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The Best Sci-Fi Movie Cameos You Never Knew About

Cameos have long been a part of movies, dating back to the heyday of Alfred Hitchcock and beyond. But now, with freeze-framing and back-skipping buttons on controllers, viewers pore over the latest blockbusters like never before, perusing frames like Sherlock Holmes in an endless search for Easter eggs, secret appearances, and references to other parts of a cinematic universe. 

Often made without any overt fanfare, and involving well-known figures, when done right a cameo can be a delightful, rewarding wink between filmmaker and audience, coming together in a shared appreciation for the star and/or character in question. Done incorrectly it can feel leaden, bring the film to a screeching halt, or even pointless.

Sometimes, the best cameos come in science fiction films. The nature of the genre allows famous stars to remain relatively secret, playing a game of hide-and-seek with fans often involving costumes, makeup or voices. Below, some of the greatest sci-fi cameos that are so secretive you might have missed them.

Greg Grunberg (2009's Star Trek)

Grunberg is no stranger to appearing in J.J. Abrams projects. Over the years, he has had roles in everything from "Alias" to "Lost," even playing a starfighter pilot in Abrams' "The Rise of Skywalker" and some other Star Wars projects. In total, he has appeared in more than a dozen films and television series that Abrams has had some involvement with, as the two are old friends and have remained close over the years. So it made sense when Grunberg popped up in Abrams' 2009 high-profile reboot of "Star Trek."

Bringing in new "Trek" series stars like Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana, the film introduced an alternate reality where Kirk, Spock, Uhura and the others looked very different, in many cases diving into their freshly-reimagined origin stories.

Grunberg has a brief cameo as Kirk's alcoholic stepfather Frank, who remains unseen and is only briefly heard at the start of the story. As it turns out, the "Heroes" star was originally designated to play the character Chief Engineer Olson (ultimately portrayed by Greg Ellis), but was forced to miss out on the role due to other commitments.

Mark Hamill (various Star Wars projects)

It might seem strange to say that Mark Hamill would have a cameo in Star Wars, a franchise in which he has served as a primary face for decades. But Hamill and the creative minds at Lucasfilm have made a game out of sneaking him into a variety of films and television shows in recent years, many in non-Luke Skywalker roles. Of course, a big part of this franchise rebirth is Hamill's career evolution into an in-demand voice actor.

"Did you know... I voiced multiple secret voice-cameos in every #StarWars movie released since 2015?" he tweeted.

In 2021, Hamill pulled back the curtain on his cameos, often credited under the name William M. Patrick — a moniker dedicated to the actor's brothers. These include voicing EV-9D9 on "The Mandalorian," Darth Bane in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," Boolio in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," and additional characters in both "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

Bradley Cooper (10 Cloverfield Lane)

An indirect follow-up to J.J. Abrams' 2008 found footage monster film, "10 Cloverfield Lane" is not a direct sequel to "Cloverfield" in the traditional sense; nevertheless, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman channel the same unsettling, mysterious vibes of the predecessor, trapped inside a bunker as aliens launch an invasion that makes the surface of Earth seemingly inhospitable. 

Bradley Cooper — an Abrams alumni from his "Alias" days — has a brief cameo in the movie at the start. He voices the character Ben, the fiancé of main character Michelle, in a phone call as the couple argue and attempt to reconcile before Michelle's vehicle crashes off the road. According to director Dan Trachtenberg, the role hadn't been officially cast during early production, and members of the crew had tried out.

"We found that we hadn't cast this voice on the phone. And a lot of people in the production office were giving it a shot. I almost hopped in there myself," Trachtenberg explained in the wake of the film's release. "But J.J. was like, maybe Bradley Cooper will do this. They have a history. And I was like, sure. And thankfully, Bradley was really stoked."

Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

As 11 Oscar nominations will attest, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is one of the best films of 2022; the trippy, heartfelt sci-fi adventure follows Michelle Yeoh's Evelyn Quan as she attempts to save the multiverse from being destroyed, connecting with parallel versions of herself in different universes. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the filmmakers appears multiple times in secretive cameos throughout the film.

