Phone rings, door chimes, here come cameos…
Everybody likes to see a familiar face pop into their lives now and again and why should the same be said for cinema? I mean, maybe sometimes the issue will be more insidious than that but I’d like to take a moment if I may of acknowledging my 25 least favorite and 25 favorite moments that a familiar face popped in to say hi at the movies, with attached YouTube clips of the ones I could find. And you know what, some of the actors in the worst list might even get to redeem themselves in the best list, that’s how happy I am to see some of these people.
(Special acknowledgement must be made to the constantly enjoyable musical performances at the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks: The Return, except… y’know, those aren’t movies)
Also gonna take this moment to put a spoiler alert: some surprises are going to be revealed despite my attempts to be as vague as possible, whether plot points or the identity of who shows up
The Worst Movie Cameos of the 2010s
25. Tommy Wiseau – The Disaster Artist
Being the single most interesting moment in an otherwise vapid movie, but that’s more on the part of the lack of control either participant in the scene has and the way they are trying to muscle over the other as the most interesting person on the screen. And the fact that it was relegated to being a post-credit sequence means that Franco and the rest knew that it didn’t fit in and didn’t want it to fit. It feels reminiscent of him pulling up Wiseau at his Golden Globes speech and keeping him deliberately away from the mic.
24. Keanu Reeves – Always Be My Maybe
Victim of the hype more than anything. Perhaps the single most overacclaimed cameo of the 2010s, where it was just another entry in the overabundance of “celebrity mocks himself as a conceited cartoon” with nothing to add to the table – nothing satirical or even necessarily self-deprecating. This is a cameo that could easily have gone to anyone that said yes. Especially in the face of the director’s usage of James Van der Beek in Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23, this was really small potatoes. And he’s still more likable as a presence than either lead character, to be honest.
23. Joe Morton – Godzilla: King of the Monsters
I don’t remember if a single word was spoken (now I do, having pulled up the clip and even heard him acknowledged as Corey Hawkins’ character in Kong: Skull Island), it was just the moment where I had to recognize “Oh god, they’re really serious about this MonsterVerse thing”.
22. Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
On the one hand, applauding Tarantino for giving him a role that you’d think entitles him to say the n-word and he actually doesn’t. On the other hand, big reminder of what a terrible actor he is with that accent (which I think the clip I posted below doesn’t have him speaking nearly as much unfortunately). On the other other hand, we got to see Tarantino explode. Not all that bad.
21. Benedict Cumberbatch – Thor: Ragnarok
Evidently a write-in for very little reason outside of reminding us that yes, the MCU exists having to deal with one of the least enjoyable performances in all of the franchise having to cut in to give information that probably did not need the cameo to be received.
20. Charlie Sheen – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Confused on whether or not this is supposed to be a cynical “bygones be bygones” moment or a warm “bygones be bygones” moment, there’s not enough to see how far the character has regressed or if he’s just trying to pass by the moment. A wasted opportunity to dig deep into what capitalism does to a soul the way that the first Wall Street kind of did. Also, in a manner that just bugs the heck out of me looking at this clip… the scene breaks the 180 rule.
19. Jason Momoa & Ray Fisher – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
It’s one thing to overstuff this movie with advertisements for the upcoming Justice League and heroes within there, but it’s another thing entirely to just make these heroes first big-screen appearance feel so unceremonious as Ben Affleck clicking through lowkey YouTube videos.
18. Ezra Miller – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ezra gets their own glorified spot for “Am I too soon?” Heck yes, you were, even before the subsequent collapse of the DCEU’s main actors and the continued development hell of the Flash movie made you too soon.
17. Ryan Reynolds & Kevin Hart – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Probably closer to becoming actual supporting roles but that’s part of the problem. These actors’ appearance after being annoyingly “those guys who have to be the funny man in every movie from 2010 to 2019” pop in and have extended monologues that run the movie’s already painfully chonky runtime to a speed beyond time and space. I’m convinced that cutting down their screentime would do miracles for the movie’s pacing. And they may never share the screen together, but they both deserve this esteemed spot for having the same effect for the multiple times they popped in.
16. Iggy Azalea – Furious 7
Iggy gives a massively better performance than Ronda Rousey with one line and yet still seems like a transient from Chappie. What on Earth does she know about car racing? Why does everybody at Race Wars stop what they’re doing to hear what she has to say about Letty’s driving? It’s like asking Ja Rule about 9/11.
