Most movie cameos are easy to spot – indeed, a lot of the time, noticing these brief appearances by big names in the industry is entirely the point! But sometimes, these “mega star, minor moment” instances can fly completely under the radar.
When this happens, it’s almost always on purpose. The typical rationale for sneaking a recognizable face into a film is that the filmmakers want to do a favor for one of their high profile friends – and c’mon, who doesn’t want to be in a flick like Star Wars? – without distracting the audience.
Other times, it’s a case of those involved looking to have a bit of good-natured fun and hoodwinking the audience by hiding a major celebrity in plain sight.
Whatever the reason, spotting these often ultra-brief walk-ons by some of the biggest names in the entertainment world can be a surprisingly rewarding feeling – consider it the movie geek version of bird watching.
It also means that you’ll likely never watch certain scenes in quite the same way, knowing that guy or gal you thought was only an extra is actually a Hollywood A-lister in disguise.
So in order to totally rock your world – or at the very least, encourage you to revisit a lot of great films – we’ve compiled this list of 20 Movie Cameos You Completely Missed. Happy hunting!
20. Daniel Craig In The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has a lot of cameos. How many? Well, let’s just say we could easily have filled all 20 entries on this list with examples from this one film.
Perhaps the most high profile (and easily the best) is Daniel Craig’s turn as a First Order trooper. Although initially denied by the reigning James Bond – in fairness, retrospectively, he appears to be deflecting via sarcasm – this cameo was later confirmed, and takes place when Rey uses her burgeoning Force powers to escape her prison cell on Starkiller base.
Of course, it’s impossible to actually see Craig in the film thanks to the head-to-toe armor he’s sporting. But once you know it’s him in the scene, it’s just as impossible not to recognize the star’s grating pipes. He does a delightful job playing up both the tension and comedy contained within his few minutes of screentime.
Elsewhere, the other major cameos include Simon Pegg as CGI/prosthetic creation Unkar Plutt, a heavily digitized Bill Hader as BB-8, and Ewan McGregor vocally reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi – cleverly combined with the voice of long-dead Sir Alec Guinness! – during Rey’s Force vision.
19. Chris Martin In Shaun Of The Dead
At the end of Shaun of the Dead, Shaun and girlfriend Liz exit the pub-turned-stronghold The Winchester, hoping to hack their way through the zombie hordes blocking their way. Amongst the shambling undead – soon to be mowed down by the British Army – there’s at least one familiar mug: Coldplay frontman Chris Martin!
Martin wasn’t the only celebrity to feature in the film, either. For starters, fellow band member Jonny Buckland and writer-director Joe Cornish (along with several other local celebrities) help fill out the flesh-eating ranks.
Then there’s appearances by Shaun of the Dead’s main cast members’ co-stars from UK TV series Spaced, The Office, and Black Books – including Sherlock’s Martin Freeman and Episodes’ Tamsin Greig – who slyly feature as members of a fellow group of survivors.
18. Michael Bay In Mystery Men
In many ways, 1999 superhero comedy misfire Mystery Men was wildly ahead of its time – unfortunately, comic book movies weren’t quite the pop culture juggernaut then that they are now.
As such – and despite a star-studded cast including Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, William H. Macy and Greg Kinnear – this underrated gem went largely unseen.
This obviously had the knock-on effect that its many brief cameos went equally unnoticed. Of these, the most fun has to be Transformers director Michael Bay as the leader of the Frat Boys, one of the many colorful gangs in the film.
Even more flamboyant – but no less amusing – are stand-up comedians Dane Cook and Dana Gould, along with frequent Guillermo Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, who appear as wannabe superheroes The Waffler, Squeegee Man, and Pencil Head!
17. Edgar Wright And Simon Pegg In Land Of The Dead
The late, great George A. Romero is widely considered the godfather of the zombie film genre – so it was high praise indeed when expressed his admiration for Shaun of the Dead.
In fact, Romero was so enamored with director Edgar Wright’s affectionate parody of his films that he invited Wright and star Simon Pegg (him again!) to cameo in his next movie, Land of the Dead!
Further cementing their status as true zombie flick aficionados, Wright and Pegg declined the more prominent parts they were offered, preferring to appear as undead ghouls instead.
