There was a time when I thought that John Cusack was the hottest thing since sliced bread. In my mind, he could do no wrong and everything he acted in was gold. 16 Candles, High Fidelity, Say Anything, and the list goes on. For the 80s and 90s, this man was a King. Times have changed and he’s going off of a lot more misses than hits; but that doesn’t change the fact that John Cusack is in my favorite 80s movie of all time, Better Off Dead.

For those of you have not yet seen the movie, let me give you a little background. The story follows one Lane Meyer (John Cusack), a teenager who’s obsessed with his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss) and is a decent enough skier. When Beth dumps him for the local ski douchebag Roy Stalin (Alan Dozier), Lane thinks that taking his own life is the only answer to his dilemma and goes on a series of failed suicide attempts. As you can guess like many movies of the 80s, this plot would probably not go over well with the ultra-PC society we live in now. Anywho, his best friend Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong) and French cutie, Monique Junot (Diane Franklin), rescue Lane out of his funk and he finally moves on from Beth and finds happiness again.

It would be best to categorize the Savage Steve Holland-directed film as a Dark Comedy. It’s pretty morbid by today’s standards, but it’s also hilarious. Each one of Lane’s schemes to off himself get more and more exaggerated as the movie goes on. There’s a lot of unique elements in the movie that you see that you wouldn’t in a film of today either. Holland was an animator and a lot of 2D animation is strewn in the movie. There is also a stop-motion animated sequence with a hamburger playing Van Halen. If this isn’t up your alley, well you didn’t grow up in the 80s and you probably are one of those people who like their comedies played straight; not getting all that wacky.

All of the performances in the movie are amazing. Lanes parents played by Kim Darby and David Ogden Stiers steal every scene that they are in. The mom is off on her own planet and the dad is just trying to deal with one son that continues to let a carrot on his front lawn, and another who creates a working rocket ship and destroys their house. Yes, this movie does really go to some far out places. My favorite character is definitely Charles De Mar though. I was a fan of Armstrong’s performance of Booger in Revenge of the Nerds and he’s basically that same character in this film. A social outcast and a geek, he tends to deliver some pretty hilarious bits of dialogue.

“This is pure snow. It’s everywhere! Have you any idea what the street value of this mountain is?”

Just as important as the actors and one-liners in the film, is the soundtrack. Rupert Hine (Goldeneye, The Fifth Element) scores the soundtrack that’s filled with a ton of memorable artists. As I mentioned before, Van Halen lends a song but so does Hall & Oates and Howard Jones. There’s some classic Christmas songs in there as well, as a lot of the movie takes place around the Holiday.

One thing that’s a shame about the movie is that Cusack hates it and refuses to talk about it in interviews. After Better Off Dead finished shooting most of the cast and crew went on to shoot One Crazy Summer. As they were shooting that movie, they were also editing Better Off Dead. Holland decided to treat everyone to a special screening of the movie after filming one night and in the middle of the movie Cusack walked off. Holland went to talk to him and Cusack said that he had disgraced him with such a goofy movie and that he’d finish One Crazy Summer and never do anything with him again. Given that both movies are amazing, Cusack read the script of Better Off Dead and acted through all of the scenes; I was shocked when I learned this news.

Regardless of Cusack’s sordid history with the film, it’ll remain as my favorite movie of the 80s. If you haven’t seen it, maybe this article helped you. If you have seen it, I hope you can feel some of the nostalgia I have. Feel free to share some of your favorite scenes in the comments and don’t forget your “Two Dollars!”