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Every Major Cameo In Judd Apatow Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Comedy is a complex artform, and the professionals sometimes sound like modern-day philosophers when they attempt to describe the subject. Nonetheless, there is one name that stands apart from the rest when it comes to formulating the contemporary comedy film — Judd Apatow. The stand-up comedian turned writer-producer-director literally teaches the Master Class on the art of comedy. With credits in some of our greatest generational comedies, Apatow's name has become synonymous with the entire genre.

Kicking off his directorial career with beloved cult classic sitcoms "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared," Apatow initiated a renaissance of comedy for the new millennium. Integral to the advancement of a compendium of comedic actors — including Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and Jay Baruchel, the number of films that owe thanks to Apatow's architecture is virtually endless.

A kingpin of comedy, Apatow's films feature A-list casts offering some of the most beloved names in Hollywood. Not only does he routinely include his wife Leslie Mann and their children in his films, but the director also never shies away from bringing in friends for a spot. Even when it comes to quick cameos, Apatow has a penchant for landing top talent in his films, which is why it's about darn time we ranked all the significant cameos in Apatow's filmography. For simplicity's sake and to avoid composing the longest listicle in history, these rankings only include movies in which Apatow was the director (with all due respect to his work as a producer and screenwriter, as well as his many contributions to television). Continue reading for all the cameos you forgot and perhaps a few surprise names.

Honorable mention: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Bubble)

One of the biggest names in Hollywood today is Benedict Cumberbatch. Thanks to his residency as the sorcerer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the "Doctor Strange" actor has appeared in some of the highest-grossing films of the last 10 years, including "Avengers: Endgame" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home." His unique appearance and top-tier fame makes Cumberbatch's presence in 2022's "The Bubble" equally disturbing and exciting.

When the actors of the in-movie production "Cliff Beasts 6: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem" let off some steam by taking far too many psychedelics, the visuals turn their awkward health officer's face into the likeness of Benedict Cumberbatch. Harry Trevaldwyn had a breakout comedic performance in the pandemic-focused feature, and his twisted moment as Cumberbatch is one of the more memorable sequences.

However, this cameo slides in as an honorable mention for a particular reason — Cumberbatch did not physically appear in "The Bubble," as his likeness was imposed by CGI technology. Although this may spark a debate over what counts as a cameo, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the MCU plans to pull the same trick in upcoming features with cameos of iconic comic creator Stan Lee.

22. Jenna Fischer (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)

"The Office" is easily one of the most celebrated sitcoms of our generation. The Steve Carell-starring staple has spawned memes, quotes that evolved into common conversational phrases, and a loyal fan base. Yet in 2005, "The Office" featured a relatively unknown cast and nobody was sure if an American version of the British hit series would connect. Still, Judd Apatow was enough of a believer in star Steve Carell that he helped him develop "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" after one of the actor's failed comedy bits.

Surprisingly, Carell is not the only fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employee to appear in the 2005 comedy hit. Writer-slash-actress of "The Office" Mindy Kaling makes a memorable performance as Paul Rudd's unrequited love interest. However, there is one more blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from another "The Office" alum. Jenna Fischer, best known for her Pam Beesly role, can be seen as an extra during the nightclub scene. Her uncredited role as "Woman #1" is not her only appearance in an Apatow project, as Fischer also had a minor role in the "Undeclared" television series. Even more entertaining is Fischer's own embarrassing story on the red carpet of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" premiere, which she shared on the Office Ladies podcast.

21. Dan Harmon (Funny People)

Keeping with the theme of celebrities who have appeared in Judd Apatow projects before their meteoric rises to fame, one name that deserves mention is Dan Harmon. Best known as the co-creator of the hit animated sitcom "Rick and Morty," Harmon has established himself as the anti-hero of comedy television. However, like Jenna Fischer, Harmon managed to squeeze himself into an Apatow feature on the cusp of his own celebrity fame.

"Funny People" is a 2009 who's-who of comedic powerhouses of the time. However, it took a hawkeyed Reddit user to point out Harmon's easily missed cameo as a paparazzi. The Harmon-created sitcom "Community" also premiered in 2009, which launched the unknown extra into the cult-favorite podcaster-slash-director he is today. Meanwhile on Film Critic a few years later, Harmon challenged Apatow, WWE style, and promised to put his name on even more things than the celebrated producer.