Those eager to spy the pair should keep their eyes peeled during the “Take Your Photo With A Zombie” sequence (they are credited as “Photo Booth Zombies”) – despite the heavy make-up, the guys are pretty hard to miss!
16. Frank Oz In The Blues Brothers
Even the most casual cinemagoer can identify the iconic vocals of characters like The Muppets’ porky prima donna Miss Piggy and Star Wars’ diminutive Jedi Master Yoda – but far fewer people would recognize Frank Oz, the man behind those performances.
Given his tendency to take on offscreen roles (he’s also a talented writer and director), Oz is therefore the ideal choice for memorable minor roles that require a performer with strong comedic timing and nondescript looks.
As such, this made him a perfect fit for the Corrections Officer role in The Blues Brothers, a short but sweet part that showcased his gift for acerbic line delivery – not to mention his (much deeper) real-life speaking voice! Who could ever have suspected the guy behind Fozzie Bear would go on to make an on-screen joke about prophylactics?
15. Harvey Keitel in Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors who loves working in appearances by previous collaborators into subsequent films. His incendiary World War II flick Inglourious Basterds is no different, and of the handful of cameos that occur, without doubt the hardest to catch is by Harvey Keitel.
Beloved by cinephiles the world over for his turn as eloquent mob “cleaner” Winston Wolfe in Tarantino’s modern classic Pulp Fiction, Keitel is yet another thespian on this list who only contributes his voice to proceedings.
As such, audience members caught up in the drama of Basterds’ finale could be forgiven for failing to connect the no-nonsense tones of the OSS Commander barking down Nazi scumbag Hans Landa’s telephone with Keitel’s familiar voice.
His aren’t the only famous pipes to find their way into the movie, either. Regular QT confederate Samuel L. Jackson lends his distinctive vocals to the film’s narration – although you’re not likely to have missed that one!
14. George Lucas In Revenge of The Sith
Whilst many directors embrace the fun of appearing on-screen in their own movies, just as many are remarkably camera shy – and this includes Star Wars creator George Lucas. Although the Bearded One is more than happy to appear in films helmed by his friends (more on that later), he was considerably more reticent to appear in one set in a galaxy far, far away.
It wasn’t until Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – at the time intended to be the final installment in the franchise – that Lucas relented, assuming the role of Baron Papanoida.
This blue-skinned statesman can be glimpsed as Anakin Skywalker enters the crazy space opera midway through the film, and the similarly hued alien woman he’s chatting with is Lucas’ daughter.
Yes, Revenge of the Sith truly is a family outing, as the film features minor roles for all of the director’s kids, with his son Jett getting the coolest part – a young Jedi padawan learner who goes down swinging!
13. Ron Jeremy In Ghostbusters
We have it on good authority from… a friend, that Ron Jeremy is considered a legend within the adult entertainment industry.
Which makes his appearance in the relatively tame first Ghostbusters film all the more shocking. For those keen to single out the adult films, he appears in a crowd scene during the quartet’s climactic battle with Gozer (we’ve been told he’s the guy with the rather impressive moustache).
On an entirely different note, in a less direct – but far more poignant – kind of cameo, franchise co-creator, and star Dan Ackroyd referred to the Slimer character as the “ghost of John Belushi” on set, in honor of the deceased comedy legend originally slated to appear in the movie.
12. Miley Cyrus In Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Another movie with a frankly staggering number of guest appearances, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is chock full of “blink and you’ll miss it” cameos from across the entertainment industry. Of these, one of the most unexpected has to be Miley Cyrus!
The pop music superstar voices all-CGI creation Mainframe, who appears alongside fellow big names Ving Rhames (Charlie-27), Michelle Yeoh (Aleta Ogord), and Michael Rosenbaum (Martinex) during the mid-credits scene showcasing Stakar’s old teammates.
Tantalizingly, this ragtag band of allies – plus yet another completely digital actor, the as-yet-uncast Krugarr – represents the Guardians’ original comic book line-up. Given this pedigree, it’s not all that surprising that director James Gunn has teased that these cameo roles could dramatically grow in size in Guardians forthcoming sequels!
