A really good cameo from the right movie star can propel a movie from good to great. There are a couple key elements to a cameo working really well. One, it cannot feel forced. You know those cameos when a really famous star just walks through a scene in a movie? Yes, this list will have none of those moments. The best cameos are self aware and somewhat satirical. They can mock the star, while also serving as a sort of fan service to them. I also think a key element for a cameo to work is for no one to see it coming. It is sort of like the cinematic version of a sucker punch. They may be only a few minutes long, but sometimes, they can be the most memorable aspect of the movie. Here, for your consideration, six surprisingly self aware movie cameos.
Bill Murray in Zombieland
This pic is awesome for more reasons than I can mention.
I think we can all safely say that if I began the list with any cameo but this, you all would have scanned ahead wondering there this was on the list. Yes, Bill Murray in Zombieland was one of the best, most self-aware cameos of all time. It also helped make a good movie great. The main reason for this is because both Murray and the writers of Zombieland understood how a movie cameo should work.
This was Bill Murray playing Bill Murray. So in essence, this IS Bill Murray. The fact that he was role playing a zombie to survive was even better. Then, somehow, they top if off by recreating Ghostbusters and hitting the hookah with zombie Murray. It was one of the most meta movie moments ever, and was only made funnier but Murray meeting his untimely end, to even his surprise.
When people talk about Zombieland, this is the scene they talk about, and with good reason. It pretty much kicked ass.
Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
He has some pretty sweet dance moves, too.
Another example of a star knowing their worth, and knowing how to milk it for a cameo. Tropic Thunder was a film about a film. Loaded with meta movie commentary, Cruise stands as an example of what typical Hollywood producers are supposed to be like. You can’t help but feel like Cruise may be pulling from some personal experiences with this one.
Crude, crass, and powerful, Les Grossman was a very funny moment in a movie filled with them. I will be honest, I am not a Tom Cruise fan, but this cameo was almost impossible not to enjoy. Also, it is one of the moments when Tom Cruise is on screen and not running.
No, seriously, the man’s movies consist of him running, really fast. No idea why.
Michael Jackson in Men in Black 2
Hey look, Michael Jackson is playing Michael Jackson. How meta. Meta Jackson.
Anyone who grew up appreciating Michael Jackson in the 80’s, and then watching him turn into a female white guy in the nineties could really appreciate this. I mean, come on, the dude was weird as hell. But to his credit, he obviously knew people thought that and thought it would be fun to play off of. Michael Jackson playing an alien? Yes, that is a win.
What makes this story a bit different from the others is that Michael actually hit up Will Smith after seeing the first Men in Black and begged for a cameo in the second movie. Much like the above mentioned example of Tom Cruise, even if you didn’t like MJ or thought him a weirdo, this was a cool moment of self satire by the pop star.
Note, Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer almost took this slot, but MJ as an alien won because I am pretty sure MJ WAS an alien.
Bob Saget in Half Baked
Not sure the symbolism for this pic, but I am sure it means something.
This was the moment that shifted the way the whole world looked at Bob Saget. Up to this point, he was known as the vanilla Dad on the vanilla sitcom, Full House. But as soon as he confessed what he had to do to score some coke in Half Baked, he turned into a cult figure among young people. No, he really did. We are a twisted generation, and the first who grasp onto broken antiheroes as spokesman.
The funny thing was, Bob Saget in Half Baked was much closer to Bob Saget in real life than Danny Tanner was. Man, Danny Tanner, huh? Hell, even his name on that show was pure white bread.
The best part is, people still walk up to Saget in public and yell this line out. I won’t quote the line directly (knowing my luck, I would be misquoted as actually having said it), but we all know the line I am talking about.
Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street
Depp is actually the peanut butter jar. That is how good of an actor he is.
I know I was not the only person pleasantly surprised by just how good the movie reboot of 21 Jump Street was. A big part of the movie working so well is that it was self aware. It made fun of itself for being a television reboot, and made sure to point that out to the audience any chance it got. That was the one factor that kept it from being a generic cop movie and a generic action movie. It knew its role and had fun with it. It also knew that without Johnny Depp (and that other dude, something something DeLuise), the movie wouldn’t have existed. It was with this in mind they cast him as, well, himself from the show.
The thing is, you didn’t know it was him until the very end of the movie when he finally tore away his false visage. In case you don’t know, that is called “acting”, and Depp used to be pretty good it before he became Disney’s billionaire whore.
Hey, someone had to say it.
Eminem in Funny People
Eminem does NOT love Raymond.
Okay, so maybe people were not too fond of this movie, but the scene where Eminem bitches out Ray Romano is one of my favorite cameos of all time. I don’t know why. It just feels like something Marshall Mathers would do in real life. Wait, do I call him Marhsall, or Eminem? I feel kind of silly saying both.
This scene also works because of the Ray Romano cameo. The “I thought everyone loved you” line by Seth Rogen is just one factor into why this scene works so well. I won’t put the clip here because the language is dicey, but do yourselves a favor and click here to watch it. You really wont regret it.
One last thing. I got my first piece up at BloodyDisgusting right before Christmas, and it would mean a lot to me if you guys dipped over there and checked it out. Definitely one of my goals as a writer realized, and I would have never done it without you guys, so thank you.