Now you see them, now you don’t. It’s always fun to play the Easter egg game when watching for a famous person's cameo in a movie.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for instance, love looking for Stan Lee’s inevitable cameo moment. Stan-spotting is just one example of how film cameos are great for a laugh, a surprise, or just random weirdness. Cameos are also a good way of improving buzz and word-of-mouth for a movie - when they work, that is.
But once in a while, those quick appearances are just… wrong somehow. Even stranger than that – some cameos which seem perfectly innocent at the time of a movie’s release is later revealed to have happened in a context that changes everything.
Whether they are creepy, controversial, or just plain mess with the vibe of the movies, these cameos most definitely didn't belong.
It’s time for some awkward moments. Ready to have some bubbles burst? If so, here they are, the 15 Most Inappropriate Movie Cameos Ever, Ranked.
15 Margot Robbie - The Big Short
In a scene which could be seen as the very definition of the word “crass,” Margot Robbie explains the entire 2008 Financial Crisis to the audience of the film The Big Short – and she does it luxuriating in a bathtub with gold-plated fixtures, against an oceanfront view, while sipping champagne.
It’s a brilliant bit. Explaining the complexities of how financial investors exploited mortgage laws and bank deregulation to defraud investors of trillions of dollars, totally screwing the global economy, and doing it while portraying the epitome of shameless greed, is nothing short of galling. Which is, of course, the point of the movie. The filmmakers want you to be furious off at the Great American Rip-Off.
At the end of her monologue, Robbie dismisses the audience with a “F—Off!” showing her caricature’s contempt for the suffering of ordinary citizens. Anybody hurt by the bank collapse – meaning everybody – must have felt insulted watching this, even if its purpose was actually kind of righteous
14 Howard the Duck - Guardians of the Galaxy
Anybody who knows anything about Howard the Duck knows that this talking waterfowl already comes with a reputation for being gross. Indeed, he’s such a weird outlier in the greater Marvel pantheon, it’s hard to see how a standalone movie would properly fit into the tone of the greater MCU. So, while it may have not been “out of character,” Howard’s little moment is still jarring.
In the credits roll of Guardians of the Galaxy, after The Collector’s home has been trashed, one of his possessions – a space dog – is licking his face. Howard asks him “Why do you let it lick you like that for?” – a clear reference to the idea that the dog’s tongue has been “down there” – and tops it off by saying “Gross!”
Come on, Howard, let’s not get all nasty about an Elder of the Universe, please.
13 Justin Bieber - Zoolander 2
Whatever else you think about Justin Bieber, this film proves he does at least have a sense of humor about himself. In an early scene in the film, playing his own pop star self, Bieber appears in a cameo where he is not only killed - he is really, really killed. As in filled with about a thousand bullet holes killed.
It’s the moment many haters have always wanted to see: the bratty Biebs executed on camera. It’s very creepy to think of audience members cheering this on as if it were a Cabin in the Woods style sacrifice. It gets just that more awkward when Justin makes taking a selfie his final act before dying.
The whole thing generated controversy for fans of the singer, prompting director Ben Stiller to defend the scene as “Rorschach test” for people. Did you see a bunny or a bleeding musician?
12 Pamela Anderson - Borat
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: yes, there is a tradition in certain parts of the world where forcibly kidnapping a bride is an accepted cultural reality. And yes, Kazakhstan is one of the places where it happens. So, on paper at least, Sacha Baron Cohen’s shocking scene in Borat! Cultural Learnings of America Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, where he performs the kidnapping, is kind of legit.
Attending a book signing event with none other than Pamela Anderson, Borat attempts to throw a bridal sack over her for a shotgun wedding, chasing her out into a parking lot. Now, both stars had planned this scene long in advance – and the book store security was in on it – but if you look at the horrified Anderson fans’ reactions, it sure seems like they thought it was the real deal, which is pretty cruel when you think about it.
And should we even make fun of this awful practice? We’ll need to re-watch the movie many times to be sure!