11. Daft Punk In Tron: Legacy
Okay, this one feels like a little bit of a cheat. Whilst Daft Punk usually stand out due to their penchant for dressing in robot attire, the electronic music act’s signature look meant they blended in perfectly on the set of Tron Legacy!
As well as being the movie’s composers, the French duo are also massive fans of the first Tron film, making their collective turn as futuristic DJ programs during the End of the Line Club scenes a nice bit of synergy.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s also another, less high profile (but no less important) cameo at Caster’s nightclub. Steven Lisberger – the visionary behind the original Tron – appears as the club’s bartender Shaddix, in the process granting the rebooted franchise his blessing.
10. Mel Gibson In The Passion of the Christ
Ah, Mel Gibson – you continually defy expectations. After all, who else’s career could take an upswing after killing Jesus, only to crash and burn years later?
But that’s exactly what did happen, with Gibson enjoying huge commercial success (if not a mixed critical reaction) following The Passion of the Christ – which saw Mel himself portray the Roman soldier who nails the Son of God to the cross.
He didn’t stop there, either. No, it seems the controversial filmmaker was especially busy on the set of The Passion. According to reports, Gibson also played one of Jesus’ feet (for a close-up) and the hands that tie Judas’ suicide noose.
9. Laurence Olivier In Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow
Laurence Olivier’s brief appearance in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a real stand-out on this list, as the Shakespearean giant had died over a decade prior to filming taking place!
Long before reviving dead actors via digital technology was in vogue, director Kerry Conran resurrected Olivier to play mad scientist Dr. Totenkopf using archival footage of the actor as a young man.
Totenkopf’s role in Sky Captain is so minor – and the film’s striking, greenscreen-heavy visuals so overwhelming – that even the most hardcore movie buff could be forgiven for mistaking Olivier for an unknown actor filling a bit part.
Indeed, unlike recent outcry over the inclusion of deceased performers in modern films – see the furor over Peter Cushing’s posthumous turn in Rogue One, for example – it seems that most viewers missed Olivier’s relatively understated cameo.
8. Stephen Colbert In The Hobbit
Stephen Colbert has always been very outspoken when it comes to his love of all things Middle-earth, so it was nice gesture by director Peter Jackson to feature him The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The instantly recognizable talk show host is for once easily missed, when he shows up sporting an eyepatch, grubby complexion, and straggly mane of hair as one the Master’s spies in Lake Town.
Despite only having a few short moments of screen time, Colbert still manages to muster a chuckle from the audience, when it’s revealed that his eye covering is entirely for show!
It goes without saying that franchises like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies contain numerous cameos by crew members, but one other small role in this installment bears mentioning.
At the start of the film, Jackson himself appears conspicuously visible on screen as a man eating a carrot in the village of Bree. This is actually a fun nod to a similar appearance he made in The Fellowship of the Ring, even if – given the 60 years that separate the two films – it makes absolutely no sense!
7. Michelle Fairley In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
Michelle Fairley is famous for portraying Winterfell matriarch Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones, but did you know she has also played mother to another famous fantasy character?
That’s right, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Fairley crops up briefly as Hermione Granger’s mum – before she’s quickly mind-wiped by her daughter (for her protection, of course).
In a subtle hint towards Hermione’s more detailed plan in the book – which includes magically inducing her parents to relocate to Australia – during this brief scene, Fairley’s Mrs. Granger can be overheard discussing the Land Down Under with Ian Kelly’s Mr. Granger.
We can only hope that the Hermione of the films follows the same course of action as her book counterpart and restores her parents memories – and postal address – after the threat of Lord Voldemort has passed!
6. Cate Blanchett In Hot Fuzz
One thing we can all agree on is that Cate Blanchett is objectively awesome. Just when you thought the Oscar-winning actress couldn’t get any cooler, there’s the revelation that she cameos in cult favorite comedy Hot Fuzz!
Even the most eagle-eyed viewer would probably find it tough to spot Blanchett’s turn as lead character Sgt. Nick Angel’s bitter ex-girlfriend Janine. That’s because when we meet her, she’s fully kitted out in crime scene investigation gear, which obscures everything except her piercing blue eyes!
