We’ve all experienced it: we’re sitting in the theater, watching a new release, and a famous actor or actress appears on the screen that we weren’t expecting. Everyone in the theater gasps, or screams, or gives the signature “woahhh!” The actor or actress drops a heavy or geniously silly one-liner before disappearing as quickly as they arrived, not to appear again for the rest of the movie. They didn’t have an important role, yet they played one of the most important parts in the movie.
Cameos happen in films all the time, but every once in a while, a star shows up in a movie briefly and then manages to walk off with the entire film, claiming the best scenes for themselves so that they are the first – and sometimes only – thing you remember when you look back on the film. Here is a list of 10 movies where a star showed up for a single scene, and ended up stealing the whole movie.
Mike Tyson playing himself in The Hangover was a brilliant casting choice, and he nearly walks off with the whole movie just by being himself. Oh, and owning a tiger.
When the heroes wake up after an insane bachelor party the night before, one of the first things they discover is that there is a live tiger in the bathroom. Over the course of many, many detours, all taken to try to piece together what happened during the previous night, they discover that the tiger – which the heroes had managed to steal the night before – belongs to none other than Mike Tyson.
Eventually, Tyson tracks them down and ambushes them while listening to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” and eventually decking Zack Galifanakis with a right hook to the face. He then demands that they bring the tiger back to Tyson’s mansion, and leaves. When they arrive, Mike shows them security footage of them peeing in his pool and walking the tiger out on a leash to put it in a cop car they stole. The entire time, Tyson is holding a little white puppy, and the information they receive sets them on course to eventually find their missing friend, Dave. He doesn’t return for the rest of the movie.
The Big Short is an entertaining, biographical drama designed to educate the public on exactly how the housing crisis of 2007/2008 took place. When it comes time to explain how banks profited off of the subprime loan scheme that led to the crisis, the movie offers up Margot Robbie drinking champagne in a bubble bath to explain it.
“Basically Lewis Ranieri’s mortgage bonds were amazingly profitable for the big banks. They made billions and billions on their 2% fee they got for selling into these bonds…” Robbie says. Adam McKay has made a name for himself by writing movies that explain complex topics that he believes all Americans should understand, but might have a hard time coming to terms with. He accomplishes this by displaying these topics in ways we can all relate to, and using imagery and familiar faces to draw us in, so we can actually pay attention and follow along. This short cameo might be the best example.
Bill Murray all but redefined what a cameo could mean when he showed up in Zombieland (2009). In this film, the world has ended due to a violent zombie apocalypse, leaving our quartet of main characters on a road trip west to an amusement park that may or may not exist. The foursome of heroes consists of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).
After several adventures, Tallahassee comes up with a brilliant idea: to set up a home in the mansion of a Hollywood icon, who is slowly revealed to be none other than Bill Murray. The crew makes their way to his house – which has a large, golden ‘BM’ on the gate – and immediately makes themselves at home.
As it turns out, Bill Murray is still alive. At first, he appears to be zombified, as he meanders down towards the group. However, by the time he comes down to meet Tallahassee and Wichita, we learn that he just wears zombie makeup and prosthetics because it allows him to wander the streets to get groceries and leave the house.
In one scene, Murray dons his zombie makeup and shuffles down the aisle of the theater to prank Columbus and Little Rock, only to startle Columbus into shooting him with a shotgun. He gets in some wickedly clever last words, though, with “Do you have any regrets?” … “Maybe Garfield.”
Towards the end of 21 Jump Street, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are pulled out of prom and taken to a drug deal with Dave Franco and the biker gang who supplies the drugs. Things go sideways, and guns are suddenly pointed at everyone in the room. But, out of the blue, one member of the biker gang rips off his blond wig and mustache to reveal none other than Johnny Depp, declaring that he’s been undercover (presumably since the original) investigating the drug ring, and he shifts to pointing his gun at the actual drug dealers, telling the new stars, “You’ve just ruined a five-year investigation.” Things seem to calm down for a moment, as Tatum tells Depp that they’re all part of the Jump Street Division, and just as Johnny lets his guard down, he’s shot in the neck.
Prior to his death, Marvel legend Stan Lee made a cameo in every single Marvel movie, going all the way back to 2000s X-Men. Typically, he plays as an extra character for a clip of just a few seconds or less: a bus driver, a mental ward patient, or a security guard, usually letting out a clever one-liner before disappearing again.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, however, his cameo is a bit more involved. When he appears in the film, Lee is on a planetoid in deep space, surrounded by members of the Watchers, the ancient race who observe everything happening in the universe and who occasionally meddle in it despite a strict non-interference policy.
The Watchers have played multiple roles in the comics, namely one named Uatu, who debuted the race in the comics back in 1963 to warn The Fantastic Four of the coming of Galactus. Compared to the many, many other Stan Lee cameos in Marvel Films, this one seems to imply more than just a creator appearing in the movie form of his creations. Is Stan Lee a Watcher? Is he really gone? Or has he just taken a more hands-off approach – watching from a distance instead of being easily located here on Earth?
Always Be My Maybe, which features Ali Wong as Sasha and Randall Park as Marcus, is a romantic comedy about two childhood friends who reconnect later in life but haven’t yet realized how deep their feelings towards each other go. The chemistry between them returns immediately, and thus begins a hilarious dance around the possibility of them being more than friends, despite a number of roadblocks.
One of the most significant (not to mention hilarious) roadblocks appears during a double date between Marcus, his girlfriend, Sasha, and – you guessed it – Keanu Reeves. Reeves plays himself as the pretentious artist, but maintains some of his legendary zen-like charm, and the entire dinner scene with him is legendary, as Marcus’ date remarks that Reeves is her favorite star, and Keanu responds, “The only stars that matter are the ones you look at when you dream.” The best part of his appearance comes just a few minutes later, as he wears restaurant-provided headphones and weeps as he listens to the screams of the animal he’s consuming. The way Keanu plays up this pretentious-actor-persona is gut-bustingly hilarious. When he disappears later in the film, he would take the whole movie with him.
In Deadpool 2, Ryan Reynolds’ titular anti-hero assembles the X-Force in an attempt to stop Cable (Josh Brolin). This crew includes Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), a regular mustachioed human named Peter (Rob Delaney), and Vanisher – who, for most of his screen time, is completely invisible.