When it comes to superhero films and television shows, there are few things comic book fans love more than a good cameo. Whether it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo referencing an obscure character from comics history or a more substantial appearance from a well-known character that hints at other adventures soon to come, cameos are exciting for longtime fans. With so many superheroes being translated to the big and small screens, it's increased the sheer amount of cameo possibilities at creators' disposals. While some of them fail to amount to much, the majority are well constructed and rewarding for those of us well-versed in comic book trivia and minutae. Marvel Studios have perfected the cameo as an artform over the last decade. The interconnected nature of their films and TV shows lends itself to notable characters popping up in surprising and unsuspecting places, and fans get a kick out of it nearly every time.
This list will look at the 20 best Marvel movie and TV cameos, and will include entries outside the MCU as well. It will focus on those cameos that featured a genuine character from the pages making a brief (or not-so-brief) appearance. This means celebrity cameos where they play themselves won't be included. You also shouldn't expect to see a bevy of Stan Lee's beloved cameos propping up the list either, as the majority of these featured the comic book industry legend playing random characters designed to give us a quick chuckle. However, that is not to say that Stan won't make the list at all...
20 BATROC THE LEAPER (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER)
The opening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo Brothers' first Marvel Studios film, features Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on a secretive mission aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship that has been taken hostage by mercenaries. Chris Evans' Cap becomes embroiled in a thrilling fight with the lead mercenary Batroc, played by former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre.
Hardcore Marvel fans will have recognised the shaven-headed bad guy as Batroc the Leaper, a supervillain created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Tales Of Suspense #75 in 1966. Depicted as a French master of the form of kickboxing known as 'savate', he has appeared fairly regularly over the years as a member of Cap's rogues gallery.
19 HAWKEYE (THOR)
Before 2012's The Avengers, Marvel Studios released two solo Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor in order to familiarize audiences with the core six characters making up the superteam. The two human members had to make do with appearances in their compatriots films: Black Widow featured in Iron Man 2 in a sizeable role, for example.
But Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye only got a short uncredited cameo in Thor. When Thor storms the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound in the New Mexico desert that is holding his mighty hammer Mjolnir for study, we see Renner's agent take a high vantage point (suspended from a crane) and watch as he waits for confirmation that he can take a shot with his compound bow and arrow.
18 MAC GARGAN/SCORPION (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING)
Better Call Saul star Michael Mando appears in two quick, but important, scenes in Spider-Man: Homecoming. First, he is a mobster attempting to buy weapons (reverse engineered from Chitauri technology) from Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes aboard a Staten Island ferry. He has a noticeable scorpion tattoo on his neck and is known as 'Gargan'; meaning he is Mac Gargan, aka The Scorpion!
He then appears again in the post-credits scene, sporting a facial scar. He and Toomes are both in prison and he is trying to intimidate Toomes into revealing Spider-Man's true identity. He reveals he is gathering a group of criminals to take revenge on the Wall-crawler. Fans expect Mac to make some sort of appearance in 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home.
17 DR CURT CONNORS (SPIDER-MAN 2 AND SPIDER-MAN 3)
Poor Dylan Baker. Star of The Good Wife and The Americans, he played Dr Curt Connors in extended cameos in both Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 and director Sam Raimi expressed the desire to include Connors' transformation into The Lizard in the proposed Spider-Man 4. Baker, understandably, was enthusiastic about this idea.
Arguably, it would have meant more to the audience to see someone who had appeared in two previous films as a kindly mentor to Peter Parker going down a dark path. Unfortunately, Sam Raimi withdrew from the franchise in January 2010 after disagreements with Sony, and when they rebooted with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, it was Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) playing Connors/Lizard. And it was lame.
16 "CAPTAIN AMERICA" (THOR: THE DARK WORLD)
Thor: The Dark World is undoubtedly one of the weakest MCU movies. Fortunately, it does have this excellent cameo going for it! Thor and Loki are walking through Asgard and the God Of Mischief decides to have a bit of fun with his gifts for illusion. He first presents himself as another Asgardian, before turning Thor into Lady Sif!
Then, to needle his brother further he transforms into Captain America and gives a hilarious monologue about the 'righteousness surging through his body'. It gives Chris Evans a chance to be funny, which is rare as Cap. There is footage available online of Tom Hiddleston mimicking Evans' style, while performing the monologue in full Cap costume. Evans was then brought in to do an interpretation of Hiddleston's impression.
15 NICK FURY (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
When Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. began on ABC in September 2013, hopes were high for the first television series set within the MCU. Would we see characters from the movies popping in week after week to help the agents? Well, no. Appearances from core cast members have always been few and far between. Thank the Marvel Gods for Samuel L. Jackson then, who made two appearances in season one as Nick Fury.
