For better or worse, we’ve all seen the Transformers movies. The decade-old film series may be box-office smash hits, but critics haven’t been too kind to these movies over the years. I’ll admit that the first one was actually pretty good and it’s a movie that I pop into my Blu-Ray player from time to time. The rest are… questionable, at best. Recently, I decided to re-watch all four Transformers movies in a fair attempt to appreciate them better, and also in anticipation for Transformers: The Last Knight, which is playing in cinemas now. What surprised me while I was re-watching these films was how many heavyweight celebrities have channeled their talents into this box-office-slaying franchise.
Because the movie moves at breakneck speeds and has the editing style of an insane person, it’s hard to really comprehend all of what’s going on, and in the process I realized that many of us miss out on remembering, or even noticing, a big celebrity cameo or appearance. From Academy Award winning Hollywood veterans to the stars of top-notch TV shows, here’s a list of 15 well-known celebrities who have appeared in the Transformers movies, who we may or may not remember from any of those films!
17 Titus Welliver
If you’re a fan of Bosch, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Good Wife, Sons Of Anarchy, Deadwood, or even LOST, then you know Titus Welliver. Let’s just say he has an impressive resume, and that resume just so happens to include one of the Transformers movies… Transformers: Age Of Extinction, to be exact, which is the fourth film in the franchise.
Now, I’m going to be completely honest and admit that I remember very little from Age Of Extinction because of how batsh*t insane that movie is – the plot makes little sense and the scenes move at breakneck speeds – but I do remember Titus Welliver being in it and I also remember liking his performance. In fact, he played a stone cold killer pretty well. While the movie itself is a hot mess, there’s a rooftop chase scene in the third act of the film that has Titus’ character, the nefarious James Savoy, in pursuit of Mark Wahlberg's character, Cade Yager… and for what it’s worth, that scene looks like it came out of a damn good action film! Heck, if I didn’t know if it was from a Transformers flick, I’d actually want to give the whole film a shot!
16 Bingbing Li
Bingbing Li isn’t popular in Hollywood or Western cinema, but she’s actually a well-known actress over in the Asian region. Known for her roles in some pretty major Chinese blockbusters such as The Forbidden Kingdom, 1911, and Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Bingbing Li played the role of Sue Yueming in Transformers: Age Of Extinction. She was the ruthless assistant of Stanley Tucci’s bumbling top-management character in the same movie. Like I said, I don’t remember much from that convoluted amalgamation of metal and mayhem, but I’m pretty sure she had some pretty solid action scenes when the movie decided to take the war to China towards the third act.
Here’s what’s interesting though: Michael Bay usually uses his female stars as eye candy. Sure, they may have big roles to play and they might push the plot along, but they almost always look like a variation of Megan Fox, with the camera focusing on very specific angles most of the time… if you know what I mean. That’s basically Michael Bay’s shtick. Surprisingly, Bingbing Li wasn’t used this way. She had a commanding presence, her role made sense (as far as sense goes in this movie), and she was able to put some of those acting chops on display. Kudos to Bay, I guess?
15 T.J. Miller
When a director has someone as funny as T.J. Miller in his movie, you’d think he’d make complete use of the talent and make T.J. Miller stay for the entire film, right? But since Michael Bay is evidently a maniac, he decided to pull a shocker on everyone and kick the funniest person on the cast list out of the movie, very early on. I’ll never understand why director Michael Bay decided to kill off Miller’s character within the first act of Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Heck, I barely remember him being there because he was in that movie for such a fleeting moment.
When asked about his experience on set, T.J. Miller described it as a “bipolar experience.” Apparently one moment Michael Bay would berate Miller for not being funny enough and would even threaten to cut Miller out of the movie (which he pretty much did in the end), and the moment the cameras went off, Bay would invite Miller to dinner for some sushi. This description of Michael Bay falls in line with Megan Fox’s description of him as “Hitler on set.” Either way, it’s a shame that T.J. Miller wasn’t used better. For a guide on how to properly use T.J. Miller, watch Deadpool.
14 John Goodman
You’d be surprised how many big-time veteran actors are in the Transformers movies but are never seen or recognized because they’re only lending their voices to the film. Such is the case with veteran comedian and actor, John Goodman, who voices Hound in both Transformers: Age Of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight. Needless to say, not a single thing Hound says in either movie is even remotely funny. In fact, his lines are barely audible and make no sense because they’re just plonked in the film during post-production… at times when the camera isn’t even focusing on Hound at all! Also, leave it to Michael Bay to mold Hound after John Goodman’s physique: a big, burly bot with a large belly who takes the brunt of an “overweight” joke in The Last Knight. Keeping it classy, Bay.
