Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

TV Cameos By Legendary Film Directors

Television guest stars can come in many forms. Sometimes, a prominent Hollywood actor makes a surprise appearance on the small screen for a one-off role. Other times it's a star from another TV series popping in for a visit. However, occasionally it's not an actor at all, as some TV cameos have featured a legendary big-screen director showing up as a guest star on a sitcom or primetime drama. Often you may not even recognize them, as directors are usually not the well-known faces that audiences would recognize. You might only know who they are by the episode's credits.

Some directors on this list started out as actors earlier in their careers before making the transition behind the camera to become full-time directors, while others rarely act at all. We've opted to leave off the instances in which a Hollywood director cameos as his or herself — mostly because the list would be way too long if we didn't. 

Instead, we've assembled a list of directors who have made cameos in other projects as new and unrelated characters, such as Taika Waititi's voice role as IG-11 in "The Mandalorian." Want to know who else made our list? Scroll on, as you might just be surprised by which legendary Hollywood movie directors have had cameo roles on small screen TV shows.

Quentin Tarantino in Alias

Directors end up in TV cameos for a variety of reasons, but one of the best is when they are a fan of the series and can link up with the people in charge of making the show. Such was the case when Quentin Tarantino appeared in an episode of the J.J. Abrams-produced action-comedy series, "Alias." 

The series that catapulted Jennifer Garner to stardom was the brainchild of then-TV producer Abrams long before he became a notable studio director himself, and among its fans was Tarantino, director of "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs." In the episode, Tarantino appears as McKenas Cole, a former agent of SD-6 who series regular Arvin Sloane had left behind during a dangerous mission years before. Cole re-emerges in "The Box," a two-part episode that sees him looking for revenge on his old colleague.

The appearance came about after Abrams became aware of Tarantino's affection for the series. In the book "Uncovering Alias: An Unofficial Guide," Abrams spoke of the origins of the director's appearance, saying, "I knew Quentin a little bit from years ago. I just heard he was a huge fan of the show and he was interested in being a part of it and I called him and we made it happen. We were writing a part that I thought would be really funny and perfect for him."

Rob Reiner in New Girl

Rob Reiner was a successful TV actor before he turned to directing, having starred for nine seasons in the 1970s sitcom "All In The Family." He become even better known for his work behind the camera, filming memorable comedies like "The Princess Bride," and "When Harry Met Sally," and the courtroom drama "A Few Good Men." 

Since then, he's played a number of small parts in movies, mostly his own, and had guest spots in a handful of TV shows that have included one-off appearances in "30 Rock" and "Frasier," while also appearing as himself in a number of shows. However, it's his recurring role in the 2011 sitcom "New Girl" that brought him back to the attention of modern audiences, where he starred in eight episodes as Zooey Deschanel's divorced father Bob Day.

When we first meet Bob it's Thanksgiving, in the 2012 episode "Parents" where he appears alongside his ex-wife Joan, played by none other than Hollywood scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Bob would reappear in several further holiday episodes, sometimes with Joan, sometimes alone. His ongoing story of trying to find love as a retired older man goes through peaks and valleys — he winds up briefly married to a woman his daughter's age — before seeing him ride into the sunset with the owner of his local diner. Reiner would make 11 appearances on "New Girl", and has been called one of the series' best guest stars.

Ron Howard in The Odd Couple

Following the death of Garry Marshall, the 2013 series "The Odd Couple," a remake of the classic sitcom he developed, decided to pay tribute to the legendary producer and director. No, they didn't resurrect him with CGI to make a creepy post mortem guest appearance but instead had actors from his previous shows pop up in cameos in the episode "Taffy Days." 

In that episode, Oscar — played by "Friends" alum Matthew Perry — takes a trip to a special place to scatter the ashes of his late father, who Garry Marshall had previously played. As a way of paying last respects to Marshall, the many actors from his previous series, such as "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley," appeared guest star as people from Oscar's late father's life, including Marion Ross, Cindy Williams, Anson Williams, and Don Most. 

However, it is legendary Hollywood director Ron Howard, the filmmaker behind classics as "Apollo 13," "A Beautiful Mind," and "Backdraft" that qualifies the episode for this list. Howard appears as the lawyer representing Oscar's father's estate. Howard, of course, — who also created the hit TV series "Arrested Development" and has made a handful of appearances there and elsewhere as himself — famously played the role of Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days." Eventually, he'd make the move from actor to director, beginning with his debut effort, the 1977 film "Grand Theft Auto," which he also wrote and starred in.

