4. Danny Lachance, Stand By Me (The Dead Nice Guy)
John Cusack was born a Nice Guy and in Stand By Me he shows that he’ll probably take that likability to the grave. As Danny Lachance, the deceased older brother of lead character Gordie, he’s the perfect son and brother. When he dies, it puts Gordie and his parents into a deep depression that the brother combats by going on a corpse-finding adventure while mom and dad act passive-aggressive about their loss.
Even though Papa Lachance uses Danny’s death to point out how much of a failure Gordie is, a Nice Guy cannot be judged by how others frame his Niceness. Instead, you have to consider how his Niceness affects others. Gordie leads his friendly foursome in a bonding adventure, saving them from harm and choosing not to profit off the random dead body they discovered, and like Cusack did before, he plays the straight man all the while.
3. Buck Weaver, Eight Men Out (The Nice Sports Guy)
Eight Men Out is a gripping true sports story about the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that controversially lost in the World Series. While many of the team members were in on a fix to throw the championship games, they had motivation to make up for lost money due to an unfair owner and lopsided employment structure that underpaid players during that era. The movie itself paints the cheating players (who would normally be out-and-out villains) in shades of gray, and who could be nicer than a guy who doesn’t cheat but ALSO doesn’t rat on the cheaters?
In reality, George “Buck” Weaver was the only one of the “Eight Men Out” who chose not to accept bribes and actually was one of the best players during the 1919 playoffs (though he did attend meetings amongst the conspirators), but he received the same punishment as the other players; a lifetime ban from baseball. While it’s a Nice Guy of a completely different stripe, John Cusack adds a bit of a rough Chicago edge to Weaver’s virtuous actions. He doesn’t win the affection of a woman, but he does earn the love of the devoted White Sox fanbase.
2. Vince Larkin, Con Air (The U.S. Marshall Nice Guy)
Sometimes the Nicest thing a Nice Guy can do is provide support for an ever Nicer Guy. The true protagonist of Con Air is Cameron Poe, a newly free ex-con fresh out of jail for killing a man who was threatening his wife. When he boards Con Air with the intent to rejoin civilization, he has the unfortunate circumstance of sharing the commute with the rowdy inmates who hijack the aircraft. As Con Air’s equivalent of John McClane, Poe needs an Al Powell on the ground. John Cusack’s Vince Larkin is that man.
Larkin is the guy who sees the good in Poe and gets in contact with the former criminal in order to safely bring the inhabitants of Con Air into custody. Poe reunites with his family and ex-wife, while the extent of Larkin’s accomplishment is Poe’s declaration of trust. It’s not the bounty that Cusack’s characters usually earn for their kindness, but he still gets to observe a Nice Guy victory from the sidelines.
1. Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything (The Nicest Nice Guy)
If the term “Nice Guy” existed in the dictionary, Lloyd Dobler’s image would forever accompany it. He’s a clean cut guy who wants to date Diane Court, the smartest girl in school (who just so happens to also be the most beautiful). He asks her out in the most chivalrous way possible with the guidance of some great platonic female friends and while being a great son and older brother. He’s also a talented kickboxer who never uses his fighting skills to injure another person in any way.
Through no fault of his own, Dobler is dumped due to Court’s disapproving father facing incarceration due to embezzlement. While a lesser Nice Guy would use such an opportunity to vanquish an obstacle blocking the object of his kindness, Dobler’s key motivation is providing reassurance and support to his ex during her time of despair. His ultimate gambit to win her heart back is the nicest and most non-threatening move an ex of the 1980s could pull; playing “their song” on a boombox at a moderate volume in the front yard. It sends a statement but doesn’t really hurt anyone. If there’s any lesson to be learned about Nice Guys in 1980s movies, it’s that virtue is hardly its own reward; you usually win love, too!
What is your favorite Cusack-ian Nice Guy? Have you ever been (or been with) a Cusack-like character? Let us know about it in the comments!