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He is best known for his roles as Jack Torrance in the 1980 psychological horror film The Shining, Jack Napier/The Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 superhero film Batman, US President James Dale in Burton's Mars Attacks! and as Francis "Frank" Costello in the 2006 crime thriller film The Departed. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor award twice for his roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and As Good as It Gets and also won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Terms of Endearment. He is also the father of Lorraine Nicholson.
- Nicholson was once approached to voice Hades in Hercules, but he turned down the role due to not being paid as much as he wanted.