Taika Waititi in The Mandalorian

Like many of the other filmmakers on this list, Taika Waititi got his start as an actor first, mainly in productions out of his native New Zealand. Waititi directed a few smaller pictures while making the leap to Hollywood, where he would appear in supporting roles in movies like "Green Lantern" and "The Boy," before his breakout effort "What We Do in the Shadows." After that, he'd be best known as a director, helming "Hunt for the Wilder People" before going mainstream with the Marvel film' "Thor: Ragnarok." 

Waititi would continue to appear in front of the camera, mostly in his own movies, but would have perhaps his most notable cameo in the Disney+ streaming series "The Mandalorian." Even though he was already slated to direct an episode of the series, he also took on the recurring voice role of IG-11, who appears in three episodes. 

IG-11 is a robotic bounty hunter of the same model as the infamous mercenary seen in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back," IG-88. In "The Mandalorian," IG-11 is a ruthless killer droid hired to hunt down Grogu, aka the Child. However, the titular Mandalorian destroys IG-11 in the final scene of the series premiere. He later returns, rebuilt and reprogrammed as Grogu's protector, after which he soon become a fan-favorite character, in no small part thanks to Waititi's sardonic characterization.

David Cronenberg in Star Trek: Discovery

Director David Cronenberg is responsible for some of the oddest and enigmatic films of the past 40 years, including "Videodrome," "Scanners," "The Dead Zone," and the 1986 remake of "The Fly" starring Jeff Goldblum. Famous for using horrific visual imagery and tackling unusual — almost avant-garde — stories, his films have often defied conventional labels. 

However, now and again the famed director pops up in front of the camera too, with cameo appearances in films like "Jason X" and "To Die For." He's made several guest appearances on television too, including in "Alias," "Happy Town," and "The Newsroom," but more recently he's had a recurring role as the mysterious Kovich in Seasons 3 and 4 of "Star Trek: Discovery."

There, Cronenberg plays an agent of the Federation who seems to have knowledge and experience far beyond his station and more than anyone else viewers have yet to meet in the series. Some have theorized that his character could be the head of Starfleet Intelligence or even a member of the shadowy black ops organization, Section 31. Whatever the nature of Kovich might be, Cronenberg has made it more than a one-off cameo, appearing in three episodes of Season 3 and more in Season 4, as he revealed to Entertainment Weekly.

John Landis in Dream On

"Dream On" was an HBO sitcom that ran for six seasons, from 1990 to 1996. In the 1990s, HBO wasn't nearly as many households as it is today, so the series wasn't widely appreciated. However, its two creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, would work together once again after the series ended and create a show that proved to have a much broader popular appeal, NBC's "Friends." "Dream On," however, was also executive produced by Hollywood director John Landis, the man behind such comedy classics as "Animal House," "The Blues Brothers," and "Trading Places." He would direct 17 of the series' 120 episodes himself, but it's his single episode cameo that gets him on this list.

In the episode "Where There's Smoke, You're Fired," Landis turns up as a therapist helping Judith, played by series regular Wendie Malick, as she tries to cope with a crisis at work. Landis would seldom appear on TV outside of "Dream On" though, with other notable guest spots in front of the camera including the TV miniseries "The Stand," a small part in an episode of "Psychoville" and as himself in two episodes of "Holliston," which starred Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

David Lynch in Louie

Louie C.K.'s series "Louie" on FX featured an episode called "Late Show," a three-part story where the title character — a fictionalized version of Louie C.K. — prepares to shoot the pilot episode of his own talk show. The episode features a few different cameos, from TV producer Garry Marshall as Lars Tardigan, who plays a network bigwig who brings Louie in to replace outgoing host David Letterman, to Jerry Seinfeld as himself. However, the real surprise cameo here is auteur director David Lynch, of "Twin Peaks" and "Mulholland Drive" fame, who guested as Jack Dall, a Hollywood veteran who helps coach Louie through his audition for the prestigious, high profile gig.

Casting the role of Dall didn't come easy for producer and star Louie C.K., who went through a litany of big names, including Woody Allen, Al Pacino, and Martin Scorsese. None seemed particularly interested in the part until C.K. settled on the idea of David Lynch and wouldn't let go, telling The New York Times, "This is the only guy that could ever do it. If I don't get David Lynch, I'm not doing it." After a lengthy back and forth with the director, Lynch and C.K. would settle on the terms of his appearance, and Dall came to life. 

John Waters in My Name Is Earl

Celebrated indie director John Waters has made some of the most infamous films in Hollywood history, from "Pink Flamingos" to "Hairspray." As eccentric a figure as you'll find in Hollywood — and that's saying something — his distinctive voice has made him a favorite for voice cameo roles on shows like "The Simpsons," "Alvin and the Chipmunks," and even "Mickey Mouse." However, one episode of the Fox sitcom "My Name Is Earl" takes advantage of Waters' unusual sense of humor and iconic look when he turns up as a funeral home owner.

