Top 10 Cameo Roles in Movies

by Eric Melin on April 27, 2010

in Top 10s

Today’s Top 10 list comes from Sean O’Connell, an NYC-based writer who has contributed Top 10 Midget Performances, Top 10 Movie Rain Scenes, and Top 10 Movie Brothers. This one is a complementary list to my Top 10 Rock Star Cameos list in that it casts a wider net. If you have a Top 10 you’d like to contribute, email me at eric@scene-stealers.com. Enjoy Sean’s list of Top 10 Cameo Roles in Movies:

One of my all time favorite occurrences in a movie is the cameo role. For those of you who do not know what a movie cameo is, here is the dictionary definition: a minor part played by a prominent performer in a single scene of a motion picture or a television play. The performance is usually kept secret, unveiled as a surprise during the movie and the performer is not billed. My first experience with a cameo role was in 1978 watching “Superman.” During the famous scene where a teenage Clark is racing down a high-speed train, a little girl sees him through the window of that train. While watching this scene in the movie theater, my Aunt leaned over to me and told me that the little girl’s mother (Noel Neill) played Lois Lane on TV.

At the time, I didn’t understand what this had to do with the movie, I just wanted to eat my popcorn, but I always remembered that information from that day on. Now any cameo role gets me excited- it feels like I am actually running into these celebrities on the street or at a restaurant. As soon as I spot the cameo star my blood starts pumping and I usually elbow the person next to me (sorry Annie, my girlfriend, who has received numerous rib jabs in the past). Once I started writing this list, I couldn’t believe how many cameos I’ve enjoyed over the years. Some honorable mentions are: Oliver Stone in “Dave”, Lee Majors in “Scrooged”, Clint Howard in every Ron Howard movie, Steven Spielberg and any 70s blues star in “The Blues Brothers,” plus Stan Lee in just about any Marvel movie. Also I must mention that Alfred Hitchcock was the King of Cameos, as he put himself in every one of his movies. It actually became a game trying to find him- kind of like “Where’s Hitchcock?” So I left him off the list because I couldn’t pick just one performance but I do acknowledge him as the King.

danny glover maverick10. Danny Glover as Bank Robber in “Maverick” (1994)

“Maverick” would have been an awful and easily forgettable movie, had it not been for this cameo. To tell you the truth, I can’t even remember the set-up to the scene other than Glover plays a bank robber who runs into Mel Gibson’s Maverick. What is so great about this scene is when Glover takes off the bandana covering his face, it appears that the two characters know each other. As they stare at one another, you slowly hear the “Lethal Weapon” music playing in the background. Of course, Glover and Gibson appeared as Riggs and Murtaugh in all four “Lethal Weapon” movies. Richard Donner, the director of “Maverick,” was also the director of the “Lethal Weapon” series and, funny enough, the director of “Superman”– the movie that started my fascination with cameos. Thank you Mr. Donner. One other note about Glover’s performance; as he  is leaving the bank, he says “I’m too old for this shit,” a line his character used frequently in the “Lethal Weapon” series.

cg-arnold-schwarzenegger-in-new-terminator-salvation.jpg9. Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 in “Terminator Salvation” (2009)

So this one was a little tricky because Schwarzenegger technically wasn’t in the movie. As I sat watching this film, I knew in my heart they had to work in Schwarzenegger somehow. After all, he was The Terminator; the franchise was nothing without him. There were two things that made it difficult to get him in. One, this was a prequel (even though it takes place in the future) and Schwarzenegger is no spring chicken anymore. He no longer looks like the original T-800 from 1984. Secondly, he is now the “Govenator” of California and how could he find the time to be in the movie and fix the state budget? The solution was simple, they CGI’d his face onto another actor. As the new T-800 broke through the door of the skynet factory, I looked over at my son Michael and saw the smile creep across his face. I knew that the love of cameos had now been passed on. So even though it was just the face of Schwarzenegger, I felt it warranted a place on this Top 10.

