A well-timed celebrity cameo can make a movie go from good to great.
Sometimes a cameo signals a connection to a larger cinematic universe.
Or a cameo can be a way for a celebrity to poke fun at themselves.
Cameos range from random to inside jokes for longtime fans of the movie's writers or directors. It can even be a way for a famous person to poke fun at their own public persona.
Keep reading to see what familiar faces have shown up in unexpected places.
Bradley Cooper stole the show with just one scene in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" in 2023.
Throughout 2023's "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," audiences kept hearing about Michelle Rodriguez's character Holga's ex-husband, who happened to be a halfling ("D&D's" version of a hobbit). So, audiences were primed for some sort of cameo.
But no one expected nine-time Oscar nominee Cooper to answer the door when Holga finally decided to pay her ex a visit and get some closure. Cooper, to his credit, played the role completely straight, earnestly trying to connect with Holga and offering her his help.
How did this happen? Because Cooper is an old friend of director John Francis Daley. Daley told Deadline that the two stayed in touch after starring in a failed TV series together in 2005 — and when Daley reached out to Cooper, it was a yes.
You may not have seen Trevor Noah in 2018's "Black Panther," but you definitely heard him — he voiced the ship Martin Freeman's character piloted during the film's final sequence.
While many eagle-eyed fans noticed his name in the credits, many were shocked to find out that Noah voiced the artificial intelligence of the ship that CIA agent Everett Ross (played by Martin Freeman) flew in the film's climactic end sequence.
Before Taylor Swift was selling out arenas, she appeared in "Hannah Montana: The Movie," performing one of her songs at a hoedown in the small town of Crowley Corners in 2009.
Nope, Swift didn't make her big screen debut in "The Giver" — she appeared in "Hannah Montana: The Movie" as herself. It was still back in her country days, so she performed at a barn party, and sang "Crazier."
In 2017, Prince William and Prince Harry both appeared as stormtroopers in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," but their scene was cut because they are too tall.
"Star Wars" star John Boyega confirmed that he appeared in a scene with the two royals, but unfortunately the scene was cut.
Obviously, their faces are obscured, so it's impossible to know for sure, but when this deleted scene popped up on the DVD extras, people were quick to point out that two of the stormtroopers are taller than most — just like the two princes.
Hugh Jackman is only on screen for 20 seconds of 2011's "X-Men: First Class," but he provided one of the film's biggest laughs.
Wolverine (played by Jackman) is one of the staples of the X-Men universe — he's appeared in all but two of the movies.
But before his turn in the R-rated instant classic "Logan," Wolverine was never really allowed to swear like a person with his personality actually would. This changed in "X-Men: First Class," where he appears in one brief scene, and only speaks two words: "Fuck you."
Cate Blanchett is virtually unrecognizable underneath a surgical mask in the 2007 comedy "Hot Fuzz."
Blanchett, one of the most prolific actresses of our time, only appeared in one scene of action movie parody "Hot Fuzz," as the soon-to-be ex-girlfriend of the film's protagonist, Nick.
How did she end up in this minor role? Edgar Wright, the film's writer and director, knew she was a fan of another one of his movies, "Shaun of the Dead."
Wright told Collider, "The first joke was basically that you have an emotive scene with him saying farewell to his girlfriend and being very sentimental and you can't see her face ... we started to think of who could be that person. I thought why don't we get a really heavyweight actress?"
And so, Wright reached out to Blanchett, she agreed, and the rest is cinematic history.
The Jonas Brothers appeared as cherubs in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" in 2009.
Three of the JoBros (Kevin, Joe, and Nick) voiced cherubs in the sequel to "Night at the Museum." If you weren't quite sure before they opened their mouths, all doubts as to their identities were put to rest when they broke out into the classic Jonas Brothers tune "Lovebug."
The brothers also lent their song "Fly With Me" (appropriate) to the film's soundtrack.