What’s sad is that these credible celebrities don’t have to be wasted this way. If John Goodman’s character and comedic timing was properly tapped into, Hound could have become a new fan favorite in the Transformers universe. But hey, since we’re on the subject of typecasting and making poor use of talent…
13 Ken Watanabe
Ken Watanabe is also in the Transformers movies! So what is he? Does he lend some gravitas to his role? Does he bring his acting talents and signature intensity to the Transformers series? Of course not! The Japanese actor plays… you guessed it, a very stereotypical Japanese samurai Autobot who’s into yoga and meditation in Transformers: The Last Knight. He plays a bigger role in Transformers: Age Of Extinction, but that doesn't make it any better. In fact, he’s barely used in the new movie and appears for a few barely coherent scenes in the film. I guess they wanted his name attached to the credits but didn’t want to actually use him?
Like John Goodman, Ken Watanabe is also the butt of a tasteless, this time racist “I can barely understand what you’re saying” joke, in reference to Watanabe’s thick Japanese accent. Like I said, you can count on Michael Bay to keep things classy. You’d think that someone who has been in films like Inception, Batman Begins, The Last Samurai, and countless Japanese classics, would be given a little more room to play with in the film… but it has become a pattern for these movies to blatantly misuse all of their heavyweight talent.
12 Steve Buscemi
Between being in awful Adam Sandler so-called comedies and lending his voice to the critically-panned Transformers: The Last Knight, Steve Buscemi has taken some pretty questionable movies under his resume... which is odd, because Buscemi is a really, really good actor! And I mean… really! He’s a veteran in Hollywood and his comedic timing is spot-on. Even when he’s in horrible movies alongside people who don’t know what comedy is, Buscemi always stands out as a genuinely funny character. But for a taste of his more dramatic acting chops, look no further than HBO’s hit series, Boardwalk Empire, in which Buscemi’s full range of acting talents is on glorious display.
The same cannot be said for his role in Transformers: The Last Knight, in which he plays some weirdo trinket collector robot named Daytrader. For a moment I thought he was Hound, until Hound stepped into the same frame, only for me to realize they were completely different robots. Buscemi’s role in the movie is barely a cameo; he shows up and is gone in a couple of minutes, never to be seen again. The only reason I knew it was Buscemi is because the robot’s eyes are made to look like Buscemi; wide-eyed and unmistakable.
11 Patrick Dempsey
There was a time when you could have sworn Patrick Dempsey was making it back into the Hollywood mainstream. For fans of Grey’s Anatomy, he was killing it on the show as the object of everyone’s sexual fantasies, Dr. Derek Sheperd aka McDreamy. And then he did Enchanted, which pretty much became a box-office smash hit and re-launched Dempsey’s name into the major league. It might not have been a smart decision to sign on for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon though… because between the chaos and clutter of that film, no one really even remembers him being in it.
Dempsey plays a douchebag named Dylan in the movie, who for some reason betrays humankind and starts to kiss-up to the bad guys to ensure he isn’t doomed and dominated like the rest of the people on Earth… or something along those lines. For what it’s worth, Dempsey plays the role pretty well. He’s still pulling that same “charming but might be a bad boy” trick that he uses on Grey’s, only this time the character dwindles down into a worm-like coward towards the third act of the film. As far as usage of talent is concerned, Dempsey was used pretty well in Dark Of The Moon.
10 Frances McDormand
She’s an Academy Award winning actor. You know her from contemporary cinema classics such as Fargo (the movie) and Almost Famous. She’s Frances McDormand, and in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon she plays… a throwaway character? Of course she does.
The wildly talented Frances McDormand plays Charlotte Mearing, head honcho of N.E.S.T, in the third installment of the Transformers series, and while I’d love to tell you that Charlotte Mearing is an important role that progresses the plot, it’s actually a role that could have been played by just about anyone. It definitely didn’t have to be Frances McDormand. I guess it’s cool that she makes an appearance in the movie to lend some star-power to it, but in all honesty, it’s just another case of wasted talent. Mearing’s whole moment is sealed inside a joke that goes along the lines of “Stop with the ma’am. Enough with the ma’am. Do I look like a ma’am?” And like many of the jokes in this entire series, it lands awkwardly and confuses the audience a little bit. I’d like to think that if the sheer amount of talent that was signed on to play minor roles over the course of this series was channeled properly, the Transformers series could have taken a very different, more positive direction.
