Cameos That Ruined Otherwise Great Movies

Cameos are a funny beast. They essentially exist to make you go "my goodness! I didn't know this human was in this movie. How delightful!" As such, they're tricky to pull off. For every Bill Murray in Zombieland or Buster Keaton in Sunset Blvd, there are a billion Vanilla Ices unleashing their cringe-rap on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, which is approximately a billion more Vanilla Ices than any given universe can handle.

But while not even the horrifying specter of non-Beastie Boys early-'90s white rap could have made TMNT 2 worse than it already was, there are plenty of cameos that sink otherwise perfectly good movies.

Bryan Cranston's 'major' Godzilla role is basically a glorified cameo

2014's Godzilla announced itself in the most 2014 way possible. No, not by starting a mass Twitter panic about airborne Ebola, but by splashing Bryan Cranston across the internet, in a successful attempt to cash in on everyone's sadness about Breaking Bad ending. Cranston cropped up in all the trailers. His voice dominated the TV spots. From the perspective of the average moviegoer, Godzilla looked like a guaranteed two hours of Cranston out-acting a CGI lizard.

Sadly, in a move probably designed to evoke Alfred Hitchcock's killing of star Janet Leigh 20 minutes into Psycho (spoiler alert), Godzilla had Cranston's character become monster mulch almost before the movie started. Rather than make audiences think of the master of suspense, though, it mostly made them think they wanted their money back. Cranston's role wasn't a true cameo, but it was compared to what people were expecting, and complaints dominated many reviews. Cranston himself later called his character's early death a mistake.

Quentin Tarantino's accent ruins Django Unchained's escape scene

Quentin Tarantino sure likes inserting himself into his films, even if the results are best described as "uneven." His Like a Virgin speech in Reservoir Dogs is iconic. On the other hand, not everyone was convinced by his performance in Pulp Fiction. And absolutely no one was convinced by his Australian accent in Django Unchained.

Tarantino's attempt at an antipodean accent goes beyond merely wrong into a kind of transcendent space previously only occupied by Dick Van Dyke's "cor blimey" cockney accent in Mary Poppins. Toward the end of the film, he appears as one of a group of Australian miners who kidnap Django before falling victim to his charms, releasing him, and dying nastily. The scene itself is an excellent example of Tarantino's ability to combine exhilarating action with humor, as well as an excellent example of how Tarantino's self indulgence — like casting himself in a part he's clearly unsuitable for — can leave audiences exasperated.

Smash Mouth turns Rat Race's finale into a giant Smash Mouth promo

Musical cameos have a dangerously high probability of ending in disaster. That probability increases in step with the band's novelty, tracing a clear line all the way from non-novelty/good (Jarvis Cocker in Harry Potter) through to totally novelty/awful (Vanilla Ice again). Smash Mouth falls into the latter category, which makes the decision to structure the entire climax of Rat Race around them questionable.

The plot of the film revolves around a bunch of unscrupulous billionaires betting on ordinary people racing from Las Vegas to New Mexico in the hopes of winning $2 million. This being a comedy, the regular folk wind up turning the tables on the billionaires and forcing them to give away all their money to charity, all with the help of Smash Mouth, who suddenly crop up in the last few minutes, provide the deus ex machina, and then play their songs before a cheering audience while the movie ends. Yup, the first three quarters of the movie was basically buildup to a Smash Mouth music video.

Dario Argento uses his own hands to murder his daughter

Italian director Dario Argento didn't invent the trope of a black-gloved hand strangling a beautiful actress, but he certainly made it his own. His hyper-lurid giallo horror films feature so many women getting killed in inventive ways that you could probably write a thousand psychological papers on the inside of Argento's head. Especially when you consider that many of the female characters getting killed are played by his own daughter. Doubly-especially when you realize the hands killing her in close-ups are often Argento's own.

As per Slant Magazine, Argento is famous for having his hands make murderous cameo appearances. He's also famous for casting his daughter Asia and making her get naked (as this review attests). Occasionally, these two obsessions combine in a single, uncomfortable moment that couldn't get more Freudian if the next shot was Argento seducing his own mother. Of course, casual viewers don't know those hands belong to Argento. The cameos only really ruin his movies after you've read about them. Oops.

Mike Tyson's past makes The Hangover super awkward

In February 1992, Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant (via History). 17 years later, the producers of The Hangover were looking to cast a boxer in a cameo, in a movie about people getting "roofied," a term for drugging people with rohypnol, a technique frequently employed by rapists. They settled on Tyson. You can see how this might be awkward.