15. Will Oldham – A Ghost Story
On the one hand, dude isn’t necessarily giving a bad performance. On the other hand, he is being THAT GUY both within the scene as he mansplains and within the film, overdelivering and spelling out the exact themes the movie has spent half its running time establishing elegantly up until that point and the result is the single worst moment in the entire film.
14. Kristen Bell, Ike Barinholtz, Adam Scott, Kevin Smith, Keegan-Michael Key, Lizzy Caplan, Danny McBride, Zach Braff, and JJ Abrams – The Disaster Artist
Most of the Rogen/Goldberg/Franco movies have acted as “look what famous friends we have!” self-congratulation and The Disaster Artist is nothing BUT self-congratulation. But the opening is the clumsiest utilisation of both of those ethos, getting a bunch of faces to try to re-introduce one of the most notorious cult movies that feels like a chopped off Drunk History episode rather than a cohesive explanation of what The Room was. Just “oh my god, so crazy” for five minutes.
13. Ronda Rousey – Furious 7
Y’know there really didn’t have to be any lines spoken at all. Rousey was the biggest face in the UFC at the time and her scowling physical presence, especially since she’s just meant to be a mini-boss to Letty, should have been enough. But instead we had to get not one but two thumping line deliveries and it deflates any personality in the moment, especially since both are try-hard taunts that not even the worst brawler video game would come up with.
12. Sam Witwer & Ray Park – Solo: A Star Wars Story
There is literally nothing that is gained from Darth Maul’s sudden appearance in the movie – especially since as far as most of the movie-going audience in concerned, the character should be dead – and all it does is leave us with space to go “what the heck is happening?”
11. Stephen King – It Chapter 2
The Peter Bogdanovich cameo is weird but explicable. The Xavier Dolan cameo is kind of essential, albeit poorly done. It is extremely bold of this movie – of all Stephen King adaptations – to bring in the man himself so he can make a pithy inside joke about how most of his books have terrible endings and then go on to deliver a significantly worse and emptier ending than the original novel’s already deservedly controversial (and unnecessarily uncomfortable) ending beat had. Way to go, King. You played yourself.
10. Jenna Fischer – The 15:17 to Paris
Judy Greer arguably has to deal with the worse part on account of having to spend more screentime and also one of the worst lines of the 21st Century, but Fischer’s total lack of wiggle room to do anything but look like a concerned mother gives me mental claustrophobia just thinking about it, considering how little presence she has otherwise despite ostensibly raising one of the film’s leads.
9. Toni Collette – Tammy
Practically a wallflower to her scene. She makes Jenna Fischer’s cameo in 15:17 look vibrant and full of inner life while Melissa McCarthy just shouts at her for several minutes.
8. Edward Norton – The Dictator
Oh no… this was flatout the moment I had to concede that Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles had lost it, relying on the crudest and cruelest of rape jokes to get folks in the cinema uncomfortable. I’m not sure if Norton himself is just giving a great performance or if he’s legitimately disturbed at where his career has gone to, but his face made me ready to take a breather for a minute.
7. Ian Holm – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
He looks like he belongs in Madame Tussaud’s, to be quite honest. How on Earth is that the sort of makeup they had to use on him? How did The Disaster Artist have better makeup to give Bryan Cranston than a Lord of the Rings movie had to give its star?
6. Buzz Aldrin – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Buzz Aldrin appearing in Dark of the Moon is like if Richard Dawkins had appeared in God’s Not Dead. Antithetical to his entire life’s work and painful to witness on account of its association with such a painfully loud movie. Imagine taking a dude who spent most of his life battling conspiracy theories about the moon landing and making him say “we were worn sworn to secrecy” about an insidious cover-up by NASA.
5. Hugh Jackman – X-Men: Apocalypse
Obviously Fox knew which side their bread was buttered on and that’s why they shoveled Jackman into as many movies with the X-Men brand as they could but Apocalypse was already a very cluttered movie to begin with and there’s a difference between muttering “go fuck yourselves” for 3 seconds and having a whole mini-movie portraying the same origin of Wolverine we had seen portrayed twice before. At least it happens to be the first movie to acknowledge that yes, blood will obviously be spilt when Wolverine fights.
4. J.K. Simmons – Spider-Man: Far from Home
I can’t think of a single more self-contemptuous decision in the MCU and that’s considering how they relegated “Shamballa” into a wi-fi password one time. The reason Simmons’ performance in the Raimi Spider-Man films was so good was because of its zippy Hawksian energy, in here they make the man sit in front of a green screen without even so much as Jameson’s famous hairstyle and act like an Alex Jones knock-off in a painfully online way. The character is a punchline and the casting was opportunism and nothing more.
