Yesterday we lost a true legend in pop culture, Stan Lee. A personal idol of mine and the former chairman of Marvel who helped the company become a comic book juggernaut Lee was an icon to many, helping originate countless superheroes many of which have earned cinematic adaptations. I thought hard about how I was going to honor this man and legend on my blog. This is a movie blog after all and I like to keep things pretty on topic. That said Stan Lee was not a movie star, but many did consider him a master of the cameo as he appeared in all 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date as well as other Marvel-based properties that have hit theaters. While it has been confirmed we will see Lee at least one more time in the MCU in next years’ “Avengers 4” I felt the most appropriate way to honor this man and have a little fun at the same time was to put these cameos front and center. So, to honor Stan Lee and his legacy here are my picks for the Top 10 Stan Lee Cameos on Marvel Movies.
For this list I looked at all of Stan Lee’s cameos in specifically Marvel-based properties. That means I excluded other amazing cameos like his appearance in “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” (a DC property) and “Mallrats”. I also excluded appearances in television shows. This list was specifically made to look at what I consider the most memorable, fun and even silly appearances by Stan Lee in movie’s based on Marvel properties whether they were animated, live action, speaking roles or just quick glimpses of Lee.
I didn’t bother getting too technical with this list. I just wanted to pay homage to a man who helped create a comic book empire that brought me some of my favorite movies and my favorite superhero, Captain America. So, this list is completely subjective. I just decided which ones I felt where the most enjoyable of Lee’s cameos from his extensive library of surprise appearances.
Also I will be discussing at least ONE cameo from a movie still in theaters and some of these appearances are plot related so a SPOILER ALERT is in order.
That said my favorite may not be your favorite. So please let me know in the comments below what you’re favorite Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel movie is. Rest in peace Stan Lee and thank you for inspiring the imagination in all of us. You will forever be a legend!
Let’s start with the latest cameo from Stan Lee and the final one before his death. Lee appears near the end of 2018’s smash hit “Venom”, a movie based on the anti-hero and sometimes villain of one of Lee’s most beloved superhero creations, Spider-Man. In these final scenes we see Eddie Brock walking away from a conversation with his love interest Anne with Venom still part of Eddie’s being. Seemingly aware of Eddie’s situation of having two entities in the same body Lee tells “either” of them not to give up on her, meaning Anne. It’s a clear wink to the audience that Lee’s character, assumed to be the same Watcher character he plays in the MCU, is aware of Venom’s existence and Brock just goes with it clearly amused that the man seems to know his secret. If you haven’t seen Venom yet this doesn’t spoil too much for you but if you’re still interested in seeing this moment play out all the same the first 30 seconds of the above video is the best we get until the movie is released on hard copy next year or until YouTube takes it down.
“Thor” was the third standalone addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and focuses on the Marvel hero of the same named themed after the Norse god of thunder. This cameo always amuses me when I see it because it features Stan Lee as one of many people trying to move Thor’s legendary hammer Mjolnir which has been sent down to Earth by Odin after Thor’s exile earlier in the film. Due to the magic placed upon it only those worthy of the hammer can move it so no one is having any luck getting it to budge. Lee finally takes matters into his own hands and ties a chain attached to a truck to try and move the hammer resulting in the bed being ripped off when the hammer still won’t move. In the aftermath Lee nonchalantly asks if it worked and clearly looks like he’s having a good time even though he just caused a lot of expensive damage to his vehicle in the process.
One of Lee’s earlier cameos in the 2000s this is one of two appearances in Hulk movies Lee made over the years and while his second appearance in “The Incredible Hulk” was actually a plot appropriate cameo this one from 2003’s “Hulk” is more amusing and a much bigger wink to the audience. Why? Because Lee plays a security guard walking out of Bruce Banner’s lab. Now if it were just Stan Lee this wouldn’t be anything special, but it’s not just him. He’s paired up with Lou Ferrigno who portrayed the Hulk on the small screen years before the cinematic interpretation. Both Lee and Ferrigno appear in the MCU version of the Hulk story, but here they appear together as one big unified tribute to the legacy of the Hulk. It’s a perfect use of Stan Lee’s time giving fan both the man who created the Hulk and the man who literally brought the Hulk to life in a movie that introduced the character to a wider audience on the big screen for the first time.
7. “Age of Ultron”
In the second “Avengers” movie Stan Lee has a slightly bigger part than his previous cameos doing more than just interacting with the heroes he helped make famous but actually trying to go toe to toe with them at a party, at least at the bar. In this cameo Lee is a military veteran attending a get-together at Avengers Tower and comes across Captain American and Thor drinking an alcoholic substance from Asgard, one that Thor says is not fit for human consumption. Lee, who was actually a veteran in real life, exclaims he fought on Omaha Beach so nothing scares him and asks for a shot. Not a moment later we see Lee being carried off by his friends having lost his bought with the Asgardian liquor. In a drunken stopper he can only say one word, “Excelsior”, a catch phrase he often uttered in his day-to-day meetings with fans in real life. Lee actually called this his favorite cameo and it’s still one of my favorites as well.
