Stan Lee’s Best Cameo Appearances From Your Favorite Marvel Movies

Stan Lee, the president and former chairman of Marvel comics, was a superhero for fans everywhere. He was responsible for bringing many of the most popular characters in the world to life, from Spider-Man to Captain Marvel.

Stan Lee
Stan Lee | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Beginning in 1989, Lee began the tradition of making a small cameo in live-action Marvel movies, much to fan’s delight. He upheld the tradition until his passing in 2018, at the grand old age of 95. Check out our list of his very best cameo appearances, from the outrageous to the touching.

A startled bystander in ‘Spider-Man’

The live-action Marvel films were still in their relative infancy in 2002, when Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinger, was released. For many fans, Maguire’s take on Peter Parker is still the gold standard, and Stan Lee’s cameo in this film is undoubtedly one of his funniest. Lee makes a brief appearance as a member of a crowd that is disrupted by the Green Goblin, the terrifying villain perfectly portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Lee would go on to make cameos in the ensuing Spider-Man sequels, but this one, where he saves a little girl from some falling debris, is one of the most memorable.

A Hugh Hefner wannabe in ‘Iron Man’

2008’s Iron Man was widely credited as the film that restored Robert Downey, Jr. to movie star status after his highly-publicized battle with drugs and alcohol. The film was a huge smash success for Marvel Studios, and many fans can barely remember a time when Downey, Jr. didn’t personify the role of billionaire genius playboy Tony Stark. Lee’s cameo in Iron Man was one of his very best, as a party guest whom Tony Stark mistakes for Hugh Hefner. Although Lee’s role was silent, it made a big impact, and fans loved it.

Even Lee can’t rival the god of thunder’s strength in ‘Thor’

Thor told the origins of Chris Hemsworth’s golden god in a dramatic, sweeping film that was an exciting change of pace for Marvel Studios. Although the film was a bold new vision, Lee’s appearance was a familiar joy for fans. He made his cameo in 2011’s Thor as part of a group of curious townspeople, all taking their turns trying to move Thor’s mighty hammer, which embedded in the sand when the god was exiled earthside. Lee, driving a pickup truck, couldn’t move the hammer, but he succeeded in giving audiences a laugh. 

A grumpy chess player in ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’

Marvel’s The Avengers is widely regarded as one of the greatest ensemble action movies of all time, uniting earth’s mightiest heroes in an epic adventure that critics and audiences alike praised. It also features one of Stan Lee’s best cameos. Lee appears in the final minutes of the film, as a chess player who proclaims his disbelief for the idea that superheroes could ever show up in New York City. The rare speaking part is funny and nostalgic, and Lee delivers it perfectly.

Stan Lee passed away in November 2018, after a long battle with pneumonia. Naturally, fans are curious about how the tradition of Lee’s cameo appearances will be upheld in future Marvel films. While Lee himself is no longer around, it is very likely that Marvel Studios has extensive unused footage that they have gathered from nearly 30 years of Lee’s involvement in the films. Whether they will be able to work the footage into something usable remains to be seen – but in any case, there’s no doubt that Marvel will continue to pay tribute to Stan Lee, the man who started it all.