11 Channing Tatum - This Is the End
Surprised to see something “inappropriate” in a black comedy about the apocalypse? Well, in This Is the End, James Franco, Seth Rogan, and company strive to find a way.
Bumping into a tribe of cannibals, Franco and Rogan find their old pal Danny McBride as their chief. Now a perverse Mad Max style villain, he leads around a mask-wearing sex slave by the leash.
No way we could print the ensuing dialogue here – nor show you the gratuitous grinding – but let’s just say, it’s some seriously foul stuff. And who do we find is under that mask? None other than Channing Tatum.
Don’t forget, This Is the End has all these Hollywood stars playing themselves. Which will likely make celebrity-spotting Mr. Tatum in real life a whole new kind of experience.
10 Neil Patrick Harris - Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
There was a time, long ago, when Neil Patrick Harris was the very image of Apple Pie America; a squeaky-clean blond kid who played a teenage doctor on Doogie Howser, MD. Little did we know then that Mr. Harris had a dark side.
In a cameo role which redefined his career, Harris appears as himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Only this version of him is a sex-addicted drug fiend, a raging madman who startles the veteran stoners from the movie’s title.
It was hilarious, of course, and shocked Harris’ fans, who would never see him the same way again. But it totally worked! Harris went from good boy to bad boy and has been winning hearts ever since.
9 Paris Hilton in Cat in the Hat
These days, the idea of putting Paris Hilton anywhere near a children’s movie seems like utter madness. After all, she cultured an image of herself as a “party girl” for many years, a hard-drinking, totally rich serial dater who couldn't care less what you think.
Of course, that all kind of started when Paris’ infamous sex tape was leaked online – two weeks before her cameo appearance in the Mike Myers film version of Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s book, The Cat in the Hat. It’s just two seconds of her in a dance party scene. But one has to wonder why the producers didn’t cut that needless moment out when they knew kids and parents would be watching.
At the time, Ms. Hilton’s exploits were pure tabloid fodder – there was no avoiding it – but we can only imagine what uncomfortable mother-daughter conversations happened outside the theaters once the movie was over.
8 Hugh Jackman – X-Men: First Class
What’s that you say? Wolverine wasn’t in X-Men: First Class? How soon we forget. In the film’s single biggest gut-busting belly laugh, during a montage where Professor X and Magneto are busy recruiting gifted youngsters to join their team of mutants, the pioneering pair approach Young Man Logan at a bar. Before either of them can say a word, Wolverine blurts out “F--- Off!” – thus ending the conversation before it even begins.
It was an awesome moment, but, jarringly out of place in a PG-13 movie. Despite all the violence in the film, dropping the f-bomb broke the rules of a kid-friendly film in a way that offended some. For the record, the MPAA allows for one use of the F word in any PG-13 film, so even though technically it was in bounds, it was definitely a weird break from the otherwise “clean” superhero flick.
7 Ron Jeremy - Ghostbusters
Even people who have never had the “pleasure” to see Ron Jeremy “on the job” know that his very name is synonymous with sleazy male adult stars. Making his rep in the '80s as a premier performer in many an adult film, Jeremy is legendary for being an unsightly guy you never want to see naked, yet there he was in more hardcore scenes than we can count. So, what is he doing in what is a family-friendly classic?
There’s a quick moment in the original Ghostbusters movie where “The Hedgehog” appears within a crowd. Thing is, there must have been plenty of fathers in those movie theaters back in 1984 who instantly recognized him, causing them to cringe in their seats as their children laughed at the jokes. Talk about inappropriate!
6 Michael Jackson in Men in Black 2
Michael Jackson, the late-great King of Pop, had a very weird cameo in the sci-fi comedy Men in Black 2. In his few seconds in the movie, he plays an alien in human form working for the government’s top-secret extraterrestrial intelligence agency. Wanting to become the proverbial “man in black,” he is told that he has to wait on an “alien affirmative action program” to come into effect before he can get the job – a reference to the real-life Affirmative Action program that protects black students and workers from discrimination.
It’s a play on a lot of the racial controversies which plagued Michael when he was with us, and which kind of took the audience out of the fantasy for the moment. In the end, his character never got to be “Agent M” like he wanted.
