The Marvel Cinematic Universe is well known for its numerous Easter eggs; in fact, we’ve frequently detailed the best ones in everything from the Iron Man and Captain America movies to, more recently, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp. But while the franchise is filled with a ton of cool guest appearances from obscure comic book characters, it also features a surprising number of celebrity cameos.
With the MCU now past the 10-year mark, there’s a good chance that some of these guest appearances — especially in the early films — went over your head or were just forgotten about altogether. The next time you watch a Marvel movie, keep an eye out for these 22 cameos, as there’s a good chance you may have missed them the first time around.
22. Peter Billingsley – Iron Man
Early on in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark tells a young child wearing glasses that he loved him in A Christmas Story (1983), an obvious allusion to that film’s main character Ralphie. Interestingly, the actor who played Ralphie, Peter Billingsley, served as an executive producer on the first Iron Man and also played a small role in the film as the Stark Industries scientist who tries and fails to recreate the Arc Reactor technology for Obadiah Stane.
21. Tom Morello – Iron Man
Best known as the guitarist for the hard rock bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, Tom Morello actually contributed guitar work for the Iron Man and Iron Man 2 soundtracks. Additionally, he has a blink-and-you’ll-miss it cameo in the first film as a member of the Ten Rings, the terrorist organization that abducts Tony Stark.
20. Lou Ferrigno/Bill Bixby – The Incredible Hulk
Lou Ferrigno was the first actor to portray Marvel’s green behemoth in live-action, on the late ’70s CBS series, The Incredible Hulk. It’s fitting then that Ferrigno was brought in to do voice work for the character in the film The Incredible Hulk (as well as The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron), but the man himself also makes an appearance in the former as a security guard whom Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner bribes with pizza.
Speaking of Banner, Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk co-star Bill Bixby also gets a cameo (of sorts) in the film. Sadly, Bixby died of prostate cancer back in 1993, but the onetime Bruce Banner shows up in an episode of the sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, which is playing on a television Bruce Banner is watching. It’s small, but still makes for a touching tribute to the late actor.
19. Olivia Munn – Iron Man 2
Before making her supposed Marvel movie debut as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse (okay, it’s not part of the MCU but it still counts!), Olivia Munn had a brief cameo in Iron Man 2. Munn appears early on in the film as a TV host working the Stark Expo opening ceremonies; fitting given that Munn got her start as a TV personality on G4. Interestingly, Munn was in the running for a big MCU role at the time (Scarlet Witch being the most likely candidate), but she lost out on the role to Elizabeth Olsen since she wasn’t as big a name at the time. Fortunately, there’s still the possibility of Munn being cast in a different role, since the X-Men movies aren’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yet).
18. Kate Mara – Iron Man 2
She’s a pretty big name now but back when Iron Man 2 came out, Kate Mara was still a relatively unknown actress, which is probably why we totally forgot that she’s even in the film! About 10 minutes into the movie, Tony Stark is served a subpoena by a U.S. Marshal played by Mara. As a little bit of added trivia, Tony asks Mara’s character where she’s from, to which she replies “Bedford.” Kate Mara was born in Bedford, New York.
17. Elon Musk – Iron Man 2
Tony Stark shares some similarities with real life billionaire inventor Elon Musk, so it’s hardly surprising that the Iron Man trilogy contains several references to Musk, including a cameo! Musk appears in the Monaco restaurant scene in Iron Man 2 and upon meeting him, Tony Stark remarks that Musk’s Merlin engines, which are the propulsion engines SpaceX uses on its Falcon series of rockets, are “fantastic.’ Musk responds by claiming that he’s drafting a concept for an “electric jet,” something that he actually started working on in late 2015.
In addition to his cameo, Musk’s SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California stands in for Justin Hammer’s factory; in fact, the people walking in the background are actual employees.
16. DJ AM – Iron Man 2
Adam Goldstein, better known as DJ AM, was a successful solo DJ in the early 2000s and is perhaps best known for TRV$DJAM, a collaboration project between himself and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. Speaking of Barker, Goldstein was the only other survivor of the 2008 plane crash that killed four of the six people on board.
