Getting a cameo in the '90s on a big-name sitcom was a rite of passage for many actors. A-listers' resumes are littered with one-off appearances on many sitcoms that were prominent during the '90s. Shows that were feature on Must-See TV or TGIF relied on featuring recognizable faces to keep their fans interested.
These cameo appearances generally fall in to two categories - stars who were big at the time and stars who would only be big in the future. When big name actors come on to a show, it is usually used as a ratings booster. Featuring a celebrity or musical act on a show is a great surprise for an audience. On the other hand, some of these appearances would launch careers of some very recognizable faces in the future; actors who would become A-listers in the future got their starts in Hollywood this way, and would have fond memories of their appearances. Especially if a show featured an actor before they made it big, they are very appreciative of the exposure.
Looking back at some of these cameos is a fun experiment, especially when some of the stars are no longer relevant. Stars that were big in the '90s may no longer have the same name value that they did then. That is why when watching a show on Netflix, it may be possible to miss these appearances, but remember, they were likely a very big deal at the time!
Jump back in to MC Hammer's parachute pants, enjoy some Snapple, and check out 20 A-Lister Cameos Fans Missed In Iconic '90s Sitcoms.
20 Courtney Cox - Seinfeld
Courtney Cox holds the distinction of having roles on two of the biggest '90s shows in history. While she is most well-known for her role as Monica Gellar on Friends, she also appeared on Seinfeld before the pilot episode of Friends aired.
While Cox would have likely loved to retain a role on Seinfeld in March 1994, her star-making performance as Monica would begin airing that September. Considering that Friends would outlast and outshine Seinfeld even today, she certainly made the right decision. In fact, since the episodes aired so close together most fans do not even remember that she appeared in both sitcoms.
19 Robin Williams and Billy Crystal - Friends
When long-time comedy legends make an unannounced appearance on a show, fans get understandably very excited. In a memorable one-off appearance, both Robin Williams and Billy Crystal popped up on Friends. During the cold-open of "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion", Williams and Crystal appear as patrons at Central Perk.
They play two friends meeting for coffee, but wind up telling an outlandish story which causes the group to eavesdrop. While they have a lot going on in their lives, the gentlemen's story is too juicy to ignore. With signature wit from both men, it is a classic performance from comedic legends. Given that it occurred early on in the series, most fans tend to forget it even happened.
18 Dwayne Johnson - That '70s Show
Long before he even appeared briefly on a season one episode of That '70s Show, Dwayne Johnson was known as The Rock. As a mainstay in the World Wrestling Federation and a multi-time World Champion, The Rock was known as "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment." While wrestlers like Hulk Hogan also broke into the mainstream entertainment somewhat, The Rock did it in a big way.
Dwayne Johnson has become one of the most bankable stars in the movie industry over the past couple of years. Even back when he was a full-time wrestler, he had the chops to become a big name in other means of entertainment. Based on his recent appearances, fans likely forget that this was one of his first television roles, though he still played a professional wrestler.
17 George Clooney - Roseanne
George Clooney's filmography is a great resume of film and television work. Before he became the Hollywood juggernaut that he is today, he was just another actor searching for his first big role. Thankfully Roseanne gave him that opportunity by casting him as Booker Brooks. Though it's less of a cameo due to his eleven-episode arc, Booker was a great start for Clooney on television.
Years before he would land his star-making role on ER, Clooney was Jackie's first serious boyfriend on the show. While Jackie would wind up in much more dramatic relationships, Booker was one of the few "nice men" she was with. Fortunately for Clooney, following this role he made it big on the silver screen. Unfortunately for Roseanne fans, he would turn down any future appearances on the show.
16 Jean-Claude Van Damme - Friends
In what would become one of Friends biggest stunt-casting episodes, Jean-Claude Van Damme himself made an appearance in "The One After The Super Bowl". However, while cameo appearances normally show A-listers in a positive light, JCVD's appearance was anything but a good showing for the action star. In fact, he came off very poorly in this episode.
With both Monica and Rachel vying for his affections, he makes a very forward advance on both of them. While they both think he is attractive, neither lady is interested in spending the night with him and Drew Barrymore, and they both turn him down. Van Damme comes off very pig-headed in this episode, but it took place so early during Friend's run that it is often forgotten about.
15 Michelle Williams - Home Improvement
While Williams would eventually become a '90s TV mainstay due to her role on Dawson's Creek, she cut her teeth in a small role alongside Tim Allen. Playing one of Brad's random girlfriends on Home Improvement was a minor role, but a jumping off point nonetheless.
