Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 Great Movies Directed by Mike Nichols

Last month, the film industry lost one of its most important members, Mike Nichols, a director with an outstanding career spanning more than 60 years. The legendary filmmaker is part of an extremely small group of people who won all four major American entertainment awards: the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony. Nichols directed quite a few great movies, so let’s take a quick look back at some of his most important works, in chronological order.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Released in 1966, the movie is an adaptation of the play of the same title by Edward Albee and it represented Nichol’s debut as director. The black comedy-drama stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as a troubled middle-aged couple living in the campus of a small New England college. The film received critical acclaim and it is one of the only two movies in history to be nominated for every eligible category at the Academy Awards. It won five of them, but unfortunately for Nichols, he did not get the Best Director award, which went to Fred Zinnemann for “A Man of All Seasons”.

The Graduate

Following his incredible debut with “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Nichols’ next movie was the 1967 comedy “The Graduate”, starring Dusting Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. Hoffman plays a recent college graduate who gets involved in a complicated affair with an older woman, played byBancroft. The movie is generally regarded as one of the finest all time American comedies and it received six Academy Awards nominations, with Nichols winning the award for Best Director.

Carnal Knowledge

Originally created as a play, “Carnal Knowledge” eventually turned into Nichols’ fifth movie, with Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel playing two college roommates whose lives are explored on a 25-year period. The movie received several nominations, including Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Ann-Margret), Golden Globe for Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Supporting Actor (Garfunkel).

The Day of the Dolphin

Based on the “A Sentient Animal” book by French writer Robert Merle, “The Day of the Dolphin” was released in 1973 and it stars George C. Scott as Jake Terrell, a scientist who trains dolphins to communicate with humans and whose “babies” get involved in a criminal plot. The movie was supposed to be written and directed by Roman Polanski, but he abandoned the project after his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969. Mike Nichols later picked it up, creating what he said was the toughest shoot he made in his career, because production was extremely difficult.The film was not a box office hit, but it was nominated for two Academy Awards, while the dolphin in the movie was named “best animal actor” at the Patsy Awards.


The 1983 drama stars Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, a worker at the nuclear fuel production facility in Cimarron City, Oklahoma who died under suspect circumstances after blowing the whistle on worker safety violations at the plant. The film also stars Kurt Russell and Cher as Silkwood’s boyfriend and lesbian friend. The movie was extremely well received and was nominated for five Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards, winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (Cher).

Working Girl

Released in 1988, the romantic comedy-drama stars Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill, a secretary whose idea of saving a large company from a foreign takeover is stolen by her boss (Sigourney Weaver). The film also stars Harrison Ford and Joan Cusack. “Working Girl” was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Actress (Melanie Griffith) and Best Supporting Actress (both Sigourney Weaver and Joan Cusack), but didn’t win any.

Postcards from the Edge

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel with the same title by famous actress Carrie Fisher, “Postcards from the Edge” stars Meryl Streep as a recovering drug addict who tries to revive her acting career. The movie also stars Shirley MacLane and Dennis Quaid and was extremely well received, with many critics praising the collaboration between Carrie Fisher and Mike Nichols. The movie received several nominations, including Academy Award for Best Actress (Streep), three BAFTA nominations and three Golden Globe nominations.


In a time when there was no such thing as today’s vampire and werewolf mania, Mike Nichols teamed up once again with Jack Nicholson and created “Wolf”. Released in 1994, the movie tells the story of an aging publisher (Nicholson) who gets bitten by a wolf and starts turning into a werewolf, struggling to keep his jobat the same time. Interesting fact about Wolf is that Nichols decided to delay the movie’s release by more than 6 months in order to shoot the ending again, because he wasn’t satisfied with the result. The film also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Plummer and James Spader.

The Birdcage

After Wolf, Nichols’ next project was The Birdcage, a remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian movie “La Cage aux Folles”. Released in 1996, the comedy stars Robin Williams as a gay dad who prepares for a visit from his son’s fiancĂ©e and her parents, a U.S. senator played by Gene Hackman and his wife. The film received positive reviews from both critics and media and it also got praised by different gay and lesbian organizations for “going beyond the stereotypes”.

Primary Colors

Released in 1998, the film is based on “Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics”, a book about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992, written by Joe Klein, a journalist who covered Clinton’s campaign for Newsweek. For this film, Nichols worked with John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton and Larry Hagman and the result received a positive reception from everyone, despite not being a box office success.


Based on a play written by Patrick Marber in 1997, Closer was released in 2004 and it stars Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. They play four people caught in a complicated love story, the film often being compared to a movie version of the “Cosi fan tutte” opera by Mozart. “Closer” is widely regarded as one of the best romantic dramas and it won a BAFTA Awards for Best Actor in Supporting Role (Clive Owen), two Golden Globes (Owen and Portman) and several other awards. It was also nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Actor in Supporting Role and Best Actress in Supporting Role.

Charlie Wilson’s War

The last movie directed by Mike Nichols was released in 2007 and it stars Tom Hanks as Texas congressman Charlie Wilson, who was involved in a CIA program to support Afghan rebels fighting against the Soviet Union during most of the 1980s. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the movie is based on the 1993 book by George Crille III and it also stars Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. For his performance, Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the movie was also nominated for five Golden Globe Awards.


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