One of those movies about the 1960s that’s not actually about the 1960s (see also Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Vanishing Point, and Two-Lane Blacktop), Five Easy Pieces offers an anti-hero for the times in Jack Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea. He’s apolitical, but he won’t be bound by rules, man—and whatever the establishment is for, he’s against it. (Call his philosophy Groucho Marxism.)
In the movie’s most celebrated scene (and one of the most celebrated in Nicholson’s 55-year Hollywood career), Bobby fights the unthinking arbitrariness of authority in the form of a diner waitress who is unable to think outside the box. Trying in vain to order a side of toast with his omelette—a breakfast combo not on the menu—Bobby creatively orders a chicken salad sandwich and asks the waitress to hold the chicken salad. Specifically, to hold the chicken salad “between your knees.” It’s a line whose mixture of irreverence, contempt, rebelliousness, and yes, salaciousness defined what made Nicholson a star. Of course, it also left Bobby hungry and unsatisfied.