Once upon a time, action fans went to see a movie starring Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal called Executive Decision. Many left disappointed. Not that the movie was bad; in fact, it’s pretty awesome. It’s just that saying that the movie stars Steven Seagal is a bit of a reach. He has second billing, after Russell, and his face appears on the poster, but Seagal really has a cameo (spoiler alert) and dies within the first few scenes of the movie. The whole point of a cameo is wasted. They’re fun because of the surprise — “Oh, look, that’s Steven Seagal.” In Executive Decision, it’s more like, “Oh, look, there goes Steven Seagal.” But not all cameos are poorly executed. What follows are some of the coolest.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Rundown
In an almost-too-perfect moment, Arnold, freshly inaugurated as governor of California, spares a moment for a rare, and awesome, passing of the torch. As The Rundown‘s star, emerging action superstar Dwayne Johnson (then known as the Rock) heads to take on some bad guys in the Amazon, when who should greet him in a bar but Arnold himself. His only words? “Have fun.” (As in “have fun being a big-time action star.”) Now, admit it, that’s pretty cool.
Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Tim Robbins, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Anchorman‘s full of stars: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Vince Vaughn. But when Ferrell, Vaughn, and their respective news teams get ready for an epic battle (with swords!), the stars emerge: Wilson shows up leading his own crew. Then Robbins, the public news anchor, in a ridiculous wig, with a pipe and a psuedo-British accent. Then it’s Stiller’s turn, as the Spanish-language newsman: he dons a whip and a sweet mustache. Then the stars fight it out. You can’t beat that.
Bob Barker, Happy Gilmore
In Adam Sandler’s prime, he made an awesome golf movie. And — wouldn’t you know it? — he plays golf against a certain iconic game-show host whose prime went on for about 100 years. The fact that Barker shows up, in old-guy golf clothes no less, is only half the fun. The really memorable part is when he gets into a fight with Sandler’s hothead golfer — and beats the hell out of him. Who can forget Barker kicking Sandler in the face and shouting, “Now you’ve had enough, bitch”?
Bruce Springsteen, High Fidelity
What would a movie based around endless discussions of rock and roll be without a living rock icon? And what would a wistful daydream about lost love be without Springsteen? High Fidelity solves both those problems, as the Boss visits sad-sack John Cusack’s daydream to dispense a few bars on the guitar and some sage advice that sounds right out of one of his songs: “Give that big final good luck and good-bye to your all-time top five and just move on down the road.”
David Bowie, Zoolander
Everyone knows Bowie is one of the coolest people alive, so it makes perfect sense that, when two dumb-as-nails male runway models (played by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) need to settle their difference with a walk off, Bowie is there to judge the proceedings. As always, he’s cool as can be, calmly judging the two models during a ridiculous montage. Stiller and Wilson may be funny, but there’s no doubt who’s the most charismatic guy: Bowie.
Jon Stewart, Half Baked
Before he was the host of The Daily Show and a world-class political satirist, Stewart’s claim to fame was a cameo in a pot movie written by a not-quite-famous-yet Dave Chappelle. Chappelle and friends sell pot and introduce us to all the different kinds of smokers they meet. Stewart is the Enhancement Smoker: when he gets a delivery, he insists that he be joined for a variety of activities that are better — on weed. These activities include everything from watching the sun rise to…looking at the back of a dollar bill, all on weed.
Martin Sheen, Hots Shots! Part Deux
The Hot Shots! sequel largely parodies the Rambo series but takes a break for an unforgettable Apocalypse Now bit. As Charlie Sheen’s soldier heads upriver, there’s a voice-over of him writing in his journal, until a competing voice-over drowns it out. Whose dulcet tones are those? His father, Martin, reprising his Apocalypse character. Just for good measure, as the guys’ boats float by each other, they both yell, “I loved you in Wall Street!”
Mike Tyson, The Hangover
The hit comedy takes place in Vegas, so the choices for a cameo were Tyson, Wayne Newton, Siegfried, and Roy. Good thing they chose Tyson, who is, if nothing else, a pretty self-deprecating guy for a crazy person. He’s also genuinely funny, as he stops by to punch one of the main characters in the face. But not before he gives everyone a real laugh, showing some love for Phil Collins by enthusiastically playing air drums to the cheesy eighties standard “In the Air Tonight.”
Patrick Stewart, Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Everyone knows Richard the Lionhearted was a guy so suave that being bald is actually a positive for him. Okay, that’s not historically accurate, but when Stewart shows up at the end of Men in Tights to reclaim his throne as King Richard, it’s actually spoofing another cameo. In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sean Connery shows up as Richard at the very end. So Stewart’s cameo is a spoof on a cameo. How cool is that? Thanks, Mel Brooks.
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
In the most celebrated cameo in recent memory, Cruise’s appearance as a sleazy potbellied movie producer did more to reverse the deleterious effects of his public meltdown than any movie he’s actually starred in. Cruise is hilarious for the first time in a decade. He closes the movie dancing — well, thrusting his crotch, bald head glistening, phony chest hair exposed for all the world to see. It’s a disturbing sight but funny, and confirmation that Cruise has a sense of humor.