A movie cameo is a delicate thing. While the modern definition of the term seems to have evolved into ‘any short appearance’ by a well-known or recognizable person in a performed piece, a cameo was originally held to be “a small character part that stands out from the other minor parts.”
Over a century of film, movie cameos have come to take many forms, with an early infamous example being the work of Alfred Hitchcock – who often made silent, walk-on appearances in his films. More recently, comic book icon Stan Lee has achieved cameo notoriety – being featured briefly in most productions of Marvel properties, as well as in the 1995 comedy Mallrats.
Many films trade on a vast array of cameos – such as The Player, This Is The End, or the Anchorman movies – and, while this is entertaining when executed correctly (as in those examples), it can walk a fine line between relevance and pomposity. The very best cameos are those that contribute to the substance of the film. They occur at pivotal moments, and have a direct impact on the direction of the story. They serve a narrative purpose, rather than simply acting as window-dressing. They are notable, useful, and most importantly, enjoyable – and here are ten of the best.