Sadly, DJ AM didn’t survive long after his miraculous plane crash escape, as he was found dead in his apartment of an overdose in August 2009, just two months after filming his scene for Iron Man 2. DJ AM appears as himself in the film, performing at Tony Stark’s birthday party. He also performed on the film’s soundtrack, with his contribution being heard during the brief fight between Tony Stark and James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Iron Man 2 is dedicated to Goldstein’s memory.
15. Natalie Dormer – Captain America: The First Avenger
Best known for her role as Margaery Tyrell on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Natalie Dormer was just breaking out as an actress when she picked up a small role in Captain America: The First Avengers. Dormer plays Private Lorraine, a U.S. Army soldier who attempts to seduce Steve Rogers after he saves a number of soldiers captured by the Red Skull’s HYDRA forces. Lorraine is interrupted in her efforts by the arrival of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), who is none too pleased by what she sees. As it turns out, Peggy needn’t have worried, as we find out before long that Steve only has eyes for her. Sorry Lorraine!
14. Alexis Denisof – The Avengers
An alum of Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse, it hardly comes as a surprise that the director found a way to sneak his pal Alexis Denisoff into The Avengers. Of course, Denisoff is buried under makeup, which is why you may not have noticed that he plays “The Other,” a personal servant of Thanos who provides Loki with a Chitauri army in order to invade Earth. Denisoff reprises the role in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it would be his last time, as The Other is killed by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) in a fit of rage.
13. Chris O’Dowd – Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World is easily one of the most forgettable films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there’s a good chance you forgot all about Chris O’Dowd’s funny supporting role as Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) hapless date. Best known for starring in the workplace comedy The IT Crowd, O’Dowd’s inclusion in The Dark World represents one of the film’s few bright spots, as O’Dowd is left confused and heartbroken by his disastrous date. To be fair, it’s kind of hard to compete with the God of Thunder, so the poor Irishman never really stood a chance.
12. Ed Brubaker – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Alright, so Ed Brubaker isn’t a “celebrity” in the traditional sense but to comic book fans, he’s practically a legend. Brubaker has written a ton of critically-acclaimed runs on superhero comics , including Batman, Catwoman and of course, Captain America. As a tribute of sorts, Brubaker was given a cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he plays one of Alexander Pierce’s (Robert Redford) henchman (you can spot Brubaker during the scene where Bucky Barnes is strapped down and brainwashed for another assignment). Brubaker wrote the original “Winter Soldier” story arc for the Captain America comics, so it’s fitting that this is the film he makes a cameo in.
11. Nathan Fillion – Guardians of the Galaxy
Nathan Fillion is probably best known for his roles in the TV series Firefly and Castle, but he also starred in James Gunn’s 2006 comedy-horror film Slither, so it makes sense that Gunn would offer Fillion a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy. Fillion plays the blue alien who walks up to Star-Lord in the Xandarian space prison and tries to intimidate him by calling him the “new meat” – an action that ends with him getting Groot’s arm (tree limb?) stuffed painfully up his nose. Fillion returned for another cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this time as Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Boy, but his part was unfortunately cut from the theatrical version.
10. Lloyd Kaufman – Guardians of the Galaxy
If you didn’t know, Lloyd Kaufman is the co-founder of B-movie studio Troma Entertainment, where James Gunn got his start as a screenwriter in the mid-90s, writing the script for the film Tromeo and Juliet (1996). Gunn has credited Kaufman as one of his mentors, who has made cameo appearances in many of Gunn’s films. Guardians of the Galaxy is no exception, as Kaufman plays Kyln Prisoner, one of the convicts housed in the Xanadarian prison complex.
9. James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy
In case it’s not yet apparent, Guardians of the Galaxy is loaded with cameos, to the point where even director James Gunn decided to get in on the action. Gunn plays a nameless Sakaaran working for Ronan the Accuser who appears during the attack on Xandar. Specifically, Gunn is the Sakaaran leader who confronts Yondu, only to be killed along with all his men by Yondu’s whistling arrow. Gunn’s role has him wearing a ton of makeup, so it would be pretty hard to spot him even if you were keeping an eye out for his appearance.
8. Seth Green – Guardians of the Galaxy
Nothing like saving the best for last, right? The first Guardians of the Galaxy ends with a surprise appearance from Howard the Duck, but did you know that he’s played by Seth Green? James Gunn is good friends with Green in real life, so he reached out to the actor to see if he would be interested in having a supporting role in his film. Howard the Duck would appear again in the sequel and Green answered the call yet again. Here’s hoping for an expanded role in a future MCU installment!
