There are a few certain hat tricks that a lot of filmmakers love to incorporate into films almost any time they can, and sometimes those special moments work really well and become some of the most memorable moments in film history, but other times those constantly used tricks of the trade wind up falling completely flat. And one of those filmmaking tools that can be very hit or miss is a celebrity cameo.
When celebrity cameos are used to the best of their ability, they can become the highlight of the movie that they’re in. Audiences are typically thrilled to see a rogue superstar appear in a movie seemingly out of nowhere, and it has become such a tried and true element of so many movies that a lot of filmmakers have figured out brilliant ways to incorporate them into a movie. So here are the 10 best and most unexpected cameos in film history.
10 Stan Lee – Mallrats
Of course once comic book movies became a juggernaut that completely conquered the movie marketplace, Stan Lee‘s cameos in movies became an institution of filmmaking in themselves. However back before the MCU was everything, Stan Lee’s appearance in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats was a definite pleasant surprise.
What made Stan’s appearance so special was that he actually had some sincere and genuine interactions with the movie character who was the biggest fanboy ever, and of course on a meta-level Lee was appearing in a movie that was written and directed by another one of the biggest real life comic fanboys ever.
9 Bob Saget – Half Baked
It may be somewhat more well known now, but even today most people would be surprised to know that comedian Bob Saget’s personal stand up material is far more raunchy than anyone who knows him from his roles on Full House and Fuller House would ever expect. And that is why his cameo appearance in the Dave Chappelle comedy Half Baked is so iconic.
When Chappelle’s character decides to go to rehab for his marijuana addiction, Saget appears as one of his fellow rehab attendees who drags Chappelle for going to rehab for such a “soft” drug, when he himself has done truly repulsive things to feed his harder drug habit.
8 Keith Richards – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
When the whole Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise began, Johnny Depp‘s character became the breakout star of the series, and quite a few people started to notice a striking resemblance between the behavior and appearance of Captain Jack Sparrow and the world famous musician Keith Richards.
So then, it was an enormously pleasant surprise when the man himself made an appearance in the third installment into the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. And appropriately enough, Keith of course played the role of Captain Edward Teague, Captain Jack Sparrow’s father.
7 David Bowie – Zoolander
Usually a well placed cameo can be a break or make moment for any movie, but Zoolander apparently tried to hedge it’s bets on that by including as many cameos by famous faces as they possibly could. And many of those cameos had a great effect on the movie, but none had a greater impact than the shocking appearance of David Bowie.
When the rivalry of Derek Zoolander and Hansel has reached it’s peak, a rogue Bowie appears and challenges the models to an old fashioned walk off. After going tit for tat in a variety of different walks, Bowie eventually disqualifies Derek.
6 Chuck Norris – Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Well, Dodgeball does bill itself as a true underdog story, and what is any good underdog story without a moment where the underdogs seem like they’re totally down for the count, only to get one last minute reprieve?
And in a move that absolutely no one was expecting, the person giving the Average Joes dodgeball team their much needed break was none other than action star Chuck Norris. When the Average Joes are asking to rescind their forfeiture, their fate rests on the vote of the three judges. They get one yes vote, one no vote, and the last vote, inexplicably offered by judge Chuck Norris, gives them the thumbs up and saves the day.
5 Samuel L. Jackson – Iron Man
It might be hard to recall at this point since Nick Fury and Samuel L. Jackson have become such a constant fixture in pretty much every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever made, but Samuel’s appearance in Iron Man was a complete shock and an amazing teaser for what was to come.
Before Marvel, post-credits scenes weren’t nearly the event that they are today, and when Iron Man debuted no one could have imagined what was about to happen with the entire MCU. Well, almost no one. The fact that Nick Fury was squeezed in at the end of Iron Man just goes to show that this Marvel domination was in the plans all along.
4 Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder
For quite a while it has seemed like Tom Cruise is an actor and person who takes himself incredibly seriously, so that is why his cameo appearance in Tropic Thunder is all the more hilarious, memorable, and iconic.
Cruise can definitely take his acting intensity to another level, but he almost always uses that intensity for drama, so seeing him portray an over the top repulsive film executive in this comedy send-up of overly serious film productions was a truly brilliant move, both for Cruise and for the film. It’s honestly a shame that Tom doesn’t flex his considerable comic chops more often.
3 Johnny Depp – 21 Jump Street
One would think that having the former star of a TV series make a cameo in the film reboot of said series wouldn’t be that much of a surprise or some hugely brilliant decision, but Johnny Depp’s appearance in the film version of 21 Jump Street pretty much disproves that.
Both Depp and his on-screen partner make a reappearance in the film, but obviously since Depp became one of the biggest stars in the world his sudden cameo was all the more surprising. And to make things even funnier, the two former Jump Street cops are promptly killed after revealing their undercover status.
2 Neil Patrick Harris – Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
Some actors make cameo appearances in films in a small and random fictional role, but others make appearances in films where they are allegedly playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves. But what makes Neil Patrick Harris’ cameo in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle so memorable and awesome is that NPH is basically playing himself as the worst person imaginable.
Taking a risk on a role that could be unappealing is one thing, but deciding to willingly portray yourself as a terrible person on screen is a much bigger one. Luckily Neil’s risk paid off in one of his most memorable roles ever.
1 Bill Murray – Zombieland
Thankfully we don’t live in a world destroyed by a zombie apocalypse (at least not yet), but there are lot of interesting ways in which writer and filmmakers can try to ground that imaginary world in some kind of reality. And the comedy zombie flick Zombieland maybe figured out the best way that anyone could come up with when they wrote the comedian Bill Murray into the movie.
Now that the world has ended, Bill passes his time by pranking people by posing as a zombie, only to reveal that he’s just regular old Bill Murray.
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