When an actor has a cameo in a film and they appear as themselves, the results are often pretty hilarious. We know that the actual character we’re seeing isn’t anything like the person really is in real life, but it doesn’t matter, does it? Simply by using their own name, it appears that we’re getting a glimpse of who they really are, and that’s enough to change the dynamic. We already know a little bit about the character. Because we’re connected to the actor, we are automatically connected to the character they’re playing. We spend so much time pretending that these actors are someone else, it’s sort of refreshing seeing them as regular people, even if they’re only pretending.
There’s been some serious cameos, but it’s rare. I suppose that’s because if it were a serious cameo, the character would almost certainly be closer to the real person than a comedy cameo allows for. Half of a character cameo is the hilarity in seeing them as a real person. In a comedy, Mike Tyson can play an exaggerated version of Mike Tyson or even a subverted version of Mike Tyson; both are hilarious because it either plays to our expectations or goes completely against them. Speaking of Tyson, I’ve avoided celebrity appearances because I like actors more than I like celebrities. For every good celebrity cameo, like Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2, we get several Paris Hiltons and Kardashians who are already exaggerated versions of themselves; silly and annoying. Here are 15 hilarious times an actor played themselves on film.
15. Al Pacino – Jack & Jill
This movie is high up on the worst movies ever lists, and I’ll be honest, it deserves to be there. I normally don’t hate Adam Sandler movies as much as everyone else, but this one is bad. Al Pacino’s part in the movie is pretty weak throughout, but I have to say, the ending commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts is too ridiculous not to be funny. When Al walks through the doors of Dunkin’ Donuts, he reveals that his name is no longer Al, it’s now Dunk. Then the guy behind the counter says, “Dunk Acino?” No, man, no. Because it would actually be “Dunk Pacino.” But logic doesn’t work here. “Dunkaccino” is what Al wants to be called. Soon after, Dunkaccino starts rapping and a dance video breaks out. The brilliance of this scene is seeing the great Al Pacino reduced to this dancing dunce. As he goes through the choreography, nailing each step and movement, you can see his hair get a little grayer and his eyes a little dimmer. I still love you Al- er, Dunk.
14. Bruce Campbell – My Name is Bruce
Bruce Campbell is always playing himself, I’m sure of it. There’s Evil Dead where Bruce plays serious Bruce, Evil Dead II where Bruce plays funny Bruce and then there’s My Name is Bruce, where Bruce basically plays real Bruce. The thing is though, I think they are all the same Bruce. I’m not saying anything negative against Mr. Campbell here. He’s one of my favorites. I just think that Bruce Campbell has figured out his lane and he’s speeding in it, Thelma & Louise hair-flying-in-the-wind speeding. If you like Bruce Campbell, then you’ll love him in this. Him and Sam Raimi look like they had a lot of fun making it.
13. Lou Ferrigno – I Love You, Man
A classic piece of cinema involves Jason Segel being choked out by the Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, in I Love You, Man. There’s something beautiful in it. Unhappy about being called “Hulk” in real life by Segel’s character Sydney, Ferrigno calmly asks him to stop it. When Sydney completely overreacts and attempts to punch Ferrigno in the face, Lou catches Sydney’s fist in his hand (in classic Hulk style) and begins to choke Sydney out, putting him to sleep on the sidewalk. As Segel drools and dozes off, he manages to call Ferrigno “Hulk” once more, passing out like a true gentleman. The character of Lou Ferrigno is a great contrast to what he played on TV because he’s so calm and nice. Despite everything, Lou refuses to get angry, perhaps knowing we wouldn’t like him if he did. It’s also fitting that Ferrigno joins Peter’s wedding party at the end as well because he’s such a beauty.
12. Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero got a bad rap somewhere along the way. It did come out one week after Jurassic Park, so that might have had something to do with its lacklustre box office success. In this one, the main character Danny and Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), have to save the real life Arnold Schwarzenegger from being killed by a movie villain. The whole movie is based on a premise that you can pass between reality and the movie world, a dream I’ve had for a long, long time. There’s a fair bit of campiness to the movie, but that’s part of the fun of it all. I call for a renewed interest in this movie because action movies don’t all need to be so serious. Some of the best action movies of the past were also a little stupid.
11. David Bowie – Zoolander
Before Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) decide they have to battle it out on the catwalk, yeah the catwalk baby, you know what I mean? Well, before they get down to it, they ask for a judge, and up steps David Bowie, hair flowing, stylish as ever. He gives them the rules, takes his seat and proceeds to keep score on his hand with a Sharpie marker. Billy Zane also has a scene before that where he tries to convince Zoolander not to do the walk off with Hansel. I think that part is funny because of how obscure Zane is. No offense to big Billy Zane fans all across the world, I mean, he was pretty great in Back to the Future.
10. Bob Saget – Half Baked
When Thurgood (Dave Chapelle) goes to rehab for his addiction to marijuana, the other recovering addicts in the crowd get a little annoyed with his so called “problem” because they don’t feel marijuana is a drug that requires rehab. Bob Saget is one of the guys in the audience and he sets the bar for and defines addiction. By his own admission, marijuana can’t be a habit-forming drug because you wouldn’t give sexual favors for it. Whether or not that’s the correct definition of a habit-forming drug is another discussion altogether, but having Bob Saget (Danny Tanner from Full House) stand up and say that is pretty funny. Now, if you know anything about Saget’s stand up comedy, you’d know this is a bit of his, but that’s beside the point.
9. Bruce Willis – Ocean’s 12
In a funny meta moment, Ocean’s 12 has Tess (Julia Roberts) trying to convince Bruce Willis that she’s really Julia Roberts. Bruce plays himself, the real life friend of Roberts, and is trying to have a conversation with her about regular life things, while Tess and her gang of misfits try to play along. It’s a good bit even if it is a little silly. I think the whole Julia Roberts thing is playing to the fact that Roberts was such a big star at that time that her name transcended any and all characters she played. It’s hard for audiences to see Tess when we see Julia Roberts. Maybe not anymore, but it sure seemed that way back then. I guess that’s not really a compliment for an actor.
8. Chuck Norris – Dodgeball
We all know how great Chuck Norris is. I mean, the man is a legend that has copious amounts of legends about him. I guess what makes his appearance in Dodgeball so perfect is that it’s so simple and subtle. Chuck Norris doesn’t need a big introduction (he is Chuck Norris). He’s a judge for the final dodgeball match and he gives the thumbs up to Vince Vaughn. Vince Vaughn gives him a karate chop, which is a perfectly acceptable response. Probably the best part of this all is at the end, when fat White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is seen eating a chicken leg watching the highlights, and curses Chuck Norris’ name.
7. The Entire Cast of This is the End
The entire cast of This is the End play themselves and there are some big-time hits and big-time misses. I think Jay Baruchel’s supposed to be the protagonist, but man, is he ever a whiny little baby throughout the entire runtime. I don’t hate often, but, when I do, it’s because Jay Baruchel is bellyaching about something. The best characters are the most exaggerated personalities, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill even Mindy Kaling has a brief moment that she absolutely kills (as early, The Mindy Project was so good). The best of all is probably Michael Cera as a cocaine-fueled sloppy mess. Knowing how Cera is such a quiet, odd little guy makes it all the more hilarious watching him slap Rihanna’s butt and get slapped out for his efforts. Pretty much every time the camera focuses on him, he’s doing something you wouldn’t expect the real Michael Cera to do. Even with a minuscule amount of screen time, he steals the show convincingly.
