If you had told Stan Lee, the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics, that one day, he would have made cameos in 23 different movies centered on the comic book characters he was instrumental in creating, it's unlikely that the visionary would believe you were telling the truth. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s own cameos in several of his films back in the 1950s and '60s, Stan Lee’s brief appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become something that audience members anticipate and search for. Lee, ever the showman, has always reveled in the spotlight, and has even filmed four appearances for future movies that have yet to make it to the big screen. With this many appearances under his belt, it only seems right to take a look back at some of the comic book legends greatest cameos in Marvel movies to date.
15 As a hot dog vendor in X-Men (2000)
In the year 2000, superhero films were few and far between. While there were certainly films of the genre being released, their quality often left much to be desired for moviegoers and comic book fans alike. That was until Marvel and Twentieth Century Fox released X-Men, a movie that laid the blueprint for the ever-popular super hero genre we know today.
X-Men furthered its influence on future Marvel movies by giving audiences one of the first Stan Lee cameos. The Marvel comics pioneer can be seen as a hot dog vendor serving up grub in the scene where a now-mutated senator Kelly emerges from the ocean. At the time, Stan Lee was far from the household name that he has become today, so only the more diehard fans were able to catch this brief appearance.
14 As an innocent bystander in Spider-Man (2002)
There aren’t many film franchises that have been rebooted and recast as many times as Spider-Man. The first, and generally considered the best, stab at the character came in 2002, when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was released. Spider-Man was a critical and commercial success, satisfying casual moviegoers and the most diehard web-heads alike.
Spider-Man not only continued the trend of satisfying superhero movies; it also gave audiences their second blockbuster Stan Lee appearance. Lee can be seen amongst a terrified crowd in the pivotal scene in which Spider-Man (Tobey McGuire) faces off against his arch nemesis, The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). Seeing Stan Lee in a Spider-Man film just feels so right, as Lee was instrumental in the process of creating the wall crawler back in 1962.
13 As a distracted reader in Daredevil (2003)
Hot off the heels of two incredibly successful comic book movie adaptations, it seemed like Marvel couldn’t miss in the early 2000’. Unfortunately, all that changed with the release of Daredevil in 2003. Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, was not only a huge critical flop, it also served to reverse a lot of the good will that comic book movies had earned with the release of Spider-Man and X-Men.
While Daredevil was far from a good movie, that didn’t stop Stan Lee from making an appearance (though in hindsight, he may wish it had). The comic creator can be seen in one of the flashback scenes in which a young Matt Murdock stops a distracted Lee from stepping off a curb into oncoming traffic. Honestly, we think we might prefer getting hit by a bus rather than suffering through another viewing of Daredevil…
12 As a man just trying to water his lawn in X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men 3: The Last Stand was a lot of things. Unfortunately for Marvel, one of those things wasn’t a good movie. After a decent follow up to the initial X-Men movie, anticipation was high for the third installment in the trilogy. But the movie didn’t live up to expectations, as it tried to cram just a little too much story into a movie that never found its footing.
After opting to skip his appearance in the second X-Men movie, Lee can be seen as a neighbor watering his lawn when Professor X and Magneto visit Jean Grey’s childhood home. Lee wasn’t the only comic book creator to appear in the movie, though. Chris Claremont, the man behind one of the most legendary runs as a writer for X-Men comics, makes an appearance in the neighborhood, as well.
11 As a security guard in Hulk (2003)
By the time Ang Lee’s stab at the green monster, simply titled Hulk, was released in 2003, Stan Lee had already had a few movie cameos under his belt. At this point, fans were anticipating the Marvel legend to appear at any moment. That being said, it was a nice surprise to see that Stan’s role got stepped up a bit in comparison to his brief “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” cameos in previous films.
Stan Lee actually got to have a few lines in his portrayal as a security guard in Hulk. To top it all off, Stan Lee wasn’t the only famous security guard in the film. In fact, Lou Ferrigno, better known for his role in the 1977 Hulk television series, appeared alongside Lee. Seeing one of Hulk’s key creators alongside the man who portrayed the first live-action version of the character, was fan service at its finest.
10 As… Hugh Hefner? in Iron Man (2008)
In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off in style with the release of Iron Man. Though it’s hard to believe now, at the time Iron Man was a pretty obscure comic book character to base a big budget Hollywood blockbuster on. The gamble proved to be game-changing move for Marvel, and Iron Man has served to be the building block in which all MCU movies were built around.
Iron Man wouldn’t have been a great Marvel movie without the inclusion of one of his key creators, Stan Lee, though. His appearance occurs when Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., runs into Stan on the red carpet, mistaking the elderly playboy for Hugh Hefner. Honestly, who could blame Tony? Stan Lee has had a hard time topping this hilarious MCU appearance.
9 As… Larry King? in Iron Man 2 (2010)
Remember when we said Stan Lee would have a hard time topping his first MCU appearance in Iron Man? Well, we guess this one must have slipped our minds. Stan Lee’s appearance in 2010’s Iron Man 2 occurs when billionaire Tony Stark runs into the comic legend at Stark Expo, where Tony mistakes him for late night television news host, Larry King. Considering the fact that Tony may have been a bit drunk at the time, we can’t blame him for confusing the nearly identical icons with each other.
