The MCU’s Best Kept Cameos
It’s been exactly one week since the finale of WandaVision premiered. Regardless of what you thought about the finale though you have to admit that the best part of the series as a whole was not knowing what would happen next. From Mephisto to Squadron Supreme, fans got caught up in a magical chaos all their own with their rampant weekly theories.
Even the show’s stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany added flames to the fire. While the former claimed that there would be a cameo in the vein of Luke Skywalker’s in The Mandalorian season 2 finale, the latter most notably stated that the show afforded him an opportunity to work with an actor he had always admired.
We now know that both Olsen and Bettany were trolling the entire world; however, I think that the reason so many people believed them was not only because the show poised endless possibilities, but because it wouldn’t be the first time Marvel pulled a stunt like that.
So after weeks of grasping at straws, instead of continuing to dwell on opportunities WandaVision might have missed out on, I thought it’d be cool to instead reflect on some of the best surprise appearances within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception.
These are the MCU’s Top 5 Best Kept Cameos (in my opinion).
NOTE: Don’t expect Evan Peters’ “Pietro Maximoff” to make the list. In addition to him being revealed as a fraud, Peters’ involvement wasn’t that big of a secret. This list will focus on actors and/or characters that audiences had no clue about until they saw the film. So here we go:
5. MATT DAMON AS FAKE LOKI, THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
This one might seem silly, but believe it or not Damon’s involvement was a very closely guarded secret during production of Thor: Ragnarok according to THR.
Conversely, Sam Neill’s cameo wasn’t as inconspicuous, despite appearing in the same exact scene as Damon. With reports that Damon, Niell and others from Ragnarok are returning to reprise their cameos for Thor: Love and Thunder, it’s only fitting that this one makes the list.
Now, Damon is arguably the king of cameos, having appeared unexpectedly in several minor and major films throughout his career (Euro Trip, Interstellar, Unsane), but his appearance in Ragnarok serves as a proof that cameos don’t always have to serve as an expansion of the MCU, they can just simply entertain.
4. JEREMY RENNER AS HAWKEYE, THOR (2011)
Thor: Ragnorak wasn’t the only film in the franchise to feature a fantastic cameo though. It’s been nearly a decade since the first Thor hit theaters, but there’s one special appearance that most fans definitely didn’t expect to see, despite rumors of the actor already being cast in the role.
Yes, I’m talking about Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Hot off the heels of his work in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Renner was cast as Clint Barton a.k.a Hawkeye; however, various reports suggested that the character wouldn’t be introduced until Marvel’s The Avengers. So you can imagine what a treat it was to see him swoop in for a brief, albeit, epic cameo in Thor, ready to take Odin’s son down at Agent Coulson’s command.
While the scene is admittedly anticlimactic, it was a small act of fan service that not only teased great things to come, but also affirmed that the universe was slowly and surely growing.
3. SETH GREEN AS HOWARD THE DUCK, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
If there’s any cameo sillier than Matt Damon’s in the MCU it’s easily Howard the Duck’s. I think I speak for a vast majority of Terrans when I say that prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, Howard was the last Marvel character fans expected to see on the big screen (especially after his 1986 flop). While some consider his appearance in the film to be a playful nod to the character, James Gunn’s deliberate choice to have him in a post-credit scene was admirable God-tier trolling.
You see, at that point in the MCU’s gestation, post-credit scenes were crucial. They were mostly used to show what other already established characters were up to and set up future films. Howard the Duck’s appearance at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy does neither, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely meaningless.
The same way that Fake Loki entertained and Hawkeye teased the MCU’s aggressive expansion, Howard the Duck did both on a more cosmic level. While he doesn’t blatantly point fans in the direction of where the Universe is headed, his mere appearance is a literal punctuation mark to the point of Guardians of the Galaxy: the world, its characters, and it’s lore run much deeper than we realize.
2. J.K SIMMONS AS J. JONAH JAMESON, SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)
For obvious reasons this feels like cheating, but how could I not include this “cameo” in this list?
J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films is one of the best casting choices in the history of the superhero film genre, and for him to be given the opportunity to return to that role is one of the more bolder choices in recent Marvel memory. Given that a Multiverse storyline is in the cards, it’s a subtle move with massive implications.
In a film that teased the the possibility of other worlds – then later debunked it – Simmons’ surprise reprisal was the bait and switch fans didn’t know was possible or know that they needed. Plus his on-the-nose reinvention as a tin-foil hat wearing podcaster was just the cherry on top.
His appearance opened the door for other actors and characters from prior Marvel properties outside of the MCU to come back which, when you think about it, explains why there was so much buzz about Evan Peters’ Pietro Maximoff too. Unlike Peters though, Simmons presence is actually just a minor taste of what’s to come. It’s also a cool callback to just how slick Marvel can be when they’re only in the planning phases of a massive story arc.
1. SAMUEL L. JACKSON AS NICK FURY, IRON MAN (2008)
That leads us to our very last cameo on this list: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Iron Man.
The only thing greater than his cameo is the story of how far Jon Favreau went to keep Jackson’s involvement a secret. Having a private car pull up to set to drop Jackson off and pick him back up? It almost makes you wonder what kind of lengths he went to keep Luke Skywalker a secret, especially in an age of scoopers and social media.
It’s an indisputable fact that Iron Man was the film that introduced the world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; however it’s Sam Jackson’s arrival as Nick Fury and subsequent proposal of the ‘Avengers Initiative’ that really set everything else into motion.
While a cameo is a small part by definition, in the years since his debut Jackson’s Fury has become so much more. To say that without this cameo the whole Universe probably wouldn’t exist would be an understatement because Fury was the thread that bound all of our original heroes together. From what we can gather from the mid-credit scene in WandaVision, he still kind of is too.
That concludes this list.
Are there any other cameos you think should have made the list? If so, sound off below!