There used to be a time when only die-hard comic book fans knew what Stan Lee looked like. His likeness appeared in many of the Marvel comic books for the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but to the average person, he was nothing more than a guy with some shaded glasses.
Then Hollywood started putting the guy in some movies. He’s never had a very big part, but to honor the man for helping to create some of the most legendary superheroes (and some of the biggest moneymakers for the movie business), Lee has been given customary cameos in almost every major movie that has been made from characters he helped create.
Those who have seen The Amazing Spider-Man (which should be most of you faithful readers, by now) were treated to one of his best and funniest cameos yet. And with more Marvel movies coming down the pike, he’s sure to show up many times again. This gave us a chance to look back on his many appearances over the years and assemble a list of his ten best cameos.
10. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) – Jury Foreman
This makes the list mainly because it is his first cameo in a Marvel movie, playing the jury foreman. Sure, it was a made-for-TV movie, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Plus, he actually gets a line in this one (which amounts to him saying the Hulk is “a big guy!” right before the jury box is ripped apart). We’re not sure if this earned Lee a SAG or AFTRA card, but it was the first step for him.
9. X-Men (2000) – Hot Dog Vendor
Like his appearance in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, this gets a mention because it was a first. With X-Men as the first Marvel movie to kick off the string of superhero films we have today, it was a nice gesture for Bryan Singer to let Stan the Man grab some screen time when Senator Kelly washes up on the beach. Ironically, Lee would only make one other cameo in an X-Men movie (X-Men: The Last Stand), even though there have been five movies made in the franchise.
8. Fantastic Four (2005) – Willie Lumpkin
Stan Lee’s appearance as postman Willie Lumpkin in the first Fantastic Four movie gets points for actually being something more than a walk-on role. In the comics, Willie actually gets some ink. Sadly, the character wasn’t developed in the sequel, so it ranks a little lower by being underutilized.
7. Hulk (2003) – Security Guard
As bad as this movie was, it featured one of the early speaking cameos of Stan Lee, as a security guard. It was even better because he is seen on screen arguing with another security guard, played by the original Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno. Get to this cameo, and turn off the movie. You’ll be better for it.
6. Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Inspirational Speaker
Like Hulk, Spider-Man 3 was skewered by critics, but the Stan Lee cameo it contained was a highlight of the film. While Peter Parker is contemplating Spidey getting the key to the city and how that will affect his personal life, Stan the Man shows up to give him some inspirational words of advice. ‘Nuff said.
5. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Radiation Victim
Again, Lee appears as a person integral to the plot rather than just a walk-on gawker. In this film, he is the unfortunate soul who drinks the soda that contains Bruce Banner’s blood. It doesn’t end so well for him, but it does serve as a device for General Ross to track Banner down and get the story started.
4. Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010) – Not Hugh Hefner and Not Larry King
What’s neat about Lee’s cameos in the Iron Man movies is they are loosely related. He shows up in Iron Man as a guest at a party whom Tony Stark mistakes for Hugh Hefner. Not to be outdone in the sequel, Stark mistakes him for Larry King. It makes one wonder whom Lee will be mistaken for in Iron Man 3.
3. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – Stan Lee
Even though it was sad to not see Lee reprise his role as Willie Lumpkin, he got a choice part in this movie. As guests are being let into the wedding of Sue Storm and Reed Richards, we see Stan Lee trying to talk his way in, insisting that he is the real Stan Lee. Sadly, the guy at the door doesn’t believe him.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – SPOILER ALERT
If you haven’t seen the new film, we suggest skipping ahead to the next entry. You’ll thank yourself later.
Are all Amazing Spider-Man virgins gone? Good.
Let’s face it, this was the inspiration for this list because it’s such a clever way to insert Lee into the film. While Spidey and the Lizard are duking it out through the high school, we see Stan the librarian jamming with his ear buds in. It’s one of the few cameos that require no lines but is extremely memorable. At this point, it’s the best walk-on (or shall we say “dance-on”) in the entire run of Marvel movies.
1. Mallrats (1995) – Stan Lee
Like his role in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Lee got a chance to portray himself. He also got a meaty chunk of dialogue, which he handled well enough for a Kevin Smith movie, professional actor or not. This is not in an actual Marvel movie, but it’s one of the best roles he’s ever played on screen.
And you can’t help but wonder how often he’s been asked about superhero genitalia over the years.
Lee has had cameos in seven other movies, though many of these are walk-ons or short one-liners. They’re worth keeping track of, though. Here they are in chronological order.
Spider-Man (2002) – Man grabbing kid out of the way of falling debris
Daredevil (2003) – Guy reading paper who is almost killed crossing the street
Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Man grabbing hot woman out of the way of falling debris
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – Guy watering lawn outside Jean Grey’s house
Thor (2011) – Redneck truck driver trying to pull Thor’s hammer out of the dirt
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Audience member who mistakes someone else for Cap
The Avengers (2012) – TV interviewee who doesn’t believe superheroes are in New York
If you want to check out most of these cameos:
And for a clip of The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, visit Reelz.com.
What’s your favorite Stan Lee Cameo?