joe-pesci-a-bronx-tale.jpg8. Joe Pesci as Carmine in “A Bronx Tale” (1993)

At the very end of this movie, we find Calogero ‘C’ Anello (played by real-life murderer Lillo Brancato) standing over the coffin of his hero Sonny LoSpecchio (Chazz Palminteri). In the background, we see his father (Robert De Niro) walk in. He tells his son how sorry he is and that Sonny really was a good man. As De Niro walks out, another man walks in. He silently sneaks up and starts shit-talking to ‘C’ off camera. The voice is instantly recognizable as Pesci’s. Turns out Pesci was the guy ‘C’ saw have a fight over a parking spot when he was 9 years old. This incident was what started the friendship between ‘C’ and Sonny. De Niro directed this movie and called on his pal Pesci to play Carmine, the new mafia boss taking over Sonny’s operations in the Bronx. Pesci and DeNiro were synonymous with each other at the time, and to date they made four movies with each other (“Once Upon A Time in America,” “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” and “Casino”). They were even spoofed on “The Joe Pesci Show” on SNL. Eventually, the two would appear as themselves on SNL to take over “The Joe Pesci Show.” The “Bronx Tale” cameo was great because the fact you knew they were such good friends made you able to believe that Pesci could take over the mob. They didn’t need to introduce any storyline other than the fact he fought over a parking spot in the beginning of the movie.

waynes-world-robert-patrick.jpg7. Robert Patrick as T-1000 in “Wayne’s World” (1992)

As Wayne (Mike Meyers) is driving fast to a music-video shoot featuring his girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere), he is pulled over by a highway police officer. The camera stays focused on Wayne, as he cannot afford any time delay because his relationship with Cassandra is in severe trouble. In the background, you see the Officer get off his motorcycle and walk towards the car. He leans in to the window of the car holding a picture of a young boy and says the famous line from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” – “Have you seen this boy?” Wayne, realizing it is the evil T-1000, drives off which then causes Robert Patrick to do his famous T-1000 run after the car. Classic. Another interesting note I found out while writing this list, the song “Time Machine” can be heard in the background. This song comes from the 1992 Black Sabbath album called “Dehumanizer” which featured a painted image of a Terminator Endoskeleton disguised in a grim reaper costume.

baldwin stallone clinton fred claus6. Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton, and Stephen Baldwin as themselves in “Fred Claus” (2007)

Vince Vaughn, who plays the title character Fred Claus, has trouble dealing with the fact that his brother is so much more famous then he is. He decides to go to Siblings Anonymous in order to cope with his problems. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movie. The first angry brother to stand up is Frank Stallone who has issues with Sylvester, mainly due to his success with Rambo and Rocky. Second to stand up is Roger Clinton, half brother of former U.S. President Bill. The last to stand up is Stephan Baldwin, who berates Fred Claus only to find out he still has unresolved issues with his older brother Alec. He has to stomp his foot and yell “He’s not Alec!” over and over. I am a big fan when a celebrity is able to poke fun at themselves.

wedding_crashers will ferrell5. Will Ferrell as Chazz Reinhold in “Wedding Crashers” (2005)

This is the second Vince Vaughn movie (in a row) to make the list and throughout “Wedding Crashers,” we always hear about the great Chazz Reinhold, a legendary wedding crasher. So towards the end of the movie when John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) goes in search of him it is a pleasant surprise to find none other than Will Ferrell. The thing is, now Chazz lives with his mom, never got a job, and no longer is a wedding crasher. He is now a funeral crasher. Ferrell is his usual over-the-top self, delivering hysterical line after line, such as “HEY MOM! CAN WE GET SOME MEAT LOAF?” He eventually takes his new protégé to crash a funeral.

jackson-downey iron man hulk cameo.jpg4. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) / Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in “Iron Man” (2008)

