Cameo appearances in movies can be a lot of fun. They basically serve the function of getting you to smile knowingly and say to yourself, “Oh, hey, it’s them – how about that?” Filmmakers sometimes throw them in for the sake of getting a big name in their movie for cheap. Liam Neeson gets a high billing on the movie The Next Three Days, even though he’s only in one scene that probably took less than a day to shoot. But sometimes, it’s just for fun. Sometimes it’s Danny Trejo as the bartender in Anchorman. Or sometimes it makes a line even funnier if it’s being spoken by a celebrity icon. Some cameos become retroactively awkward or unwatchable, depending on what has happened to the famous icon in the years since the movie was released. When Dodgeball first came out, Lance Armstrong was a deified athlete who had overcome cancer and won a bunch of Tour de Frances. He was a hero. But now that we know he was on steroids, all the bragging he does about the guts it took him to win those races just makes his cameo appearance awkward. And it’s impossible to watch a Donald Trump cameo in a movie like Zoolander or Home Alone 2 now that we’re familiar with his foreign policies and he’s the leader of the free world. But there are still some cameos that are an absolute joy to watch. Here are the 10 best!
10. Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore
“The price is wrong, bitch!” Remember back in the ‘90s when Adam Sandler movies were actually funny? It all started with his breakout role in Happy Gilmore, an outrageous comedy about an aspiring hockey player who discovers that he has a knack for golf and uses it to compete in a tournament with the intention of using the prize money to save his grandmother’s house. In one scene, Happy is playing with The Price is Right host Bob Barker and ends up getting into a savage fight with him. As it turns out, this is more than just a hilarious movie scene. It’s rooted in Barker’s real life. The ultimate badass Chuck Norris has spent decades training Barker in the art of Tang Soo Do karate, so Barker could actually kick anyone’s ass in real life. So, not only did Barker insist on doing his own stunts for the scene, he didn’t agree to do it until he found out that he would be winning the fight. All of that hard work and cinematic fisticuffs paid off, since the epic fight between Happy and Barker in the movie ended up winning the very first MTV Movie Award for Best Fight.
9. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men: First Class
Hugh Jackman’s appearance in the role of Wolverine in the prequel movie X-Men: First Class is the antithesis of last year’s Logan. Logan is a tragic, beautiful drama that brings an end to the character that we’ve spent two decades falling in love with. We see the wide range of Wolvie’s emotions – we see him angry, sad, empathetic, fatherly, kind, reluctant. Jackman gave the performance of a lifetime in Logan. X-Men: First Class is a little different. He’s only utilized for a few seconds, but they’re the most memorable few seconds in that crappy, lacklustre movie. In order to receive a PG-13 rating, the MPAA will let one F-bomb slide. You only get one F-bomb. One more and it’s rated R and your lucrative teen market is all but gone. In X-Men: First Class, that one F-bomb is reserved for Wolverine, who we see hanging out in a bar in the 1960s (since he doesn’t age). A young Professor X and a young Magneto are going around, trying to recruit mutants for their new team, and when they approach Wolverine, he instantly tells them, “Go f**k yourselves.” Jackman accepted this cameo role, because “it sounded perfect to me.” So true.
8. Matt Damon in EuroTrip
In the opening scene of EuroTrip, the lead character Scotty graduates from high school and looks forward to spending the summer with his long time girlfriend – but then she breaks his heart by revealing that she’s been cheating on him the whole time. To make matters worse, later that night, at a graduation party, his ex-girlfriend’s lover – played by Matt Damon – performs a rock song for everyone called “Scotty Doesn’t Know.” In the song, he describes all the disgusting, depraved things he’s been doing all these years with Scotty’s girlfriend, and how the entire time, Scotty had no idea. It’s actually a really awesome and catchy song – and everyone at the party starts singing along. But why did Matt Damon play this role? He explained, “So, EuroTrip was written by three guys I went to college with: [Seinfeld writers Jeff Schaffer, Alec Berg, and David Mandel]. I was in Prague shooting The Brothers Grimm, we were in rehearsals, and I had a wig in that movie, and so Alec and Dave and Jeff were making EuroTrip and they said, ‘Will you come play this, you know, Howard Rollins kind of insane, bad version of a suburban, you know, punk band guy?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m in Prague.’ So, I showed up and I’m sitting there, and I’m like, ‘I’m wearing a wig, just shave my head, let’s just go for it,’ and we did it, and put a bunch of piercings all over – so it was kind of a family affair.”
