Top 10 Films of John Cusack

John Cusack’s varied career gets the Top 10 Films treatment as Neal Damiano checks out the actor’s best performances including The Sure Thing, Say Anything and High Fidelity…

10. The Contract (Beresford, 2006)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - The ContractThe Contract is an entertaining cat and mouse thriller. Cusack is an ex-cop trying to spend time with his son. They plan a hiking trip across the Northwest. As chance would have it, he runs into a wounded U.S. Marshall and the convict he’s assigned to send to jail. It is quite a different role for Cusack, he is very intense and confident. They face rugged terrain and obstacles along the way. Cusack holds the film very well and really shows his acting range.

9. The Sure Thing (Reiner, 1985)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - The Sure ThingI was never one for romantic comedies. But The Sure Thing I like very much because of Cusack’s goofy character. He manages to be very silly and self aware, but can be serious when needed. Two college students are forced by circumstances to travel cross country together. The contrast of Cusack’s goofyness and Daphne Zuniga’s strait-laced demeanor is funny to watch. On the surface they can’t stand each other, but the sexual tension is obvious and very entertaining.

8. Money For Nothing (Menéndez, 1993)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - Money for NothingBased on the true story of Philadelphian millionaire Joey Coyle, this comedy-drama stars Cusack as a blue collar worker who falls into an instant fortune when he finds $1.2 million that fell out of an armored car. Well, you can probably guess what happens next. He starts living the charmed life as only someone with money can. It is interesting to see the transition of someone who never really had a dime, come across money and how it affects their life emotionally, financially, and morally.

7. Adult World (Coffey, 2013)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - Adult WorldIn my opinion, Adult World is his best role in years. Cusack plays Rat Billings, a successful poet, who does not like people very much. Emma Roberts plays a very ambitious writer, who wants to be a poet. After a chance meeting with her idol Rat Billings, she develops an unhealthy crush and begins to stalk him. Cusack generally plays very likable characters in most of his films. He really stretches himself in this role, playing a very unlikable man but he’s incredibly convincing. It’s interesting to see him this way. I enjoyed the story, it’s quirky, original, and funny.

6. Identity (Mangold, 2003)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - IdentityA group of travelers are stuck in a run down motel in the middle of a rain storm. As they wait for the roads to clear, someone has a vendetta against the guests. The patrons are killed off one by one. The who-done-it factor here is strong and not in the slight bit predictable. Cusack plays an incredibly creepy man and still remains charismatic. Identity is a fascinating film simply for the engaging quality it possesses. I remember seeing this in the theater and being completely immersed in the story. The movie reminded me of a film version of Agatha Christie’s amazing novel “And Then There Were None”.

5. The Grifters (Frears, 1990)

lilly-the-grifters_filmThe Grifters is a seedy, intense film noir set in Los Angeles about three con artists. It includes an all star cast with Anjelica Houston playing a greedy woman on the take and always looking for the next score. Cusack is her son and wants to quit the world of grifting. Although he has a very estranged and bizarre relationship with his mother, he still cares very deeply for her. I feel this film really shows Cusack’s incredible acting ability, because he is struck with a moral dilemma through the entire movie. He falls for a beautiful, smooth talking lady played by Annette Bening. In a weird incestual vibe, Houston tries everything in her power to keep Bening away from her son. You never know who’s swindling whom throughout the movie and the ending will leave you a little unsettled. The acting is phenomenal while the story intrigues throughout.

4. Gross Pointe Blank (Armitage, 1997)

grosse_pointe_blank_dan-aykroydGrosse Pointe Blank is a very stylish and funny dark comedy. Cusack stars as a jaded hit man whose latest job brings him to his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. At the same time his high school reunion is taking place. Cusack’s character is sarcastically entertaining between doing bad things and being completely school-boy romantic with his lost flame played by Minnie Driver. His character is a bad guy, but you continue to root for him. He has redeeming qualities that shine through the entire film. He tries to find love again, while running from his ex-mentor, who’s trying to make him permanently retire. Cusack’s undeniable charm really shines in this film.

3. Better Off Dead (Holland, 1985)

Better-off-Dead_john-cusack_top10filmsCusack is dumped by his girlfriend, stalked by a paperboy, and dreams of singing hamburgers. His life is pretty much a drag, but the only thing keeping him from killing himself is the beautiful exchange student living with his neighbors. What can I say here, in my opinion Better Off Dead is one of the greatest dark comedies ever made. So many quotable lines and hilarious scenes throughout including Cusack on ski’s being chased down a snowhill by his paperboy. Only Cusack could pull off this character while remaining morose and funny at the same time.

