John Cusack is one of those unspoken treasures that we all hold dear. Ask anyone what their favorite John Cusack movie is, and they’ll probably have one at the ready, willing to regale you with everything they love about Better Off Dead or Say Anything... and why you should watch them, too.
Over the years, Cusack has dabbled in everything from comedy to drama to intense thrillers. Let’s take a look at his best from each genre.
Comedy: The Sure Thing
1985’s The Sure Thing managed to tell a sweet story that made you fall in love with a guy who, at first, might seem like kind of a douche. Post high school graduation, a very young Anthony Edwards (E.R.) as “Lance” convinces his best buddy Walter “Gib” Gibson (Cusack) to travel cross-country to Lance’s college in California to sleep with a girl who is, as the title suggests, a “sure thing.” Alison (Spaceballs’ Daphne Zuniga), one of Gib’s peers, is (of course) also traveling to California to spend Christmas with her unlikable, uptight boyfriend. What a coincidence! Predictably, the two end up stuck together for the entire trip and, after going through enough crappy times together, realize they may not hate each other as much as they think they do. Cusack turns in a memorable performance as a sensitive guy with a comically intense anger who can make you swoon by handing you a rose mere hours after accusing you of being a repressed prude.
Drama: True Colors
True Colors (1991) put Cusack in the antagonist’s shoes, which was essentially new territory for him. (Dramatic thriller The Grifters was released one year prior.) In it, Cusack plays Peter Burton, a law student with big ambition who will do anything, and step on anyone, in order to make it to the top. James Spader is Tim Gerrity, Burton’s best friend and also a law student, but one who instead has his eye on pursuing justice and nailing the bad guys to the wall. (You can see where this is going.) Cusack is so cold and calculating that you forget you’re watching the same actor who once played Lloyd Dobler, and the film does a good job of depicting how a formerly close friendship can be torn apart when one of those friends puts greed and blind desire over the people who matter most.
While Malcolm Rivers is in prison awaiting the decision of his fate as to whether or not he will be put to death for the murders of several people, ten strangers are simultaneously being forced to spend the night together at a motel in the middle of nowhere in Nevada when a torrential downpour leaves them stranded. Slowly, they realize that they are being killed off, one by one. How are these two stories related? Who is killing the folks at the motel, and why? The plot twist will give you chills, and the final scene of 2003’s Identity will not only keep you up at night, it will also stay in your mind for weeks after the credits roll. While Cusack’s performance here wasn’t really anything to write home to your mother about, the script itself (which was essentially an updated And Then There Were None) is worthy enough to be included in Cusack’s best films of all time.