6. John Malkovich – Being John Malkovich
The uber talented John Malkovich plays himself and is obviously front and center in Being John Malkovich. In a really strange role for everyone involved, Malkovich shines through, both as himself and as the other characters who take over his body, blending their personalities with his own. It’s actually really hilarious seeing John Malkovich, so proper and theatrical, do this type of role. When he is himself though, Malkovich gets to showcase who he sees himself as, confident but naïve. There’s one scene in particular that has him speaking to the real Charlie Sheen about his paranoia and fear of what’s happening to him that you get to see probably the closest thing to reality. That’s a complete guess, but since Charlie is there and they talk about their drug use a little, I assume it’s all true, especially with Sheen involved, knowing he was probably off his rocker during the filming.
5. Matt Damon & Ben Affleck – Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Right as Jay and Silent Bob are about to jump Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, they realize they’re on the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. The small clip from this amazing sounding movie shows a Will Hunting who is a little washed up, not the young whipper snapper he once was. At this point in his life, Hunting carries a shotgun with him, blasting away his naysayers instead of proving them wrong. It’s tough to say who the real Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are, but the version of them in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back seem pretty great. They’re ridiculous and cocky, a perfect mix. As a stage director approaches them to go over the upcoming scene, he touches Damon on the shoulder, which doesn’t go over so well because Damon doesn’t like being touched. This is the kind of attitude I like in my actors. If it’s not really them, it should be.
4. Eminem & Ray Romano – Funny People
The tiny scene between Ray Romano and Eminem in the movie Funny People, is by far the best part in the movie, and I really like the entire thing. So many of the characters play themselves in this one, or similar characters to who they really are, but Eminem hating on Ray Romano so hard and yelling at him in a restaurant is straight absurdity. Ironic because Everybody Loves Raymond and funny because Eminem has never even heard of Ray Romano, the scene pokes fun at the hierarchy of fame that exists in Hollywood. Scared Ray Romano is just such a pleasure to watch. So good.
3. Robert Englund – Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Seeing Robert Englund playing himself and discussing Freddy Krueger is a cool thing for horror fans, really for any movie fans. Englund first donned the makeup and costume for the iconic villain in 1984. Now, 10 years later in 1994, we seem him and Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) talking about the reality of Freddy Krueger. My obsession with horror films makes this a really memorable film because they don’t act it up; they simply try to appear as normal as they can. Maybe the best bit in the whole movie is when Robert Englund comes out on stage dressed as Freddy Krueger, but he’s not the real Freddy, he’s a fake Freddy being played by the cameo version of Robert Englund. Got that straight? The whole thing is a giant meta moment that my brain can’t quite comprehend.
2. Neil Patrick Harris – Harold and Kumar Franchise
The exaggerated character of Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold & Kumar movies is the best character in the franchise, easily. He’s a drug-addicted, thrill-seeking, adulterous, heterosexual maniac who happens to run into the two stoners in the most random of places. First he’s picked up while hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere because he was pushed out of a moving car, high on ecstasy. Harris also drives Harold and Kumar by a police barricade while he’s high on mushrooms, he is shot and killed but kicked out of Heaven for being too good with the ladies, and he pretends to be gay with his real life husband David Burtka on the set of his own Christmas Musical, using his misread sexuality as a con to seduce the female dancers. Every cameo in each subsequent film seems to be better than the next, and each cameo is the best part of each movie up to that point.
1. Bill Murray – Zombieland
Bill Murray’s appearance in Zombieland is another scene that is easily the best scene in their respective movies, or maybe I just really like cameos. Murray has decided to dress up like a zombie so that he can continue his normal life while the world is ravaged by zombies. At first he scares Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson before they find out it’s the real Bill Murray. Once they do, and after Harrelson has gushed over him and his movies, they convince Murray to scare Jesse Eisenberg’s character. As he zombie-walks through the door, Eisenberg shoots him in the chest with a shotgun, instantly killing—nope, just fatally wounding him. As he lay dying, Murray’s asked if he has any regrets, which he answers with “Garfield, maybe.” Then he lets out a last breath, which is hilariously long and ends up not even being his final breath. This gets Emma Stone’s character laughing, as it should. The whole thing is perfect.