2. Say Anything (Crowe, 1989)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - Say AnythingOnce again, I don’t like romantic comedies, however I make an exception with Say Anything. How could you not like Lloyd Dobler played by Cusack. A goofy slacker, who falls for the valedictorian good girl. Again, I don’t want to be redundant here, but the amount of likable characters Cusack’s played throughout his career is unbelievable. He just does this so well and Dobler is a character that really resonated with people. He is utterly silly, wearing a Clash t-shirt and trench coat with no real ambitions other than to go on a date with Diane Court played by Ione Skye. Cusack and Skye’s chemistry is quite natural with many memorable scenes together. What I really like about this movie is that it shows that sometimes all you really need is someone that cares.

1. High Fidelity (Frears, 2000)

Top 10 Films of John Cusack - High FidelityBased of Nick Hornby’s popular novel, High Fidelity stars Cusack as a sarcastic and pessimistic owner of a Chicago record store who takes a look at his life after his relationship with lawyer Iben Hjejle fails. The one thing Cusack loves more than his record collection is women. A sharp comedy, Cusack was born to play this character. He spends most of his time listening to music and making top 5 lists on just about everything. Having seen many interviews with John Cusack I know he is heavily into music. So he’s kind of playing himself, but is quite humorous and entertaining. Most people find list makers very annoying and anal, however Cusack displays his vulnerability in a heartfelt and redeeming way. If Cusack’s character knew as much about woman as he does music, he’d be alright. He just can’t seem to get it right, constantly battling between emotions and logic throughout the film. He has several witty and funny quotable lines. I really enjoyed Cusack’s character in High Fidelity and found him very relatable to myself. The co-stars are hilarious and the story comes together well, with Cusack being the focal point.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

What are your top 10 films of John Cusack?

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Avatar
    Liv Reply

    high fidelity for me. Love that film

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      Liv Reply

      I forgot about Grosse Point Blank, love that too

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    Adam Mulgrew Reply

    High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank and Being John Malkovich, with an honourable mention for The Paperboy!

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    Dan Reply

    It is rare to see a top 10 and agree with it wholeheartedly. Great choices here Neal. I’m particularly glad you’ve included Better Off Dead so highly – a real gem from the 1980s teen cannon. High Fidelity and Say Anything have their rightful places at the top of the list while Grosse Point and Grifters are very worthy top 5 choices.

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    The Blakk Samurai Reply

    Say Anything, The Grifters and Con Air.

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    ArchE Reply

    One tries to remind oneself to pronounce John’s surname as “Q”-sack as opposed to Cuh-sack. Something I’m doing right now, in fact.

    Now, now, where’s Con Air – c’mon Neal, no room for the “bunny”?

    There will be some clamouring for Serendipity – I’m not necessarily one of them unless I’m that Christmassy mood.

    Tapeheads, Being John Malkovich and Eight Men Out would probably sneak into my personal top 10 but your front five are just as I would have them.

  6. Avatar
    Luke Dunne Reply

    1. Grosse Pointe Blank 2. Grosse Point Blank

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    Greg Reply


    10. Con Air
    9. The Ice Harvest
    8. One Crazy Summer
    7. Hot Tub Time Machine
    6. Being John Malkovich
    5. The Grifters
    4. Say Anything
    3. Grosse Point Blank
    2. Better Off Dead
    1. High Fidelity

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      It would seem there are some familiar names appearing in people’s top 3!

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    Anton Reply

    Nice list Neal. My favorite is Being John Malkovich with High Fidelity second.

  9. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Being John Malkovich is quite loved, I’m 1 of the rare few, who didn’t like it all that much…..I know blasphemy, right. Just wasn’t for me.

    @ArchE, the only bunny for me is Donnie Darko!

    Thanks for reading and the feedback, everyone…..appreciate it, as usual!

    • Avatar
      ArchE Reply

      …and a freaky bunny that is! Good call, Neal. I concur. Both are better than the unfortunate furry friend that ends up in Glenn Close’s cooking pot while she’s making that delicious stew for adulterer Michael Douglas.

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    David S. Reply

    Say Anything, Con Air, High Fidelity, Better Off Dead. In that order.

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    skygamestar Reply

    Hi Fidelity

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    Michael Scoates Reply

    Con Air, 2012 and Grosse Point Blank all stand out for me, tricky one as he gives his best all the time 🙂

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      …you could see from an early age – in such small roles as Class and Sixteen Candles – that he was destined for stardom. You’re right, while Con Air isn’t one of my favourites, he’s still excellent in it.

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    CineGirl Reply

    Good catch on The Contract and you’re right Adult World is his best of recent years.

    I agree with your number one, High Fidelity is also my favourite but I have a soft spot for American Sweethearts and Serendipity.

