99% of the time we remember a movie for the actor who headlined in it. After all, they do most of the legwork when it comes to getting audiences absorbed in the story. But every now and again, an unexpected cameo stands out just as much as the star’s performance. That one 30-second scene with that big name actor or athlete can give the whole film an extra jolt, or a bit of sparkle.
It’s becoming an increasingly popular practice in Hollywood movies these days to feature an unexpected A-list celebrity cameo, with everyone from Usher to Bill Murray making surprise appearances. We’ve rounded up 19 of the most unexpected celebrity cameos in movies — these stand head and shoulders above the rest as our favorites!
In a ‘blink and you missed it’ moment, Usher had a brief cameo in the new The Incredibles 2. Near the beginning of the movie, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Elastagirl (Holly Hunter) and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) get into a limo to go and meet the Deavors, and Usher voices the driver! The “Yeah” crooner confirmed his cameo on Twitter two weeks before the movie premiered, but still many fans missed it. It wasn’t Usher’s first cameo appearance, either. He had a few on-screen seconds as a campus DJ in 1999’s She’s All That, as well.
17. Michael Jackson
Even Michael Jackson has gotten in on the ‘cameo in a super popular blockbuster’ action! He played Agent M in Men in Black II. Apparently, the king of pop loved the first Men in Black so much that he personally called up Will Smith and asked that, if a sequel were ever made, he could have a part. And when Michael Jackson asks for a part in your movie, you give it to him. What few viewers seem to realize is that MJ played an alien without the addition of any stage makeup. That’s just his face. Talk about having a sense of humor!
16. Taylor Swift
Back in 2009, when The Hannah Montana Movie came out, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift were the biggest teen queens around. They were also pretty good friends. So it makes perfect sense that T-Swift scored herself a cameo in the biggest Disney movie of they year. T-Swift had just released “Love Story,” and in her surprise appearance, she played an unknown country singer who sang the sweetest slow jam (“Crazier”) that Miley and Travis (Luas Till) danced to. There was actually a whole slew of celebrity cameos in the film– Tyra Banks had a brief, and uncredited performance, and country music group Rascal Flatts also popped in to sing a song or two.
15. Brett Favre
Brett Favre had one of the longest and most storied careers of any NFL player, ever. The former Green Bay Packers quarterback was the first to complete 500 passes, the only to win the NFL MVP award three times, and the first to appear in a major blockbuster. There’s Something About Mary came out in 1998, right at the height of Favre’s career. He shows up for a quick but convincing scene as Mary’s (Cameron Diaz) ex-boyfriend who’s “in town to play the Dolphins, you dumbass.” And while he doesn’t win her heart in the end, he definitely wins ours.
14. The Jonas Brothers
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian came out in 2009, the same year the Jonas Brothers released their fourth and final studio album. So the decision to include the massively popular boy band in the tween flick couldn’t have been a hard one to make. The Jonas Brothers don’t actually appear as themselves in the film, but rather as three cherub statues. It’s what the director Shawn Levy, and Nick, Joe, and Kevin described as a “subtle” performance (they reportedly weren’t even keen on having their roles credited). But marble babies, or flesh and blood boy-banders, there’s no mistaking who’s hitting those high notes.
13. David Bowie
There must be something about Ben Stiller. His films seem to attract more celebrity cameos than almost any other major actor’s. In Zoolander, which is a total classic, he got the legendary English singer David Bowie to make an appearance! Bowie, who still remains one of the best selling musicians of all time, plays himself, and in the scene, is the sole judge in a walk-off between Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson). He does a fantastic job of acting like the ridiculously escalating event is a totally normal part of life, and totally disqualifies everyone else’s performance.
12. Bill Murray
You’d think that Bill Murray would have enough on his plate, what with acting in all of his own films. But somehow he found the time to make a brief, and scene-stealing cameo in Zombieland. He proves that even undead, he’s funnier than most of the other actors in the game right now. Murray has a reputation for being pretty detached from the whole show-biz scene (he reportedly doesn’t have an agent or a manager and only accepts scripts when they’re pitched to his personal phone number), so that has to tell you something about how truly funny this post-apocalyptic horror comedy film.
11. Chuck Norris
If Chuck Norris makes a cameo in your movie, then the movie becomes his. It’s just how the world works. And by that logic, Chuck Norris’s cameo in DodgeBall means that the Vince Vaughan and Ben Stiller comedy is actually his. The martial artist plays himself and is the last judge to give the Average Joe’s team the thumbs-up to advance to the final round. It’s a truly dramatic (and hilarious) scene, and it spawned a lot of new “Chuck Norris facts” after its release in 2004. If you never made the connection before, you have to go back and watch DodgeBall again. You’ll see it with new eyes, and it will be totally worth it, we promise!