Scheinert revealed in a 2022 interview that the filmmaking duo often try to appear in their own movies. In "Everything," they have a number of cameos; perhaps the most amusing is in the film's offbeat tribute to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" segment. Scheinert portrays one of the apes (there's even a photo of him between takes), who boasts hot-dog fingers (if you've seen the movie, you'll understand) and beats to death a normal- handed ape.

Miley Cyrus (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no stranger to cameos, with high-profile names such as Matt Damon, Kevin Bacon and Megan Thee Stallion showing up for short but memorable roles — and Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee making cameos in Marvel films for years. 

One cameo in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," however, may have gone unnoticed by many viewers. In the James Gunn follow-up to the ongoing adventures of Star-Lord and his misfit gang of rogue adventurers, singer/actor Miley Cyrus made a small appearance — well, at least her voice did. 

It seems that filmmaker James Gunn approached Cyrus because he was a fan of her voice and wanted to include her in some way. She was amenable to the idea, and ultimately ended up voicing a robot in the mid-credits scene when the various Ravagers gather to mourn the loss of Yondu. She only has a single line and doesn't appear anywhere else in the film, saying: "I miss you guys so much."

Kevin Peter Hall (Predator)

The 1987 John McTiernan film "Predator" kickstarted a new sci-fi action franchise that would eventually lead to multiple crossovers with the "Alien" franchise and various reboots that include the well-received 2022 prequel "Prey." The original film, however, starred a murder's row of testosterone, from Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a military special forces soldier) to Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, all navigating a Central America jungle while pursued by an alien creature hunting them for sport.

The Predator creature itself was embodied by Kevin Peter Hall, a former professional basketball player who stood at a towering 7 foot 2 inches. Before his death in 1991, Hall appeared in a number of television shows and movies as costumed characters, from the bigfoot Harry in "Harry and the Hendersons" to the Caldonian Leyor on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." This made him the perfect choice to take on the role of the alien creature, although he only got the part after replacing Jean-Claude Van Damme, who had already shot a number of scenes.

Portraying the Predator meant that Hall's face was obscured for the entirety of the film, so director McTiernan gave him some facetime via a cameo. Hall can be seen as the helicopter pilot that rescues the team at the end of the movie — giving his efforts a subtle ironic counterbalance as Hall brings to life both the threat to the team and a salvation for those who remain.

Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy)

When "Tron" released in 1982, it didn't receive the critical or commercial success that was hoped for, but nonetheless found a second life as a cult classic. This eventually led Disney to greenlight a sequel, bringing Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner back to their original roles and adding new characters played by Michael Sheen, Olivia Wild, Garrett Hedlund and more. Set some 20 years after the original story, the sequel concentrates on Kevin Flynn's son Sam (Hedlund) and his attempt to stop the computer program Clu from launching an invasion upon the world.

Daft Punk played a key role in the production of "Tron: Legacy," as the electronic duo was responsible for the soundtrack of the film and composed the entire musical score. But they also contributed to the 2010 movie in another way, appearing in a cameo that the vast majority of viewers likely missed entirely. Both members of the group appear as DJs in the background of a fight scene in a nightclub, wearing outfits similar to what  Daft Punk normally wears anyway. While the pair don't have any close-up shots or lines to speak, they make their presence known.

Tom Hardy (The Last Jedi)

Whatever you think of the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy, there's little denying that the three films that close out the Skywalker Saga had their fair share of problems. Perhaps the most maligned of them was "The Last Jedi," the 2017 installment that was directed by Rian Johnson and directly continues the story of "The Force Awakens." Featuring returning actors such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, the movie also sees newcomers Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega continue their journeys as the Resistance battles against the First Order.

Anyone who has seen "The Last Jedi" will be aware that it has a rather large cast, but one figure that viewers will not have seen is Tom Hardy. That's for two reasons: he was under a stormtrooper helmet, and his scene was cut. 

The English actor, best known for his roles in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Inception," filmed a rather comedic cameo where he played a Stormtrooper. In the deleted scene, this Stormtrooper recognizes Finn as he attempts to infiltrate a First Order base but misunderstands the situation, believing the defector has been promoted to an intelligence position.

Steven Spielberg (Vanilla Sky)

"Vanilla Sky" is a 2001 science fiction thriller directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Tom Cruise. Disfigured in a car accident, the character wears a mask to hide his face and begins to experience strange events in the world that lead to him being imprisoned for murder. It soon becomes clear that Cruise's character is living in a simulated world.