Cynthia Nixon had a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in the 2008 film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," when Jason Segel's character is drowning his sorrows — he pretends he's talking to Miranda on "Sex and the City," when the real Miranda walks behind him.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has become a classic comedy film of the past decade, which is why it's so shocking we're still discovering new things about it.
Peter, played by Jason Segel, is trying to forget his ex-girlfriend Sarah by getting drunk at his hotel's bar.
He drunkenly pretends that he's on "Sex and the City" as he drinks what appears to be a Cosmopolitan (the show's signature drink), and even asks the bartender, "What's up Miranda?"
At this exact moment, an amused Cynthia Nixon — who played Miranda Hobbes — walks behind Peter shaking her head.
Matt Damon in "Thor: Ragnarok" surprised movie-goers when he appeared as Loki in a play during the 2017 film.
In a meta-moment, Loki decides to stage a play about his triumphs in previous "Thor" movies. The star-studded cast of this play included Luke Hemsworth as Thor, Sam Neill as Odin, and none other than Matt Damon as Loki.
How did this happen? According to "Ragnarok" director Taika Waititi, Chris Hemsworth and Damon are friends. The God of Thunder was able to pull some strings and bring Damon down to the Gold Coast of Australia during post-production.
Damon, Neill, and Luke returned for the 2022 sequel "Love and Thunder," and added Melissa McCarthy and Thor and Loki's sister Hela.
Michael Jackson appeared in"Men in Black II" as an agent in 2002.
The director of "Men in Black II," Barry Sonnenfeld, told the BBC in 2002 that he wanted Jackson to be in the first "Men in Black" movie as an alien (alongside famous faces George Lucas and Danny DeVito), but that Jackson refused.
However, as the director told the BBC, Jackson called up Sonnenfeld after seeing the first movie and asked to play a small role in the sequel — and so Jackson became an agent who negotiated a peace treaty between aliens.
Football quarterback Brett Favre, at the height of his fame in 1998, appeared as himself in "There's Something About Mary." He played one of Mary's ex-boyfriends.
"There's Something About Mary" stars Cameron Diaz as Mary, a woman who seems to make every man she meets fall in love with her — including Brett Favre. Throughout the movie, he is constantly alluded to by just the name Brett, making it all the more hilarious when the famous footballer finally shows up.
Daniel Radcliffe plays a dog walker in a movie-within-a-movie in 2015's "Trainwreck."
Radcliffe stars in "The Dogwalker," a spoof of a very bad artsy film that appears throughout 2015 rom-com "Trainwreck," starring Amy Schumer. According to Judd Apatow, the film's director, Radcliffe improvised the whole thing, he told The Hollywood Reporter.
When the fake film was being shot, photos of Radcliffe walking multiple dogs went viral around the internet.
In 2004, David Hasselhoff had the distinction of being the only human in "The Spongebob Movie."
Riffing off of his famous "Baywatch" role, the Hoff is spotted running along the beach in Santa Monica by Spongebob and Patrick. He then proceeds to give them a piggyback ride all the way out to Bikini Bottom. Of course, he doesn't need a boat.
Hasselhoff told GQ that he even kept a souvenir: a 12-foot, 750-pound replica of himself that was built for the movie.
Matt Damon is almost unrecognizable performing at a high school graduation party in the 2004 comedy "EuroTrip."
By the time "EuroTrip" was released in 2004, Damon had already been in Oscar-winning movies such as "Good Will Hunting" and "Saving Private Ryan." That's what makes his role in this low-budget, R-rated comedy all the more delightful. He even gets to sing!
Damon was asked about this seemingly random role during a Reddit AMA in 2016 — and revealed the heartwarming reason for it.
The actor wrote, "'EuroTrip' was written by three guys I went to college with, Alec Shaffer, Jeff Berg, and Dave Mandell... [they] were making 'EuroTrip' and they said 'Will you come play this, you know, Howard Rollins kind of insane, bad version of a suburban, you know, punk band guy?' And I said 'Yea, I'm in Prague.' So I showed up and I'm sitting there, and I'm like 'I'm wearing a wig [for the other movie he was filming], just shave my head, let's just go for it.'"