3. Lee Pace – Captain Marvel
Forgot Ronan was a thing. Would have happily stayed forgetting Ronan was a thing for the rest of my life if Marvel Studios didn’t insist that everybody has a contractual obligation.
2. Iko Uwais & Yayan Ruhian – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What a goddamn waste! Two of the finest actions stars of the past decade, one of which is so recognizable he gets a close-up and all they do is stand and deliver a few lines and get gulped down by Goosebumps monsters. I think it may have been the start of my bitterness towards the Disney Star Wars era.
Brad Pitt – 12 Years a Slave
No, absolutely not. It may very well be the case that the character existed in real life and that’s fine. But casting yourself as the good white savior Christ figure in the movie you produced is painfully self-congratulatory and satisfied (and he does it again without the race element in his harbinger of doom role for The Big Short 2 years later) and it’s emblematic of all the kind of pageantry within white liberalism that makes me constantly cynical about public acts of allyship. And that’s even without acknowledging that trashfire of an accent, is that supposed to be Canadian or South Park character?
Dishonorable Mention: Kamiki Ryunosuke & Kamishiraishi Mone – Weathering with You.
This one is more my hang-up than any actual flaw in their appearance within the film, although having them voice the characters from Your Name. feels like a weird self-congratulatory thing on Shinkai’s part. It quietly ups my rankles a bit because given the places this movie’s story goes, it feels like a late sabotage of Taki and Mitsuha’s future (especially given what she goes through in Your Name.). As my friend Josh said after the movie, “so the bad couple doomed the good couple!”
Can’t Remember Mention: I’m sure that Game Over, Man! with its rolodex of famous names should qualify for this, but I have been blessed with a stricken memory of any celebrity elements outside of Shaggy and I don’t feel enough attitudes about that scene.
Cameo I Really Have No Attitude About but Already Had a Pithy Explanation That I Wanted to Deliver: Action Bronson – The Irishman.
Ghostface Killah could have done it better.
Most Adorably Optimistic Cameo: Edward Norton – Alita: Battle Angel.
Ohhhhh they really thought they’d make enough money for a sequel. At least we got to see how much he looks like James Cameron and Mahershala Ali got to give his best Norton impression.
Not Really a Cameo but Worth a Laugh:
Vin Diesel almost certainly gave Gal Gadot top billing in Furious 7 because he wanted to ride on that Wonder Woman hype and it’s all for appearing as a photo in the background. Not even archive footage, a photo!
Cameo Somewhere Between Bad and Good: Will Smith – Winter’s Tale.
I mean it’s definitely an inspired choice like practically everything in that terrible movie and Smith actually acquits himself well playing the literal Lucifer, but it’s somehow hard to tell if his delivery of even the most emotionally heightened material is a deliberate attempt to underscore the mundane motions that the Devil is going through or if Smith just needed to do Goldsman a solid and bounce. And by god, that last CGI mouth thing… *chef’s kiss*
THE BEST MOVIE CAMEOS OF THE 2010s
25. Brad Pitt – Deadpool 2
It is not just for the sake of synchronicity that I end the worst with Pitt and begin the best with Pitt. It’s this low because I don’t want to talk about it too much, all I have to say is “don’t blink”. Of all the surprises these lists will spoil, this is maybe the second biggest I don’t want to spoil (other than Winter’s Tale, but like it’s been six years and its an unwatched crappy movie so anybody who was gonna wait to see it has done so by now). It’s an excellent payoff to a running gag that doesn’t run for too long. And I already feel like I said too much.
24. Timothy Olyphant – Rango
Seriously, the man does a way too good vocal impression of Clint Eastwood. And besides which I can’t help loving the fact that the star of my favorite Western of the 21st Century went and got cast as the literal spirit of the West.
23. Matt Damon, Sam Neill, & Luke Hemsworth – Thor: Ragnarok
Nothing really special or deep outside of using a Hemsworth brother to play fake Thor, but it is a most amusing gag that takes the necessity of exposition regarding the last Thor installment and turning it into a playful few minutes.
22. Franco Nero – John Wick: Chapter 2
The first of two Nero appearances (I think you’ll be able to guess the other one, it’s not like he was in a lot of popular movies lately), swanky and gladly acting as a final stamp of approval on all the Italianate stylisation that this movie contains with the most ridiculous punchline to that air.