20. The Philadelphia Flyers (This Is 40)

With all the television and movie stars peppering Judd Apatow movies, it was an unexpected twist for hockey fans when four members of the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers pop up in "This Is 40." The movie stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles from "Knocked Up" in a story that illuminates the struggles of becoming middle-aged. Rudd's character Pete is a record label owner, which explains the presence of musicians like Billie Joe Armstrong and Graham Parker. However, the arrival of professional hockey players is highly unanticipated.

The NHL stars in question include Scott Hartnell, Matt Carle, James van Riemsdyk, and Ian Laperrière, all members of the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the 2011-12 season. According to NHL.com, Laperrière is friends with Apatow, which accounts for the unforeseeable connection. Unfortunately, none of the cameoing athletes were ever considered superstars of the NHL. And between their bad dancing and terrible acting (despite playing themselves), the quick appearance not only dates the film but is also one of the few times a cameo in a Judd Apatow movie feels forced.

19. Method Man (Trainwreck)

Much in the same way Ice Cube spun off from N.W.A. and became a bona fide movie star, Cliff "Method Man" Smith has turned his Wu-Tang Clan fame into his own film career. Unfortunately, the latter has a track record of picking underperforming movies like "The Cobbler," "Keanu," and "How High." On the alternate hand, Method Man has also landed himself in a few major productions, including one of Judd Apatow's lesser-known films, "Trainwreck."

When speaking on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Apatow pointed out that Method Man is not the only Wu-Tang Clan member to appear in his films; Ghostface Killah showed up in the Apatow-produced "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and RZA played a role in "Funny People." Apatow jokingly stated that he wants to go through the full Wu-Tang roster, but this wasn't actually the first time Method Man tried to get cast in an Apatow endeavor. The rapper revealed during the "Trainwreck" premiere that he tried out for a role in "Funny People" and didn't get the gig. 

18. Daisy Ridley (The Bubble)

Best known for her role in the latest trilogy of the "Star Wars" franchise, Daisy Ridley is one of the most surprising faces to pop up during a Judd Apatow movie. However, 2022's pandemic-focused feature "The Bubble" has more than one "Star Wars" alum, with "The Mandalorian" himself, Pedro Pascal, contributing a leading role. Unfortunately for fans of a galaxy far, far away, the pair's shared scene is one of the most cringeworthy moments in "The Bubble."

In the film, Ridley plays a simulated personal trainer in a mirror smart gym workout machine. Awkwardly, with Pascal's character freshly on a high dose of psychedelics, the session quickly turns into a different kind of workout. While the exchange might have some "Star Wars" fans squeamish at the ramifications of such a romance, a Cosmopolitan article points out that other fans are obsessed with Pascal's comedic role, including the unprecedented crossover of "Star Wars" actors. Once again, it seems "Star Wars" fans can't agree about anything. 

17. Justin Long (Funny People)

Justin Long is an actor with his hands in a lot of pots. If we focus on his comedy work, Long has appeared in everything from "Galaxy Quest" to "Alvin and the Chipmunks," making it a surprising fact that the actor has somehow avoided appearing in the majority of Judd Apatow's movies. As Long mentions in his Life is Short podcast interview with Apatow, the producer is involved in nearly everything, but Long has been limited to a couple of minor roles in his films.

Thankfully, in 2009 Long found his way into the Apatow-verse and, by chance, ended up working with another significant filmmaker — Adam Sandler. In the movie "Funny People," Sandler plays a terminally ill washed-up comedian whose penchant for acting in terrible films has knocked him out of the spotlight. One such in-universe movie is "Re-Do," where Sandler's character plays a grown man turned into a baby by a magical wizard. Hilariously and fittingly, Long plays Sander's movie-within-the-movie business partner who reluctantly becomes responsible for taking care of the baby-fied Sandler.

16. Beck (The Bubble)

Unquestionably, some of the best parts of "The Bubble" are the multiple dance sequences. Judd Apatow's daughter Iris Apatow plays a TikTok star injected into a big-budget film, and the results are a pair of over-the-top dance routines. Astonishingly, one of the more tepid dance numbers features a live virtual performance from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Beck. Thankfully, Apatow's interview with Consequence gives the scene some entertaining context.

The lackluster dancing is not a failure of the celebrated musician; instead, the actors in the scene are reacting to the director's a cappella rendition of "Ladies Night." It wasn't until after the movie wrapped that the director reached out to Beck, who he had worked with previously on benefit concerts. Amazingly, the performance fits seamlessly into the scene, partially thanks to Kate McKinnon's added performance as the studio head. Reversely, watching the original sequence in which the actors were forced to dance to Apatow's unrefined singing would be humorous.

