Moviegoers love a good cameo. The action sort of takes a break to showcase someone who you wouldn’t normally see within the context of the movie. Sometimes the cameo is for fun and laughs. Other times it’s an homage to a TV series or another film the movie you’re currently watching is based on. For anyone who has seen The Force Awakens, then you know a slew of people love Star Wars and appeared at the very least underneath stormtrooper armor. Cameos from directors like Peter Jackson in The Lord Of The Rings movies and Alfred Hitchcock had become commonplace and fans loved to be on the hunt for them.
There are so many cameos and extended cameos throughout the superhero movie world. That’s because of the decades of history behind all of these movies. There’s been more than several actors portraying versions of our favorite superheroes and their supporting casts over the years that it’s equally cool to see them pop up in other shows and movies. Helen Slater played Supergirl in the 1984 movie and she’s the current iteration’s (played by Melissa Benoist) adopted mother. You can also play “spot the senator,” every time you watch a Batman movie. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has popped up in five different bat-flicks.
Cameos come in all shapes, sizes, and actors. Some good, some bad, generally all memorable. Here are Ten Celebrity Cameos That Hurt Superhero Movies (And Ten That Stole The Show).
20 Hurt: Vanilla Ice (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret Of The Ooze)
For everyone who sees this heading and starts fist pumping while chanting “go ninja, go ninja, go,” you can leave the room, adults are talking. All kidding aside, the iconic moment in The Secret Of The Ooze where the turtles stumble into a Vanilla Ice show is a sign of the times.
Those times came and went about 30 seconds after the credits rolled. The guy had one song at best (and he ripped the beat off a Queen song). As far the movie goes, Ice showing up in a Turtles flick was a big head-scratching moment, and that’s saying something for a movie about ninja turtles who eat pizza.
19 Stole: Stan Lee (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
We lost the Chairman Emeritus of Marvel Entertainment last year. Stan Lee was responsible, or partly responsible for creating the dozens upon dozens of characters we’ve been reading and seeing for the past fifty-plus years. Stan The Man has shown up in just about every Marvel movie.
No matter the film, or the character he plays in it, it’s always a pleasure to see Stan show up. Whether he’s giving Spider-Man some sage advice or telling other Watchers about his exploits in the MCU, Lee’s cameo is a welcome presence that will sorely be missed.
18 Hurt: Olivia Munn (Iron Man 2)
Thanks to her time on the G4 Network, not to mention her energy, Olivia Munn was a bit of a Geek Icon for a few years during the late aughts. When she made the transition to feature films, she landed a role in Iron Man 2.
Her role was considered “top secret.” Fans instantly assumed that meant she’d be playing a big-time name being introduced to the MCU. Would she be playing Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Captain Marvel? All a big nope. She played nothing more than newscaster.
17 Stole: Neil DeGrasse Tyson (BvS: Dawn Of Justice)
For anyone remotely interested in anything about space, the cosmos, and the infinite, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is your pathway to the stars. He is also a devoted comic book fan and has had multiple episodes of his podcast devoted to all kinds of superhero topics.
So even though his cameo in the extremely divisive Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice doesn’t have a lot to do with science or scientific facts, Tyson must’ve loved it and it was pretty cool to see him as a talking head commentating on the Man Of Steel.
16 Hurt: Coolio (Batman And Robin)
When Joel Schumacher took over the reins of the Batman franchise in the mid-nineties, away went Keaton, Burton, and all of the monochromatic Gotham City gothic love. In its place, the new creative team tried to bring back the 1966-era feel. Sometimes, they succeeded, sometimes we got Batman And Robin.
Coolio somehow found himself a part of the proceedings as well. The man famous for “Gangster’s Paradise,” played a gangster. His performance was ok, but there was nothing to enjoy about this movie, so why should his performance be any different?
