Marvel's movies have formed such a rich and intricate universe of character origins, ongoing plotlines and unexpected crossovers that have kept audiences on the edge of their seats time and time again. Along with an already engaging web of inter-connected stories, these films have also made sure to include a handful of Easter eggs and throwbacks as a treat for avid fans.
Of course, some of Marvel's best surprises involve the unanticipated cameos of famous faces – besides, you know, the inevitable Stan Lee entrance here and there.
While these unexpected actors play a very minor role the films, some are little easier to spot – Donald Glover in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy, to name a couple – with others, of course, require a little more “Hawk”-eye to catch the first time around. (You're welcome for that bad pun.)
This list lines up the many tiny appearances by big names you may not have noticed or remembered from the films of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, from billboard musicians to the directors themselves.
That said, the following entries contains a ton of spoilers, so you've been warned. Here are 15 A-Lister Cameos You Totally Missed In Marvel.
15 Olivia Munn In Iron Man 2
Fanboy-favorite Olivia Munn had been speculated to portray a number of possible Marvel characters for Iron Man 2, and after months of hinting and guessing as to what her role might be, Munn's appearance simply ended up being a quick little cameo as a television reporter by the name of Chess Roberts.
In the actress' brief scene, she is shown covering the opening ceremony for Stark Expo – a grand exhibition featuring much of Stark Industries' extraordinary technology.
Before finally revealing her minor role in the film, rumour had it that Munn would potentially play the role of an Avenger – namely Wasp or Scarlet Witch. Munn actually teased the speculations by tweeting that, at the very least, her role wouldn't be a reporter, and would be bigger than the usual Stan Lee cameo.
While she was never considered to play a superhero in the film, she did, in fact, had an originally larger role as one of Tony Stark's flings - but the later scrapped by director Jon Favreau as it didn't fit the part of the movie “tonally.”
Though she eventually did end up as a media reporter, Munn was definitely still a treat to see.
14 Natalie Dormer In Captain America: The First Avenger
In a momentary scene with Steve Rogers, Lorraine thanks him for his brave achievements on behalf of all women in America, before planting a passionate kiss on the unexpecting super-soldier.
The two are eventually interrupted by a displeased Peggy Carter, who did little to hide her jealousy. In a later scene where Rogers tests his new Stark-manufactured shield, a clearly irked Peggy grabs the nearest gun and startlingly fires multiple bullets at its Vibranium surface, with Rogers (fortunately) defending himself from behind.
Moral of the story: no one messes with Agent Carter, not even Captain America.
13 Joel McHale In Spider-Man 2
Along with Community co-stars Danny Pudi and Donald Glover making their own notable cameos in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Spider-Man: Homecoming, repectively, The Soup's very own host, Joel McHale, made a brief appearance as a snarky banker in the second installment of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise.
His scene begins with Peter and Aunt May, who come up to McHale requesting for a loan only to be interrupted by the heinous Doctor Octopus who makes a grand – and destructive – visit to steal a couple hundred-thousand bucks to buy tritium for his fusion device.
Wreaking havoc throughout the establishment, Peter runs off for a costume change only to leave Aunt May alone with McHale, who makes the sarcastic quip, “Oh, that boy of yours is a real hero!”
He is later again seen attempting to pick up a coin that had rolled free from one of the bank vaults, only to be deservedly slapped on the hand by a disapproving Aunt May.
12 Ty Burrell In The Incredible Hulk
Though he lacked his comic-book counterpart's signature green hair, Ty Burrell made a brief appearance in Louis Leterrier's 2008 The Incredible Hulk as Bruce Banner's psychotherapist, Dr. Leonard Samson.
A bit of a contrast from his bumbling Phil Dunphy role in Modern Family, Samson is an incredibly capable and intelligent psychiatrist who worked on the same campus as Betty Ross – Banner's then-girlfriend before his Gamma Pulse experiment flipped out of control (resulting in the accidental creation of the Hulk). He later pursued romantic relations with Ross as Banner disappeared in search of a cure.
Burrell was initially meant to have a more prominent role in the movie, though many of his scenes were sadly set aside from the final cut. Fortunately, these were all included in the extended release of the movie, and are still considered to be canon.
