John Cusack: The Best and Worst of

John Cusack. He’s a funny creature isn’t he? He began his trade as a quirky guy with a pretty, almost feminine face and an uncanny way of speaking, shared with his sister Joan. (I love when they team up.)

He’s dropped the speech variables for the most part and been content with his likeability as an everyman. And it works for me.

Check out his five best films here, and then his five worst below:

5. Pushing Tin

Pushing Tin doesn’t always get the love that I feel for it. This is how I see it:

– It’s got air traffic controllers. That’s cool.

– It’s got John Cusack.

– It’s got Billy Bob Thornton.

– It’s got Angelina Jolie’s nipples. (Admittedly, I first saw it at quite a transitional time in my life…)

Ok, maybe not my proudest moment in film criticism, but I actually do like the film. Cusack’s dangerously edgy demeanour fits with the job description and is perfectly offset by Thornton’s statue façade. And Jolie is a fine fit for Thornton’s wife (his then-wife in real life) to complete the love triangle.

Maybe the characters (or actors) are too off-kilter and edgy for some people’s liking, but I think it’s a nice piece about things getting the better of you in a stress-filled world. And, if all else fails, he gets to sleep with Angelina Jolie. Good for you, man, good for you.

4. Hot Tub Time Machine

I did not expect to see Cusack in a film like this. His comedies are rarely buddy comedies, he’s usually our guy to follow. But in this case we see him team with three friends – borderline delinquents in their own way – and discover time travel through a hot tub. The title wasn’t lying.

Cusack is once again the normal, loveable guy who is called on to hold his manic posse together.

3. Being John Malkovich

Don’t get me started on the writings of Charlie Kaufman, as we could be here forever. Instead let’s focus on the performance of John Cusack in his 1999 mind-bender, or mind-enterer if you will, Being John Malkovich.

Cusack fits the bill of puppeteer Craig so perfectly; the stooped, emasculated person that seeks credibility and love so much that he is desperate to enter another man’s mind to find it.

Cusack is the perfectly cast nervous wreck that desperately wants to be (or be with) anyone his polar opposite. It’s funny, charming, well-written, well-acted. It’s Charlie Kaufman handled by Spike Jonze. What could be better?

2. High Fidelity

High Fidelity isn’t number one!? What the hell? Well, no it’s not my number one, but it’s a wonderful film. Adapted from the Nick Hornby book, High Fidelity is a great introduction into rock snobbery, into second-guessing lost love, and a love letter to the city of Chicago, in particular the Wicker Park area.

Just look at the skyline here. It could only be Chicago.


Most people will remember the film for breaking Jack Black into the everyday hemisphere, and it’s a great turn from him too, but it’s Cusack’s Rob Gordon that keeps us coming back.

The (Compulsory) List Of Top Five Things I Love About High Fidelity:

5. Let’s face it, we all consider what could have been, but few of us have the guts to actually confront those ex-girlfriends/ boyfriends/ other friends…

4. The music.

3. Jack Black. His best ever role?

2. All of the lists. (I use a lot of lists. List Tip #1: Start every list with “Make a List”, that way you’re always off to a good start.)

1. Rob Gordon. A loveable Chicago guy. He’s always meaning well if not always succeeding. Quite eloquent, tasteful, a forgivable level of pretentious, and a normal guy. I’d hang with him.

1. Grosse Point Blank

This film really is a barrel of laughs. A nice character piece, a nice plot line, and superbly cast. It’s clearly a love story that happens to feature an assassin, and not an assassin that happens to be in love – which I would have preferred. But once we get past the fact that Cusack looks nothing like a professional killer – let’s not even get into how unlike a mercenary Dan Aykroyd looks – we settle into the story and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

The two genuinely spark off each other and the dialogue is smart and cutting enough to make Tarantino jealous.