9 John Malkovich
Since we’re on the subject of Academy Award winning and award nominated actors, let’s cue the mighty John Malkovich for a second. Now I’m not going to lie, I was thrilled when Malkovich showed up in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. I love the kind of comedy and gravitas he brings to his performances, and I couldn’t wait to see what he would do for this series. Sadly, even John Malkovich is reduced to minor comedic relief in the film that could have been done by just about anyone with half the talent and for a quarter of the paycheck.
John Malkovich pretty much plays a caricature of a cartoon tough-guy boss. He hires Sam Witwicky to work in the office mailroom, and the scene that gets us there is peppered with jokes that don’t land and are awkwardly edited. The same applies for most of Malkovich’s other scenes. It takes a real effort to show Malkovich in a bad light, but Michael Bay and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon managed to do just that. I almost completely forgot John Malkovich was even a part of these movies until I decided to re-watch the film a few weeks ago.
8 Zou Shiming
That’s right, if you blinked you may have missed it, but professional boxer and current WBO Flyweight Champion since 2016, Zou Shiming was in Transformers: Age Of Extinction! Arguably China’s most successful amateur boxer of all time, Zou shows up in a non-dialogue scene during the third act in the atrociously long fourth film of the Transformers franchise. In the scene, Stanley Tucci's character and Bingbing Li’s character enter an elevator in an attempt to escape a group of thugs, and in the lift so happens to be an average citizen with a bag of groceries, played by none other than Zou Shiming.
Of course, the thugs eventually catch-up to Tucci and Bingbing, and in the process provoke Zou’s character, which leads to the boxing champion going apesh*t with his fists on the random thug! It’s a mix of punches to the ribs, before Stanley Tucci’s character exhales with a “Wow.” Wow indeed. This is one of those things that was done right in the film. It was an appropriate cameo by a world-class athlete, and he even got to put some of those lightning fast jabs on display. It’s one of the few things this overly-long film got right.
7 Alan Tudyk
Alan Tudyk achieved peak geek immortality last year when he lent his voice and motion capture performance to the much-loved K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. What many people don’t realize is just how much voice-work Alan Tudyk has done over the years for a bevy of beloved shows like Family Guy, Adventure Time, and Young Justice. Heck, he even voiced Superman once in the DC animated film, Justice League: War.
In Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Alan Tudyk plays a character named Dutch, a special agent who goes berserk from time to time. And for what it’s worth, Tudyk knocks it out of the park! His lines are the usual kind of funny you’d get from a Michael Bay film, but the way he delivers those lines is what makes them work. However, the scene itself plays like any other scene from a Transformers movie: choppy, confusing, and with comedic timing that’s all over the place. Did I remember Alan Tudyk was in this movie? Heck no. Would I have loved to have seen him show up in future movies as the same character? You bet your ass I would!
6 Leonard Nimoy
Ah, the late great Leonard Nimoy. Known the world over as the definitive Spock from the classic Star Trek movies, Leonard Nimoy is considered one of the greatest pop culture and geek icons to have ever lived. And although I don’t really like the way the Transformers films have panned out, casting the legendary Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was, by all accounts, sheer genius! There’s no other way to describe it.
Not only does Nimoy play a Prime who predates Optimus himself, but he plays an integral, pivotal role in the movie that pretty much changes the course of the series forever. Everything before Dark Of The Moon was pretty much peachy with a few dents to bear… but the events of the third film acted as a catalyst to the new, destruction-ridden Earth we see in Age Of Extinction and beyond. All that was Sentinel Prime. And Leonard Nimoy delivering classic Spock lines with a twist in the movie, as well as the foreshadowing of his turn to evil via a screening of Star Trek itself in the movie was absolutely fantastic! Like I said, the movies are below average in my books, but everything about Sentinel Prime was handled with class and perfection.
5 Isabel Lucas
If you’ve seen Emerald City, Immortals, Knight Of Cups, The Water Diviner, or even Red Dawn, then you know who Isabel Lucas is. But before she gained popularity by doing all that, she played a pretty iconic (and I use that word loosely) character in the Transformers series. Back in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, Isabel plays the token hot blonde who takes a liking to Sam Witwicky for some reason. One thing leads to another and both Sam and Isabel are in Sam’s dorm room, and that’s when things get really steamy. Isabel straddles a very uncomfortable and reluctant Sam, and here’s where sh*t gets weird. From underneath Isabel Lucas’ skirt comes a metallic tail! Gasp! She’s a Decepticon! Who knew they could be so hot?!