11 Nathan Fillion From Guardians Of The Galaxy
During an early scene in which the future Guardians are introduced to their new home – prison – Peter Quill comes upon a big, burly, blue alien who attempts to intimidate one of the jail's newest inmates. Fortunately for Quill, Groot steps in, unrelentingly shoving his finger-roots up the prison bully's nose.
He then leaves the former alpha inmate on the ground, sobbing in both pain and shock.
Heavily disguised by an orc-like voice effect (and, well, the CGI appearance of a space alien), Fillion is utterly unrecognizable, though his scene was still enough to generate some good laughs.
10 Tom Morello In Iron Man 2
Who knew one of the greatest '90s rock legends would find his way in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? For many lucky Rage Against The Machine fans, founder and lead guitarist, Tom Morello, managed to snag a 30-second cameo in Iron Man 2 as a member of the Ten Rings.
The Ten Rings is essentially an international terrorist organization, led by a oh-so-mysterious and enigmatic villain known as “The Mandarin.” In his scene, Morello and fellow members of the faction are attacked by Tony Stark's Iron Man suit, which violently blasts at Morello, killing him instantly.
Morello had also lent his guitar skills to the soundtracks of both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and was also interviewed for the documentary, Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe – a one-hour special that features exclusive peeks into past films, canon one-shots, and future episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9 Kate Mara In Iron Man 2
With the tiny role as a U.S. Marshal, Mara's short scene takes place after Stark and Hogan leave the Expo building, only to encounter Mara waiting for the two in front of Stark's car. She then hands Stark a subpoena, informing him that he was issued to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Little did the audience know that they'd soon be seeing the actress in her own blockbuster Marvel role, eventually portraying Fantastic Four's Sue Storm (A.K.A Invisible Woman).
Little did they also know that Josh Trank's much-awaited reboot of the comic series would – very unfortunately – be ravagely be torn apart by almost every movie critic and hardcore fan of the original franchise.
8 Harry Dean Stanton In The Avengers
Veteran actor Harry Dean Stanton had starred in quite a number of remarkable films during his earlier years, including critically acclaimed mainstream hits such as Alien, The Godfather: Part 2, and The Green Mile, along with a handful of lower-budget cult favorites like Repo Man and Escape From New York.
In a short, yet priceless scene from the 2012's The Avengers, Stanton appears as a security guard patrolling the vacant premises of a New York warehouse, just before the Hulk crashes into the establishment during battle.
Upon transforming back into his human self, Stanton (as possibly a throwback to his Alien days) casually asks Banner if he was “from outer space”, to which the Avenger dismisses. Stanton bluntly replies with the amusing response, “Well, son, you have a condition.”
7 Joe Russo In Captain America: The Winter Soldier And Civil War
Featured in the end credits of both movies under the alias of “Gozie Agbo," director Joe Russo has made some noteworthy cameos in the films, the first one being Doctor Fine in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Russo is seen about an hour and a half into the movie, nursing a gun-shot Natasha after an unexpected scuffle with the ruthless Winter Soldier (A.K.A. Bucky Barnes). His character had also been one of the surgeons to tend to Nick Fury after his own encounter with Barnes, and, after helping him fake his death, continued to treat him at the S.H.I.E.L.D Dam Facility.
Russo had also made another appearance in the next Captain America installment, Civil War. In this film he plays a rather more morbid role, taking on the character of another doctor – psychiatrist Theo Broussard.
His only scene shows Broussard dead and bleeding in the bathtub of a hotel room, murdered by Colonel Helmut Zemo. Prior to this, he was assigned to interrogate Bucky Barnes in the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre, a task that was ultimately hijacked and sabotaged by Zemo later in the film.
6 James Gunn In Guardians Of The Galaxy
Another director stars in his own movie as Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn dons the CGI make-up of a Maskless Sakaaran – an alien soldier on the planet of Sakaar and henchman of Ronan the Accuser.
His brief scene shows the character approaching Yondu, who had crashed his M-ship onto their terrain during the Battle of Xandar.
Surrounded by the rest of his goons, the Maskless Sakaaran attempts to intimidate the Ravager into turning in the Nova Corps, before getting instantly killed by Yondu's ever-so-handy Yaka Arrow.