15. James Taylor (Funny People)

Putting together a ranked list of all the best cameos from Judd Apatow movies requires a bit of subjectivity. Fans will have their own preferences, and each celebrity brings their own elements to the proverbial table. Regardless, there has been some insight into which celebrity appearances have personal meaning to Apatow. The director went to Twitter to remember a memorable event in his own words, and stated, "The most fun moment of my career may have been watching James Taylor perform his part in 'Funny People.' When he sang, we all started crying."

Apatow's emotional reaction is understandable, considering the legendary musician has been delivering his unique brand of folk rock and blues since the '70s. Aside from Taylor's expressive onscreen performance of "Carolina in My Mind," his cameo is accentuated by his inadvertent jab at Seth Rogen's character and using an expletive to degrade Facebook at the Myspace event. Meanwhile, Apatow milked the visit for everything he could as he explained to the San Francisco Chronicle that they got the musician to sing about 14 songs over two days.

14. James Franco (Knocked Up)

Judd Apatow and James Franco go back — all the way back. Arguably, without Apatow giving the actors their roles in "Freaks and Geeks," Franco and Seth Rogen would have never built the relationship that led to multiple box office successes. Hence, it was only a matter of time before the Golden Globe-winning actor made a cameo in one of Apatow's comedy hits, and somewhat predictably, it happens to star his good friend Rogen.

Franco makes a minor uncredited appearance in "Knocked Up," being interviewed by Katherine Heigl's character, who is tormented with morning sickness on the cusp of discovering her pregnancy. It was a fitting role for the actor coming off his "Spider-Man" fame. Yet, it was a mock behind-the-scenes sequence released by Funny or Die featuring Franco and Apatow arguing over screentime that truly showcases what the powerhouse combo can deliver. They have since worked with each other multiple times, including Apatow making a cameo in "The Disaster Artist," which Franco directed.

13. Leslie Jones (Trainwreck)

Despite Leslie Jones telling Entertainment Tonight that she is happy to be steering her career away from "Saturday Night Live," her work on the series helped to define her as a comedic powerhouse. In her five-year tenure on the late-night sketch show, Leslie Jones elevated her career from minor appearances in TV shows and movies to becoming a full-blown star in films like 2016's "Ghostbusters" and 2021's "Coming 2 America."

Early in that catapulting "SNL" run, the comedian turned a minimal role in a Judd Apatow movie loaded with funny women into a show-stealing moment that earned her recognition from reputable media sources like the New York Post. Jones plays a disgruntled subway patron in "Trainwreck" opposite leading lady Amy Schumer. What should have been a small, semi-forgettable role became one of the stand-out performances thanks to Jones' comedic delivery. Looking back at the cameo years later, it is difficult not to recognize it as one of the best walk-on roles in the Apatow filmography.

12. John Lithgow (The Bubble)

Although it may be true that Judd Apatow is the catalyst for a generation of modern comedy writers and actors, there is always room for the legends. Specifically, the film "This Is 40" required a pair of grandfathers, which pointed Apatow toward Albert Brooks and John Lithgow. The aging actors delivered stand-out performances in their own right. In the case of Lithgow, the experience made him a fan of Apatow's directorial style as shown in an interview released by Universal Pictures.

Lithgow appears in "The Bubble" via a Zoom call as the studio chairman giving Kate McKinnon's character as much grief as she very recently gave her own subordinate. Hilariously, Lithgow's character immediately has another version of basically the same conversation with boss. Akin to the feelings everyone in the real world experienced during the COVID pandemic, Lithgow's character becomes elated to spend some time with somebody in the real world, even if it is his angry boss. In a movie that is overloaded with celebrities, Lithgow's lighthearted performance is a comforting gem.

11. Action Bronson (The King of Staten Island)

Examining the seven comedies that Apatow has directed, "The King of Staten Island" is the outlier. The impressive cast list features celebrities that Apatow typically doesn't work with, including Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, and Steve Buscemi. Additionally, the humor is much more in-tune with lead actor Pete Davidson's style than is standard for an Apatow flick. There is a darker tone and more dramatic nuances than the lighthearted, often goofy themes portrayed in movies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or "The Bubble."

The cameos in "The King of Staten Island" also do a lot to distance it from the rest of Apatow's filmography. Where this list is filled with A-list actors and recognizable comedians, the coming-of-age feature goes in a different direction. Aside from a short appearance from Machine Gun Kelly as a tattoo shop owner, the most significant cameo in "The King of Staten Island" is rapper Action Bronson arriving with a stab (or gunshot?) wound in his side. As Apatow stated on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," nobody is giving Action Bronson enough credit for the hilarious performance he delivers near the film's conclusion.

