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The Most Disappointing Cameos In Movie History

A truly great movie cameo can stay with the viewer for a very long time. Cinema has given us many such moments, from silent cinema icon Buster Keaton's appearance in "Sunset Boulevard" to Martin Scorsese's brief turn as the character who spurs Travis Bickle into committing murder in "Taxi Driver." These cameos are hugely fun to spot, and can also be an indispensable tool for adding meaning to a movie. When Stephen King sells Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) his childhood bike in "It Chapter Two," his mere presence highlights the moment's emotion and the cyclical nature of the story being told.

But cameos are a double-edged sword, capable of leaving audiences frustrated as often as they delight. Poor acting, bad direction, and frivolous timing all have a hand in creating lackluster cameos. Some of the worst offend on all three fronts. We're here to take a closer look at those disastrous appearances, from awkwardly shoved-in pop stars to directors who just can't stop putting themselves in the story. These movie cameos are the most disappointing in cinematic history.

Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained

Ever since he made "Reservoir Dogs," each and every one of Quentin Tarantino's films have contained a cameo from the celebrated director. "Django Unchained" is no different. But while the movie itself may have netted Tarantino copious amounts of praise, his unfortunate appearance in it left audiences disappointed. 

Tarantino's movies are beloved for their quick, clever dialogue. But while he excels at writing snappy lines, many fans don't think he measures up when he has to deliver them. In his "Django Unchained" cameo, Tarantino's character, a miner, speaks with an Australian accent. Many viewers found this to be a terrible choice: One Reddit thread discussing the highs and lows of directorial cameos is positively studded with criticism of his inscrutable delivery. Though the cameo is minor, Tarantino's attempt at the accent is so wooden, it ends up taking more away from the film than it gives. Moreover, when expectations are high, let-downs feel all the more intense. This makes such a bungle from an otherwise successful cameo artist like Tarantino feel huge.

M. Night Shyamalan - Signs

Director M. Night Shyamalan loves to cameo in his spine-tingling movies. Some of these brief appearances contain hidden meaning only the most intense fans will notice. In "The Sixth Sense," for example, Shyamalan's fleeting appearance as a doctor is a thoughtful homage to his own parents: As Rolling Stone revealed, both are medical professionals. Other cameos are narratively useful. Shyamalan's character Jai actually stiches together the films of the "Unbreakable" trilogy through his repeated, if incredibly small, appearances.

 But alas, not all Shyamalan cameos are created equal. In "Signs," he departs from tradition and creates a more substantial role for himself: Ray Reddy, a man guilty of accidentally killing the protagonist's wife. Now, a cameo should be a lesson in the art of subtlety, producing pay-off for observant viewers yet never distracting from the main plot. When a cameo becomes as significant as Shyamalan's in "Signs," it dwarfs the scene it's in and the plot as a whole. This results in more disappointment than reward. Moreover, a longer appearance inevitably means audiences have more time to discern flaws in the acting. Sadly, there are plenty to find in Shyamalan's performance as Ray Reddy.

Stan Lee - Iron Man 3

Marvel mastermind Stan Lee graced so many movies with so many cameos, he practically qualifies for his own Oscar. Lee became particularly famous for his dozens of appearances in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each cameo is thoroughly appreciated by Marvel's eagle-eyed fans, some of whom have been devoted for decades. But given the fact that Lee spent many years making appearances in a plethora of films, it's only natural that not all of them have aged particularly well.

"Iron Man 3" sticks out as an especially sore thumb in this regard. Here, Lee plays an elderly audience member ogling participants in a beauty pageant. He eagerly declares one woman in a bikini a perfect 10. The scene is clearly meant to be comedic, and many audience members doubtlessly laugh. But this doesn't take away from the uncomfortable lecherousness on display. The "sleazy old man" trope is an old, frustrating, misogynistic joke well past its sell-by date. Good thing irritated fans can turn to plenty of other Lee cameos to appreciate the legendary creator without such a disappointing twist.

Charlize Theron - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

For ages, the beginning of a movie's credits signaled the end of the movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed all that with its first post-credits sequence at the end of "Iron Man." The mid and post-credits reveal is now an inextricable part of the MCU experience, and fan expectations run sky-high. Unfortunately for the venerated studio, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" offers a post-credits cameo that leaves fans wanting.

Deploying a cameo after thousands of names have rolled by is a great tool for introducing more mystery into the story. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," however, takes that mystery-making a little too seriously. This film's hasty cameo sequence features an unidentified superhero played by Charlize Theron, who commands Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to join her on an equally unknown mission. The credits reveal her to be Clea, a massively powerful sorceress and longtime ally to Doctor Strange in the original comics. She's the kind of character that deserves an introduction worthy of her potential contributions to the universe, which could be enormous. But Marvel decided to downplay her entrance, which means this cameo is underwhelming at best and head-scratching at worst.

Michael Jackson - Men in Black II

Michael Jackson's cameo career was a relatively short one, which makes his appearance in "Men in Black II" stand out all the more vividly. Here, Jackson plays an alien who wants to be a full agent. He reports that a treaty has been successfully signed, and asks Chief Zed (Rip Torn) about the position he was promised. Zed brushes off his request. According to the BBC, the pop star fought for this role after being moved to tears by the first installment of the franchise. Apparently, the comic elements of the film were completely lost on him — which should've served as a forewarning of how his cameo in the second installment would turn out.

