When done correctly, nothing enhances a movie like an unexpected cameo from a celebrity. All types of celebrities have made cameo appearances in movies, from athletes like Derek Jeter (The Other Guys), to politicians like Sen. Patrick Leahy (two Dark Knight films). However, some of the most memorable celebrity cameo appearances ever seen in movies have come from musicians. And while there are many great musicians who have tackled leading or supporting acting roles in films — such as Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, and André 3000 – today we are shining the spotlight on instances when a musician only made a brief appearance in a film.
Keeping those caveats in mind, here are nine great movie cameos from musicians that were each memorable in their own way. The cameo appearances are ordered according to each movie’s release date.
1. James Brown in Rocky IV (1985)
“The Godfather of Soul” himself makes a cameo appearance in the fourth installment of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky film franchise. In the film, Rocky’s friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) makes an ill-fated decision to fight the fearsome Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). The boxing match opens with James Brown performing “Living in America,” a song that soon acquires an ironic meaning after Creed is killed in the ring.
2. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World (1992)
Shock rocker Alice Cooper made one of the funniest cameo appearances by a musician in a movie when he showed up in Wayne’s World, a comedy film based on the Saturday Night Live skit of the same name. After watching Alice Cooper perform “Feed My Frankenstein” at a concert, Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) visit the rock star back stage. However, in contrast to his onstage persona, Cooper turns out to be a mild-mannered intellectual who offers the rock-loving duo a quick lesson on the history of Milwaukee.
3. Tom Jones in Mars Attacks! (1996)
Renowned crooner Tom Jones plays himself in this comedy science fiction film directed by Tim Burton. In the film, malicious Martians attack a Las Vegas casino where Tom Jones is performing. After dodging the Martian’s ray guns, Jones helps a group of survivors to escape the city by piloting a plane.
4. Snoop Dogg in Half Baked (1998)
Typically, a celebrity’s appearance in a movie is a surprise for the audience. However, in the case of Snoop Dogg’s cameo in Half Baked, it may have been more of a surprise for audiences if the rapper had not showed up in this movie. In any case, Snoop’s appearance as a “scavenger” smoker in this stoner comedy was both memorable and funny.
5. Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer (1998)
Adam Sandler plays a lovelorn wedding singer in this romantic comedy that also stars Drew Barrymore as the object of his unrequited love. Toward the end of the film, Robbie (Sandler) resolves to follow Julia (Barrymore) to Las Vegas and tell her how he feels before she can marry another man. While on the airplane, Robbie tells his troubles to a group of sympathetic passengers that includes rock star Billy Idol. After discovering that Julia is on the same flight, Idol plays a key role in helping Robbie win her back.
6. David Bowie in Zoolander (2001)
Ben Stiller directed and starred in this cult comedy film about a dim-witted male model who becomes caught up in an international assassination conspiracy. In the film, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is challenged to a “walk off” by Hansel McDonald (Owen Wilson), his biggest rival in the male modeling industry. For reasons unknown, this pointless contest is judged by none other than legendary musician David Bowie.
7. Michael Jackson in Men in Black II (2002)
The “King of Pop” made a rare cameo film appearance in the first sequel to the blockbuster hit Men in Black. In the film, Jackson portrays an alien who is desperate to be made an official MIB agent. However, Chief Zed (Rip Torn) tells him that he’s “still working on that alien affirmative action program.”
8. Jack White in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
While there are several famous musicians that make cameo appearances in this spoof of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, rocker Jack White’s brief appearance as Elvis Presley is by far the most memorable. After Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) encounters Elvis after a show, the King explains to him “two things ya need to know.”
9. Eminem in Funny People (2009)
While Eminem earned his serious acting chops with his lead role in 8 Mile, his brief cameo appearance as himself in this Judd Apatow-directed comedy-drama film may be his funniest onscreen work. In the film, a distressed George Simmons (Adam Sandler) seeks advice from his friend Eminem as the two have dinner in a restaurant. However, Eminem soon becomes sidetracked when he notices Ray Romano watching him.
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