Stan Lee: [grabbing the camera] “Hey everybody, look at me! I’m Stan Lee [starts dancing] doing my subtle cameo!”
Grip: “Excuse me, Mr. Stan.” [whispers something].
Stan: “This is a DC movie! Oh gee, I gotta get outta here!” – Teen Titans Go!: To The Movies
There wouldn’t be nearly as many blockbuster superhero movies without Stan Lee. Lee created Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and countless other Marvel heroes with the help of partner Jack Kirby.
Lee has Forrest Gump’d his way through most of Marvel’s movies and TV shows. Now that his journey has ended, we gotta ask which cameos were best. Face front, true believers, It’s time to find out.
Honorable Mention: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
Stan Lee’s first cameo was in the 1989 made-for-TV movie The Trial of The Incredible Hulk. While awaiting a trial for a crime he didn’t commit, David Banner (Bill Bixby) has a nightmare about transforming into The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) mid-trial. Stan appears as a member of the jury and is attacked by the rampaging monster.
Stan may not have gotten any focus or lines, but this cameo gets points for seniority. Fun Fact: Stan Lee reunited with Lou Ferrigno to cameo in the 2003 movie Hulk.
#6: Thor: Ragnarok
Bruce Banner: [noticing Thor’s short hair] “What happened to your hair?”
Thor: “Some creepy old man cut it off.”
After a thorough trouncing from Hela, Thor was tossed into a portal and landed on the planet Sakaar. He was quickly enslaved by the planet’s ruler, The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and forced to become a gladiator. As part of his preparation, Thor is dragged to an elderly barber played by Stan Lee.
Thor threatens Stan with divine retribution which Stan responds to by transforming his hand into a whirling mass of blades. Thor’s bravado crumbles as he begs this “kind sir” not to cut his hair, to no avail.
Thor fought the mechanized menace Ultron, the demon lord Surtur, and even Hela, the Goddess of Death without any trace of fear. Stan Lee had him begging for mercy from a haircut. Don’t screw with Barber Stan.
#5 The Fantastic Four
Willie Lumpkin: “Welcome back to the Baxter, Dr. Richards. I’ve got the usual for you. (gives mail) Good to have you back.”
This is the only time that Stan Lee played a character he created. Willie Lumpkin was a mailman created for a daily comic strip Lee created. The strip followed Willie delivering mail to weird people in Glenvil, Nebraska. He was later included in the Fantastic Four comics as a running gag, re-drawn to look like Stan Lee.
Willie may have been added as a gag, but he’s saved the Fantastic Four’s bacon on several occasions. The FF would repay him by going through a Fantastic Voyage plot to operate on an otherwise inoperable brain tumor. He was last seen working as a biology teacher at the FF’s school, the Future Foundation.
Willie Lumpkin only appeared in the first Fantastic Four movie. Stan reappeared in Rise of the Silver Surfer trying to crash Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s wedding, a repeat of a gag from the comics.
#4 Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2
Stan Lee: [pulling a woman away from danger] “Look out!”
O.K., these are two cameos, but they both last less than five seconds and are pretty much the same, so screw it, they count.
In 2002’s Spider-Man, Stan Lee shows up during Green Goblin’s attack on the Macy’s Day Parade. He’s shown panicking before he notices a little girl presumably separated from her parents. He grabs the child and guides her away from the psychopath throwing grenades.
The same version of Stan reappeared in Spider-Man 2, watching a fight between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. One of Doc Ock’s blows knocks a chunk of stone out a building which careens towards a young woman. Stan lunges forward and pulls her from danger.
These cameos are the most heroic character Stan Lee played and the epitome of Uncle Ben’s message. Stan’s character had the power to just run away from danger, but he took responsibility and helped others escape.
#3 Spider-Man: the Animated Series
Madame Web: “Spider-Man, it’s time to go.”
Stan Lee: “Who is that exotic lady?”
Spider-Man: “Oh, her? She’s my ride. It’s been great meeting you. Take care of yourself.”
Stan Lee: “You too, Spider-Man! Farewell and good luck! (realizes he’s stuck on top of a building) Wow, I wonder how I’m supposed to get down. I suppose I could wait for the Fantastic 4 to drop by and give me a lift.” – Spider-Man: the Animated Series, “Farewell, Spider-Man!” (season 5, episode 13)
Stan’s biggest cameo came in the series finale of Spider-Man: the Animated Series. Spidey teamed up with several alternate versions of himself to defeat a powerful enemy. One of the alternate Spider-Men wasn’t able to help and was later revealed to be an actor playing Spidey.
After the day was saved, the actor brought Spider-Man to our earth and introduced him to Stan Lee. Spider-Man took Lee web-swinging across New York as the two discussed life. Stan even got to flirt with Madame Web, Spider-Man’s dimension hopping ally.
Madame Web was voiced by Joan Lee, Stan’s wife. The two were married for almost 70 years before she passed away from a stroke on July 6, 2017.
#2 The Avengers
Stan Lee: “Superheroes? In New York? Give me a break.”
Yep, the guy who infested New York City with superheroes said that.
Several civilians are interviewed following Loki’s invasion. While most of them are ecstatic about The Avengers, an elderly chess player ironically scoffs at the concept.
Stan actually had a deleted cameo in The Avengers. There was a scene where a waitress flirts with an out of uniform Steve Rogers. A naive Captain America doesn’t realize what she wants until she leaves and Stan leans over and hisses, “Ask for her number, ya moron.”
#1 Guardians of The Galaxy vol. 2
Stan Lee: [as his audience leaves] “Hey wait, guys, where are you going? You were supposed to be my ride out of here! Aw geez, I’ve got so many more stories to tell…”
One of Stan’s last cameos is also his most interesting. While the Guardians are flying through a wormhole, the camera pans to a planet where Stan Lee is telling stories to a group of aliens. Three things are intriguing about this.
- Stan mentions having been a Fed-Ex worker, referencing his cameo in Captain America: Civil War. In other words, Stan’s cameos are canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the same guy.
- The aliens listening to the stories are Watchers, a species that observes the universe without interfering themselves. Since the Watchers are associated with the Fantastic Four, I assumed they were part and parcel with the FF’s movie rights. Apparently not.
- There is a long-standing fan theory that all of Stan Lee’s cameos were the same character and that he is a Watcher.
The last theory hasn’t been confirmed, but there is a lot of evidence. Stan Lee might actually be a Watcher. You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why, Stan Lee’s stealing Santa Claus’ job.
Those were the Top 6 Stan Lee cameos. What are your favorites? Leave a comment. ‘Nuff said.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.