    • Avatar
      Neal Damiano Reply

      Thanks Cinegirl, you’re always a muse here! (2 me) 🙂

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    Reel Critic Reply

    I think War, Inc. & Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil should have been included in the Top 10.

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    Dave Bradshaw Reply

    Haven’t liked a lot of his recent work but did enjoy 80s throwback Hot Tub Time Machine. I need to see Adult World so thanks for the recommendation.

    Like many others, my favorite is High Fidelity but I loved him in the 80s – Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, Class, Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer etc. Tapeheads was also good.

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    Rhett Bartlett Reply

    None. He can’t act. I don’t like any films he has been in.

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Interesting. Seems like he might be more of a Marmite actor than I thought.

      • Avatar
        Rhett Bartlett Reply

        I can’t find him believable in anything. I honestly cannot recommend a single performance of his.

      • Avatar
        Neal Damiano Reply

        @Dan, I don’t know if marmite is a derogatory term in Britain? I’m not english, however don’t second guess yourself Dan, just because 1 person here doesn’t like him. He’s a beloved actor….very entertaining. Many diverse roles & films.

        • Avatar
          Dan Reply

          Marmite simply means “love” or “hate”.

          It’s always interesting to hear negative reactions to actors who you originally thought were untouchable. My favourite actor of all time is probably Dustin Hoffman, a man who has delivered, in my opinion, some of the greatest performances of the last 40 years (his turns in Papillon, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny and Tootsie are just incredible – great films too). However, I’ve read and heard quite a few people say he isn’t in the league of Pacino, Brando, De Niro, Depp etc. For me, he’s ahead of them all.

          • Avatar
            Neal Damiano

            Yes, but if you notice there’s only one person that posted comments of dislike for Cusack. All the rest are positive!

            BTW, I agree with you on Hoffman, just on Midnight Cowboy alone….it’s one of my favorite films.

    • Avatar
      Neal Damiano Reply

      That’s sad, he’s done some great films.

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    Matthew Hayhow Reply

    Sixteen Candles, High Fidelity, Being John Malkovich

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      Dan Reply

      In such tiny roles – both in Sixteen Candles and Class – he still managed to be memorable! You could see he was going to be a star at that age. Good job Savage Steve Holland found him and set him on the road to greatness before Cameron Crowe put him in Say Anything.

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    kevin meany Reply

    Gross Point Blank, High Fidelity and loved Better off Dead when he was young.

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    Phoebe Reply

    not sure about favorite but he was pretty darn creepy in The Paperboy

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    Karlton Reply

    The Sure Thing made an impression on me when I was a teenager. Also liked his confused Everyman in Being John Malkovich

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    Ross Kavanagh Reply

    Grosse Point Blank “I hate those Stasi guys”

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      “A thousand innocent people get killed every day! But a millionaire’s pet gets detonated, and you’re marked for life.”

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    Jim LaChapelle Reply

    High Fidelity, Grace Is Gone, Runaway Jury, Say Anything

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    Joe Reply

    I loved him in the eighties. He was so aloof. Better Off Dead is great, as is Hot Pursuit but I also loved his small roles in Class and Sixteen Candles.

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    Mark Reply

    Marmite was also a black spread for bread/toast; briefly competed against the Vegemite market here in Oz back in the 1970s.

    Ergo Rhett may be spreading himself a bit thin by not liking Cuzack in ANYTHING.

    Great list Neal, but I am one of the troglodytes who would have put Con Air in there somewhere. The film deserves its own top 10 list.

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Funny how this thread has turned into a discussion of Marmite! For the record, I’m a fan of the stuff but I can’t remember the last time I had some.

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    Lukey Luke Reply

    Never really rated him but Grosse Pointe Blank is good fun. I quite liked Identity and Serendipity too.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Neal we must be connected telepathically in some way. This is the top ten I was going to work on next and I’ve been thinking about it for the last two weeks.

    Nice job, really nice job and every film you have on here was probably going to be on my list. Well done, buddy…really well done.

    Glad you had The Sure Thing on here and of course Better off Dead. High Fidelity would also be my number one. Such a terrific film.

    Great list, really well done.

  27. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Thank you very much, Dan Grant. That’s means well coming from a fellow film list writer. Glad you like it.

  28. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    A tremendous list. I consider myself pretty well-versed in Cusack, but there are a few on here I’ve never seen like The Contract, Money for Nothing, Grifters, and Adult World. For me I think Better off Dead and Say Anything would rate higher (1 and 2) with Grosse Point Blank at 3 and High Fidelity at 4. High Fidelity can be tough to watch sometimes because his character actually can be unlikable despite Cusack’s charm. I didn’t see Identity until a year or two ago, but it’s amazing. The only movie I think you left off that I’d include is One Crazy Summer.

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