7. Tom Cruise in Goldmember
Austin Powers is one of the most original comic creations in the history of cinema. Whatever compelled Mike Myers to combine a parody of the swingers of the 1960s with a parody of the gentleman spy that is James Bond, no one could’ve predicted that it would work – but it did! By the time Myers was making the third Austin Powers movie, Goldmember, the character had become a pop culture institution. He was a beloved cinematic icon. And that’s why, for the opening scene of the movie, Myers was able to recruit the talents of some of the biggest actors in Hollywood to appear in the film within a film based on Austin’s life. There’s too many cameos here to count on one hand – Steven Spielberg directs the fake movie Austinpussy, starring Tom Cruise as Austin, Gwyneth Paltrow as his love interest Dixie Normous, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny DeVito as Mini-Me, and John Travolta as Goldmember. Boy, that’s a lot of cameos! Spielberg has always wanted to direct a James Bond movie, and in a certain sense, this is a kind of wish fulfillment for him. And these aren’t the only cameos in the movie – there’s also Britney Spears, Quincy Jones, the Osbournes, Willie Nelson, Burt Bacharach, Nathan Lane, and Katie Couric.
6. Michael Jackson in Men in Black II
You might wonder how Michael Jackson – the iconic pop singer behind the best selling album of all time – came to play the mysterious alien character of Agent M in Men in Black II. Well, it was his idea. He loved the first one so much that he called the director and said that if there was ever going to be a sequel, he wanted to be in it. Apparently, the King of Pop thought that the first Men in Black movie was a deep, contemplative, heartfelt drama. As director Barry Sonnenfeld explained, “Michael Jackson wanted to be in Men in Black II. He told me he had seen the first Men in Black in Paris and had stayed behind and sat there and wept. I had to explain to him that it was a comedy.” Once he realized it was a comedy, Jacko had a surprisingly good sense of humor about himself. He played an alien character without wearing a costume or any makeup – he just played it as himself. The movie Men in Black II itself has its flaws. It’s basically just an endless strings of callbacks and in-jokes about the first one. But the Michael Jackson cameo is certainly a highlight.
5. Bill Murray in Zombieland
When it was released back in 2009, Zombieland quickly became the highest grossing zombie movie of all time. It would be surpassed in 2013 by World War Z, but that had Brad Pitt in it – what can you do? Zombieland stars Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Woody Harrelson as a band of survivors who team up after a zombie apocalypse has decimated the world. Midway through the movie, they stop off at a mansion in Los Angeles that happens to belong to Bill Murray. Murray pulls a prank on the survivors by dressing as a zombie, but he’s so convincing in his portrayal that Jesse Eisenberg shoots and kills him. In the original script, the celebrity cameo was supposed to be an undead, dancing Patrick Swayze, complete with an homage to the iconic pottery scene from Swayze’s classic movie Ghost. After that idea was dropped, the celebrity cameo role was offered to Sylvester Stallone, Joe Pesci, Mark Hamill, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Matthew McConaughey, before the role ultimately went to Bill Murray. According to Harrelson, who got his friend Murray the role after the producers failed the get anyone, Murray improvised most of his dialogue.
