There is a good chance that you’ve seen one, two, or dozens of movies starring John Cusack over the years, even if you didn’t plan on it. If you flip through channels at any given time on any given day, you’re bound to run across something like High Fidelity, Con Air, or maybe even One Crazy Summer (if you’re lucky). But, this isn’t really a bad thing. In fact, spending a lazy afternoon with any one of those movies is time well spent, even if you’ve seen any number of Cusack’s films multiple times over the years.
But, what if you aren’t trying to catch one of those movies halfway through on cable and want to experience one of them the way they were meant to be seen? Fear not, as we have put together a list of the best John Cusack movies and how you can watch them streaming or through physical media…
High Fidelity (2000)
Stephen Frears’ 2000 romantic comedy, High Fidelity, which is based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel of the same name, follows Chicago record shop owner and hopeless romantic Rob Gordon (John Cusack) as he attempts to make sense of both his personal and professional life after being dumped by his longtime girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle). But, just as one door closes, another opens when he meets the bohemian musician Marie DeSalle (Lisa Bonet), giving Rob’s life new meaning. This budding relationship, however, is made all the more complicated when a tragedy brings Laura back into Rob’s life.
Say Anything (1989)
Cameron Crowe’s iconic ’80s coming-of-age story, Say Anything, centers on lovable slacker Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and class valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye), as they navigate that brief yet pivotal period in life known as the summer between high school graduation and the start of college. Though the two are madly in love with one another, the reality of their different paths and the weight of the pressure applied by outside force, including Diane’s overbearing father, Jim (John Mahoney), may prove to be too much for the couple as they face a difficult situation.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Directed by visionary filmmaker Spike Jonze and written by the talented Charlie Kaufman, the 1999 mind-bending dark comedy, Being John Malkovich, centers on Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), and out-of-work puppeteer whose life is on the brink of falling apart when he takes a job at a doctor’s office that leads to a rather unique discovery. At his new job (which is between the seventh and eighth floors of an office building) Craig discovers a portal that leads not to a new world or alternate universe but instead to the mind of actor John Malkovich. The bizarre story only gets crazier from there, especially after John Malkovich himself learns of the hidden door.
James Mangold’s 2003 movie, Identity, which is a modern-day take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, follows a group 10 strangers (including John Cusack’s former cop and current limo driver Ed Dakota) as they weather a storm in a motel in the middle of the Nevada desert. In standard murder mystery fashion, the strangers begin to be picked off one by one, leading the survivors to try and get to the bottom of the deaths and find the murderer before it’s too late.
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)
Clint Eastwood’s 1997 adaptation of John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, follows journalist John Kelso (John Cusack) as he travels to Savannah, Georgia, where a high-profile murder trial is set to get underway. The more John learns of the mysterious case the more he becomes wrapped up in the drama surrounding it. The already delicate situation takes another turn when the young reporter becomes acquainted with Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey), the defendant in the case who claims to have shot and killed his former lover out of self-defense.
Eight Men Out (1988)
One of the best baseball movies that also happens to be one of the most tragic, Eight Men Out tells the story of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox who purposely lost the World Series after a group of gamblers offered them more than their greedy owner ever could: a decent amount of money. When the team is caught after the fact, star players Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), who all went along with the plan, and Buck Weaver (John Cusack), who denied participation but failed to stop them, are given the moniker “The Black Sox” and are given lifetime banishments from professional baseball.
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
In Woody Allen’s 1994 dark comedy, Bullets Over Broadway, struggling playwright David Shayne (John Cusack) finds out that working with the mafia in 1920 New York isn’t the best way to go about making his big break, after making a deal with crime boss Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli), who agrees to help David make his Broadway debut. With the financial backing from the mobster also comes some demands, including making his girlfriend the star of the show, a decision that makes the already messy situation even worse.
Peter Chelsom’s 2001 romantic comedy, Serendipity, follows Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale), two strangers who have a chance encounter in New York City at Christmastime. Instead of making a conscious effort to follow true love the pair leave their future up to chance. This doesn’t immediately pay off, but over the years the potential soulmates cannot stop thinking about one another, even as they prepare for their respective weddings. But, on the eve of exchanging their vows, the two decide to put their future in their own hands and seek each other out before it’s too late, in one of the best movies on Netflix.
Love And Mercy (2015)
In Bill Pohlad’s 2015 biographical drama, Love and Mercy, the story of Brian Wilson (a founding member of the iconic musical group The Beach Boys) is told over the course of two timelines: one set in the 1960s as Wilson (played by Paul Dano) withdraws from his bandmates and society, and a second set in the 1980s that follows Wilson’s (played by John Cusack) budding relationship with future wife Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Both sections of the movie spend a great deal of time focusing on Wilson’s battle with mental illness and the way in which it shaped both his personal and professional relationships, and how he learned to overcome the pressures of fame.
Con Air (1997)
Simon West’s 1997 action thriller, Con Air, which is undoubtedly one of the most absurd movies of the late ‘90s, follows recently-paroled inmate (and former Army Ranger) Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) as he attempts to stop Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) and other inmates from flying to a non-extradition country after hijacking a prison transport plane. And, though he doesn’t have much help on the plane, Poe gets some assistance from U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) who, besides Poe’s wife Tricia (Monica Potter) is perhaps the only person on the ground who doesn’t think he’s part of the coordinated attack.
Better Off Dead (1985)
The 1985 teen comedy Better Off Dead centers on Lane Meyer (John Cusack) as he is dumped by his girlfriend, Beth Truss (Amanda Wyss), so that she can be with Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier), the captain of their high school ski team. Absolutely heartbroken by the tragedy that has fallen upon him, Lane becomes lost in a downward spiral of depression that is much more intense than the standard teen angst he’s used to dealing with. That all changes when he meets Monique Junot (Diane Franklin), a French exchange student whose honor he later defends the only way anyone in an ‘80s movie could: a ski race against Roy.
One Crazy Summer (1986)
The 1986 romantic comedy One Crazy Summer (which was directed by Better Off Dead’s Savage Steve Holland), follows Hoops McCann as he spends the summer between high school and art school with his best friend’s family on Nantucket Island. Initially looking for inspiration to complete his art school application, Hoops soon finds himself falling head over heels for Cassandra Eldridge (Demi Moore). The movie has the same basic format of the previous Cusack-Holland collaboration, but instead of a ski race, One Crazy Summer ends with an epic boat race.
Before you to yourself: “Hey, they didn’t include Stand By Me, that must be some kind of major oversight,” please note that is not the case. Cusack’s portrayal of Dennis “Denny” Lachance adds a great deal of emotional weight to the Stephen King adaptation, especially when you think about how the character’s death touched practically every character. But, with it being a supporting role (and minor at that), it is best included in the “Honorable Mentions” section. Other great Cusack movies that see him in a minor role or being a part of a large ensemble cast include The Thin Red Line and Adaptation.
Honestly, making a list of the best John Cusack movies was no easy task; not because there were a lack of titles to choose from but instead because there are so many. And though we don’t yet know when we’ll see John Cusack again, there are plenty of great upcoming 2021 movies to look forward to while we wait.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.