As one of Charlie Kaufman’s greatest films, it’s no surprising that Being John Malkovich also happens to be John Cusack’s performances far. It’s absurd, it’s original, it’s unforgettable—all words that could be used to describe both Kaufman and Cusack’s careers.
One of Terrence Malick’s lesser-known works, The Thin Red Line is a war movie unlike any other. Combining the horrors of war with the beauty of the Pacific, John Cusack gets to help lead the charge on Guadalcanal along with George Clooney, Adrien Brody, and Kirk Acevedo.
John Cusack and Paul Dano play two sides of the same coin in 2014’s Love & Mercy. Telling the story of The Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, Dano plays the musician at the start of the Beach Boys and Cusack plays him later in life (around middle-age).
An unconventional romantic comedy from 2000 based on the novel by the same name by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity follows a hapless record store owner (played by Cusack) as he attempts to win back his ex, who left him for someone more… New Age. It’s one of many examples where Cusack gets to show off just how charming he can be as a romantic lead.
Another unconventional romantic comedy, 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank sees Cusack playing a contract killer who finds himself on the job at his 10-year high school reunion. Accompanied by Minnie Driver and Dan Ackroyd, Cusack delivers another cult classic performance.
Probably Cusack’s most iconic film so far, Say Anything… changed the lives of countless high school boys hoping to win over their crush with a boombox held up high. It showed the world how great Cusack can be, single-handedly launching his career and sustaining him for tens of years to come.
Yet another 80s cult classic, Better Off Dead... is an absurdist teen comedy about a high schooler who struggles to juggle a breakup, killer paper boys, family problems, and competitive skiers. It was met with mixed reviews upon release simply because of how one-of-a-kind it is, but it (thankfully) received a re-examination in later years.
A Martin Scorsese-produced heist movie costarring Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening, The Grifters puts Cusack at the apex of a triangle of deceit. His mother and his lover duke it out for him, with Cusack working incredibly well off of the both of them.
Body horror director David Cronenberg’s most recent directorial effort, Maps to the Stars is a grotesque and heavy-handed examination of the Hollywood celebrity machine that Cusack so vocally despises. Cusack is a gimmicky guru for the stars, getting plenty of time to deliver monologues about the frivolity of it all. It’s ham-fisted but it knows it, resulting in another great part for the actor.
An early work from writer and director James L. Brooks, Broadcast News is a throwback to the newspaper comedies of Old Hollywood as well as a portrait of a dysfunctional producer and his brilliant reporter. Cusack was still a relatively fresh face at this point, and he delivers a really great performance here in the supporting cast.