4. News team battle in Anchorman
The big news team battle in Anchorman 2 went a little overboard. It had ghosts and gods and sci-fi weapons and Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey and Will Smith. It was ridiculous. But the original news team battle in the first Anchorman movie was absurd and hilarious and iconic and the choices of celebrity cameos have that sweet balance between obscurity and “Hey, it’s them!” Plus, it was more of a surprise in the first one. There’s Vince Vaughn’s antagonist Wes Mantooth to start off with – and then Ben Stiller and his news team show up, and Tim Robbins and Luke Wilson with theirs. As Ron later reflects, it escalates really quickly. Ben Stiller said, “I remember wondering what the hell was going on – not knowing anything about it and being handed a whip.” It was madness – and comedy gold! Director and co-writer Adam McKay has explained where the scene came from. He said that, while the original script did have action sequences “in the vein of The Blackboard Jungle and The Warriors,” it wasn’t until producer Judd Apatow encouraged them to “go further” with it that they asked themselves, “Wait a minute – are we going to do this? Are we going to have a gang fight? I think we are!” And this beautiful, iconic scene was born!
3. Channing Tatum in This is the End
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End is one of the funniest and most outrageous comedy movies in recent memory. This is helped along by a plot that never slows down for a second. The actors, playing themselves, attend a party at James Franco’s house, and then the apocalypse hits, and then demons descend upon the house, and then Danny McBride gets kicked out of the house, and then Jonah Hill gets possessed, and then the house burns down and they’re on the outside in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that now remains of Los Angeles. After that, the last thing that anyone expected was for McBride to return as the leader of a gang of cannibals and try to eat his former friends. And the last thing that you might expect after that is for McBride’s sex slave to take off his gimp mask and reveal himself to be none other than Channing Tatum. There’s a bit of foreshadowing of this cameo early in the movie as Seth Rogen gushes to Jay Baruchel about how hot he thinks Channing Tatum is. The script called for “a gimp bitch,” and Rogen got the idea for it to be Channing Tatum and sent him an email, offering him the role. Tatum, ever the good sport, replied, “One, what the f**k? Two, that’s the craziest s**t I’ve ever heard. Three, when and where do I show up?”
2. Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is consistently ranked among the greatest movies ever made, and there are many good reasons for that. One of those reasons in Christopher Walken’s cameo appearance as the Vietnam vet Captain Koons. Every time anyone tries to do a Christopher Walken impression these days – in an attempt to capture his distinctive voice – they try to replicate his monologue about the gold watch from the movie, because it’s so brilliant. You can always count on Quentin Tarantino for a good monologue, and you can always count on Christopher Walken for a fantastic performance. His telling of Captain Koons’ war experiences is so vivid and captivating that all you need for a full five minutes of movie is a single, unbroken shot of him talking. It’s that monologue that sets up the entire “The Gold Watch” segment of the movie. It’s that monologue that tells us everything we need to know about how important this watch is to Butch. Since the monologue – which was shot on the very last day of filming – is so long, Walken actually forgot his lines toward the end of the speech and you can see him pause as he tries to remember them, but the pause looked so authentic that Tarantino decided to leave it in. An iconic moment in the history of cinema.
1. Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers
Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Will Ferrell have appeared in enough of each other’s movies that the media coined the term “Frat Pack” to refer to them. All of them apart from Owen Wilson are in Anchorman. All of them apart from Jack Black and Luke Wilson are in Starsky and Hutch. One thing you can almost guarantee with these “Frat Pack” movies is that Will Ferrell will have a cameo appearance as a really weird dude. In The Internship, he’s the twisted salesman who calls the street corner where human billboards die of skin cancer “the widow maker.” In Starsky and Hutch, he’s the pervy prisoner with the hairnet. But his greatest cameo appearance is in Wedding Crashers as the guys’ wedding crashing mentor, Chazz Reinhold. Throughout the movie, he’s sensationalized and deified – which makes it all the more hysterical when Owen Wilson’s character actually meets him in real life and realizes he’s a loser. He lives with his mother (who he treats like crap) and he’s a soulless man-child who has recently moved into the realm of funeral crashing. Chazz’s funniest quotes include, “Grief is nature’s most powerful aphrodisiac,” and “Ma, the meat loaf!”