25 favorite ’80s and ’90s teenage heartthrobs and what they’re doing now

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John Cusack

What made him a heartthrob: Although he first made his debut into the pop culture as the nerdy sidekick in Sixteen Candles, he really became the lovable outcast in Better Off Dead. In this silly, farcical romp, Cusack played Lane Meyer, the suicidal loser who can’t deal after his girlfriend breaks up with him. His sad-sack, woe-is-me bit won over the American culture, and the rest is history.

Even now that he’s one of the most serious, well-respected actors of our time, he’ll always be Lloyd Dobler to us. Sure, we came for Lane, but we stayed (and kept on staying) for Lloyd. Anyone who has even heard the words “romantic comedy” knows the scene from Say Anything in which Lloyd holds up the boombox after a particularly painful breakup. It’s part of our cultural lexicon, for heaven’s sake.

What he’s doing now: What’s he not doing? It seems like Cusack is churning out a movie a year these days, and some of them are actually pretty good. He’s done two installments of Hot Tub Time Machine and won incredible critical acclaim for his portrayal of Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy.

John at his best: With a resume of work like Cusack’s, there’s a favorite for everyone. In my opinion, the best of his early work is One Crazy Summer (also starring Demi Moore). He plays another goofy outcast, but this one is smart and secretly savvy, and has enough untapped potential to carry the whole movie. My favorite of his more recent(ish) works is Gross Pointe Blank, alongside Minnie Driver. In it, Cusack plays a hitman in the throes of an existential crisis, on the eve of his high school reunion. It’s as smart as it is funny.