10. The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges were one of America’s biggest comedy acts from the first time they set foot in front of a camera in 1922 until they disbanded in 1970. That impressive 48-year career definitely had a few cameos in it, but the most memorable, and unexpected, was the one in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The epic comedy film features an all-star cast and was directed by the legendary Stanley Kramer, so the iconic comedy act’s appearance was a perfect fit. The funniest thing about their five-second part was the fact that they didn’t say, or do, a single thing. A perfect match to their typical humor.
9. Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken is one of those actors who gives us chills every time we see him on screen. We’re not sure if it’s because he plays creepy roles so often (ex: Max Zorin in A View to Kill), or because he’s just such a good actor or a little bit of both, but it happens. Either way, his cameo in Pulp Fiction was solid gold. Walken plays Capitan Koons and spends five-ish minutes monologuing about the gold watch. He delivers an entire scene of intensity, weirdness, and empathy, and his brief, but pivotal, appearance adds so much to the already star-packed film.
8. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey has a handful of screen credits to her name. Her first one, as the lead in the major box office flop Glitter was a hot mess, but she did much better her second go around in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. In the 2008 comedy, she played an exaggerated version of herself, an international pop diva, so not really a lot of acting was involved, but she played off of Adam Sandler so well that the scene is hilarious. It also apparently gave her the confidence to seek out more high-stake roles, like the ones she played in Precious and The Lego Batman Movie.
7. Hulk Hogan
Brett Favre isn’t the only athlete on our list. WWE wrestler Hulk Hogan has had a surprise appearance in a major film as well. Hogan is often referred to as the greatest wrestler of all time and spent years as the face of the WWE, so his athletic prowess was needed to take down the gremlins in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Hogan is attempting to take in a movie in Manhattan when the Gremlins storm the projection booth. An usher rushes to the wrestler to ask for his help “dealing with” the critters, and Hogan replies by going into full Hulk mode, screaming “Do I have to come up there myself?” Do you think the Gremsters can’t stand up to the Hulkster?”
Funny People is a comedy/drama about a comic who was diagnosed with a terminal disease and embarks on a journey to make things right with all the people in his life. It’s funny, but also kind of dark. In one moment that perfectly combines the two emotions, Adam Sandler’s character turns to his BFF Eminem for some life advice. Eminem’s advice? Just go die. Then he curses out Ray Romano (who’s also making a cameo) for trying to take a picture of him. It’s hilarious, but also totally unexpected. Who’d have thought that Marshall Mathers and Adam Sandler would be besties?
5. Bob Saget
If you haven’t seen it, Half Baked is a stoner comedy starring Dave Chapell and Jim Breuer, and was one of those cult classics of the late ‘90s. It also featured a cameo from America’s favorite (and most wholesome) dad. Full House’s Bob Saget surprised audiences by showing up in the scene where Thurgood seeks treatment for his marijuana addiction. He shocked them further by uttering a hilarious line where he admits to performing oral sex in exchange for drugs. (We also liked his cameo in Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s New York Minute.)
4. Will Ferrell
This may be an unpopular opinion, but Wedding Crashers is one of the funniest comedies of all time. It’s perfect for when you need to just turn something on and forget about reality for two hours. Yes, it’s stupid, and yes, it doesn’t require you to think at all, but the comedic team of Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson is basically an unbeatable one. The only thing that could make it any better? Will Ferrell, who actually has a cameo in the flick. His scenes as a middle-aged bachelor who still lives with his mom will have you doubled over in side-splitting laughter. We promise.
3. Neil Patrick Harris
How I Met Your Mother bad boy Neil Patrick Harris’s career has largely been in TV. He got his start on Doogie Howser, M.D. before appearing on the biggest sitcom of the last decade. One of his earliest movie roles was a cameo in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. As Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) set out to fulfill their munchies at White Castle, they run across NPH walking along the side of the road, tripping out after taking some drugs of his own. He joins them in their adventure, and the rest is comedic gold.
2. Billy Idol
Singer Billy Idol plays God in his The Wedding Singer cameo. The premise of the movie has Robbie (Adam Sandler) and Julia (Drew Barrymore) engaged to the wrong people, and it’s up to Billy Idol to correct fate. He appears in one of the final and most recognized, scenes of the film. When Robbie finds out that Julia is on the same plane as he is, he turns to the ‘80s rocker for encouragement. Idol urges him to win Julia over with a song, and Robbie sings “Grow Old With You” over the plane’s intercom. Then things are finally, finally how they should be.
1. Matt Damon
In what’s been described as the “most closely guarded secret of the whole movie,” Matt Damon had a super surprise cameo in Thor: Ragnarok. There’s a scene early in the movie, where Thor returns to Asgard and finds Loki posing as their father, Odin. Loki is watching a play in which the characters are fake Thor, Loki, and Odin. And under all of the goofy wigs and makeup, Matt Damon is playing Loki, Luke Hemsworth is Thor, and Sam Niell is Odin. It’s a brief scene, but it brought audiences to tears from laughter and is truly a perfect movie gem.