Midway through the movie, there is a party scene where Cruise's David is celebrating his birthday. Many people come up to wish him a happy birthday, including legendary director Steven Spielberg. He walks up to Cruise's character and gives him a hug in a brief, two-second cameo. Spielberg, who would soon go on to work with the actor in "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," was visiting the set at the time when the scene was being recorded and Crowe asked him to appear, something Spielberg was happy to do.

Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Out of all of Stanley Kubrick's films, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is arguably the most confusing and complex. Spread across millennia, the main story focuses on two astronauts sent to Jupiter onboard an advanced space shuttle to unknowingly investigate an alien monolith that keeps reappearing throughout human history. They are aided on this mission by a sentient supercomputer known as HAL, who malfunctions and attempts to kill everyone inside the ship.

Fans of the famously reclusive director might be surprised to learn that he has a hidden cameo in the film. The filmmaker can be heard rather than seen, as the two astronauts leave the Discovery to go outside into space. Naturally, they are wearing space suits, and heavy breathing can be heard as they make their way through the airlock. Believe it or not, that heavy breathing was actually recorded by none other than Kubrick himself.

Hugh Jackman (Free Guy)

One of the few video game movies that has ever been any good, "Free Guy" is a 2021 action comedy that has Ryan Reynolds taking on the role of an NPC in a game who gains sentience and works with a real-life player to uncover a conspiracy. Jodie Comer, Channing Tatum, and Taika Waititi co-star, and actors such as Chris Evans make cameos, as do some famous items from movie history, such as a lightsaber and Captain America's vibranium shield.

One cameo you may have been missed, however, is Hugh Jackman. It is entirely possible to watch "Free Guy" and not even realize Jackman is in the movie. That's because the character he plays wears a suit that covers his entire body and face. 

Hiding away in an alley, this shadowy figure offers to sell Comer's Molotovgirl information that could help with her quest; he then gets shot. Jackman and Reynolds have had something of a cheeky relationship over the years, with the two pretending to feud in various ways. However, the two are also close friends and Jackman is set to appear in "Deadpool 3" alongside the titular anti-hero.

Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright (Land of the Dead)

George A. Romero's "Living Dead" films, in many ways, defined the modern concept of the zombie. The release of "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968 terrified audiences with the concept of a zombie outbreak, and it was followed by 1978's "Dawn of the Dead," 1985's "Day of the Dead" and a fourth film that featured cameos from two quickly-rising fellow legends of the genre.

2005's "Land of the Dead" was the fourth entry, following a group of Pittsburgh-based survivors trying to keep the zombies at bay. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg had written and released "Shaun of the Dead" in 2004, and when they were offered the opportunity to help populate the genre they had so lovingly spoofed, they jumped at the chance to appear in a Romero movie. 

The pair even filmed a video log charting the experience, showing them in makeup and joking with the director as two zombies. They can be seen in the final cut of the film as the two zombies that are chained up in a zombie photo booth. The pair were asked to take part by Romero himself, who was a self-confessed "Shaun" fan.

Daniel Craig (The Force Awakens)

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced that new "Star Wars" movies would be entering production, fans were understandably excited. This anticipation only grew when it was revealed that the likes of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would all be returning to the franchise alongside a host of new characters. While fans might not have been fully satisfied with the results, "The Force Awakens" began a new chapter in the Skywalker Saga and revitalized the "Star Wars" franchise as we know it today.

A well hidden cameo in the J.J. Abrams film involves none other than James Bond himself. Actor Daniel Craig was at Pinewood Studios for a 007  when "The Force Awakens" was being filmed. In 2021, Craig revealed that he is a fan of the series and persuaded the crew to let him make a secret cameo.

"I love [Star Wars], of course I do," he explained. "I wouldn't have asked to be in them if I wasn't a fan." 

Craig's friendship with assistant director Ben Dixon helped, and he was in a scene the next day as a Stormtrooper that Rey tricks into releasing her while she is imprisoned on Starkiller Base. So, if you've ever wondered who wins in a fight between James Bond and a Jedi, now you have your answer.