The first, a funny cameo in episode two, was decent. But the second, a more substantial role in the season finale, was brilliant, as it brought us some more of that Fury/Phil Coulson double act we loved so much in the movies. Sam Jackson doing his inimitable thing and Clark Gregg reacting in his trademark wry, deadpan way is just great stuff.
14 VANISHER (DEADPOOL 2)
In Deadpool 2, the Merc With A Mouth assembles his own superteam, named X-Force, to go up against Cable. The membership includes knowingly ridiculous characters like Zeitgeist, who is played by IT's Bill Skarsgard, rather than tapping into the cultural lexicon like his name would suggest, as well as Terry Crews' Bedlam.
An invisible team member (The Vanisher) was then revealed to have been played by someone even more famous: Brad Pitt! He gets entangled in an electrical wire and is shocked, whereupon Pitt's recognizable face is shown and hilarity ensues. Pitt's children loved the first Deadpool movie, so he agreed to the cameo instantly when Ryan Reynolds reached out personally. He also only wanted a cup of coffee as payment!
13 "ODIN", "THOR" AND "LOKI" (THOR: RAGNAROK)
Director Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok was a breath of zany fresh air in the MCU. After a sequel which was nowhere near as celebrated as the original, the decision to pitch the God Of Thunder's third solo outing as an absurd space adventure worked gangbusters. One of its best moments comes when Thor returns to Asgard and finds Loki (posing as Odin) putting on a community theatre-style play about his demise.
All three main roles in the play are recognizable faces: Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) plays Odin and Luke Hemsworth (Chris' brother) plays Thor, but the best is Loki, who is played by none-other-than Matt Damon! The Jason Bourne star's family is close to Chris Hemsworth's in real life, so all it took was a phone call from his buddy for Damon to agree to the cameo.
12 AARON DAVIS (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING)
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse introduced the world to Miles Morales, the half-black half-Puerto Rican Spider-Man who has been a hit in the comics ever since his 2011 introduction. But there was a big screen easter egg reference to Miles before 2018's Spiderverse. In 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, Donald Glover (Atlanta) appeared as a criminal named Aaron Davis who is (badly) interrogated by Tom Holland's Spidey.
In the Ultimate comics, Davis is The Prowler, a cat-burglar... and Miles' uncle! In the theatrical cut, Davis mentions having a nephew in the neighborhood, and an even more blatant reference exists in a deleted scene in which Davis is left webbed to a car after the interrogation. He phones his nephew, saying 'Yeah, sorry Miles. I'm not gonna make it.'
11 DOCTOR STRANGE (THOR: RAGNAROK)
In the post-credits scene of 2016's Doctor Strange, we saw the Sorcerer Supreme meet the God Of Thunder. This scene was then expanded upon in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok and provided several of our favorite funny moments in the film. From Thor's endlessly refilling beer stein, to his misunderstanding of how an 'electronic letter' works, to his amusing wobbliness every time Strange teleports them around his New York brownstone.
By the time he calls an umbrella to him, the way he would do with Mjolnir (which results in lots of smashing and crashing of no-doubt ancient doodads in Strange's house) and Loki is released from his portal of perpetual falling ("I've been falling for 30 minutes!"), the audience is left in no doubt about the MCU's mastery of mirth.
10 CLETUS KASADY (VENOM)
Kelly Marcel, one of the screenwriters of 2018's surprise megahit Venom, was recently hired by Sony to begin working on the sequel. It stands to reason that the movie will pit Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock/Venom against Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage. Kasady is an even more scary proposition than Venom, given that he is a criminal before the symbiote even bonds with him.
Fans can't wait to see what Woody Harrelson (True Detective) does with the role, following his mid-credits appearance at the end of Venom. Wearing a slightly ridiculous curly red wig, Harrelson still managed to imbue the incarcerated Kasady with some menace. He and Hardy are two of the best (and most intense) actors working today, so it should be a blast to see them tangle on-screen.
9 COLOSSUS (X2: X-MEN UNITED)
X2, the 2003 sequel to 2000's X-Men, still stands as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. It also features one of our favorite cameos in Marvel movie history. During a bravura scene in which Colonel William Stryker's mercenaries attack the X-Mansion, beloved metal-skinned mutant Colossus defends the students, tossing a few bad guys through a wall.
He even offers to help Wolverine (giving fans a tease of a potential cinematic fastball special) but is told to help the uncaptured students flee the mansion. The cameo is quick and exciting and still one of the best moments of the film. Actor Daniel Cudmore later reprised the role in X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days Of Future Past, but declined to voice the comedic CGI Colossus in Deadpool.
8 FALCON (ANT-MAN)
Paul Rudd is charm personified as Scott Lang in the Ant-Man movies. His everyman qualities and easygoing comic energy hold the films together and he has brilliant on-screen chemistry with all his co-stars. He had especially great chemistry with Anthony Mackie, who made a cameo in the first film. Scott goes to what he thinks is an old Stark facility in order to steal a gizmo for his upcoming heist, but quickly finds out the building has now been converted into the new Avengers HQ.