10. James McAvoy (The Bubble)

A heap of confusion surrounded "The Bubble" during its pre-release phase. Aside from a blended cast list that included some relatively unknown comedians with MCU and "Star Wars" alumni, Apatow fueled the mystery with the film's first official teaser. The movie was first introduced as "Cliff Beasts 6: The Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem," and looked like a B-rate action film. Thankfully, an April Fools' release date gave audiences the first clues to a bigger picture, primarily since Apatow is not known for his action films, and Netflix had the "Cliff Beasts" sequel slated as "The Bubble." Not long after, leaked images added further confusion to the awaiting fans.

Images of James McAvoy chasing down Karen Gillan swarmed social media as speculations rose, wondering what "The Bubble" would be about. Thankfully, McAvoy's arrival in the film does not disappoint, and the action and horror star makes a rare comedic appearance.

9. Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, and others (Funny People)

Out of all the movies Judd Apatow has directed, "Funny People" is absolutely spoiled with cameos. Expectedly, the film requires a round table of comedians to appear simply based on the premise. As Apatow and Adam Sandler explained in an interview with Charlie Rose, the movie is about their real-life experiences and concerns as comedians and celebrities. Being surrounded by professional actors and joke writers is an honest peek at how the other side lives. In fact, there are so many celebrities injected into the movie that it is difficult to list them all individually.

The party scene celebrating Sandler's character's recovery from a terminal illness has a slew of recognizable faces, including Sarah Silverman, Dave Attell, and the late Norm MacDonald. Featured as former co-stars of Sandler's character are names like Ken Jeong, Bo Burnham, and "Undeclared" alum Carla Gallo. Additionally, Owen Wilson and Elizabeth Banks pop up on posters for fake in-universe movies. Meanwhile, there is a flock of other comedians and actors with quick spots, such as Andy Dick, Paul Reiser, George Wallace, Charles Fleischer, and the list goes on.

8. Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei (Trainwreck)

Back in 2014, the paparazzi had a field day when they captured images of former "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe walking a parade of dogs and smoking a cigarette through the streets of Manhattan. The photos swarmed social media pages, and a cacophony of questions arose. Thankfully, news followed quickly that Radcliffe was not trying out a new profession, but rather filming a movie with Judd Apatow. And despite Apatow's best effort to dispel the rumor, the actor indeed made a splash with his arrival on the screen within the movie "Trainwreck."

Awkward age difference aside, Radcliffe plays opposite Marisa Tomei in the movie within a movie, "The Dogwalker." The snippet of the fictional romance showcased in "Trainwreck" is only a peek at the complete film. Thankfully, a larger clip of the imaginary movie has been released online, loaded with even more sexual innuendo and an over-the-top monologue delivered by Radcliffe about his family pup.

7. Steve Carell (Knocked Up)

As Judd Apatow explains in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Steve Carell was still a journeyman actor when he was enlisted to star in his own movie, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Between his work under the director and a starring role in "The Office," it was not long before Carell was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. So, it was only fitting that the role of a major celebrity interviewed on the red carpet in "Knocked Up" be filled by the man whom Apatow helped reach stratospheric fame.

Steve Carell appears as himself being interviewed by Katherine Heigl's character, who works for "E! News." Things turn sour quickly as Carell's pleasantries backfire against a ready-to-pop pregnant woman distressed with potentially losing her job. The short cameo is made even more appropriate considering Carell's reputation as an incredibly friendly person. As Bill Hader's character states in the film, Heigl's character "managed to turn Steve Carell into an @#$%^&."

6. Ray Romano (Funny People)

Ray Romano was one of the biggest names in sitcom television in the late '90s. As the character Ray Barone, he appeared in multiple prime-time shows, including "Cosby," "The King of Queens," and his own long-running series, "Everybody Loves Raymond." Unfortunately, by 2009 much of the love for Romano had waned as the actor was limited to minor roles and his ongoing voiceover position as Manny in the "Ice Age" franchise.

His time stuck in famous person purgatory made Romano the ideal target as the butt of the joke in "Funny People." At a party filled with comedians and celebrities honoring Adam Sandler's character's recovery, the stand-out scene features rapper Eminem and near-forgotten comedian Romano having an uncomfortable exchange across the restaurant. Although the moment leans into the hands of the 15-time Grammy-winning musician, it is easy to forget that the scene would not work without the confused and bewildered Romano. Although, the way Apatow describes it, much of Romano's confusion was genuine.