21. Channing Tatum & Michael Cera – This Is the End
The only two cameos in the wildly overrated movie to feel like fun cartoonery rather than kid’s gloves self-takedowns, Cera particularly delivering a prequel to his pseudo-Tobey Maguire turn in Molly’s Game 4 years later.
20. Donald Glover – Spider-Man: Homecoming
In almost the entirety of the MCU, we get one flavor of response to the existence of superheroes on such a large scale: “gee whiz” wonder. There’s only two bit performances I can recall that actually approach the matter in a less kneejerk manner and the other one will appear later on this list. In the meantime, here we have Glover evidently tired of having to encounter and navigate around yet another science fiction trope over and over again but treating as just a part of life he has to adjust to.
19. Franco Nero – Django Unchained
Little more than a glorified “passing of the torch” moment with extra “it’s MY time now!” in Foxx’s delivery towards him, Nero is more than game to both concede to Foxx and retain his own dignity as a presence. The coolest moment in the entire film.
18. Jeff Fahey – Alita: Battle Angel
The man only had to do one thing: sit down on a chair surrounded by mechanical dogs while Ed Skrein gives his whole “this here’s Razor, he’s got the death penalty on seven systems. This here’s Ninja, he has over 2000 confirmed kills on call of duty. This here’s Navy SEAL copypasta…” speech. And he acquits himself well, but what really earns its spot here is the sharp facial change he gives to a moment of violence that very clearly bothers him and gets underneath his rugged skin. That it gets to pay off shortly after helps, but it’s one change in his eyes that expresses a range of emotions in an otherwise restrained appearance.
17. Andrew Scott – 1917
The only human presence in the whole movie, however short-lived. Fully living in a casual nihilism (with a hint of modernity in his line deliveries) that provides both a tiny bit of humor to the proceedings and expresses the sort of hopeless miserable carnage that World War I was from beginning to end.
16. Patti Smith – Song to Song
Admittedly a lot of this comes from being a Patti Smith fan and knowing her history but I don’t even recall the exact moment I realized she was talking about her late husband Fred Smith. It just happened to be that Smith’s spacey and clearly genuine account of her grief after Smith’s passing meshed extremely well with Malick’s latest associative editing style (particularly in a film that was most generous to its actors) and that in turn translated to how it was affecting her audience within the film and what Mara’s character was picking up to apply to her relationships. Brave and quietly profound and even a bit playfully mythic.
15. Yayan Ruhian & Cecep Arif Rahman – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
In a franchise full of “Oh my god, John Wick is so OP” lines of dialogue to flex its character, there is no possible bigger flex to pull than having the two most beloved underground action stars challenge the character while expressing what huge fans they are of his work and their excitement to engage him in combat. And then we get to have the best fight in the franchise attached to it as a bonus!
14. Uma Thurman – Nymphomaniac
Fudging the rules a bit, but she’s only in the movie for one scene so I’d say I get to go crazy with this. But not as crazy as her uninhibited fury spending her few minutes on screen to add verbally violent puritanism and self-righteousness in various modulating levels and providing the only good scene in the otherwise meandering movie.
13. Sid Haig – 3 from Hell
Like Thurman, its status as a “cameo” is in question but I qualify it based on having one scene that isn’t archive footage. And what a scene it is as Haig spends his last time on-screen before his passing spitting vile and cruel rhetoric in an apocalyptic manner befitting the last time we will see this remorseless killer and insisting we don’t cry for him because we’re the ones who still have to live in this awful world. It is lit with quiet affection for the actors’ remaining ability to be a grindhouse personality until the end and it basically feels like a moment reminiscent of Bela Lugosi’s spirited “Home?! I have no home!” monologue in Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster, just now in an actually good movie.
12. Dave Bautista – Blade Runner 2049
I’ll put it this way, he is the only performance in the entire movie’s attempt to invoke religiosity to succeed in acting quietly devoted and assured at once and frankly I spent most of the remaining movie why we weren’t following his character’s story instead of Gosling.
11. Veronica Ngo – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Basically starring in her own glorified short film for most of the excellent opening scene, Ngo embodies pure physical will and fear in a extended sequence where she inhabits the movie’s otherwise inexplicable insistence on treating space battles like WWII battles amply and gets to let her final beat function as a big “fuck yeah!” moment, even overriding the illogical physics.
10. Patti Lupone – Last Christmas
Probably the single most effortlessly charming moment in the whole movie which desperately needed that positive energy to maintain itself for the rest of its runtime, energetic and happy to be there in a genuine way even if it’s for no apparent reason.
