The 25 best movie cameos of the past 25 years

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Sep 18, 2017, 10:00 AM EDT

September 2017 was SYFY's 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion we celebrated the previous 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that meant lists! ALL THE LISTS! We did two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September of 2017, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. Our lists were not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.

Time keeps moving forward, however, and because we don’t have a souped-up DeLorean to take us back, we decided that we should update these lists accordingly. We’re going through and sadly taking away anything that came before 1994, but they are being replaced with more recent entries that have happened since these lists were made. As the wheel of time continues to turn, these lists will likewise change and adapt. Keep checking back — you never know when something will come roaring in and change the game. 

Which items in our lists are your favorites? Did we miss something? Did something that once existed here get wiped away without a trace? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!

We love a good cameo, you love a good cameo, who doesn't enjoy a good cameo? They come in various shapes and sizes. There’s the quick appearance from the last person you expected to see, an homage to other films in the genre, or straight-up celebrations of cinematic history. Actors can appear as their actual selves, exaggerated versions of themselves, and in one case, someone who just happens to look exactly like Carrie Fisher. The right cameo can steal an entire film, so get ready to come to set for a day and play yourself reading our list of the top 25 greatest cameos of the last 25 years!


Sigourney Weaver – The Cabin in the Woods

Just when you think that this film may have no surprises left in store, you hear her voice. They leave the biggest gun, the best surprise, and the most fun appearance for last. Who else could be the woman behind the scenes of the crazy conglomerate, set on appeasing the gods of old? The heroes may triumph (kind of) over her, but for a moment you’re hoping that they won’t.

Abed Nadir (Community) Cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (1080p HD)

Danny Pudi – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If you were a Community fan, you were probably excited when frequent series directors the Russo brothers were brought on board for this sequel. It’s not like you’re expecting the Dean to pop in dressed as Caesar, but seeing Abed, himself, show up for a moment right before the finale of this mostly serious film gave anyone who recognized him a good laugh. As the Russos also worked on Arrested Development, we hope this means that we can possibly expect Jessica Walter to show up during Infinity War.

The Dark Knight Rises - Legend of Bane and Ra's Al Ghul (HD)

Liam Neeson – The Dark Knight Rises

We love the final third of Nolan’s trilogy because it ties so many things back to his excellent first film, and nothing does that better than seeing Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul once again. Sure, it was only in hallucination, but it was great to see him, however briefly. It also proved necessary for the story to tell us, “Hey, remember Ra’s Al Ghul was a thing? That may be important.” Did he finally learn to mind his surroundings? The appearance is too brief to find out.

Dogma - Alanis Morissette Is God

Alanis Morissette – Dogma

In a movie all about God, you wonder if He/She is ever going to show up. This movie is so crazy that, when God finally appears toward the end, you oughta know that it could be anybody. When the so pure, precious illusion of Alanis emerged playing her, it seemed right in line with this jagged little pill of a movie. We’re glad she didn’t end up being killed by a weird gang of demon hockey players, because that would have been uninvited.


David Cronenberg – Jason X

Has David Cronenberg learned nothing from his own movies? Playing an overconfident son of a Walter Peck, the master filmmaker waltzes into this movie and declares he’s going to be using Jason for “research.” Yeah, that’s gonna go real well. Good plan. He has a spike through his chest in under a minute, but having Cronenberg in the role really drives home the notion that this kind of corporate jerk will never learn. It’s a great little moment straight out of the Anthony Heald/James Rebhorn/William Atherton playbook.

Guardians of the Galaxy Howard the Duck post credits

Howard the Duck – Guardians of the Galaxy

“Is Marvel going to remake Howard the Duck now?” was one of the top questions people had after this film. Probably not, but Howard is such a fun part of the weird cosmic stuff in the comics that I wouldn’t be against it. Seth Green is a good choice for the voice, and if anything it reminded people that Howard the Duck is still a thing, with a great new run of comics from Chip Zdarsky. Welcome to the MCU, Howard! Don’t climb that tower.


Ben Browder – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

In a film full of cameos, this one is hard to spot, but proves to be one of the most rewarding. Seeing the noble John Crichton in science-fiction again made us all giddy, and possibly made us binge watch Farscape yet again when we got home from this movie. It’s a deep dive cameo that shows how much James Gunn understands the films he’s making and their fans.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (3/12) Movie CLIP - Maternal Advice (1998) HD

Janet Leigh – Halloween H2O

Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis gets maternal for a moment with one of the very first scream queens, who also happens to be her mother in real life. They’ve both had their share of scares, you could say. This cameo is a layer cake of history, all before adding the perfect bow of greatness with the great Hitchcock veteran wishing her daughter a "Happy Halloween."


