Today, comedies utilize obscure cameos for big laughs almost incessantly. But, back when Airplane! was released, this wasn’t really all that common. The film’s utilization of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes down in history as one of the first cameos of its kind as well as one of the most iconic.
In both Anchorman films, director Adam McKay pulls out all the stops to bring in countless familiar faces for two gigantic fight sequences. Sachs Baron Cohen, Marion Cotillard, Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins, and more—the stream is endless.
Christopher Walken is one of the most beloved and praised actors of the back half of the 20th century, so his appearance in Pulp Fiction deserves some recognition for combining one of the most-respected actors and one of the most-revered films. He’s only on-screen for one scene, but it’s a scene that continues to be pored over.
What’s the one cameo that would help drive home Sunset Boulevard’s point about the fall of silent stars in exchange for the rise of talkie stars? An appearance from Buster Keaton, sitting at a poker table in Norma Desmond’s house, looking sullen.
Like the Anchorman films, Muppet movies rely heavily on cameos. Unlike the Anchorman films, though, the Muppet movies also rely heavily on nonhuman characters. For this reason, any human role in a Muppet movie is likely to be a cameo, ranging from someone as obscure as Orson Welles to someone as recognizable as Lady Gaga or a popular Disney star.
Matthew McConaughey shows up toward the beginning of The Wolf of Wall Street to teach Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belford a thing or two about stocks and investing. Naturally, in typical McConaughey fashion, the lesson is far from normal. It remains a frequently-quoted highlight even to this day.
Tom Cruise wearing extensive prosthetics and wearing an unrecognizable getup makes for (easily) one of the best cameos ever. It’s unclear why or how this role came to be, but we welcome it wholeheartedly (and long for the once-rumored spinoff film about his character).
Before Stan Lee was appearing in every Marvel movie, Alfred Hitchcock was inserting himself into the background of almost all his films. An older man with an instantly recognizable look, it’s clear to see why Marvel hopped on the opportunity to steal one of Hitchcock’s signature moves.