Blanchett isn’t the only Lord of the Rings alumni to snag a few moments of screen time in Hot Fuzz – Peter Jackson (yes, another serial cameo maker!) shows up during the opening montage, as well!
Amusingly, director Edgar Wright obscures the already-bearded Jackson’s mug behind the whiskers of a Santa outfit, making the usually distinctive Kiwi filmmaker indistinguishable from a cuddly-sized extra!
5. Glenn Close In Hook
Of all the cameos on this list, Glenn Close’s brief (yet memorable) role in Hook can’t be beaten for sheer sneakiness. Seriously: the celebrated actress appears as a bearded pirate thrown into Hook’s torture box, and it’s virtually impossible to tell her apart from her fellow (male) buccaneers.
In some ways just as shocking is the inclusion of Star Wars star Carrie Fisher and George Lucas – not so shy this time around – as a couple kissing on a bridge, who begin to hover off the ground courtesy of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust!
There’s also another, less jaw-dropping guest appearance by music legend Phil Collins, who you might have missed as one of the detectives investigating the abduction of Peter Pan’s kids.
4. Robin Williams In Hamlet
Continuing the theme of “Films Featuring Robin Williams”, we arrive at Kenneth Brannagh’s lush 1996 adaptation of Hamlet. That’s right: the sorely missed funny man actually did Shakespeare!
In a twist that would have made even the Bard himself blush, Williams rolls in as courtier Osric – and he’s modelling a moustache and whiskers combo so breathtaking, you can be forgiven for being distracted.
It’s not until you’ve had time to regather your composure that you might find yourself saying, “Surely, that can’t be Robin Williams?”
Williams isn’t the only famous face to appear, either – there’s hardly a speaking role that Branagh hasn’t filled with a film or theatre icon.
3. Huey Lewis In Back to the Future
Back to the Future wasn’t just a box office smash – it also spawned a Number 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News.
As a cute in-joke, director Robert Zemeckis had the band’s headliner Lewis appear as a nerdy-looking audition judge, who dismisses Marty McFly’s rendition of the hit track as “just too darn loud!”
Interestingly, Lewis was able to use this cameo performance as a springboard for a minor side-career in acting, most notably starring opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Duets and in Robert Altman’s critically acclaimed Short Cuts.
2. Stan Lee In Spider-Man
These days, it seems that Marvel Universe co-architect Stan Lee’s big screen cameos are growing more and more prominent. Heck, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he features twice – and that time around, he’s talking about all his other cameos!
However, there was a time before Lee had infiltrated the wider public consciousness, and his film roles were more modest, “blink and you’ll miss it” affairs.
Case in point: 2002’s Spider-Man, where Lee is glimpsed very briefly – it’s two quick shots – as a bystander during Spidey’s first brawl with the Green Goblin. Fittingly, what we do see of Stan the Man at least paints him in a heroic light, as he rescues a little girl in danger.
There are several other fun cameos in Spider-Man – including Lucy Lawless and Bruce Campbell – but we also missed out on a pretty big one.
Originally, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman, was set to quite literally bump into Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, however rights issues – which persist to this day! – prevented two of Marvel’s most popular characters from appearing together on film.
1. Alfred Hitchcock In Just About Every Movie He Ever Made
Now this one really is a cheat – but c’mon: one of Alfred Hitchcock’s trademarks was just how many of his films he made a cameo in. How could we not try to squeeze in more than just one?
Of the 52 major releases directed by Hitchcock that have survived, the auteur appears in a whopping 39!
This signature calling card became such a novelty for audiences that the Master of Suspense – living up to his name – soon began scheduling his appearances early in the piece, to avoid breaking the tension.
Hitch’s cameos were as varied as they were very often mundane. In The Birds, he’s a man walking two dogs out of a pet store. For North By Northwest, he took on the role of a guy who misses his bus during the opening credits.
And best of all, in Lifeboat, he pokes fun at his corpulent frame by lending his likeness to a weight loss product newspaper advert. For someone who made movies filled with murder, he sure did have a great sense of humor!
What other movie cameos have you spotted that were easy to miss? Let us know in the comments!
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