As another piece of interesting trivia: Gunn's younger brother, Sean, also starred in the movie in an even more prominent role as Yondu's right-hand man, Kraglin. He also helped as the green-man substitute for Rocket Raccon, crawling about in a spandex suit on-set as the CGI and actor reference point for the film's final production.
5 Gary Sinise In Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Gary Sinise makes an unmistakable cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; except the actor doesn't exactly rock up on camera.
In the film, Steve Rogers makes a secret visit to his own Captain America exhibit in the Smithsonian, disguised as a ordinary visitor unbeknownst to the other guests. As he makes his way down the halls of his worldwide achievements, Sinise lends his voice as the exhibit's narrator, recounting the tales and origins of Rogers' life – as well as his experiences fighting alongside ex-partner, Bucky Barnes.
Sinise is best known for his roles as George Milton in the film, Of Mice and Men, detective Mac Taylor in CSI: NY, and Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump.
4 Sam Rockwell In All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot)
When it came to Iron Man 2's characters, Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer was undeniably a fan favorite. The comedic actor nailed the role of a try-hard, Tony-Stark wannabe to a T – despite the fact that his rendition was significantly younger (and American) compared to his cunning British counterpart.
The former CEO of his own weapons company, Justin Hammer was a prominent rival of Stark Industries, seeking to undermine Tony's success using any means possible. In the second film, he eventually gets himself arrested after working with Russian physicist, Ivan Vanko, to construct remote-controlled military drones – a mission that inevitably runs amok.
Fortunately, this wasn't the last audiences saw of Hammer. At the end of the Marvel one-shot, All Hail The King, the self-absorbed salesman is seen sharing the same prison as Trevor Slattery – the drunk British actor behind “The Mandarin” in Iron Man 3.
In the scene, Hammer isn't too impressed with the villain, noting that he had “an army of robots” while the guy simply had a “dumb accent” to entertain mesmerized fans.
3 Seth Green In Iron Man 2 And Guardians Of The Galaxy
This one's a truly “blink and you'll miss it” type of cameo, and can really only be spotted if you replay the scene in slo-mo a couple of times.
However, when timed right, comedian and Robot Chicken creator can undeniably be seen in Iron Man 2 amongst the screaming crowd of Tony Stark fans after the billionaire exits from the Stark Expo. As the camera pans across the mass of people, Green can be seen for a split second in a leather jacket and red shirt.
Along with his minor role in Iron Man 2, Green also lent his voice to Marvel icon and infamous movie legend, Howard the Duck. His character is seen for a brief moment in Guardians of the Galaxy, encaged in the Collector's Museum, and again during the post-credits scene of the same movie.
2 Miley Cyrus In Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2
Bangerz singer and ex-Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus got her five seconds of Marvel fame playing the mega-obscure character, Mainframe, in the second Guardians installment, an old friend of the Sylvester Stallone-portrayed space pirate, Starhawk.
While her appearance only took place in one of the movie's five post-credit scenes, she was featured among a collection of other little-known Guardians characters, who are seen gathered together with Starhawk to form a sort of reunion.
Interestingly enough, these guys were actually the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, a group that had even the blue-skinned, orange-finned, arrow-wielding Yondu as a forefront member.
Unfortunately for these group of misfits, they never really gained much popularity during their run, and was eventually rebooted in 2008 with the characters we know today: Star-Lord, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and Rocket.
While a truly unexpected cameo, it's near-impossible for Cyrus' fans to spot her in the post-credits, as she merely lends her voice to a fully CGI-animated portrayal of Mainframe – an alien warrior android.
1 Joss Whedon In Captain America: The Winter Soldier
His on-screen moment takes place just before Steve Rogers enters the Smithsonian – during a scene where the camera pans over Captain America's exhibit, overlooking the aerial models and bustling guests.
When the hall escalators enter the shot, the Avengers director can be vaguely seen making his way down one of them, wearing a Captain America shirt with his son (or nephew?) by his side. Upon a closer look, the child also seems to be a wearing a shirt of Captain America's iconic super-suit.
In addition to his sneaky little cameo, Joss Whedon also directed the mid-credits scene of the same film, during which the audience gets their first viewing of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in action.
Any other surprise appearances we may have missed? Let us know in the comments!