He is met by Falcon and they become embroiled in a hugely entertaining and highly slapstick fight. Scott comes out on top, thanks to his shrinking abilities, and when the two characters meet again in Captain America: Civil War there is a certain undercurrent of rivalry between them!
7 STAN LEE (FANTASTIC FOUR)
This cameo, in 2005's Fantastic Four, is more special than the average Stan Lee appearance, as it was the first time he actually played a character he created -- he plays Willie Lumpkin, the Baxter Building's mailman. He delivers a letter to Reed Richards when the F4 arrive at the building, and they exchange a few words about Willie being delighted to have them back.
A delightful DVD extra shows Stan, clearly enjoying the fact he has real lines to say in this cameo, improvising and extending the conversation as much as possible. It's a wonderful look at the showman in Stan and it's obvious he charmed everyone on-set. His cameo in Fantastic Four: Rise Of the Silver Surfer is very good too; he plays himself and is refused entrance to Reed and Sue's rooftop wedding!
6 WEAPON X WOLVERINE (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE)
X-Men: Apocalypse was not a well-received film. Coming after X-Men:Days Of Future Past, which was a franchise high point critically and commercially, Apocalypse went backwards. It was muddled, silly and also played havoc with the X-Men movie timeline. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hugh Jackman's cameo as Wolverine, who is shown as a raging beast trapped in the Weapon X facility.
This seemed to fly in the face of the end of DOFP, which hinted that Mystique had rescued Logan, not William Stryker. All in all, it made no sense. But there's no denying that the scene, on its own merits, is brutal, bloody and visceral, and is ten times better than the rest of the film. It's also a thrill to see the classic Barry Windsor-Smith Weapon X headgear on-screen.
5 CAPTAIN AMERICA (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING)
Given that Chris Evans has been playing Steve Rogers in the MCU for nearly a decade, it's easy to forget that his screen persona was once very different. Before he played the morally staunch Cap, he was often the fast-talking funny guy in movies like The Losers and Scott Pilgrim. His previous Marvel role as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four also fell into this category.
Therefore, any opportunity for Cap to be funny in the MCU gets a big thumbs up from us, and the best examples are the hysterical Public Service Announcements in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Perfectly sending up the perception of Cap as a boring do-gooder, Peter Parker and his classmates are shown Cap's PSA's in which he says things like 'there's nothing cooler than following the rules.' Beautiful!
4 WOLVERINE (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS)
This is the third X-Men cameo on the list (fourth if you include Brad Pitt in Deadpool 2), and the second to feature Wolverine. Which means, yes, we're highlighting his contribution to the only two X-movies he wasn't a core cast member of. Which consequently means we're likely playing into the very Wolverine overexposure that Marvel has been criticized for in the comics and films.
But, in our estimation, the presence of Hugh Jackman's Canucklehead is always welcome! And this cameo, in Matthew Vaughn's 2011 franchise-revitalizing X-Men: First Class, is brilliant. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr are travelling the country on a recruitment drive for the X-Men. Logan's three word response is priceless and entirely fitting of his gruff, no-nonsense character.
3 TONY STARK (THE INCREDIBLE HULK)
This cameo is so high on the list due to its overall importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cast your minds back to summer 2008. Iron Man has seen release and is proving to be a hit. It featured a game-changing cameo (that may very well appear on our list as well) that hinted at the sort of interconnectivity these MCU movies could promise.
A few months later The Incredible Hulk was released and at the end of the film Marvel made good on that promise with another exciting cameo. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) walked into a dive bar to chat with General 'Thunderbolt' Ross about a certain problem he'd been having with the Green Goliath and legions of Marvel fans' minds were set racing at the possibilities that were now on the table. Wonderful.
2 STAN LEE (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2)
This cameo is the ultimate Stan Lee cameo, as it tied all his other appearances together in a neat way and felt like Marvel giving fans a nice 'wink wink, nudge nudge' easter egg. In the middle of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 we see Stan, wearing a spacesuit and helmet, talking to some mysterious beings. Marvel fans immediately recognized them as the Watchers, an ancient race who observe everything that happens in the universe.
Stan is telling them about the time he was a FedEx delivery man, which references his Captain America: Civil War cameo. This confirmed a long-running fan theory that Stan was always playing the same character in his MCU films, and even though this really can't be logically explained, we all loved it any way. Because we all loved Stan.
1 NICK FURY (IRON MAN)
Really, was there ever any doubt? The number one cameo on the list was always going to this, the cameo that launched the all-conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the post-credits scene of Iron Man, everything changed. It set up the most successful movie franchise of all time and altered the way Hollywood looked at blockbuster filmmaking and serialized storytelling in cinema.
Soon every studio wanted their own cinematic universe. And it all started with Jackson uttering these immortal lines: "You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet...I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative." Iconic.