Samuel L. Jackson – Iron Man

More than just a cameo: this appearance not only began the now classic Marvel post credits scene, but more or less gave birth to the entire MCU. Playing a version of Nick Fury from the comics that was based on his image in the first place, Jackson name-drops the Avengers, lectures Tony Stark, and lets us know that big plans are in store.

Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright zombies

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright – Land of the Dead

So impressed with the flawless diamond that is Shaun of the Dead was George Romero (Bless him, RIP) that he included the masterminds behind it in his 2005 zombie romp. To gain his approval was most likely reward enough, but to be brought into his world must have been the stuff of dreams for this dynamic duo of cinematic genius.

Michael Jackson in Men in Black 2

Michael Jackson – Men in Black II

Of course Michael Jackson works with the Men in Black. It explains so much! Not only does he appear, but the movie confirms that he is, in fact, an alien. We know this because the cameo works in the concept of “alien affirmative action.” There’s a lot to process in a short amount of time, so Rip Torn pretends to drop the call. A cameo that’s perfectly in keeping with the rest of the movie.


Charlton Heston – Planet of the Apes (2001)

“Damn them, damn them all to hell.” It made sense to include Heston in this remake as the dying ape father of our lead ape villain, and it also made sense to give him a perversion of his most famous line from the original. Is there any behind the scenes video of Heston sitting in the make-up chair? That would make for one interesting extra feature.

The Code is the Law (Keith Richards)

Keith Richards – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Johnny Depp famously said time and again that he partially based the iconic Captain Jack on Richards, and also that he wanted him to come in for a cameo. They tried and failed for the second film, but eventually succeeded in the third, when Richards shows up as none other than Jack Teague, who is in fact Captain Jack’s father. He loves the code, shoots people, and carries Jack’s mother’s shrunken head around. Seeing them together, it makes sense. They also got Richards to return again for the fourth film, playing the role of “exposition machine.”

Piranha 3D (1/9) Movie CLIP - Piranhas Unleashed (2010) HD

Richard Dreyfuss – Piranha 3D

What better way to open a crazy 3D movie about Piranhas? Fisherman Richard Dreyfuss is having a fine day on his boat, until WHAM, death by 3D piranha. In its way, the movie is saying forget the past, let’s blast on into the future of nutty sea monster madness! A bigger boat would not have helped him. He’s just a 2D shark hero in a 3D piranha world.


Linda Blair – Scream

A massive celebration of the horror genre, the Scream series talks about horror as much as it displays it. As part of the deconstruction, we get our fair share of cameos over the course of the series (one already mentioned) but seeing the original child from the all-time genre classic The Exorcist takes the prize. Younger audiences most likely didn’t know who she was, but those that did instantly realized how much love for the genre went into the first movie of the Scream series.

Scream 3 (6/12) Movie CLIP - I Was Up for Princess Leia (2000) HD

Carrie Fisher – Scream 3

Any appearance from Carrie Fisher is a gift, full stop, end of line. She did a ton of cameos over the course of her career, but this one is particularly enjoyable. She’s not playing herself, but playing a very jaded actress who looks just like Carrie Fisher and got thiiiiisssss close to playing Princess Leia. According to her, Carrie got the part because she slept with George Lucas. If you’ve ever heard Carrie Fisher being interviewed about Lucas, you know how funny this is. Her timing throughout the brief scene is impeccable, especially when she shoots the line “Want me to tell you who YOU look like?” at Courteney Cox. There’s nothing more that needs to be said other than this: to us, she is royalty.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - Exclusive Darth Maul Clip

Maul - Solo: A Star Wars Story

We couldn’t believe they did this, but did it they did. At the end of this film, we find out that the crime syndicate that both Qi’ra and Dryden Vos are a part of is run by none other than the former Darth Maul, now just Maul. Didn’t we see him cut in half in Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace? Yes, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars featured his return, his ascendance in the criminal world, and the comic Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir cemented this status even further. This appearance is before he shows up quite worse for wear in Star Wars Rebels as well, so who knows what happens between this moment and the start of that series. It was incredible that Lucasfilm actually connected the multiple television series with the films, which is something other franchises only claim to do, but don’t go all in on. This was going all in, complete with Ray Park returning for the physical performance, TCW’s Sam Witwer providing the voice, and his lightsaber looking exactly like the one he uses in Rebels.