5. John Cena (The Bubble)

"The Bubble" is loaded with celebrities and cameos, as any movie about making a movie should be. The Netflix comedy pulled out all the stops when making the meta pandemic movie, including drawing out the big names in the middle of the COVID lockdown. Like a few other star cameos in the film, the eventual star of the "Peacemaker" TV series John Cena appears in "The Bubble" via Zoom call, although he is given a physical presence through a stagehand and a broomstick. Still, it's fitting that Cena stop by in this Apatow flick, as he is another actor who got his start in comedy thanks to the director.

Best known for being a professional wrestler, Cena has followed in the footsteps of other WWE superstars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and become a full-blown movie star. However, before Cena landed comedic roles in movies like "The Suicide Squad" and "Playing with Fire," he was nervous about entering the genre. Thankfully, the guidance of Apatow and Amy Schumer on the set of "Trainwreck" helped the budding actor come into himself. Yet, the way the director put it on a Facebook AMA, Cena was a natural.

4. Ryan Seacrest (Knocked Up)

Probably one of the most unlikely names on this list, especially this close to the end, is "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest. Best known as a television personality hosting everything from talk shows to "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," Seacrest is not a name often associated with comedy movies. However, Seacrest serves up an energetic tirade as host of "E! News" in "Knocked Up" that is so over-the-top it won him the 2007 Teen Choice Award for best hissy fit.

On the red carpet during the premiere of "Knocked Up," the co-host of "Live with Kelly and Ryan" revealed to Showbiz Junkies that much of the scene was improvised. Giving credit to Apatow's direction, Seacrest delivered an outburst that is shockingly the opposite of his optimistic, smiley persona. The rare film appearance is a memorable spot not just for Seacrest but for Apatow-directed features; unfortunately, it hasn't resulted in further walk-ons from the TV personality.

3. Melissa McCarthy (This is 40)

Regardless of how you feel about her comedy, Melissa McCarthy was one of the biggest names in the genre for some time. But before she was headlining her own feature films such as "The Boss" and 2016's "Ghostbusters," she made an unforgettable cameo in one of Apatow's most successful comedies. McCarthy had already established herself as a comedic dynamo before appearing in "This Is 40." Her performance as Megan in "Bridesmaids" — which Apatow produced — was one of the highlights of a film loaded with funny women.

Still, McCarthy's arrival in "This Is 40" as a disgruntled mother whose son was bullied by Leslie Mann's character became one of the most side-splitting scenes. Frustratingly for McCarthy's character, the opposing parents team up in their lies about the situation to the school principal, resulting in her losing her composure. As Apatow describes the scene to Rotten Tomatoes, the hilarious rage-out is McCarthy being free to improvise. Her unforgettable cameo not only steals the scene but becomes the centerpiece to the bloopers and outtakes showcased during the credits.

2. Jonah Hill (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)

Jonah Hill is one of the many "Apatowian Acolytes," as described in a Judd Apatow interview with The Australian Jewish News. Unlike co-star regulars like Seth Rogen and James Franco, Hill was not a member of the cult-beloved "Freaks and Geeks" series that handed many celebrities their ticket to the Hollywood scene. Instead, it was Apatow's first stab at directing a major motion picture, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," that gifted Hill his inauguration into making audiences laugh. Looking back years later, it is not only one of the best cameos in an Apatow film, but the arrival of a new comedic powerhouse.

In the movie, Hill plays a customer at the eBay store who doesn't comprehend why he cannot purchase a pair of bedazzled high-heel boots at the brick-and-mortar storefront. The actor made such an impact with the minor role it catapulted his career. As Seth Rogen explained in an interview with GQ, the scene established their friendship and, through cause-and-effect, led Hill to his breakout role as a younger version of Seth Rogen in "Superbad."

1. Eminem (Funny People)

Coming in at the top of the rankings of cameos in Judd Apatow movies is one of the most unforgettable scenes in any of the director's movies. The stand-out performance from Eminem in "Funny People" is so incredibly hilarious that Apatow himself selected it as his personal favorite cameo in his films. By the time "Funny People" was released in 2009, Eminem had already established himself as one of the biggest names in rap and proved he had the acting chops in 2002's "8 Mile." Still, his appearance in the comedy film was unexpectedly hysterical for the audience and the director.

Apatow spoke about having Eminem on set with MTV and called the interaction one of the best moments of his career. Unsure of how the rapper would take their suggestions or if anything would be off the table, Eminem surprised Apatow and the rest of the production with his openness and execution. For fans, it is a monumental moment that brought together three comedy legends in Apatow, Sandler, and Eminem, and it is often listed as one of the funniest cameos of all time.