As Good as It Gets

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As Good as It Gets
As good as it gets.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames L. Brooks
Produced by
  • James L. Brooks
  • Bridget Johnson
  • Kristi Zea
Screenplay by
Story byMark Andrus
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byRichard Marks
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 23, 1997 (1997-12-23)
Running time
139 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$314.1 million[1]

As Good as It Gets is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by James L. Brooks, who co-wrote it with Mark Andrus. The film stars Jack Nicholson as a misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive novelist, Helen Hunt as a single mother with a chronically ill son, and Greg Kinnear as a gay artist. The paintings were created for the film by New York artist Billy Sullivan.[2]

Nicholson and Hunt won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, making As Good as It Gets the most recent film to win both of the lead acting awards, and the first since 1991's The Silence of the Lambs. It is ranked 140th on Empire magazine's "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time" list.[3]


Melvin Udall is a misanthropic best-selling romance novelist in New York City, whose obsessive–compulsive disorder has him avoiding stepping on sidewalk cracks while walking through the city, and eating breakfast at the same table in the same restaurant every day. He takes an interest in his waitress, Carol Connelly, the only server at the restaurant who can tolerate his uncouth behavior.

One day, Simon Bishop (a gay artist who is Melvin's apartment neighbor), is assaulted and nearly killed during a robbery. Melvin is intimidated by Simon's agent, Frank Sachs, into caring for Simon's dog, Verdell, while Simon is hospitalized. Although he initially does not enjoy caring for the dog, Melvin becomes emotionally attached to it. He simultaneously receives more attention from Carol. When Simon is released from the hospital, Melvin is unable to cope emotionally with returning the dog. Melvin's life is further altered when Carol decides to work closer to her home in Brooklyn so she can care for her acutely asthmatic son Spence. Unable to adjust to another waitress, Melvin arranges through his publisher (whose husband is a doctor) to pay for her son's considerable medical expenses as long as Carol agrees to return to work. She is overwhelmed at his generosity.

Meanwhile, Simon's assault and rehabilitation, coupled with Verdell's preference for Melvin, causes Simon to lose his creative muse. Simon is approaching bankruptcy due to his medical bills. Frank persuades him to go to Baltimore to ask his estranged parents for money. Because Frank is too busy to take injured Simon to Baltimore himself, Melvin reluctantly agrees to do so; Frank lends Melvin the use of his Saab 900 convertible for the trip. Melvin invites Carol to accompany them on the trip to lessen the awkwardness. She reluctantly accepts the invitation, and relationships among the three develop.

Once in Baltimore, Carol persuades Melvin to take her out to have dinner. Melvin's comments during the dinner greatly flatter—and subsequently upset—Carol, and she abruptly leaves. Upon seeing Carol, who is frustrated, Simon begins to sketch her, semi-nude, in his hotel room, which rekindles his creativity, and he once more feels a desire to paint. He briefly reconnects with his parents, but is able to tell them that he will be fine.

After returning to New York, Carol tells Melvin that she does not want him in her life anymore. She later regrets her statement and calls to apologize. The relationship between Melvin and Carol remains complicated, until Simon (whom Melvin has allowed to move in with him, as he had to sell his apartment) persuades Melvin to declare his love for her. Melvin goes to see Carol, who is hesitant, but agrees to try and establish a relationship with him. The film ends with Melvin and Carol walking together. As he opens the door at an early morning pastry shop for Carol, he realizes that he has stepped on a crack in the pavement, but does not seem to mind.



In 1996, James L. Brooks flew Geoffrey Rush from Sydney to Los Angeles to audition for the part of Simon Bishop, and offered him the role, but Rush declined it.[4]

Owen Wilson served as associate producer, one of his first jobs in Hollywood.


As Good as It Gets
Soundtrack album by
Hans Zimmer and various artists
ReleasedJanuary 13, 1998
LabelSony Records

The soundtrack features instrumental pieces composed by Hans Zimmer and songs by various artists. Zimmer's work was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score – Musical or Comedy.


Box office[edit]

As Good as It Gets was a box office hit, opening at number three at the box office (behind Titanic and Tomorrow Never Dies) with $12.6 million,[5] and eventually earning over $148 million domestically and $314 million worldwide.[1] It is Jack Nicholson's second highest earning film, behind Batman.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that what director James Brooks "manages to do with [the characters] as they struggle mightily to connect with one another is funny, painful, beautiful, and basically truthful—a triumph for everyone involved."[7]

Praise for the film was not uniform among critics. While Roger Ebert gave the film three stars (out of four), he called the film a "compromise, a film that forces a smile onto material that doesn't wear one easily," writing that the film drew "back to story formulas," but had good dialogue and performances.[8] The Washington Post critic Desson Howe gave a generally negative review of the film, writing that it "gets bogged down in sentimentality, while its wheels spin futilely in life-solving overdrive."[9]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of professional critics gave the film a positive review based on 79 reviews, with its consensus stating: "James L. Brooks and Jack Nicholson, doing what they do best, combine smart dialogue and flawless acting to squeeze fresh entertainment value out of the romantic-comedy genre."[10] Metacritic gave the film a score of 67 out of 100, based on reviews from 30 critics, indicating generally favorable reviews.[11]


The film was nominated for and received many film awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress awards for Nicholson and Hunt at the 70th Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Award ceremony. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar[12] and won Best Picture–Music or Comedy at the Golden Globes.

Organization Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[12] Best Actor Jack Nicholson Won
Best Actress Helen Hunt Won
Best Supporting Actor Greg Kinnear Nominated
Best Film Editing Richard Marks Nominated
Best Picture James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, and Kristi Zea Nominated
Best Original Score Hans Zimmer Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks Nominated
ALMA Awards Outstanding Actress in a Film Lupe Ontiveros Nominated
Czech Lion Awards Best Foreign Language Film James L. Brooks Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Film – Wide Release Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jack Nicholson Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Helen Hunt Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Greg Kinnear Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture James L. Brooks Nominated
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance in a Movie Helen Hunt Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture Jack Nicholson Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Helen Hunt Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Cuba Gooding Jr. Nominated
Greg Kinnear Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Shirley Knight Nominated
Best Motion Picture James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson and Kristi Zea Won
List of awards from guilds
Guild Category Recipients Result
American Cinema Editors Best Edited Film Richard Marks Nominated
Casting Society of America Best Casting – Comedy Film Francine Maisler Nominated
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directing – Motion Pictures James L. Brooks Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editing – Music (Domestic and Foreign) Nominated
Producers Guild of America Motion Picture Producer of the Year James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson and Kristi Zea Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role Jack Nicholson Won
Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role Greg Kinnear Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role Helen Hunt Won
Writers Guild of America Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks Won


  1. ^ a b c "Box office statistics for As Good as It Gets (1997)" Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  2. ^ "As Good as It Gets (1997) - James L. Brooks - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie".
  3. ^ "Empire Features". Empire. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  4. ^ Douglas Aiton, "10 Things You Didn't Know About Geoffrey Rush", Weekend Australian Magazine, 4–5 September 2004, p. 12
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 26–28, 1997". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  6. ^ "Batman (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on June 11, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  7. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (December 22, 1997). "As Good as It Gets". Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 22, 1997). "As Good as It Gets". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Howe, Desson (December 23, 1997). "'As Good as It Gets': Saving the Worst for Last". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  10. ^ "As Good as It Gets". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  11. ^ "As Good as It Gets". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "'Titanic' cruises into Oscars lead". CNN. Time Warner. February 10, 1998. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Silence of the Lambs
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Actress Succeeded by
No film has achieved this since