As the MCU began to rapidly expand, Stan’s appearances became more and more humorous. No one had any idea where the legendary comic book creator’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos would pop up next. Now if only Stan Lee had his own nightly news show…
8 As a general in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger saw one of Marvel’s biggest poster boys brought to life on the big screen for the very first time. Captain America wasn’t always the beefed up superhero that we see in Marvel movies today, though. In fact, the first film installment of the star spangled hero saw a puny version of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers.
As is usually the case in superhero films, all that changed when Steve was exposed to the Super-Soldier Serum, effectively turning him into the nearly unbeatable hero, Captain America. With Cap now serving his country, a ceremony was made to honor the hero. Apparently, Stan Lee also has time traveling abilities, as the legendary creator can be seen as a general in the audience of the ceremony.
7 As a tow truck driver trying to steal Thor’s hammer in Thor (2011)
The Norse god of thunder, Thor, is commonly associated with his giant hammer. That famous hammer is called Mjölnir, and it can’t be held by just anyone. In fact, that famously powerful Norse hammer can only be lifted by someone it deems “worthy”—i.e., Thor. So what happens when Thor drops the hammer in a small town in New Mexico? Well, it sends the townspeople into a frenzy.
Many people attempted to lift the hammer, but none proved worthy enough to budge it. That didn’t stop an ambitious tow truck driver from hitching his truck to it, though. But this wasn’t just any tow truck driver; it was Stan the man Lee! Unfortunately, even Stan Lee (and his wimpy tow truck) didn’t have what it took to budge Mjölnir.
6 As a groovy librarian in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
After the embarrassing critical flop that was Spider-Man 3, Marvel and Columbia Pictures were eager to reboot the hero as soon as possible, this time giving Andrew Garfield the chance to take on the role of Peter Parker. The Amazing Spider-Man was a more modern and fresh imagining of the beloved character, and it served to breathe new life into a film franchise that so desperately needed it. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man movie without an appearance from Stan Lee, though.
Stan can be seen as a busy librarian with his headphones on during Spider-Man’s first run in with the Lizard. Most every one in the school ran for the hills when the brawl began—that is, everyone except for Stan Lee. Stan was just too busy grooving out to his music to be bothered by the rambunctious comic characters.
5 As the security guard who lost Cap’s costume in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The Winter Soldier, the highly anticipated follow up to Captain America’s first solo film, was a thriller that harkens back to spy movies of the 1960s. This movie not only redefined what a superhero movie could be; it also reinvigorated Captain America as a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Hydra seemingly corrupting everything in Cap's life, it's no surprise that the evil organization had also began to track the location of Captain America’s new costume, as well.
Realizing this, Cap decides to steal back his very first costume from the museum in which it was being kept. That should have been a difficult task, but with Stan Lee acting as the security guard on duty, Cap was in and out without a hitch. “I am so fired,” proclaimed Stan upon realizing his mistake. It’s okay, Stan, we all make mistakes.
4 As a flirt on Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
So we’ve already established that Stan Lee can transcend time with his appearance in the 1920s setting of Captain America, but it turns out that the Marvel legend can also transcend space, as well. In the first meeting of the members that would eventually become the Guardians of the Galaxy, we see Rocket Raccoon talking to Groot about how annoying the happy people of Xandar are. We’re not sure if Groot agreed with what Rocket was saying since we don’t speak Groot’s special language, but what we do know is that one of the people of Xandar looked very familiar.
When Rocket zooms in on an elderly man seemingly getting his flirt on with a beautiful Xandarian woman, close examination reveals that this man was actually Stan Lee. This particular appearance was brief, but it was great to see the comic creator out in the cosmos for the first time.
3 As a bartender in Ant-Man (2015)
Ten years ago, if you had told a fan of Marvel comic books that there would be a movie centered around the character of Ant-Man, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would believe you. Fortunately for us all, Ant-Man exists in all its comedic glory, providing a different approach to the Marvel movies that had begun to feel a bit stale.
Paul Rudd played the character of Scott Lang perfectly, and Luis, Lang’s righthand man played by Michael Peña, was comedic gold. In a scene where Luis is in a bar scoping out a girl, the bartender looked a bit familiar to watchful eyes. That’s because the bartender was none other than Stan Lee. It turns out that Michael Peña wasn’t the only person in the bar checking out women that night...
2 As a strip club emcee in Deadpool (2016)
The release of Deadpool marked the first time any modern superhero movie had garnered an R rating. There was really no other way to do the beloved character justice without taking a grittier approach on the genre. Luckily for Marvel and Sony, the Deadpool gamble was a massive success financially and critically, pleasing new and old fans of the Merc with a Mouth alike.
While Deadpool wasn’t actually one of Stan Lee’s creations, it just wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without a cameo from the comic pioneer. Being that Deadpool was an R-rated movie, it only makes sense that Stan’s cameo was a bit R-rated, as well. Lee can be seen in the strip club scene, acting as the charismatic emcee announcing the dancers. Stan may just have a fall back career if he ever decides to step away from Marvel.
1 As a lost space man in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
It only seems fitting that Stan Lee’s latest Marvel movie cameo just may be the best he’s ever done. The audience expected that Stan would appear in the highly anticipated sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy, but no one had any idea he would appear as a space man on a distant planet surrounded by Watchers.
The Watchers are classic Marvel characters that—you guessed it—watch the events of the galaxy unfold from a distance. Stan is seen regaling the ancient aliens with tales from his colorful life. Maybe someone should explain to Stan that the Watchers are already well aware of everything that the comic book creator has done, though we wonder if the Watchers are aware that Stan Lee was actually the man who created them... This is all getting pretty confusing.