Star Trek (2/9) Movie CLIP - A Pointy-Eared Bastard (2009) HD

Tyler Perry – Star Trek (2009)

Because why not? Trek’s game of rotating admirals continues, as (with a couple exceptions) you rarely see the same ones more than once. So, why not cast an imposing man of stature? Perry gets to admonish Kirk, then promote Kirk. He also has the distinction of being one of the few Trek admirals who is not secretly the villain, completely crazy, a total jerk, or all of the above. Well done, Admiral Madea! Please exit stage left to make room for Crazy Villain Admiral RoboCop.


Billie Lourd – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

As resistance member Kaydel Ko Connix, Carrie Fisher’s daughter proves useful in and around the D’Qar base in The Force Awakens, and then leads the evacuation of the base itself in The Last Jedi. She’s given even more to do in the latter film, and her presence is most welcome. This is true because of three things: 1. She’s Carrie Fisher’s daughter, 2. She’s talented, 3. She sports a variation of Princess Leia’s famous side buns. Lt. Connix is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. 

Michael Cera This Is The End Best Scenes

Michael Cera – This is the End

Cera spoofs himself so fantastically in the beginning of this movie that he steals the entire thing. He’s playing off a reputation for being a complete jerk to perfection, and we were left wondering if he really has that reputation and whether or not it is warranted. Making it even better is Mindy Kaling obsessing about how much she wants to have sex with him. Can you blame her? George Michael Bluth is a cool guy.

Thor: The Dark World Bonus CLIP - Loki Plays Captain America (2013) - Marvel Movie HD

Chris Evans – Thor: The Dark World

One of the funnier parts of this underrated MCU entry, Cap appears by way of Loki impersonating him. Evans is able to play all of the stereotypical Americana that they wisely tone down when he’s playing the role for real. Evans is brilliant as the real Cap, but it’s fantastic to see him cut loose with a greatly exaggerated version of his own character. Loki must think Cap is a cartoon.

Go f... yourself! (X-Men: First Class)

Hugh Jackman – X-Men: First Class

Surely some of the mutants turned these well-dressed strangers down, right? If there was any mutant who would immediately shut out these gadabouts, it’s Wolverine. They barely get a word out before he lets them know he wants no part of their school, or their movie. It’s a bit strange as this film was supposed to be a reboot, but who else could possibly do it? The weirder cameo from this movie is …

X Men: First Class Magneto & Mystique Kiss

Rebecca Romijn – X-Men: First Class

This is the weird one. Jennifer Lawrence has a go at the Mystique “who do you want to have sex with/body change” scene from X2, and one of the possibilities she presents to the much older Magneto is an older version of herself, who appears as … Rebecca Romijn from the first three X films. It makes almost no sense in terms of continuity. Is this a reboot, or is it not? Is it a side-boot? What is a side-boot anyway? Thanks for nothing, Lost Season 6! Despite all of this, who else should have played the older Mystique? Nobody comes to mind. Romjin (and Mystique) got such a raw deal in the third X film that ultimately we were glad to (very briefly) see her again.

Zombieland | Bill Murray Scene | 2009

Bill Murray – Zombieland

“Is that how you say hello where you come from?” We don’t know how Bill Murray ends up choosing his projects, but this one seemed especially random. That said, it’s probably the funniest scene in the movie. A sudden, comical shotgun blast to the chest, followed by a classic Murray deadpan line? The rest of the movie couldn’t possibly top it.

Big Hero 6- After Credits (Stan Lee's Cameo)

Stan Lee – Pretty Much Every Marvel Project

A tradition that keeps going and going, waiting for Stan Lee to pop up has become a mainstay of every Marvel film. What really puts them over the top, however, is his appearance in the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He appears among the Watchers, the big-headed overseers of Earth and the rest of the cosmos. He is boring them with tales of all the different roles he’s played, and we’re left thinking that they were all the same person, and that Stan Lee, himself, is possibly a Watcher. This also means that Larry King (Iron Man 2) is a Watcher also, which makes it slightly less cool.

Those were OUR choices from the last 25 years. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which cameos of the last 25 years you’d put on your list? (We know aallll about Carrie Fisher and George Lucas making out in Hook, but that was from more than 25 years ago...) And make sure to check out the rest of these "25 Greatest" lists here.