15 Stole: Coolio (Daredevil)
Several years after Batman And Robin, Coolio was at it again, this time for Marvel. He had an extended cameo in Daredevil. In this almost-as-maligned film as the former, he played a client of Matt Murdock’s.
He played Dante Jackson in several of the film’s deleted scenes that re-appeared in the R-Rated Director’s Cut. This version of the film received some critical acclaim, making slightly less maligned. Coolio’s performance was also praised in a subplot that showcases Murdock as a lawyer and fixes several holes in the main storyline.
14 Hurt: Lucy Lawless (Spider-Man)
It’s not that Xena herself, Lucy Lawless didn’t give a good cameo performance in the original Spider-Man. It’s just that it takes you so out of the moment for a quick one-liner, “guy with eight arms?” that it seemed way out of the moment. Her cameo isn’t just a blink and you’ll miss it cameo.
Lucy Lawless’ cameo is a “pause the movie” and try to figure out if that really is Xena, the Warrior Princess under all that faux New York Goth–Punk makeup.
13 Stole: Garrett Morris (Ant-Man)
One of the fun things about all of the MCU films is that the creative teams behind the movies love to pay homage to the superhero actors that came before. Ant-Man stretched that term loosely when they cast Garrett Morris as a cab driver.
The SNL and Married…With Children alum knew that kids today might not understand what he’s doing in this movie. But that didn’t stop director Peyton Reed, who thought of Morris for the cameo. He was actually the first actor to play Ant-Man in the 1979 SNL bit, “Superhero Party.”
12 Hurt: En Vogue (Batman Forever)
Holy ridiculous cameos Batman! As R&B became one of the dominant sounds in the early nineties, supergroup En Vogue were Destiny’s Child long before Queen Bey ascended to her throne. Why not give them a spotlight in one of the most anticipated films of the decade?
Because they were poorly cast in Batman Forever’s groan-inducing sequence. Instead of utilizing their talents for a musical number, they played a quartet of hookers who glommed onto the Batmobile when Dick Grayson took it for a joyride.
11 Stole: Bruce Campbell (Spider-Man Movies)
Bruce Campbell has been part of Sam Raimi’s movies since the very beginning. As the director’s good luck charm of sort, that meant he also got to take part in all three of Raimi’s Spiderman adventures.
Campbell got to steal the show in all three as a different character. In each performance, he has to show Peter Parker that Spidey’s not the boss, Ash is. First as the announcer who gives Peter his name, then as the keeper of the velvet rope not allowing him late to MJ’s play. Finally, he’s the Maitre D at the restaurant where Peter wants to propose.
10 Hurt: Tobias Funke (Avengers: Infinity War)
The Russo Brothers have a very wild sense of humor. That humor helped them as writers on Community. In the MCU, they’ve directed three of the MCU’s best movies. They both also wear the fandom for Arrested Development on their sleeves. That fandom took Infinity War completely off the rails for a moment.
The directors managed to squeeze David Cross into a cameo as Tobias Funke all in blue from his stint as a would-be member of the Blue Man Group. He shows up in Thanos’ rendering of the Collector’s shop. So the snap-happy madman has a pretty twisted sense of humor as well. But the cameo is totally and tonally out of left field.
9 Stole: Christopher Reeve (Smallville)
Yes, there were plenty of superhero movies that came before, but Christopher Reeve makes you believe that a man could fly. A hero onscreen and off, Reeve not soared as Superman, but he also was able to provide some gravitas on Smallville.
There, Reeve played Dr. Virgil Swan, a professor who knew all there is to know about Krypton. The inspired casting allowed the heroic actor to relive his glory days. Not to mention provide fans new memories as well as relive some old ones.
8 Hurt: Elon Musk (Iron Man 2)
Before becoming Iron Man, Tony Stark was a bit of a jerk. Not that he stopped being a jerk after he became Iron Man, just that he hobnobbed with other rich self-important jerks instead of the Avengers.
