Earlier this week, comic book legend Stan Lee passed away, leaving a monumental legacy behind. He always championed the importance of comic books, before eventually crusading to bring these characters to life on the big screen. A small part of that legacy was having the luxury of seeing his creations come to fruition in the public conscious.
As Hollywood began to help popularize comic book movies, Lee was an increasingly omnipresent figure. At a certain point, Lee’s cameos became a staple of Marvel Movies. They also trained audiences to expect an appearance of some sort in just about every comic book movie. So much so that Lee even appeared in comic book properties that he had no hand in creating.
Lee was revered for his influence in popular culture, and his cameos in various Marvel movies will stand the test of time. There’s something so reverential about the way that Lee was vindicated in the last few decades of his life. With that said, here are Stan Lee’s top 10 cameos throughout his career.
Lee was known for his jovial, cheesy and family friendly personality. One of the reasons that Lee’s cameo in 2016’s Deadpool feels so surprisingly perfect is the fact that is plays against his persona. Going into the movie, people weren’t really expecting a cameo from the X-Men co-creator. Lee had no connection to the creation of Deadpool, which is another reason that it works so well. It’s a surprising appearance, and it is certainly one of the most memorable.
9. X-Men: Apocalypse
The prerequisite Stan Lee cameo in X-Men: Apocalypse is unusually dire compared to most of his other appearances. It happens near the climax of the movie, so it makes sense that this cameo leans into the dramatic. X-Men: Apocalypse is also notable in terms of because it marks his only on screen appearance with his late wife, Joan Lee. That makes it a bit bittersweet in terms of context. It also utilizes Lee’s trademark sunglasses in an inventive way.
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is certainly a flawed movie. Regardless, it certainly has perhaps the most entertaining one-liner of all Lee’s appearances. This was the first time that Lee had appeared on screen with Thor, but the sardonic tone of their interaction just works so well. Lee’s Age of Ultron cameo is also notable because it acknowledges the three years that he spent in the military. The whole party sequence in the film is a complete blast. But this scene in particular never really gets old no matter how much you watch it.
7. Fantastic Four
2005’s Fantastic Four proved to be somewhat of a blunder, but it actually provides one of the best Stan Lee cameos in any Marvel movie. It’s not necessarily super exciting, but it does represent one of the only times that Lee actually played a character that he created. In this case, it was Willie Lumpkin, the mail carrier who greets the team when they arrive back at the Baxter building. It’s short, sweet and to the point. It’s also some of the most on screen dialogue that Lee ever received.
6. Teen Titans GO! To The Movies
It feels slightly blasphemous to include a DC film on this list. At the same time, if Lee was willing to make a cameo in a DC film then there’s no reason not to include it on this list. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies came out earlier this year, and it includes one of the most delightfully surprising Stan Lee cameos of all time. Part of the reason why this is so delightful is that it pokes fun at the idea of Lee’s big screen appearances in the first place.
5. Spider-Man: The Animated Series
Lee’s appearance on Spider-Man: The Animated Series is kind of cheesy and on the nose. But it’s probably where many fans from the ’90s were actually be exposed to Lee. He was certainly well known by this time, but this also marked the first of many Lee’s cameos that would break the fourth wall in terms of his persona. There’s a certain self-awareness about all of Stan Lee’s various cameos, but rarely more so than here.
4. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
From the outset, Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 literally comes out of nowhere. It initially seems insignificant, but this film has perhaps the biggest implications for his MCU appearances. Lee references another cameo in Captain America: Civil War where he played a “postman.” This seemingly confirmed the theory that Lee was indeed a member of The Watchers in the MCU. In addition, it also provides some sort of loose reasoning as to why Lee appears in all of theses movies. That alone make it an endlessly fascinating scene.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
There’s not much importance to Stan Lee’s cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man. But it certainly provides the most entertaining use of Lee in any of his appearances. Lee had been used sparingly in Sam Rami’s trilogy, but it was Marc Webb’s first film that provided audiences with one of his most entertaining cameos. It’s great to see Lee used well in an action scene. At the same time, there’s also something wonderful about seeing Lee finally being saved by his greatest creation. In hindsight, it’s slightly poetic, but it’s mostly just a fun, creative use of Lee.
2. The Incredible Hulk
It’s interesting how one of the most underappreciated MCU movies has perhaps the best Stan Lee Cameo. In terms of integration to the story, this cameo in particular makes the best use of Lee as a plot device. There are so many movies where his cameos felt like an afterthought. However, Lee’s scene in The Incredible Hulk offers a crucial turning point in the story. After Lee’s passing, the scene gains a slightly more morbid context. But that doesn’t change the fact that the film makes great use of Lee in a very brief role.
Out of all of Stan Lee’s many cinematic appearances, it’s slightly ironic that his most enduring cameo would be in a non-Marvel movie. There’s just something about Lee’s cameo in Mallrats that feels like a timeless encapsulation of the creator’s work. It’s certainly Lee’s most earnest cameo. Out of all Lee’s cinematic experiences, this scene feels like the closest thing to a performance that we would ever get. Mallrats is also notable for it’s importance in building the persona of Stan Lee that we know today. Mallrats really signified who he would become in the two decades that followed.
What’s your favorite Stan Lee cameo? Let us know in the comments below!