Yes, this is two different movies but I had a hard time deciding between the two. Also, the fact that both cameos are leading to an eventual “Avengers” movie, I felt they could share the spot. Plus it is my list and  I will write it any way I see fit. Anyway, after the credits of “Iron Man” we see Tony Stark in his living room when out of nowhere a man dressed in black (Jackson) appears wearing an eye patch. He introduces himself as Nick Fury, the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and wants to discuss the Avengers initiative. This cameo was cool because you felt like you were rewarded if you stayed for the credits. You were in on some little piece of info that everyone else lost out on because they left early to beat the traffic. To create continuity between Marvel films, Robert Downey Jr. appeared as Stark at the end of “The Incredible Hulk” to talk to General Ross (William Hurt) about putting a team together. This scene takes place before the credits, I wonder if they did this because so many people missed out on the “Iron Man” cameo. I like the idea of continuing cameos interwoven through movies and hope to see more of it from Marvel films.

kevin-spacey-seven.jpg3. Kevin Spacey as John Doe in “Se7en” (1995)

This was the most frightening cameo ever. It was great because I wasn’t expecting a cameo. Sure, I thought there would be a surprise ending to whom the killer was, maybe some character already introduced, but never a cameo. When Kevin Spacey walks into the police station with bloody hands from his latest victim and from removing his own fingertips, I was freaked out. He gives himself up to the two detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) and tells them he will take them to two more bodies and plead guilty. They personally have to agree to take him or he will plead insanity. The whole car ride to the outskirts of town Spacy eerily explains the reasons for all the murders in a way that is reminiscent to his Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint portrayal of the same year. Well since this list is only about the cameo role itself, I won’t ruin the rest of the movie for those who have not seen “Se7en.” If you haven’t seen it yet I have two things to say to you: “Really?” And “What’s in the box?”

sean-connery-robin-hood.jpg2. Sean Connery as King Richard in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991)

This was one of the all-time great cameos to me and was always my number one until recently. When I was watching this in the theaters with my brother, I actually yelled “Holy Sh**” at the top of our lungs. The set-up, for those of you who don’t know about this particular cameo, is Robin Hood (Kevin Costner) is going to marry Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). When Friar Tuck asks if anyone feels that these two should not marry, speak now or forever hold your piece, blah blah blah, someone offscreen yells, “I will not allow this wedding to proceed!” Upon hearing this, Robin Hood drops to one knee and says “My Lord.” The camera cuts to Connery getting off his horse and walking up to Marian saying, “Unless I’m allowed to give the bride away. You look radiant, cousin.” This one scene, for some reason, got people excited and it didn’t matter that Costner didn’t have an English accent, because Connery made a surprise appearance. He also made $250,000 for his two days of work and the word on the street is he gave all the money to charity. As a side note, Connery actually played Robin Hood in “Robin and Marian” in 1976.

bill-murray-zombieland.jpg1. Bill Murray as Himself in “Zombieland” (2009)

This cameo is the reason why Connery got bumped to the number two position on the list. It is also the reason I felt the need to write this particular Top 10. I had no desire to watch this movie, but my oldest son Patrick begged me. He said there was one scene that was right up my alley and he was right. It renewed my love of the cameo role in movies. The set-up here is Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are in Beverly Hills and are looking for a hideout from the zombies. They haven’t slept in days and feel they need to be fully rested. Tallahassee makes Columbus get a map to the Stars Homes because he wants to sleep in style. They decide to sleep in the biggest stars house they know of- Bill Murray. Since Little Rock is too young to have heard of him, Columbus takes her to a movie theater that is in Bill Murray’s house and shows her “Ghostbusters.” Tallahassee and Wichita are playing golf in his study when the noises appear to wake a zombie Bill Murray. He comes down the stairs with bluish skin, scabs all over his face and crazy long hair. As he approaches them, Wichita hits him with a golf club, which forces him to let out a scream only Bill Murray can do. Turns out he is not a zombie, but only dresses that way so he can go out in public and walk the streets. Apparently zombies don’t bother other zombies. How come no one has ever thought of that before? Anyway, for the next few minutes, Tallahassee and Murray re-enact “Ghostbusters”- awesomely funny scene. Best line: When asked if he has any regrets, he says, “Garfield, maybe.”