While the audience would never see her again, she thankfully got her time in front of the camera to boost her career forward. Such fleeting roles in '90s sitcoms read like a who's-who of A-listers in the entertainment industry. Thankfully Michelle Williams was able to make her way out of that pile of actresses over the years.
14 Leonardo DiCaprio - Roseanne
Long before his time as Jack Dawson in Titanic, and even before his breakout role in Growing Pains, even DiCaprio was a background performer. Most DiCaprio fans likely missed this appearance by the A-Lister as he was not even given a name in the episode. Only credited as "Darlene's classmate" in season three, he doesn't even have a line in the episode.
DiCaprio would certainly move on to bigger things in his career. In fact, this is not even listed as a credit on his resume, but he is clearly visible on camera during scenes in the classroom. DiCaprio was only seventeen years old at the time of this role in 1991, but his career was only beginning. Is it possible that the other actors sitting next to him could sense that he would one day become a huge name in Hollywood?
13 Hugh Laurie - Friends
When Friends traveled overseas to visit London, England for Ross and Emily's wedding, the showrunners spared no expense in bringing in many different guest stars. While it would still be a number of years before he would hit it big in America, Hugh Laurie was already a mainstay on British television. His appearance was brief, but certainly impactful.
Rachel Green was not used to people questioning her motives, but Hugh Laurie had no problem doing so. As a disgruntled airplane traveler seated beside Rachel as she lays out her plans to stop Ross' wedding, he lets her know how bonkers he feels she is. He does not have a lot of screen time, but he was one of the best parts of the episode.
12 Idris Elba - Absolutely Fabulous
While Idris Elba is known as a suave and debonair man now, some of his earlier television roles were much less dreamy. In fact, one of his early television appearances on the Brit-com Absolutely Fabulous had him playing a male companion. He was hired along with a bunch of other men by Patsy in order to break Eddy out of her "slump."
Given his recent status as an A-Lister in films like The Dark Tower and Thor, he would likely prefer to forget this role. He has certainly moved on to bigger and better things since this early '90s episode. However, long-time fans should check out this old episode.
11 RuPaul - Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Long before Drag Race would become an international phenomenon, RuPaul Charles was an A-lister on television. To the '90s audience, Ru was known from The RuPaul Show and various other cameos on television. However, RuPaul was also one of the first drag queens to make appearances on shows geared towards young adults. Thankfully, Sabrina was one of the shows that was progressive enough to include the past, present, and future TV icon.
RuPaul appeared as a hairdresser and a witch Judge from The Council. The cameo appearance was very well received, and should have warranted a return to the show.
10 Michael Jackson - The Simpsons
Most Simpsons fans from the '90s remember all of the epic cameo appearances that the show provided. One of the first big ones occurred in the show's third season episode "Stark Raving Dad", where Michael Jackson was scheduled to appear.
When Homer met someone in an institution who claimed to be MJ himself, he looked nothing like the pop star. However, the character did sound just like Michael Jackson. This led to many debates of the years - prior to widespread Internet access - if Jackson did actually did voice the character. It turns out that Jackson did provide his speaking voice for the role, but the singing was done by Kipp Lennon. At the time, fans were unsure if it was Jackson, but as he later confirmed he did take part on the show.
9 Zooey Deschanel - Frasier
TV's titular New Girl Zooey Deschanel got her start in sitcoms long before her show premiered on FOX. Appearing in a one-off role in Frasier's tenth season, Deschanel played Roz's "twenty-something" cousin. While her one appearance did not change the direction of the show, it does show early glimpses of what makes her so admirable as an actress today.
Watching Deschanel's early talent around '90s icons like Frasier Craine shows that she was going places in her career. Considering that she can thank Frasier for giving her sitcom experience early on in her career, it was a good move for her to make this appearance.
8 Don Cheadle - Fresh Prince of Bel Air
What most people know about Will Smith on Fresh Prince is that he was "from West Philadelphia (born and raised)." While growing up there, he ran in to some trouble ("a couple of guys who were up to no good") and got in to a fight (and his Mom got scared), which landed him with his Uncle in Bel Air.
Thankfully, the show also explored more of the fictional Will's past when his old friend Ice Tray came over to visit. Played by a very young Don Cheadle in the show's first season, Tray is a far-cry from the dramatic Hotel Rawanda performance fans would one day know Cheadle for. Like many young actors in the '90s, Cheadle used this role to spring him into future ones. Looking back, the show missed out on bringing him back for more episodes.