In all seriousness, it’s a pretty dumb scene crafted by Michael Bay for one reason: so that the audience gets a giant-sized peek at Isabel Lucas’ ass. But in the context of the film series, that scene went down as a pretty memorable one. Isabel’s character, Alice, then springs a tentacle out of her mouth – tongue still wiggling at the end – to strangle and trap Sam Witwicky, before finally shedding her human skin to turn into a Decepticon!
4 Rainn Wilson
Since we’re talking about Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, let’s talk about another fleeting character in the movie, Professor Colan played by none other than Rainn Wilson. Now don’t get me wrong, Rainn Wilson is hilarious in most things. Obviously his magnum opus will always be The Office, arguably one of the funniest TV shows of all time. Unfortunately, the second movie in the Transformers series isn’t “most things.”
In this scene, Rainn plays a pervy professor who, despite all his outwardly creepy advances, all the college girls find attractive. The scene plays out like you would expect it to: quick cuts, big camera sweeps for no reason, and filled with jokes that don’t land. Rainn’s character then goes on to say he’s in charge of astronomy and mentions something about virgins, to which these college girls flirtatiously giggle again. I guess the idea of this being creepy is a concept that Michael Bay hasn’t exactly grasped yet. Anyway, Sam Witwicky proceeds to have some kind of robot-induced mental meltdown, to which Rainn’s professor responds to by saying he’s the alpha and the omega, before Sam leaves the class and the scene abruptly ends. Point of all this? None whatsoever.
3 Rachael Taylor
She’s Trish Walker in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Defenders, she was also Abby Sampson in the short-lived Charlie’s Angels TV show, and Dr. Lucy Fields in Grey’s Anatomy. But before all that, she was Maggie Madsen in the only good Transformers movie out of the five…the first one.
I’m not sure why Rachel Taylor was never brought back for more Transformers movies… or maybe she declined the offer because she sensed where the franchise was heading, but I always thought she did a damn good job at playing the analyst who breaks the code to the Transformers’ whereabouts. She had her own independent story going on as a parallel to Sam Witwicky’s journey, and I always felt like she could have come back to the franchise for more adventures alongside the Transformers. There was just something about that first movie that worked, even if it wasn’t perfect, and one of those positive aspects is undeniably Rachel Taylor and the way she played her character. In fact, her pairing with Anthony Anderson – another character that never made it back into the series - made for some good comedy in the first film.
2 Bernie Mac
Not many people remember this, but the late great Bernie Mac played the car salesman named Bobby Bolivia (a damn cool name if I ever saw one) who sold Bumblebee to Sam Witwicky and Sam’s bumbling father. Bernie makes a cameo appearance here, but he completely owns whatever time he’s given on screen and makes the role his own. He’s dodgy enough and damn sure charismatic enough in the role of a second-hand car salesman. Like I mentioned before, there was just something about the first Transformers – despite it not being perfect – that worked pretty well and made for a fun time at the movies. Bernie Mac’s cool little cameo was definitely one of those good things.
For whatever reason, Michael Bay knew how to do simple cameos in the first Transformers movie. They were fun, they had a little nod to pop culture in them, and they used the talent of the stars pretty well. Bernie Mac’s scene is pivotal to the franchise. It’s the starting point to everything else that’s about to ensue; every turn, every twist, and every scene of fullblown metal mayhem. It all started with Bernie Mac trying to sell what he thought was a piece of junk to the Witwicky family.
1 Odette Annable (Odette Yustman)
Yup, Odette Yustman is definitely a part of the Transformers series! She played Aubrey in October Road, Annie in Brothers & Sisters, Dr. Jessica Adams in House, and she has even starred in a horror flick or two such as Cloverfield and The Unborn. Let’s just say her resume picked up dramatically after her role in the first Transformers movie. And no, I’m not saying it’s because of Transformers since her role was pretty much a “blink and you’ll miss it” type thing, but it shows that she was just getting started at that point.
Odettle Yustman, who now goes by the name Odette Annable, simply plays an unnamed character billed as “socialite” in Transformers. It pretty much means she was an extra in the movie. I will say this though, Michael Bay could benefit from her coming back to the franchise. Heck, he brought Stanley Tucci back to play a completely different character in The Last Knight, with zero connection to Tucci’s character in Age Of Extinction, so I don’t see why bringing Odette Annable back would be an issue. Either way, this is one role you can’t forget because it wasn’t supposed to be memorable to begin with, but it just goes to show how many celebrities have actually graced these movies with their talents.