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 George Hickman April 27, 2010 at 6:40 am

What makes a role a cameo? For me the person has to be a celebrity or otherwise a known quantity to fans of either a franchise or a genre.

I’m not sure how Kevin Spacey’s role in Seven would qualify as a cameo.

Remember, it was made long before the public at large knew he he was. “Swimming with Sharks” first got him noticed, but “Seven” and “The Usual Suspects” made his career in the 90′s.

He was cast as the killer, and that’s the role he played.

I would say that Alec Baldwin in “Glengary Glenn Ross” was a cameo, and definitely belongs on this list.

Ned Beatty in “Network” could possibly qualify as a cameo, because his critical acclaim had been building by that point. He was in the film for about five minutes and one scene and nominated for an Academy Award for it.

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2 Angie April 27, 2010 at 8:52 am

2. Sean Connery as King Richard in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”

I top that with Patrick Stewart in the end of “Men in Tights”, since it’s obviously an omage to that moment. Then to have Stewart say the immortal, “It’s good to be the king,” (from “History of the World”) after kissing Maid Marion….

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3 Will April 27, 2010 at 9:45 am

Great List, the Bill Murray cameo is probably one of the best things about “Zombieland” (the other of which include Woody Harrelson, and hot chicks blowing up Zombies…which basically guarantees four stars in my book.) But I did notice a few glaring exceptions:

1. Charleton Heston as “The Better Actor” in Wayne’s World 2
2. David Bowie in “Zoolander”- made the film
3. Any Alfred Hitchcock cameo
4. Aretha Franklin, Michael Richards, Alan Arkin and Phil Hartman in Mike Myers’ best flim, “So I Married an Axe Murderer”
5. Martin Scorsese as the Crazy Passenger in “Taxi Driver”

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4 sean April 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Alec Baldwin was a big miss on my part. I love that role. Don’t know why that slipped my mind.
As for Ned Beaty, I always assumed he was billed in Network. Whenever it is on TMC, it always says staring Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Ned Beaty & Beatrice Straight. I guess since he was nominated they decides to bill him in the movie when it airs on tv.

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5 sean April 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I also mentioned in the forward to the top ten that Alfred Hitchcock was the King of Cameos. It would have been an insult to pick just one. If I had to pick one (like someone had a gun to my head), I would pick Lifeboat- when there is a picture of him in the newspaper they are reading on the boat. That was an amazing way for him to squeeze himself in the movie, and to keep his streak alive.

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6 Nathan Victor April 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Great list. As mentioned in the honorable mention, I appreciate seeing Stan Lee. I guess no particular role comes to mind to add to the list. But, I’m always “Ha. There’s Stan Lee!” It’s a delightful little surprise.

I couldn’t help but think of the cameo’s of a couple more.
Is John Waters in all of his movies? Who can’t forget him in Hairspray? He’s a freak, and I like him.

One of my favorite cameos is Hunter S. Thompson lighting up blitzed-out-his-carcass Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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7 wayne swab April 28, 2010 at 1:36 am

Spacey doesn’t count by definition, it’s technically supposed to only be one scene. Hence that eliminates Frank Sinatra from Cannonball Run 2.
Can’t believe I have posted this twice on this page now, but Jim Belushi in Who’s Harry Crumb. Absolute classic.
Another great one is a drunk John Wayne in The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Wes Craven in Scream as the janitor wearing a Freddy Kruger sweater.
I know you mentioned the blues brothers earlier, but 2 in particular Twiggy and Spielberg.
There actually is a post-humerous cameo in Blues Brothers by Pee Wee Herman, but he was a nobody when he took the role as the waiter in Mr. Fabulous’ restaurant.
In Predator 2, the Alien makes a cameo on his ship. The Predator has a hunter’s gallery of heads in his ship, and one of those happens to be the Alien.
Will mentioned Scorcese in Taxi Driver; great one.
For the ladies, Rob Reiner’s mother in When Harry Met Sally
Bruno Kirby used to be the king of cameos, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maybe his role in Spinal Tap. Not sure if it counts.
In the purest definition of the word, and arguably the greatest cameo of all time, Donald Sutherland in Kentucky Fried Movie.
Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in Coming To America. “We’re Back!”
Jaime Lee Curtis’ breasts in Trading Places.
Alec Baldwin doesn’t count in Glengerry Glen Ross, because he was billed in the film. He’s on the poster and was in the trailer.
And come on with Sean Connery for Pete’s sake. The movie was terrible. Sean Connery has only been in a handfull of good movies and Robin Hood is not one of them. Sure when you were 11 it was cool, but now? Come on man!

