The last 18 years have seen the late, great Stan Lee reacquire his cult status due to a series of tremendous big-screen cameos. Lee had always believed that his Marvel superhero franchises had the potential to conquer Hollywood, and he lived to see himself proved right, not only celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but seeing how far the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises have come as well.
Technically, Lee's first cameo was in 1989, when he briefly appeared as a member of the jury in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. He almost appeared in 1998's Blade, when he'd have played a cop who discovered a burning body at a vampire club, but that was deleted from the final cut. Instead, it was in 2000 that the Stan Lee cameo tradition really began, and he swiftly became the public face of Marvel movies.
Lee has appeared in no less than 36 Marvel films, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even hinting that his character is an assistant to the alien race known as the Watchers - and, thus, that every single cameo is actually an appearance by the same inter-dimensional being. Of course, there's more to Stan Lee's cameos than just being in Marvel movies, such as appearing in Teen Titans GO! To The Movies and even in Insomniac's Spider-Man PS4 game, but for now, let's take a look at all of his Marvel movie cameos.
Stan Lee's MCU Cameos in Phase 1 and Phase 2
Stan Lee's Marvel cameos had already become a tradition by 2008, and Marvel Studios chose to continue it when they launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008's Iron Man. The film featured an entertaining scene in which Tony Stark wandered through a party, meeting and greeting people. "You look great, Hef," Stark said, clapping an elderly gentleman on the back. When the man turned round, it was revealed to be none other than Stan Lee, with the credits confirming that he was playing "himself." There's a subtle degree of humor surrounding this cameo that has largely been forgotten by fans; Lee worked with Hugh Hefner, in 2004, on a TV series called Hef's Superbunnies. This first cameo set the tone and style of the Stan Lee appearances in the MCU, and, over the next few years, he appeared in every single MCU film.
- The Incredible Hulk (2008): Lee was a hapless citizen who drank a bottle of Gamma-irradiated soft drink. Curiously enough, this is the only cameo that is technically important to a film's plot; it allowed General Ross to trace the Hulk to Mexico.
- Iron Man 2 (2010): Tony Stark again mistook Stan Lee, this time thinking he was Larry King.
- Thor (2011): In one of the most popular cameos, Lee was a pickup-truck driver who was attempting to move Thor's hammer.
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Lee was a general who mistook another character for Captain America - continuing the theme of mistaken identity, albeit in a slightly different way.
- The Avengers (2012): One of the more ironic cameos, this saw Stan Lee interviewed about the Battle of New York. "Superheroes in New York," he complained. "Give me a break!" He also appeared in a deleted scene in which he advised Steve Rogers to get a waitress' phone number.
- Iron Man 3 (2013): Lee played a beauty pageant judge who happily scored one contestant a "10."
- Thor: The Dark World (2013): In another popular cameo, Lee was a patient at a mental institution whose shoe had been taken by Dr. Eric Selvig as a prop.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): Lee played a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution who was horrified to realize the Captain America outfit had been stolen.
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Rocket spotted Lee chatting with beautiful young women while on the planet Xandar, and dismissed him sarcastically.
Stan Lee's Cameos in Avengers: Age of Ultron & Beyond
Earlier this year, Stan Lee revealed that his favorite Marvel cameo was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which released in 2015. In this cameo, Lee was standing at a bar with Thor and insisted on drinking a sip of Asgardian ale. The next scene showed him being carried out, with the slurred comment, "Excelsior!" There was a simple reason Lee loved this one above all the other; as he explained, "It's the only one I did that has two scenes." Lee had always fancied himself as a potential film star, and expressed a hope that maybe next time they'd give him three. Amusing as it was, for the average viewer, this was just another entertaining Stan Lee cameo - and the tradition continued on through the next few MCU films.
- Ant-Man (2015): Lee briefly appeared as a bartender.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016): Another cameo that delighted fans, this saw Lee turn up as a FedEx postman and accidentally ask for "Tony Stank."
- Doctor Strange (2016): Lee appeared as a passenger on a bus who was reading a book by Aldous Huxley on perception.
Stan Lee's Cameos After Guardians Of The Galaxy 2's Watcher Theory
Stan Lee's cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) is probably his most important to Marvel-viewers. It saw Marvel acknowledge a popular fan-theory that all the different glimpses of Stan Lee were actually the same person, a cosmic being who was traveling through time and space. Director James Gunn presented Lee as the "Watcher's Informant," and it saw him recounting the events of Captain America: Civil War to the alien race known as the Watchers. With his role in the MCU clarified, Stan Lee continued to pop up in similar cameos over the course of the last few MCU movies.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Lee played an annoyed neighbor who yelled down at Peter Parker.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017): Fitting perfectly with Taika Waititi's screwball comedy style, Lee was a servant of the Grandmaster who shaved Thor's head - and prompted a horrified reaction from the God of Thunder.
- Black Panther (2018): Possibly Lee's most self-aware cameo, he was a gambler at a South Korean casino. When T'Challa abandoned his winnings, Lee scooped them up. "You know what? I think I’ll just take these, bring them over here, and hold onto them for safekeeping." It feels like a sly jab at the controversy over whether or not Lee should really be classed as the creator of so many of his characters, given the "Marvel Method" was more of a partnership between writers and artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018): Lee was the driver of Peter Parker's school bus. In an amusing turnaround from his cameo in 2012's The Avengers, this time round he was distinctly unimpressed by extraterrestrial activity. "What's the matter with you kids?," he grumbled. "You never seen a spaceship before?"
- Ant-Man & the Wasp (2018): This is another fascinating one, with Lee acting as a pedestrian whose car was shrunk down by the Wasp. "Well, the '60s were fun," he remarked, "but now I'm paying for it." The implication was that his character had used to do drugs.
Page 2 of 3: Stan Lee's Non-MCU Cameos
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019