7 Jon Favreau - Seinfeld
Prior to taking on a much larger arc on Friends, Jon Favreau also made an appearance on another iconic '90s show. In his first television credit, he appeared on the show's fifth season episode "The Fire". Favreau played a birthday clown who is ridiculed for his poor performance, but is not the "loser" of the episode. Following a fire breaking out during the party, George pushes past everyone in order to exit the house first, including the clown.
While his role was marginally forgetful in this episode, Favreau's impact on television and film will not be forgotten. For Seinfeld fans looking back on this episode, it is great to see his career start off so welll-- even if he is wearing a ridiculous clown wig.
6 The Ramones - The Simpsons
While the appearance by The Ramones is short, they certainly left a great impression on Springfield's residents. The punk rock band was hired by Smithers to play for Mr. Burns on his birthday, but the band was not thrilled with the gig. Off screen, Joey Ramone was reportedly a big Simpsons fan and was elated by the cameo appearance.
The Simpsons featured many musical guest stars over the years, but this one was a surprise. By the time the early '90s rolled around, The Ramones were on a steady decline. However, this episode exposed them to a brand new audience, which likely helped their career.
5 James Spader - Frasier
While James Spader also made an in-person appearance on Seinfeld, his appearance on Frasier was more difficult to spot. In fact, he does not even appear in the flesh in the episode. Instead, he is one of the many callers in to Frasier's radio show for advice.
Given Spader's very unique voice, it is easy to pinpoint. Large scale shows like Frasier were big news for actors starting their career, and a role like this in the '90s was good for a growing resume. Soon after this, Spader would win Emmy awards for his television roles. However, he had to start somewhere-- even if fans didn't see his face on the screen.
4 Destiny’s Child - Smart Guy
Destiny's Child were not hidden during their appearance on Smart Guy, but fans of the group likely didn't even know it occurred. This is because Smart Guy was not a highly-watched show during its time in the '90s TGIF block. When compared to shows like Boy Meets World and Full House, its viewership underwhelmed.
The story about TJ, a boy genius going to high school, set up some fun experiences. Most notably, he went through the same rights of passage as other students, including high school dances. Thankfully for TJ, he did get to attend one alongsidee Destiny's Child. He even got to appear in a music video with the group. However, given that this episode aired only after their first album was released, they had not reached the level of superstardom they would eventually achieve in the 2000s.
3 Nancy Kerrigan - Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World is one of the '90s shows that fell victim to rely on multiple guest stars over the years. In the same way that other TGIF shows enjoyed bringing in stars, it seemed that featured episode had an appearance by a celebrity. In a blink-and-its-missed cameo, Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan appears to help Eric learn how to skate.
While Kerrigan was certainly a very recognizable face during her appearance, it served little purpose. With this episode occurring a year after the infamous attack on her prior to the 1994 Olympics, she was someone on the mind of the public. However, the show chose to use her for only thirty second of footage during the episode. It seems that her talents could have been much better utilized. Perhaps this is why so many fans do not remember this cameo appearance.
2 Hanson - Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Like Smart Guy, Sabrina was guilty of including random musical performances in order to garner ratings. While musical guests did not have a big impact on the direction of the show, they were there to please fans. Considering that Hanson's fan base consisted primarily of teenage girls, they definitely appeared on the right show.
Isaac Hanson appeared as Roxie's boyfriend, and even organized for his brothers to perform with him as a present to his girlfriend. While an episode would likely be better filled with something to move the plot along, Hanson fans likely enjoyed this appearance-- even if non-fans were a bit perplexed.
1 Charlie Sheen - Friends
By the time Charlie Sheen's appearance on Friends rolled around in 1996, he had a storied career in film. With films like Apocalypse Now and Major League, he was a well-established A-List celebrity. However, he was booked for a brief appearance on Friends as Phoebe's love interest.
Both he and Phoebe caught chicken pox before their time together could really start, leading to some hilarious circumstances. With so many big-name appearances occurring on Friends throughout the '90s, this one is usually forgotten. Sheen has a hilarious cameo here, but sadly, he did not make another appearance on the show, though he went onto sitcom fame of his own with Two and a Half Men.
What other fantastic A-lister cameos did you catch in '90s sitcoms? Let us know in the comments!