The main thrills come from the chemistry between Cusack and Minnie Driver. There are two wonderful scenes, first in a radio booth being transmitted live and a second in Minnie’s bedroom, and they capture the strange rhythms that Cusack masters, and Driver’s not too far behind. Glib and coming thick and fast, it’s a memorable relationship, managing to avoid the many clichés that could have come along.

A truly great film. Just look at the cast list: Cusack and Driver; Alan Arkin as a shrink; Dan Ackroyd as Cusack’s rival killer; Jeremy Piven as his old friend; Hank Azaria as an NSA agent; and all are on top form. Brilliant all around.

Now for the Five Worst Films to Feature John Cusack:

Stop it, John!

5. America’s Sweethearts

Cusack pairs up with Catherine Zeta-Jones in this lacklustre and utterly forgettable romcom. Although co-written by Crystal and with an impressive and a long list of impressive cast members – Alan Arkin and Seth Green are ninth and tenth in the cast list, while Rainn Wilson makes an appearance in thirteenth place – the film is dull and flat. Unsympathetic characters, lack of humour, and just an out and out bad decision for Cusack.

Oh, I get it. She means penis. Ha, ha, ha.

4. The Jack Bull

Sometimes the casting of a film is all that is needed to make or break it. When you think of a man named Myrl Redding, a Wyoming horse trader with principles that never quit; a man whose word is his honour and it is never broken; a man who treats his Native American peasants as equals and passes on life-learned wisdom to his loving son; when we think of this man we definitely do not think of John Cusack.

And yet, it was so in the straight-to-TV The Jack Bull. A weak film, but all the weaker since it had Cusack in the lead role. A shocking choice for Cusack and the good people over at HBO (talk about a tarnished record…)

Hey, it’s that Doctor from Scrubs too!

What could have been a wholly likeable film about an underdog who must get justice against all odds is instead a weak and unbelievable film.

3. 1408

Usually Stephen King has some great adapted films. Kubrick’s The Shining was a masterpiece of suspense. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most-loved films of all time. The Green Mile was great. The Mist was bleak but surprisingly great. And what about Stand By Me? Carrie? Misery? Just brilliant.

But unfortunately there’s also been Hearts of Atlantis and there’s been Apt Pupil. And, in the latter group of dud adaptations sit’s the horrid hotel thriller, 1408.

Cusack and Samuel L. (whose career just keeps plummeting…) can’t save the idea of a room that can melt your mind. The potential is pretty high from the beginning, but everything unravels out of control and there’s no boundaries for the director. There needs to be more than just a weird room.

His mint has disappeared? Spooky…

Take that, minibar!

2. 2012

I don’t like Roland Emmerich. I don’t like Roland Emmerich at all. His films are all the same; repetitive disaster films that fall down in the character department while trying to make up for it with special effects; Just follow the guy who stands in the middle and talks the most.

Cusack has no character. He’s just a guy with kids in a plane talking to Woody Harrelson in costumes. It’s shockingly awful.

1. Serendipity

Oh, John, what were you thinking? Many men fall into the trap of wanting to be seen as desirable to women. It happens. We all want screaming teenaged girls, John, but what you don’t understand is that you had the female fans without STOOPING TO THE LEVEL OF SERENDIPITY!

Ahem, apologies.

This is sorry, soppy nonsense and Cusack is better than it.

“Will fate bring us together?”

“If it’s love, should we let it leave and see if it returns?”

“Do you think that true love is writing your name in a book and hoping that it’ll returned by your soul-mate?”

Well, yes, apparently. Pure drivel. Christ, that wasn’t easy. You might want to scroll back up to the top…

Don’t hold it against him though, he’s our everyman who keeps us seeing ourselves in the movies. Who else are we going to relate to? Brad Pitt? Unlikely…

No, I think it’s time to watch some more High Fidelity clips.

By Conor O’Hagen


  1. I will do it before anyone else does… Better off Dead…

    Classic Cusack that cannot be neglected…

    damn shame..people throwin’ out a perfectly good white boy…

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