5 Amy Poehler and Tina Fey -Anchorman 2
It’s not that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey haven’t done their fair share of blue comedy. And it’s not like the Anchorman movies aren’t also full of some pretty raunchy gags and one-liners. But there’s just something about how extremely dirty their brief bit of dialogue in Anchorman 2 is that takes it to the level of "inappropriate".
It’s an epic battle scene loaded with A-List Hollywood cameos. Besides Amy and Tina - Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Kanye West and many more pop in for the madness. They all get some great quick gag lines in there – but Amy and Tina choose to come up with a new use for the “C” word which shakes the hyper-macho Ron Burgundy character to his core.
It’s very out of place, totally righteous, hilariously emasculating, and oh so right –precisely because it’s wrong, oh so wrong!
4 Jay Leno - Ted 2
Exactly nobody is surprised when Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane creates comedy that is really, really inappropriate. Fans of his raunchy cartoon already know that just about nothing is off limits for a laugh. He rips on movie stars, politicians, and just about anybody else.
In Ted 2, the sequel to the equally raunchy first film about a talking teddy bear, McFarlane destroys the family-friendly veneer of yet another American icon. Jay Leno was the king of late night talk shows for a long time. As host of The Tonight Show, he provided a safe space where uncontroversial interviews of famous people made the nation laugh in a very clean way.
But in Ted 2, Leno is the punchline of a joke about random gay sex in bar bathrooms – which he helps along by walking out of a public toilet attempting to “be with” a stranger at that same moment.
3 Alfred Hitchcock in Marnie
The granddaddy of all film cameos is, of course, none other than Alfred Hitchcock himself. The venerable film director placed himself in brief appearances for 39 out of his 52 movies. Spotting him in his movies was a favorite parlor game for filmgoers back before there was an internet where we could all look these things up.
In Marnie, his moment happens as we watch actress Tippi Hedren walk down a hall. Hitch steps out of a door, checks her out for a second, then breaks the fourth wall by looking at the camera. Back in 1964, this didn’t seem like a big deal. But in 2016, Hedren released a tell-all autobiography where she claims that Sir Alfred was more of a Sir Creepy who sexually harassed her and even trashed her career when she refused his advances.
Now that we know that, this cameo looks more like a dirty old man leering at a woman he lusts after, turning to the audience as if to say, “Check that out!”
2 Cate Blanchett - Hot Fuzz
We’ve got to hand it to Cate Blanchett. No matter how big of a star she becomes, she’s still a totally cool geek who loves giving her talents to all sorts of quirky projects. Hot Fuzz, the police spoof from Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright, is no exception.
Simon Pegg plays a cop who’s essentially breaking up with his forensic investigator gal pal (Blanchett) in the middle of a bloody crime scene. Of course, it’s the blackest of black humor, talking about the death of a relationship nonchalantly surrounded by bloody walls and body bags. It very funny, but in a way that we are kind of ashamed of.
Which may explain why Cate never even takes off her filter mask for the whole scene. But that’s her under there, trust us.
1 Herve Villechaize in Airplane II
Herve Villechaize was an unforgettable movie and TV presence back in the '70s and '80s. Most famous for playing the diminutive Tattoo on the show Fantasy Island, the “little person” actor was popular with many a TV audience. But according to his late James Bond co-star Roger Moore, Herve was really more of a perv.
After appearing together in The Man with the Golden Gun, Moore recounted that Villechaize was a “diseased sex maniac with unnatural lusts.” So it gets more than a little creepy when we take a second look at his cameo in the disaster film spoof Airplane 2.
It’s just a throwaway gag, really. A stewardess, stressed out by the crisis on the flight she’s working, takes “a little breather” – prompting a random surreal moment where Villechaize, a dwarf, appears breathing heavily (get it?). It was harmless, except now we know he was pretty inappropriate with the ladies, and there he is at about skirt-high next to a lovely actress huffing like he’s making an obscene phone call.
Which other movie cameos struck you as really inappropriate?