Cameo is a term that is used for a well known person (actor / director / musician / basically someone in the public eye and easily recognisable), what do they do? They make a quick and surprising appearance in a film or TV series and usually are not credited.
Nowadays, when we think of cameos, our brain automatically takes us to the ‘recent’ Tropic Thunder (2008), for Tom Cruise’s portrayal of a chubby, bald producer, which some say that it is rumoured to be based on Joel Silver, a famous big shot Hollywood producer responsible for the Matrix trilogy (1999). On the other hand, surprise cameos can be as predictable as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
An example can be provided within the ‘new’ Hollywood Frat Packs – the Judd Apatow pack, where you see the same group of people crossing into each other’s films. Specifically, you can see that one scene in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), where the main local News team led by Will Ferrell gets confronted by other competing channels. Here we have Vince Vaugh, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson.
You then see the same formula in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014), with Harrison Ford, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Drake, Marion Cotillard, Will Smith, Liam Neeson, Vince Vaugh, and more. This list represents some of the forgotten, but brilliant cameos, we start of with number 20.
20. Danny Glover in ‘Maverick’ (1994)
Why is this such a brilliant cameo? Our hero is Maverick played by Mel Gibson, who is in the middle of collecting a debt from a bank owner who claims he is broke. Meanwhile, a bunch of misfits come and rob the place. Well, it turns out that the bank owner was loaded with cash and hands it to a robber whom, although has a bandana covering his face, has a familiar voice.
Maverick stares into the robber’s eyes and pulls the bandana of his face and we cue the saxophone from the Lethal Weapon franchise. Afterwards the bank robber, a.k.a. Roger Murtaugh / Danny Glover flees the scene, but not before delivering his signature line from the trilogy: “I am too old for this shit.” The pair would be reunited in 1998 in another Lethal Weapon film.
19. Jerry Cantrell in ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996)
Director Cameron Crowe loves mixing his films with music, as we have seen in 1992 ‘Singles’ and 2000 film ‘Almost Famous’. So it isn’t surprising to see a quick rock star cameo in Jerry Maguire. This 10 seconds cameo from musician Jerry Cantrell (from rock band Alice In Chains), his only ever acting job, was a pivotal moment for the main character Jerry Maguire.
The story goes, Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, is a sports talent agent who comes to a breaking point which leads him to write about how the job became about the money and not the love for sport. With this manifesto in hand he decides to print several copies and hand them out to this colleagues.
This is when the credited as ‘Jesus of CopyMat’, (Jerry Cantrell) comes in to remove every doubt that is printing and distributing this, as deep down, Jerry Maguire knows this will change his life.
Only one line delivered: “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls our there!”
18. Bill Murray in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
You associate Bill Murray with his latest brilliant cameo in Zombieland (2009), where he plays himself disguised as a zombie not to be eaten by the real zombies. Genius, right? But ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is definitely worth a re-watch. After a fantastic musical number intro to Steve Martin as the most sadistic dentist and clearly the villain of the story, here enters Arthur Denton (Bill Murray) in the doctors office in need of a root canal.
After we see how horrible this dentist could be, it is hard to understand why someone would opt to go to him. Arthur Denton seems to have a love for pain, and when the dentist realises this, he puts his best foot forward to inflict it. Bill Murray’s character is in so much pain that it becomes of a sexual innuendo nature. This is a great scene between two brilliant actors, a sadistic dentist meets a masochistic patient.
Best Line Delivered: “I’m going to get a candy bar!”
17. Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Danny Devito, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Britney Spears, Nathan Lane, John Travolta in ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’ (2002)
Mike Myers outdoes himself in the third instalment of the Austin Powers saga. Created by him as an homage to the British comedies of Peter Sellers and Monty Python.
The film starts off with a great action introduction, a man that we recognise as Austin Powers due to his 70’s style blue velvet suit, falling from the sky he manages to jump into his car, the “Shaguar”, all to save the damsel in distress. But as we close up on our hero, we do not see Mike Myers, we see handsome Tom Cruise interpreting Austin Powers in a film within a film called “Austinpussy”.
Tom Cruise with a fantastic mock of the English Accent and perfect teeth kisses our damsel Dixie Normous played by Gwyneth Paltrow. From then on we are introduced to Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny Devito as Mini-Me.
We hear someone shout ‘Cut!’, and see Steven Spielberg directing this stellar cast. We follow the real Austin Powers through the set, dancing and introducing more people, music Producer Quincy Jones, and a dance off with pop star Britney Spears. But this is just the beginning of this film cameos, later we see Nathan Lane, who is always fantastic. And finally John Travolta as Goldmember in the mock film version.