Self-righteous industrialist, Elon Musk was one of those friends. The man also had a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2, aka-Black Mark On The MCU. Musk played an exaggerated version of himself. It’s a move that works for some, not for others. In a bad movie like Iron Man 2, every wink-wink moment seems like a big waste of time.
7 Stole: Luke Hemsworth, Sam, Neill, and Matt Damon (Thor: Ragnarok)
After the poor attempt at Shakespeare for the first two Thor movies, director Taika Waititi and the creative team heaved all of the heavy-handiness right out of the window in favor of lunacy and hilarity.
Part of that hilarity was Loki using his old tricks to create the illusion that he was impersonating Odin. This version of Odin loves to see his adopted son Loki (played by Matt Damon) as the hero of Asgard in a theater production that also saw Sam Neill as Odin and Luke Hemsworth (Chris’ brother) playing the God Of Thunder.
6 Hurt: Vivica A. Fox (Batman And Robin)
Arnold Schwarzenegger using eight million ice, cold, and freeze-related puns during Batman And Robin was terrible enough. But Joel Schumacher’s insistence of casting semi-big names of the day in minor support roles was borderline insane.
Scratch that. It WAS completely insane. Especially after you heard how Vivica A. Fox got the name “Ms. B Haven,” as she played one of Freeze’s molls. According to the actress, Schumacher was hanging out with some friends and saw the name displayed on a monster truck at a state fair.
5 Stole: Nathan Fillion (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
Square-jawed, mammoth, and a sense of humor; who doesn’t love Nathan Fillion?! He has every single tool Hollywood loves to tout as both a sex symbol and a geek god. When his friend and Slither director, James Gunn asked him to cameo in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. I, the actor answered the call.
Fillion’s role was small, but like any good cameo – memorable. He played an alien prisoner who wound up getting his clock cleaned by Groot, with two antlers right up his nose.
4 Hurt: Michael Jackson (Men In Black 2)
When you’re as famous as Michael Jackson was, any movie you appear in, the cameo becomes all about you and less about what you’re doing in the movie. To that effect, at least The King Of Pop was featured in a brief moment as an alien hunting MIB agent and not part of any grand scene.
Considering what has befallen of the pop star both before this movie and recently, the cameo when looked at again, especially in this woken population is in really poor taste.
3 Stole: Lou Ferrigno And Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk)
While Mark Ruffalo has been crushing it as Dr. Bruce Banner in the MCU, Edward Norton had a strong showing in The Incredible Hulk. The film and his performance are a blip on the rest of the MCU, but it is still considered canon.
The film also paid homage to the most famous Hulk tandem ever. For five years, Lou Ferrigno played the Green Goliath and the late great Bill Bixby played Banner on the popular TV show. In this movie, Bixby gets a moment to shine as Norton as Banner is watching Bixby’s other show, The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father in Portuguese. Ferrigno shows up as a security guard that gets a heap of meta-praise from Norton.
2 Hurt: Ally Sheedy (X-Men Apocalypse)
Ally Sheedy was forever immortalized in The Breakfast Club. The eighties icon also was in War Games as a student who disrupts the class. Bryan Singer tried to pay homage to this by having Sheedy play the teacher in X-Men Apocalypse.
Only here, the disruptive student is Cyclops and Tye Sheridan seems more like a nervous kid who's about to realize he’s a mutant and less like a disruptive punk. Not to mention as good as War Games is, no one remembers the film for Ally Sheedy.
1 Stole: Senator Patrick Leahy (Batman Movies)
Yes, there are a slew of Bat–Cameos throughout this list. What do you expect? The Caped Crusader has been in more films and TV shows than any other superhero. The Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy has been a huge bat-fanatic for years now. Thanks to this, he’s gotten to cameo on several Batman movies.
Most famously, he was part of the Wayne Enterprises board in The Dark Knight. He also stood up to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. He’s the gentleman who Ledger claims reminds him of his father.