7. Jim Rash – Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is such a busy movie, it’s easy to forget about an early scene in the film where Tony Stark gives a presentation at MIT that sees him employing a nifty holographic time snapshot technology that depicts the last time Stark saw his parents alive (and also gives us a look at a very convincing young Robert Downey Jr., courtesy of CGI). Right after Tony leaves the stage, he’s greeted by M.I.T.’s opportunistic dean, who tries to get his hands on some of that Stark money. Rash is of course best known for playing a college dean on Community, a show which Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo had previously worked on. Now that’s some stunt typecasting we can get behind!
6. Michael Rosenbaum – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
If you’re anything like us, you probably noticed the crystal-skinned guy accompanying Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and thought “Woah, what’s that cool guy’s story?” Well, his name is Martinex T’Naga, an original Guardians of the Galaxy team member who was born on Pluto (no relation to this guy, unfortunately). He’s not all just good lucks though, as writer Dan Abnett describes him as “the brain” of the operation.
The best part about Martinex though is who plays him in the film. Believe it or not, that’s Michael Rosenbaum — Smallville’s Lex Luthor — underneath all that crystal. Rosenbaum is actually a personal friend of James Gunn and his addition to the cast was announced really late, so you’d be forgiven for not realizing he was even in it!
5. Rob Zombie – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Anyone else get the sense that James Gunn has a lot of famous friends he can call on for favors? As it turns out, Gunn is buddies with director and heavy metal musician Rob Zombie and reached out to him for a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In fact, Zombie has several roles in the film, though he never actually appears on screen. Zombie provides the voice of the Ravager’s navigation system and also contributes his voice to a group of screaming Ravagers for good measure. As a bit of added trivia, Zombie also provided the voice of Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard in the 2003 TV series Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
4. Miley Cyrus (And Others) – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
During one of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s several post-credits scenes, we see Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar reunite with his old Guardians 3000 gang. Michael Rosenbaum’s Martinex is also in attendance, but we are also introduced to some new members played by some surprisingly big names. There’s Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), Aleta (Michelle Yeoh), and perhaps most shocking of all, a vocal cameo from Miley Cyrus as Mainframe. There’s also the magic-wielding alien known as Krugarr, who is the apprentice of Doctor Strange in an alternate future timeline from the comics and eventually succeeds him as the Sorcerer Supreme.
3. Martin Starr – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming is more focused than any previous Spidey movie on Peter Parker’s high school experience, so it’s fitting that it has some connections to one of the best high school TV shows ever made. Martin Starr (Silicon Valley’s Gilfoyle), who played Bill Haverchuck on Freaks and Geeks, has a small role here as Mr. Harrington, the academic decathlon coach. However, Starr isn’t the only Freaks and Geeks alum involved with Homecoming, as John Francis Daley, who played Sam Weir, actually co-wrote the film.
2. Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, and Sam Neill – Thor: Ragnarok
If there’s any scene that proves Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s the farcical play being put on for Loki’s (disguised as Odin, of course) amusement upon Thor’s return to Asgard. As we see, Loki has essentially turned Asgard into one giant ode to himself, commissioning the construction of a statue in his honor and having the kingdom’s theater company act out plays that paint him as a fallen hero.
The best part of this scene — besides the visual of Sir Anthony Hopkins lounging around eating grapes — is the actors themselves, as each one represents a pretty big cameo. We have Chris Hemsworth’s older brother Luke Hemsworth (Westworld) playing Thor, Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople star Sam Neill as Odin, and none other than an uncredited Matt Damon playing Loki. Damon in particular seems to be a fan of making small cameos where he gets to be a total goof, as he also appears as a hillbilly in Deadpool 2.
1. Kenneth Branagh – Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War’s cast list is ridiculously long, so there’s little room for surprise cameos but believe it or not, the film literally begins with one! Infinity War opens with audio from a distress call being sent out from the Asgardian ship being attacked by Thanos. That voice belongs to none other than Kenneth Branagh, the director of the original Thor movie. It’s a cool full circle moment that alludes to Branagh’s role in helping introduce Thor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.