Best Line Delivered: “Hi, I’m Dixie. Dixie Normous. I may be just a small-town FBI agent slash single mother, but I’m still tough…and sexy.”
16. Sean Connery in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (1991)
After Robin Hood wins the damsel Marian from the evil hands of Sheriff George of Nottingham, we find ourselves in the traditional happy fairy tale ending. The two crazy kids declare their love in front of the kingdom and Gods, but not before they are interrupted by a voice. The voice is nonetheless of King Richard, portrayed by the ultimate James Bond, Sean Connery.
With only about 20 seconds screen time he gives his blessing to Robin Hood, played by Kevin Costner and Marian Dubois, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Almost in a comedic way, this interruption got a lot of wow’s from the audience, both in the wedding crowd as in the cinema theatre.
Best Line Delivered: “I will not allow this wedding to proceed…”
15. Chuck Norris in ‘Dodgeball’ (2004)
This cliched, 80’s premise comedy, finds it’s way to an exciting underdog vs bully dispute to be settled in a final dodgeball game. A dubious play, that would have led to the underdog’s elimination, goes to a judge’s ruling to decide if the underdogs get a second chance. Their fate boils down to the voting of the official dodgeball panel.
The camera pans from left to right with each panel member giving thumbs up or down and the last vote is up to no other than Chuck Norris, probably the last person you would think of appearing in such a film.
Norris, well know for his martial arts and action films, also cult figure for his memes of being the toughest guy in the world, would have this movie scene turn into a very trendy meme as well. A tiny but extremely effective 10 seconds of screen time. If Chuck Norris says it, it must be true.
Only Line Delivered: “Thank you Peter.”
14. Matt Damon in ‘Euro Trip’ (2004)
Absolutely in love with his girlfriend Fiona, Scotty gets dumped during his high school graduation. During the afterparty the scene cuts to a live band and on stage we see a shaved headed, tattooed and pierced up Matt Damon.
He introduces the fist song they will sing, dedicating the song to the “nastiest, freakiest, sex puppet” he knows, and it is Fiona who happily gets up on stage. Scotty, not only heartbroken, discovers that the girl of his dreams has been cheating on him with the singer of this Punk/Rock band, and as if that wasn’t enough, the song is about cheating on Scotty, entitled “Scotty doesn’t know”.
Fred Armisen and Lucy Lawless cameos in this flick are also worth mentioning as they steal the scene when they show up, one a horny Italian on a train who terrorises the kids in their travels. His vocabulary consists of only one word: ‘scusi’ and Lawless as a Sex Mistress who has the most difficult safe word in the history of mankind “Flüggåenkoečhicessølsên”.
Best Line Delivered: “Scotty doesn’t know.”
13. Bruce Springsteen in ‘High Fidelity’ (2000)
Record store owner aficionado, Rob Gordon (John Cusack) breaks the fourth wall by talking to us, the audience. His story is about his top 5 breakups. He wants answers, and in that conflict he imagines conversing with Bruce Springsteen who talks back to him and concedes his ideas. It is a really nice transition, as the audiences are surprised to see on screen music legend giving love advice.
Best Line Delivered: “Give that big final good luck and goodbye to your all time top-five and just move on down the road.”
12. Alice Cooper in ‘Wayne’s World’ (1992)
Alice Cooper makes his way into this film by breaking out of giant skeleton chest prop onto the stage singing ‘Feed my Frankenstein’. Our two main characters Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) are delighted to have VIP / Backstage tickets for the show.
We follow them backstage where they meet their idol, but he is a little bit different from your average typical rock star. Alice Cooper is a sweet guy and impresses them with his knowledge of history and the city of Milwaukee.
Best Line Delivered: “Actually, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for ‘the good land.’”
11. Tom Jane in ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)’
Tom Jane barges in as one of the members of the Vegan Police alongside with actor Clifton Collins Jr. – they come to help out our anti-hero Scott Pilgrim in the nick of time to defeat evil ex-boyfriend Number 3, a bass player that is better and stronger than others because he is Vegan.
Led by Tom Jane, the Vegan Police are quick to remind ex-boyfriend Number 3 Todd, (played by Brandon Routh), that he was fooled by drinking half and half, one half containing non-vegan milk. Which means this was his third strike, and the Vegan Police are there to strip his Vegan power. “No vegan diet, no vegan powers”.
A fantastic and funny cameo from The Punisher (2004) actor Tom Jane, 60 seconds max on screen, literally breaking in and out of the scene.
Best Line Delivered: “Todd Ingram, you’re under arrest for Veganity Violation Code Number 827: imbibing of half-and-half.”