David Bowie plays himself as he teaches Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's characters how to properly work the runway in 2001's "Zoolander."
A pivotal scene in "Zoolander" is when the two main characters, Derek Zoolander and Hansel, decide to see which one of them is the best model by having a "walk-off." Bowie made his cameo as the judge.
Stiller, the writer, director, and star of "Zoolander" called working with the rock legend "a high point in my career" at the premiere of "Zoolander 2" in 2016.
Channing Tatum had a very NSFW role in absurdist comedy "This Is the End" in 2013.
"This Is the End" is a story about what happens to Hollywood actors when the apocalypse occurs. By the time Tatum appears as Danny McBride's sex slave the world has dissolved into total anarchy.
Seth Rogen, one of the film's writers and stars, shared how he convinced Tatum to play the role in an interview with Andy Cohen.
He said that he politely emailed Tatum and explained the role, saying the character "is wearing a wrestling mask, and when he pulls it up we would love nothing more than for it to be you underneath. I know this is crazy, but we really think it will get a massive laugh."
Johnny Depp reprised his star-making role of Officer Tom Hanson in the 2012 movie remake of "21 Jump Street."
"21 Jump Street" was originally a TV show in the late '80s, before it was remade into an R-rated comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.
According to a behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD, Depp was interested in filming a cameo in the remake, but had two conditions: He'd only do it if his old costar Peter DeLuise were there too, and he wanted to make sure that his character had closure.
In 1998, Janet Leigh popped in for a quick scene with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in "Halloween H20" — mother and daughter are both iconic "scream queens," respectively.
Janet Leigh is most famous for her role as Marion in "Psycho," so when her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis became famous for her role in the "Halloween" franchise, it only made sense that Leigh would have a cameo.
Eagle-eyed viewers noticed that Leigh's character drives off in a blue Ford Fairlane — the same car that her character drives in "Pyscho," down to the license plate, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
Danny Pudi had a small but memorable cameo for "Community" fans in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" in 2014.
The Russo brothers, who directed "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," also used to produce the community college-based sitcom "Community."
A specific character on that show, Abed (played by Danny Pudi) has a strong obsession with pop culture, and specifically Easter eggs. So it was a no-brainer for Pudi to have a short but sweet Easter egg of his own in the film.
The Russo brothers talked about their decision to include him in the movie on the Empire podcast in 2014. "Did Danny beg us to be in the movie? I think we begged him!" the brothers shared. They went on to clarify that they don't even know if the character is supposed to be Pudi or Abed.
Neil Patrick Harris plays a fictionalized, absolutely terrible version of himself in 2004's "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (and its later sequels).
Before playing Barney Stinson on "How I Met You Mother," Harris was mainly known for his role as the namesake child doctor on "Doogie Howser, MD." But the raunchy, stripper-loving, drug-using alter ego he plays on "Harold & Kumar" banished all thoughts of Doogie.
Many people even credit "Harold & Kumar" for revitalizing NPH's career. Harris himself told The New York Times in 2006 that at the time, "I was only getting jobs I was offered, not the ones I was auditioning for, because I had previous baggage."
Mike Tyson stole the show when he confronted the men who stole his tiger in "The Hangover" back in 2009.
The first hour of "The Hangover" is your typical bro-comedy film — until Mike Tyson himself shows up and demands that the "wolfpack" (Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper) return his pet tiger, which they stole.
One rendition of "In The Air Tonight" later, Tyson solidified himself as one of the best parts of the uber-successful movie.
Tyson later revealed to Yahoo Sports in 2012 that he was "a mess" and "high on cocaine" while filming, according to the British tabloid The Sun.
