Film cameos range wildly in type and effect. You have the “blink and you’ll miss it” self-insertions of Alfred Hitchcock in 39 of his 52 surviving films, the fan-pleasing Stan Lee bit parts in all Marvel Comics films, pop-culture figures playing themselves (like Kurt Vonnegut in Back to School, Marshal McLuhan in Annie Hall) and the occasional absolutely over-the-top cameo that become the most memorable scenes of the film. This list a celebration of that last type. Here are the 10 best 100% ridiculous, “I can’t believe this is happening,” completely over-the-top cameos in modern movies.
Ben Stiller’s 2001 male modeling comedy Zoolander is chock full of cameo appearances by a wide range of actors, musicians and celebrities, often playing themselves as acquaintances of Stiller’s Derek Zoolander. One particular cameo stands out, though, as David Duchovny spoofs his own history as Agent Fox Mulder by playing hand model J.P. Prewett (he keeps his hands preserved in vacuum-sealed glass orbs). He anonymously calls Derek throughout the film before finally arranging a conspiracy theory-filled secret meeting at a graveyard where he reveals the dark history of male model assassins. Derek returns the favor in the usual fashion.
2004’s The Anchorman also features a large number of cameo appearances, culminating in one of the most ridiculously over-the-top scenes of the film, a Gangs of New York style battle royale between various news teams in a back alley. Ben Stiller appears as Spanish Language News anchor Arturo Mendez, but the insanity reaches a peak when an unnamed and mostly silent Tim Robins catches a machete and cuts off the arm of competing news anchor Frank Vitchard, played by Luke Wilson.
After starring in Doogie Howser, M.D. from 1989-1993, Neil Patrick Harris guest starred in a number of television shows, acted on Broadway, and had small roles in a few films before blazing back into pop-cultural imagination with an absolutely ridiculous cameo role in 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go to Whitecastle, playing a drug-addled, borderline psychotic version of himself. It’s arguable that the cameo revived his career, especially as a comedy actor, considering the following year he began his role as the almost equally over-the-top Barney Stinson on one of the best comedic sitcoms of the last decade, How I Met Your Mother.
Since 2007, when Bob Saget resurfaced as a foul-mouthed comedian in his one-hour special Bob Saget: That Aint Right, nobody is all that surprised anymore to see him say crude and ridiculous things. But back in 1998 when he had a brief cameo in the stoner comedy Half Baked, his line about the woes of cocaine addiction came way out of left field considering his image was still that of America’s Funniest Home Videos host and Full House Father. I literally spit my drink all over myself the first time I saw this.
This 2009’s zombie comedy flick was host to one of the craziest, most unexpected cameos of the last decade: Bill Murray playing himself and wearing a zombie disguise to blend in with the walking dead. Proving that he’s still got it, even the accidental tragedy that results is hilarious.
Kevin Smith’s 2008 romantic comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno, his second film not set in the View Askewniverse, features an early cameo role by Justin Long as gay porn star Brandon St. Randy (who’s currently dating Miri’s high school crush) that goes so far and is so over the top that it easily becomes one of the most memorable scenes of the film.
After falling off the film radar for a while due to numerous interviews and talk-show appearances highlighting questionable sanity, Tom Cruise burst back into the viewing public’s graces with his incredibly over-the-top cameo as the immensely corrupt and foul-mouthed studio exective Les Grossman in 2008’s Tropic Thunder. Each scene he’s in is more ridiculous than the last, culminating in one the strangest “I can’t believe this is happening” dance scenes of recent years.
It’s 1991. If you’re an elementary school-age young boy in the U.S., the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the most radical and awesome squad of badasses you know of, you have a T-shirt with your favorite turtle, and maybe even a lunchbox. Also, Vanilla Ice is still really, really cool. Seriously. And then you see this movie, a sequel to what was probably your favorite movie until you saw this one, and BAM! Vanilla Ice is rapping over one of the fights! Is this really happening? You bet your sweat, shredder-fearing ass it is. Go ninja, go ninja, go!
Almost every scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has become a part of the pop-cultural imagination, but one that stands above the rest is Christopher Walken’s infamous deadpan watch monologue that he delivers to a young Butch Coolidge. Not just an incredibly over-the-top cameo, it’s easily become one of Christopher Walken’s most beloved roles.
Alec Baldwin’s incredibly harsh speech in James Foley’s film adaptation of David Mamet’s award wining play Glengarry Glen Ross is his best performance ever. Yeah, I just said that. It’s one roughly eight-minute scene and his character never appears again but it’s easily the scene from the film that will stick with you longer than any other (followed closely by Al Pacino’s character’s introduction and first monologue). To make things even crazier, the role didn’t even exist in the play; it was created specifically for Alec Baldwin for the film version.