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8 Will April 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

Oh and Charlie Sheen as the drug addict in the police station in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”…I think that may be his best role ever.

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9 Jake April 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm

How about Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Or did he have to large of a part? I think what qualifies as a cameo is when an actor shows up in a movie that wasn’t expected. Like they aren’t listed in the previews or credits, so it’s a major surprise when you see them in the movie. Also The Rundown had a funny quick cameo of Arnold Schwarzenegger right at the beginning. The Rock is getting ready to enter a club that has an NFL team’s entire offensive line inside that The Rock has to “deal with.” Arnold walks by The Rock & quietly says “good luck.” To me it felt kind of like a passing of the torch to the new action star.

What about Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar?
Or how about Matt Damon in Eurotrip, Chasing Amy or Jersey Girl?

There’s definitely some good ones out there!

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10 Gary April 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I’m going to go with an object cameo as my favorite rather than a person. It’s one of the things I look for in every Pixar film…the Pizza Planet delivery truck. (that and a character voiced by John Ratzenberger)

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11 Stig May 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Mike Tyson from The Hangover!

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12 Eric Melin May 4, 2010 at 9:47 am

To add to Jake’s Matt Damon list, I’d mention his one scene in Soderbergh’s “Che.” That threw me off a bit!

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13 Demian May 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

How bout Brad Pitts cameo in True Romance as Floyd the roomate!

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14 Eric Melin May 6, 2010 at 9:24 am

That’s one of the best–which is why I included it on this Top 10 list: http://www.scene-stealers.com/top-10s/top-10-brad-pitt-supporting-performances/

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15 Dominique May 16, 2010 at 7:59 am

i may be too late with this comment. but i loved that when i went to see the Dark Knight.. the first scenes… there was William Fitchner as the bank manager. and i thought. i love this guy and he is an extra? this film is going to be awesome!

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16 JohnDoe June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am

Will Smith as himself in Jersey Girl. Great fun considering Affleck’s character had dissed the Fresh Prince earlier in the movie!

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17 Abby August 4, 2010 at 8:12 am

Gene Wilder in “Bonnie and Clyde!” I think it counts as a cameo role. His name appears in the opening credits, but it’s still a total surprise when he shows up in the film. His time onscreen is really short, and very Gene Wilder-y.

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18 Melissa September 14, 2010 at 9:38 am

Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein. It’s a fabulous movie, but his single, solitary scene absolutely steals the show.

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19 JohnR January 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

correction for you – Joe Pesci was the big boss over Chazz in the Bronx Tail and he was away in prison – when Chazz was killed he stated he will be around watching the neighborhood

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20 James February 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Donald Sutherland in the original Superman. He comes walking out of the elevator after Clark Kent gets his job.

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21 JimiLives April 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hands down, one of the greatest cameos of all time is Ray Harryhausen in Spies Like Us. When I first saw the movie I thought, “Man, that guy looks a lot like Ray Harryhausen.” I had to sit through the credits just to make sure, and sure enough, it RH. Another cameo that deserves some mention is Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes remake. Yeah, the movie redefined suckage, but it was fun to see Heston get worked in.

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22 KavDee April 3, 2011 at 12:22 am

Steve Buscemi in any adam sandler film. even if its a shit film

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23 steve b September 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

how about Vince vaughn as the fat killer at the end of de niro’s “The Family”.
Listen to the voice and look at the eyes.

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