Glenn Close has a blink-and-you-miss-it part in the 1991 film "Hook" as an unrecognizable pirate.
This is Glenn Close and Steven Spielberg's only film together — but the actress had worked with star Robin Williams in the past (on the movie "The World According to Garp").
Close's small role in "Hook," a sequel to "Peter Pan," ends with her getting sent to the Boo Box (a locked box filled with scorpions).
Bill Murray just wanted to play golf in peace in "Zombieland," a 2009 movie about the zombie apocalypse.
When the zombie apocalypse descended upon Earth, all Bill Murray (who plays himself) wanted to do was continue to play golf in peace. So, he did what any resourceful person would do — he pretended to be a zombie so everyone would leave him alone.
Murray's cameo was praised by critics, with Roger Ebert describing the moment when Murray showed up as "the single biggest laugh I've heard this year."
Jimmy Fallon spoofed informational videos at amusement parks by filming a segment about an attraction at "Jurassic World" in 2015.
Celebrities filming spots for amusement park attractions is pretty common. So "Jurassic World" committed to authenticity when they got Jimmy Fallon, host of "The Tonight Show," to explain a bit about the attractions.
Johnny Depp has been vocal about his inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow being Keith Richards — so of course, Richards got to play his father in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" in 2007.
When asked where he got his inspiration for his performance as Captain Sparrow, Depp told NME that, "For a good portion of the time I was spending with [Richards], I was sponging as much of him as I possibly could for the character."
When The Rolling Stones rocker got wind of this, he agreed to film a cameo in "At World's End," as none other than Sparrow's father, Captain Teague. His performance was so popular that he appeared again in the next film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" in 2011.
Danny Glover appeared in 1994's "Maverick" alongside his "Lethal Weapon" costar Mel Gibson.
When Glover showed up in "Maverick" to rob his former costar Gibson, "Lethal Weapon" fans were delighted.
The film leans into their connection — the two seem to recognize each other, the "Lethal Weapon" theme song plays during their meeting, and when Glover escapes he utters his "Lethal Weapon" character Murtaugh's famous catchphrase: "I'm too old for this shit."
The connection comes from the film's director, Richard Donner. He directed "Lethal Weapon," and "Maverick," among many other films.
Bruce Springsteen helps the main character in the 2000 rom-com "High Fidelity" come to terms with his relationship issues.
When John Cusack's character in "High Fidelity" is wrestling with the decision to contact all his exes, he hallucinates one of his musical idols, Springsteen.
In 2020, Cusack told The New York Times how this cameo came to be. "We never really thought we'd get Bruce, we just thought putting him in there would make a good read for the studio and get them all excited," Cusack said.
"But I had met him socially, so I thought even though he's going to say no, I may as well call him and throw the Hail Mary pass and get it over with," he said. "And he kind of just laughed at the idea and said, 'Send me a script.'"
Will Ferrell plays a dirtbag who still lives with his mom in the 2005 comedy "Wedding Crashers."
Ferrell appears in just one scene in "Wedding Crashers," but has some of the most quoted lines from the film. He appears to be a cautionary tale — he's middle-aged, still lives with his mom, and likes to meet women by crashing funerals.
Billy Idol played a hopeless romantic in "The Wedding Singer" in 1998.
The legendary musician appears in the climactic airplane serenade scene of "The Wedding Singer," when Adam Sandler finally professes his love to Drew Barrymore.
The film is set in the '80s, so of course Idol (an '80s icon) makes perfect sense. His son actually inspired him to appear in the film — Sandler was one of his idols. Idol told Contact Music, "My son loved Adam Sandler and I thought: 'I'm going to have to see it anyway, so why not be in it?'"
Jim Parsons is Walter the Muppet's human version in the 2011 film "The Muppets."
"The Muppets" has a lot of cameos, but none are as memorable as "The Big Bang Theory" star showing up during the musical number "Man or Muppet."
Parsons appears briefly as the human version of the Muppet Walter.
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