9. Joe Don Baker – Mud
An excellent utilization of his screen persona to condemn the sort of reverence the South has for Good Ol’ Boy figures like him, implying that there is something more self-serving and imposing in such a personality type and adding to the muted disillusion of the film in general.
8. Sigourney Weaver – The Cabin in the Woods & Paul
Somewhere between 2011-2012, fantasy cinema decided to deem Weaver the voice of all authority within science fiction and I was all too happy to watch it happen. The Cabin in the Woods gets the edge for me on account of cosmic and cruel her very statements feel, adding one final heavy stake to the last 10 minutes of the movie and making it count.
7. Adrien Brody – Midnight in Paris
And in the blink of an eye, he’s gone but while he was around Brody’s skippy little portrayal of Salvador Dali was the last time I ever found myself actively enjoying a Woody Allen moment and the first time in ages.
6. Alfre Woodard – Captain America: Civil War
The other grounded bit performance in the MCU besides Glover, for one thing being such an excellent screen partner that she coaxes out the single most engaged performance Robert Downey Jr. gives between Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Endgame. But she also basically asks all the questions of responsibility and collateral regarding these big battles that the fans ponder and the movies non-commitally feint towards and asks them hard, using her eyes to deliver the first (and possibly only) instance of raw humanity and pain that the MCU will ever receive in a role that feels left behind in the rubble.
5. Laura Dern – Downsizing
You wouldn’t think an actor would find it necessary to put in THAT much work and personality into a character who is on-screen for less than a minute and is basically spending her whole screentime insincerely selling to rubes, but 2017 was the Year of Dern and by god was not even the smallest part going to be a paycheck to her: there’s three different layers to each line reading and it doesn’t make her the star of the movie, but it does make the character feel more deeply sycophantic than she already was.
4. Carrie Fisher – Maps to the Stars
If I may have a hot take, this is Fisher’s career-best performance. For one thing, it is insanely funny to me how celebrities can use social media to create friendships at this point rather than the old-fashioned way. For another Fisher – particularly through her writing – has long been a source of the unglamorous side of Hollywood and I think she quietly brings a lot of that sardonicness to an already gleefully sarcastic film, particularly letting her history act as a condemnation of Hollywood’s superficiality.
3. Stan Lee – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Not the last Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel film (and while Captain Marvel’s was kind of quiet and warm, Avengers: Endgame flatout wasted that opportunity the staple to end on a pleasant note), but it is the best… anticipating Lee’s passing away a month before the movie’s release is not expectant of the makes of the movie, but his delivery of “I’m gonna miss him”, the mention of Spider-Man as an old friend, and his insistence that the costume will always fit someone all end having multiple emotional associations from that event mixed with the context of the scene. And he still gets to find room for a sense of humor, with the last beat of his cameo and his post-credits appearance as J. Jonah Jameson (a long time wish of Lee’s) letting it all go down smoothly.
2. Harry Belafonte – BlacKkKlansman
This is going to have overlap with a later list so I don’t want to say too much, only that Belafonte’s delivery of a painful account regarding the real-life lynching of Jesse Washington is a core component to what turns out to be a lacerating criticism towards film culture and the United States on several ends.
1. Wolf Blitzer – Mission: Impossible – Fallout
The pièce de résistance in the opening scene’s constant ability to keep pulling the rug out of our carpet and particularly poking fun at the constant usage of political pundits in popcorn movies (one of my least favorite things for them to do, besides using actual politicians in movies). I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say, it was the exact moment the movie won me over with its sense of humor deflecting an operatic darkness it might engage with for drama’s sake.
HONORABLE MENTION: Laurence Fishburne – John Wick: Chapter 2. I mean Chapter 3 just about established him as a central character in the mythos now, but when this first came out two years prior… it definitely felt like just a quick throwback to the good old days where Fishburne and Reeves could establish an excellent rapport like nothing, remarkable given that Fishburne is one of the most quietly underrated contemporary actors these days and Reeves is a constantly misused one.
MOST AMBITIOUS CAMEO MULLIGANS: Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Smith, Kanye West, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jim Carrey, Marion Cotillard, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, and Kirsten Dunst – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
I didn’t laugh (why would I? The Anchorman movies suck.) but I was absolutely impressed by how on-point the casting was for such a throwaway throwback to a previous sequence, mapping out their screen personalities with the sort of “news” they’d deliver. I don’t know that I care for it more than the first Anchor fight, but it’s clear work was put into it.