In the episode, star Jason Lee's title character Earl hopes to throw a funeral for a man he never even knew. Waters, meanwhile, is the proprietor of Hamerick's Funeral Home and is a man with a heart of gold and a twisted sense of humor. Hamerick's Funeral Home specializes in bespoke memorials, and Waters is perfectly cast as the idiosyncratic administrator. His pair of scenes are worth viewing, even if you're not a fan of the series. 

More recently, Waters would appear on "The Blacklist" as himself, and in two episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as a purveyor of adult magazines, credited only as Pornmonger Man on IMDb, a role that seems tailor-made to the director of risque, boundary-pushing films.

Rian Johnson in Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman is unlike most animated series out there. Were it not for its animated form, it might be seen as one of the best black comedies on television, with characters that as equally realized, complex, and layered as any long-running live-action drama. It's for that reason that we count Rian Johnson's cameo in two episodes of the Netflix animated series as the equal of any guest spot on a live-action sitcom by a legendary Hollywood director. 

The series has had many big-name voice cameos that include Mila Kunis, Daniel Radcliffe, Naomi Watts, and Paul McCartney, who all voice themselves. Here, however, the director of "Knives Out" and "Looper" cameos as Bryan, a member of the comedy cult Shenanigans — a possible parody of Scientology, as noted by fans on Reddit

In his appearances, Johnson's character Bryan is a skeptic of Todd, who joins the club after being handed a flyer on the street, and the two clash over the nature of improv comedy. Aside from his cameo in Gareth Robert's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," Johnson's role as Brian is the only acting appearance of any kind for the award-winning director. 

Orson Welles in Magnum P.I.

If you are looking for a truly legendary director on this list, there's none more famous or iconic you'll find than Orson Welles, the man who directed some of cinema's greatest masterpieces, including "Citizen Kane," often called the greatest film ever made. He's also responsible for the infamous radio production of "War of the Worlds" that urban legend said caused a nationwide panic

In Welles' later years, he made a handful of unexpected cameos in movies like 1979's "The Muppet Movie" and the 1985 animated feature "Transformers: The Movie," where he voiced the living planet Unicron. He would guest star as a narrator or as himself in TV show's like "I Love Lucy," "Night Gallery," and "Moonlighting," but beginning in 1981 the legendary Orson Welles would lend his voice to the role of Robin Masters on the hit adventure series "Magnum P.I."

Masters is the benefactor of series star Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living in Hawaii who works on cases of interest. He lives at an estate called "Robin's Nest" owned by Masters, who is implied to owe Magnum a favor for some help he received on an unknown matter in the past. Masters is only ever seen in shadow but appears in the form of Welles' distinctive voice in five episodes throughout the series. The role of Masters was among the last performances Welles would give before his death in 1985.

Wes Craven in Stark Raving Mad

Famed horror director Wes Craven, best known for films such as "The Hills Have Eyes," "A Nightmare On Elm Street," and "Scream," has a long history in television. Craven has written or directed several episodes of shows like "Nightmare Cafe" and the 1980's "The Twilight Zone" relaunch, but he rarely appeared in front of the camera on the small screen, save for playing himself in an episode of "Castle." However, Craven would appear in the NBC sitcom "Stark Raving Mad," which starred Tony Shalhoub as Ian Stark, a best-selling horror novelist who struggles to continue his run of success, and Neil Patrick Harris as his editor Henry McNeely. 

In the episode "The Pigeon," Craven takes the one-off role of Terrance Sterling, a superstar author and idol of Stark's with whom McNeely arranges a meeting in the hopes of getting a jacket quote for Stark's new book. It was a fitting role for Craven, as he was essentially playing a fictional author patterned after himself. Unfortunately, the series was short-lived and never released on home media, making Craven's appearance on the show hard to find.

Werner Herzog in The Mandalorian

When Disney announced "The Mandolorian," fans were excited. The show had an exciting cast, featuring Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, and Nick Nolte in the premiere episode alone. However, one name stood out — that of legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog

The acclaimed director of "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," "Nosferatu the Vampyre" and "Rescue Dawn" was not known for making guest appearances, with only a handful of live-action appearances in American film or television across his five-decade career. That he would choose "The Mandalorian" — a sci-fi franchise series from Disney — as a worthy place to take his considerable talents — spoke volumes to the potential quality of the series.

In "The Mandalorian," Herzog played the Client, an ex-Imperial leader who kicks off the events of the series when he hires the titular Mandalorian to track down and retrieve a mysterious package, which turns out to be Grogu. His powerful performance helped the series' first season impress critics and audiences alike, per Rotten Tomatoes, and his presence lent an air of sophistication to the series.