In television, celebrity guest stars are quite common. It doesn’t feel out of place when Sheldon Cooper runs into someone like James Earl Jones, Stan Lee, or Stephen Hawking because The Big Bang Theory is a hugely popular show and can, therefore, attract big-name guests. Audiences forgive the lack of realism because we enjoy seeing celebrities poke fun at themselves.
However, a movie needs more staying power than an episode of television. So, if there’s a celebrity cameo in a movie, it has to be carefully selected or it’ll quickly date the movie. Surprisingly, it’s been done effectively a number of times. Here are the 10 Most Memorable Times A Celebrity Played Themselves In A Movie.
10 Chuck Norris In DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
The cult hit comedy DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story has a few celebrity cameos in it. One of them is particularly uncomfortable with the knowledge we have today, as Vince Vaughn is given a last-minute pep talk about the virtues of sportsmanship and integrity by Lance Armstrong.
But one of them is utterly hilarious, featuring Chuck Norris as one of the judges presiding over the dodgeball tournament. The great thing about how director Rawson Marshall Thurber plays this scene is that he doesn’t make a big deal out of Norris’ presence. We’re only given a second to even realize he’s there.
9 Anna Faris In Keanu
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s feature film debut Keanu brought a lot of surprises – namely, that a movie called Keanu about getting revenge against gangsters for their involvement with a beloved pet wasn’t intended to be a parody of John Wick. But another one was that Anna Faris was in it, playing herself.
Peele’s character is out on business with the dealers he’s infiltrated in the search for his cat when they arrive at the buyer’s house. It turns out to be a drugged-up Faris who has a gun and wants to play a sinister game of “Truth or Dare” with it.
8 Stan Lee In Mallrats
Towards the end of Mallrats, Stan Lee (a personal hero to writer-director Kevin Smith) arrives just in time to give the lead character Brodie some sage advice. The cameo appearances that Lee is most famous for are the ones in MCU movies – in fact, he can be seen rehearsing his lines for his Mallrats scene in his appearance in Captain Marvel – but this one is perhaps his most poignant.
He explains how his comic book creations came from his own personal life, like how the Hulk is based on the fact that he wanted to turn into a big, green monster when he was angry.
7 Bob Barker In Happy Gilmore
Celebrities playing a version of themselves is part of the Adam Sandler style: John McEnroe in Mr. Deeds, Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer, Vanilla Ice in That’s My Boy, and the list goes on. But out of all these celebrity cameos in Sandler movies, choosing the most memorable one is easy: Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore.
The Price is Right host appears at a celebrity golf tournament partnered with the famously hot-tempered Happy and ends up getting into a fight with him. Much to Happy’s surprise, Barker is a skilled fighter and beats Happy up pretty easily: “The price is wrong, b***h!”
6 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar In Airplane!
The script for Airplane! was a straightforward parody of the ‘50s black-and-white disaster movie Zero Hour!, which the Zucker brothers caught on TV one night and found to be unintentionally hilarious. Among the many things from that movie that the filmmakers spoofed was the casting of football player Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch as a pilot.
They cast basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to play Captain Roger Murdock – but the movie breaks the fourth wall when the kid they let into the cockpit recognizes him as Abdul-Jabbar. He tries to stay in character but breaks when the kid starts talking smack about his skills.
5 Margot Robbie In The Big Short
Anchorman director Adam McKay did his very best to make the world of finance entertaining with his movie The Big Short, and while he didn’t quite manage to eradicate the boredom factor from a story about mortgages, he made an admirable effort to do so.
One of the creative techniques he employed to make the dry material less dry was having celebrities come in and explain it. Margot Robbie was the first such celebrity, explaining mortgage bonds from a bathtub. Most of the people who watched that movie probably still can’t tell you what a mortgage bond is, but this moment still has merit – it can be filed under “unexpected.”
4 Channing Tatum In This Is The End
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s apocalyptic comedy This is the End has its entire cast of A-list comic actors playing themselves, but perhaps the funniest and most memorable one is Channing Tatum. The seed is planted early on with an off-cuff remark by Rogen about how he thinks Tatum is attractive.
Later, we see that Danny McBride is leading a savage gang of cannibals through the hellscape of Los Angeles, with his own personal gimp in tow – who happens to be Channing Tatum. This cameo just goes to show what a great sport Tatum is—not to mention comedically gifted.
3 Keanu Reeves In Always Be My Maybe
Keanu Reeves’ appearance as a fictionalized version of himself – emphasis on “fictionalized” – in Netflix’s new romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe has become the movie’s whole selling point. It’s a rom-com cliché to have the guy pining after the girl get outshined by her new boyfriend, so this Ali Wong/Randall Park vehicle upends that cliché by having the outshining new boyfriend be none other than an absurd, airheaded, self-obsessed Keanu Reeves.
Director Nahnatchka Khan has said that the production team was afraid that Reeves wouldn’t be available, but he turned out to be a huge fan of Wong’s standup and was happy to be a part of the movie.
2 Bill Murray In Zombieland
Zombieland is finally getting a sequel later this year with the subtitle Double Tap. Whether or not another celebrity will make a cameo appearance in this one remains to be seen, but it’ll be pretty tough to top Bill Murray’s role in the first one.
The group of survivors arrive at Murray’s house in Hollywood and find that he’s still there. Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee is excited to see him, and Murray dresses up as a zombie to give Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus a good fright. But he’s a little too convincing and Columbus shoots him in the stomach, killing him. In just one scene, Murray stole the movie.
1 John Malkovich In Being John Malkovich
What makes Being John Malkovich work so well is that John Malkovich is just famous enough for people to want to spend seven minutes seeing what he sees. Plus, it’s really a story about a married man who falls in love with a co-worker. The fact that there’s a portal into the mind of John Malkovich in their office just gives the story some context; it’s not actually the focus.
Malkovich plays himself brilliantly because he’s just a regular guy who goes crazy when he discovers the portal into his own head. The scene where he goes through the portal himself and ends up in a world filled with Malkoviches is the crème de la crème of that performance.