This cameo should induce laughter, but a tragic combination of Jackson's poor acting skills and a barely-there punchline make it more baffling than humorous. He doesn't sound emphatic enough when he asks about becoming an agent, which creates a bizarre gulf between what he's saying and how he's saying it. This makes the scene come across as wildly out of sync with the rest of the film — which, for a movie about extraterrestrial life, is definitely saying something.

Hugh Hefner - Beverly Hills Cop II

Some moviegoers believe that celebrities who play themselves in films automatically qualify for a spot on this list, since such cameos yank viewers out of the story. According to certain Reddit users, Hugh Hefner is a particular offender in this regard — and his appearance in "Beverly Hills Cop II" is an especially awful example.

Hefner established himself as a prolific cameo actor in the '90s and '00s, popping up in many different TV shows, movies, and music videos. But playing yourself on screen can be a major challenge, no matter how much practice you have. In "Beverly Hills Cop II," Hefner materializes to throw gatecrashers — including Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) — out of an extravagant Playboy Mansion party. Hefner's wooden delivery contrasts awkwardly against Murphy's high-energy presence, making the whole moment fall flat. He feels more like a Hefner impersonator than Hefner himself.

David Beckham - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

After a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," soccer star David Beckham graduated to a more prominent cameo in "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." He plays Trigger, a vicious soldier serving Arthur's adversary. Sadly, aspirations for an Arthurian cinematic universe and Beckham's fledgling film career were dashed: Critics were quick to pan the movie and deride Beckham's cameo in it. 

Beckham's costume, make-up, and aggressive delivery keep him from seeming too much like himself, which is good. But he doesn't actually have the acting chops to bring this character to life. The nasal voice he affects is irritating and cartoonish — he sounds more like a playground bully than an intimidating warrior. Worst of all, Beckham's cameo upstages a pivotal moment in King Arthur's (Charlie Hunnam) character development. When Arthur pulls the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone, Beckham is in the background, drawing attention away from the main event. A bad cameo is one thing, but a bad cameo that weakens a crucial storytelling development is truly unforgivable.

Justin Bieber - Zoolander 2

The first "Zoolander" movie perfectly illustrates how cameos can contribute to a movie's success. Each of its celebrity appearances, which include the likes of David Bowie and Paris Hilton, strengthens its over-the-top sense of humor. Moreover, while "Zoolander" is a ridiculous film, it also skewers the fashion and entertainment industries with real insight. Cameos from actual icons of these glittering worlds only makes it sharper.

The follow-up, however, is guilty of using cameos as stand-ins for actual comedy. Nothing illustrates this lazy approach's failures better than Justin Bieber's cameo. "Zoolander 2" opens with the sort of high-octane chase sequence found in action movies — except the person somersaulting through doorways and across rooftops is teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. He doesn't make it far, though, and is soon shot down in a dark alleyway. His masked assailant spends an inordinate amount of time riddling him with bullets, because the movie seems to consider watching Bieber flail around inherently funny. It isn't. The fact that he takes his phone out for one last selfie after falling to the pavement doesn't redeem things.

Vanilla Ice - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Vanilla Ice ruled the early '90s charts, which meant pop culture properties like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" were eager to capitalize on his marketability. Thus, the rapper was added to a climactic sequence in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze." But the outcome is far from the hip and energizing appearance filmmakers hoped it'd be.

The scene in question takes place as the turtles fight mutant monsters. A particularly rough blow sends Raphael (Laurie Faso) flying into a dockside club, and the battle heads to the dancefloor. Viewers are asked to sacrifice any and all logic for the ensuing Vanilla Ice cameo, as, inexplicably, the rapper appears to be headlining this dingy dive. Upon seeing a band of crime-fighting turtles heading his way, he quickly improvises rap verses to cheer them on. Granted, it's easier to believe the song is freestyled when you hear the line, "Have you ever seen a turtle get down?" But that still doesn't salvage this surreal scene. The turtles' dance routine only makes it more bizarre.

Drew Barrymore - Batman Forever

Drew Barrymore's cameo in "Batman Forever" fails to live up to its considerable potential in every possible way. Barrymore plays Sugar, one of Two-Face's female helpers. As you might have already guessed, the other assistant is named Spice (Debi Mazar). For the brief duration of her cameo, Sugar has little else to do but prance around in lingerie. Barrymore's career hadn't hit its peak at this point, but she was still a prominent enough actor to merit meatier roles than this. She does the best she can with what she's given, but what she's given is so meager, it just feels like an insult.

It should be noted that some of Sugar's screen time was allegedly left on the cutting room floor, according to Newsweek. These pared-away moments might have fleshed her out further. Whether they would have redeemed the cameo entirely or further fed its disappointingly salacious nature remains unknown, however.

Guns N' Roses - The Dead Pool

You needn't blink to miss Guns N' Roses' cameo in "The Dead Pool," the fifth and final installment of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" series. The rock band's brief appearance in the movie is just that — an appearance. Without dialogue or any discernible purpose behind their presence, the group is made so inconspicuous, one could easily be forgiven for missing them entirely. The cameo almost feels like an inside joke audience members aren't privy to.

The group makes its cameo during a funeral. They stand among the mourners in one shot, silent and respectful. And ... that's it. There's something admirably gutsy about putting Guns N' Roses in your movie like this, but when one of the biggest musical acts of the decade makes one of its only cinematic appearances in your film, you shouldn't use them like extras. Considering that the group's chart-topping hit "Welcome to the Jungle" is also performed in this very movie, this feels like a particularly brutal oversight.