6. “Fantastic Four”
Stan Lee made several appearances before his cameo in 2005’s “Fantastic Four” and it’s not even a big part. He’s just a mailman. So why is this so high on this list? Well it may not have been Lee’s first ever cameo, but it was the first time he played a real character from the comics. For the first time Stan Lee played a character from his own comic book worlds as Willie Lumpkin who was a consistent side character in the adventures of Marvels’ first family of superheroes. While Lee’s appearance in the sequel is also a great cameo as a guest to Sue Storm and Reed Richards wedding who tries to explain he is Stan Lee apparently trying to see two of his characters get hitched, this first cameo has much more significance to fans and is much less in you’re face. It actually makes Lee part of this world and makes his appearance feel much more warranted than many other cameos.
5. “The Avengers”
Stan Lee made a quick appearance in Marvel’s culmination of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from 2012, “The Avengers”, which brought together several heroes to all work together to battle a common enemy. It was a spectacular blockbuster affair that broke records and proved that the MCU wasn’t just for show. Stan Lee’s cameo in the aftermath of the battle might be quick but it’s actually more significant than you might initially believe. Lee is one of many people being interviewed on new channels after the Battle of New York as he is seen laughing off the idea of costumed heroes being in New York. On one hand this is a delightfully ironic nod to Marvels’ constant use of New York as a backdrop in their comics and Stan Lee’s own involvement with superheroes, but on the other hand it can also be seen as Stan Lee poking fun at those who may have seen his ideas and dedication to comic books as stupid, immature or a waste of time. Regardless of how deep you want to look into it this is a fitting cameo and a fun one to help cap off the first “Avengers” movie.
4. “Big Hero 6”
Believe it or not, yes Stan Lee does cameo in the animated Disney movie based on the Marvel property “Big Hero 6”. Lee’s likeness is used as the inspiration for the character Fred’s father and we even see a picture of him earlier in the movie. Fred is the most obsessed member of the group with the idea for them to become a team of crime fighting superheroes. Lee actually does the vocal performance for Fred’s dad in the post-credits scene where he tells Fred they have much to talk about as Fred learns his family has a legacy of superhero activity. This was among the more unexpected and pleasantly surprising Stan Lee cameos for me personally. The design of his character is spot on and making him a father figure with a son who wants to be a superhero is absolutely perfect. Also, once again we find that Lee is playing someone who actually exists in this animated world, even if it’s an original character, and not just a random person there for a fun quick moment. While Lee had no part in creating the original “Big Hero 6” comics it’s still pretty neat to see him included in a project loosely based on one of Marvels’ more obscure properties.
3. “The Amazing Spider-Man”
A lot of fans see this as Stan Lee’s most hilarious cameo and I have to agree it’s up there. Spider-Man has long been one of Stan Lee and Marvels’ most popular and beloved characters to when Sony rebooted the franchise it was a no-brainer to include Stan Lee in some form especially since he appeared in all three of the Sam Raimi led films. In “The Amazing Spider-Man” Lee play a librarian at Peter Parker’s school who is wearing headphones blaring classical music. Spider-Man and the Lizard storm in, destroying the place in their conflict but the music is so loud Lee’s character doesn’t hear anything going on behind him. He’s completely oblivious making for a hilarious highlight moment of the film that still remains one of the movie’s best scenes. The fitting and ironic setting with two characters creating chaos in a place meant for silence and tranquility while the person in charge of keeping things quiet is completely out of touch with his surroundings all adds up to one of Lee’s most effectively amusing cameos. Also, Lee’s character is almost hit by a table and doesn’t even flinch. Classic!
2. “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2”
There’ a lot of reasons this cameo is this high on the list. First off, it’s one of Lee’s biggest cameos. He’s featured not once, but twice as the same character appearing in one scene in the middle of the film and then again in one of the movie’s post credit scenes. But what makes this appearance so special more than anything else is that “Guardians: Volume 2” was the film that confirmed once and for all a fan theory that had been floating around for a while, that Stan Lee’s cameos are all connected and that he plays the same character in every one. This appearance confirms Stan Lee as The Watcher, an intergalactic being watching over Earth and other civilizations and reporting back to his fellow Watchers about his experiences. He even calls back to some of his highlight moments in the MCU when we first see him talking to the other Watchers. It’s just such a cool revelation and one built on an idea that THE FANS came up with before it was even made canon in the MCU. It makes Stan Lee more than just a recurring joke, it makes him an essential piece of the lore within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
1. “Spider-Man 3”
I couldn’t think of a better cameo than “Spider-Man 3” to top this list for a lot of reasons. It’s the first time Lee’s character talks directly to Spider-Man after simply helping save people from falling debris in the first two movies. But the best part of this cameo is what Stan Lee has to say. He looks at his most popular hero and says, “I guess one person can make a difference” following it up with his famous catchphrase “’Nuff said” and this is such a Stan Lee thing to say too. This whole statement, the way he carries himself, and the way he says it encapsulates everything Stan Lee taught the world during his time on Earth. His most important lesson was that anyone can be a hero. Anyone can make a difference. It’s not just him inspiring Spider-Man, it’s him inspiring us. Every hero he ever helped create had to step up to the task of changing the world and they were created to show us all that one person can make the difference. Even before his death this cameo was a fan favorite and now that he’s gone this moment stands even truer as a perfect moment that captures everything Stan Lee stood for.