief in this tense action-thriller co-written and directed by Martin Scorsese.
7. ‘Something’s Gotta Give’
Budget: $80 million
Unadjusted gross: $124,728,738
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $182,789,900
Trivia: This was the second time Diane Keaton and Nicholson worked together. The first time was in the 1981 film “Reds.”
This Nancy Meyers romantic comedy features a love story between two older people at very different points in their lives. Keaton and Nicholson somehow find love with each other despite being complete opposites.
6. ‘Anger Management’
Budget: $75 million
Unadjusted gross: $135,645,823
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $202,681,400
Trivia: Another major role that almost went to an actor other than Nicholson. Adam Sandler originally wanted Eddie Murphy, but eventually landed on Nicholson for the part.
In this light-hearted comedy, a businessman who represses his emotions loses his temper on an airplane and is forced to attend anger management classes, which are taught by an unorthodox teacher, played by Nicholson. The two begin messing with each other on both big and small scales and, despite the fact that they spend a lot of time at hilarious odds, they somehow form a friendship and bond that positively influences both their lives.
5. ‘As Good as It Gets’
Budget: $50 million
Unadjusted gross: $148,478,011
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $285,391,300
Trivia: This was the second time James L. Brooks cast Nicholson in a movie, and he won Oscars for both roles.
A novelist, Nicholson’s character lives a routine life largely due to his obsessive compulsive disorder. He falls for a waitress he sees every day, who manages to tolerate his very specific needs. Like any good romantic comedy, there’s a cat and mouse game filled with heartbreak and humor. Both Helen Hunt and Nicholson won Academy Awards for their roles, making it the most recent film to take home the top awards for acting in both categories.
4. ‘Terms of Endearment’
Budget: $8 million
Unadjusted gross: $108,423,489
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $296,235,300
Trivia: Apparently Nicholson and his co-star Shirley MacLaine would often keep the production on its toes, acting out wildly off camera and improvising during scenes.
The film follows a widowed woman’s relationship with her daughter and how it grows and changes throughout the years. It was adapted, directed and produced by James L. Brooks. Nicholson’s role as a new boyfriend to the widow who brings out a more playful side of her won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
3. ‘A Few Good Men’
Budget: $40 million
Unadjusted gross: $141,340,178
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $307,271,600
Trivia: “You can’t handle the truth” is one of the most famous and recognizable movie lines in history. But the original line was apparently “You already have the truth.” Nicholson tweaked it during filming and the change resonated.
After a Marine is killed, two Marines are court marshalled and accused of murder. Tom Cruise co-stars as a corner-cutting young lawyer who is encouraged to take this case to court instead of taking a familiar plea deal. In court, he begins to unravel the inconsistencies surrounding the stories of what happened to the Marine the night of his death. He calls in a high-ranking officer, played by Nicholson, to testify. In their intense back and forth, the lawyer eventually uncovers the truth.
2. ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’
Budget: $3 million
Unadjusted gross: $108,981,275
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $483,705,100
Trivia: Nicholson wasn’t the first choice for the lead. Kirk Douglas, who had starred in the stage adaptation of the original book, aged out of the role. Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Burt Reynolds were all up for the part, too, before Nicholson landed it.
The now-iconic film adaptation of the popular novel by the same name was nominated for nine Oscars and won five. It follows a cast of colorful characters, including Randle McMurphy, portrayed by Nicholson, who’s moved to a mental hospital after a short prison sentence. He doesn’t suffer from mental illness like many of the other patients, so he plays one in order to avoid the hard labor of actual prison time. When he learns he may never get out of the hospital, he attempts an escape.
Budget: $35 million
Unadjusted gross: $251,348,343
Inflation adjusted domestic gross: $567,380,500
Trivia: The popularity of this film starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Nicholson as The Joker actually caused security issues at the movie’s premiere. About 10,000 excited movie-goers filled the streets of the west Los Angeles neighborhood where the movie was premiering.
Directed by Tim Burton, this was the first time Keaton wore the Batsuit, with Nicholson as his dark and terrifying — yet still strangely charming — nemesis, The Joker. It features the usual superhero story of mayhem in Gotham and a vigilante having to save the city from a blood-crazed villain.