And it kinda was, even in good ol' 2009, when we still thought Harvey Weinstein was just a successful producer, Kevin Spacey just a successful actor, and Jimmy Savile just someone you could definitely trust around kids. From our post #MeToo perspective, the awkwardness is so glaring it could outshine the sun. As EW asked, why was it cool for a convicted rapist to be treated like just another guest star, when guys like Mel Gibson were blackballed for racist comments? See? These are exactly the sort of awkward questions comedy cameos shouldn't be forcing viewers to consider.

Macy Gray dominates Spider-Man's pivotal scene

When Sam Raimi's Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002, there weren't many superhero films out there. So the debut of a villain like Green Goblin was up there with losing your virginity on the "OMG so exciting!" scale. While Spider-Man gave us a decent Goblin, his first appearance was marred by a pointless musician cameo in the form of jarring reaction shots of Macy Gray.

The pivotal scene involves Goblin bombing an "OSCORP Industries Unity Day festival," which features Macy Gray as the main act. She's initially introduced with a looong 10 seconds of music, probably at the insistence of Sony, who she was signed with at the time. Jarring as this is, the real take-you-out-the-movie moment comes when Goblin starts his bombing run, only for Raimi to cut back to a gratuitous Macy Gray reaction shot. As this excellent online rant attests, the only purposes it serves is to, a) defuse tension, and b) remind you that, yep, Macy Gray is in this movie.

Donald Trump's Zoolander cameo is now the most surreal thing ever

When Ben Stiller and co. booked Donald Trump for a cameo in 2001's Zoolander, they probably didn't know they were about to star alongside a future president. It was just another in a line of cameos Trump made between the late '80s and early '00s. Coming amid Zoolander's slew of guest stars (David Bowie, Billy Zane, Christopher Walken, and too many others to list), it was almost forgettable. Right up until November 8, 2016. At which point it became the most surreal thing ever.

Sure, presidents have appeared in movies before. Ronald Reagan built his career on acting. Richard Nixon did an unbelievably strange cameo on comedy show Laugh-In. But, well, that was a long time ago, and neither man was such a presidential long-shot as Trump. To have a knockabout movie this generation watched in its childhood featuring the unlikely man who would go on to be a divisive president feels like falling through the looking glass. 2001 really was a different time.

Richard Branson yanks the audience out of Casino Royale

There was a brief time in the early 2000s when Virgin owner Richard Branson apparently made an effort to appear in every major blockbuster. He was in Superman Returns. He was in Around the World in 80 Days. Most jarringly of all, he was in Casino Royale, the film otherwise known as the one that proved a blond Bond could never, ever work. Branson's appearance yanks viewers out of a pivotal scene.

The scene involves Bond following a ne'er-do-well through a busy airport as he attempts to smuggle a bomb. As we're tracking this soon-to-be dead terrorist, a man next to him is pulled out by security. He turns around ... and it's Richard Branson, his instantly recognizable face immediately yanking you out of the chase. Apparently, British Airways agreed because they edited Branson out of their in-flight version of the movie (via The Telegraph). Surely it had nothing to do with him being the head of a rival airline.

Paul McCartney's Pirates of the Caribbean cameo was clearly written for Keith Richards

The one fact everyone knows about Captain Jack Sparrow is that Johnny Depp based him on Rolling Stones guitarist/drug landfill Keith Richards. So many people know this that the third and fourth Pirates films gave Richards tiny cameos as Sparrow's dad, creating a sort of ongoing meta joke in the Pirates universe. But when Pirates 5 rolled round, Richards was absent. Instead, Beatles legend Paul McCartney was touted as the big guest star. The only issue was his role as a prison inmate had clearly been written with Richards in mind (via Screenrant).

The producers' intention seems to have been to just keep sticking Richards in every Pirates movie until he finally died. (Kidding! Any man who has survived that many drugs is gonna live forever.) With Richards unavailable for part 5, however, they decided to just give his lines to another rocker, and it really shows. McCartney's cameo is so short and so out of place that it would only make sense as part of the meta gag of sticking Richards in every Pirates film.

Bill Murray's 2016 Ghostbusters cameo didn't exactly calm things down

Billy Murray is one of those actors who makes any movie a thousand times more watchable. Yes, even Garfield. (One thousand times zero is still zero, after all.) When it came time for Ghostbuster's 2016 reboot, giving Murray a cameo must've seemed like a no-brainer. It probably would have been, had Lady Ghostbusters not turned into the year's biggest lightning rod.

Polygon has a fascinating explainer of the controversy for anyone who wants to relive the sheer misery, but it basically came down to two things: Some people really hate women, and some people really hate reboots. Oh, and some people who hate women also pretended to hate reboots to disguise the fact that they actually hate women. But not all people who hate reboots also hate women. See? Rehashing this stuff isn't fun for anyone.

Sadly, that's what Murray's appearance — and those of other original cast members — did. It reminded the audience of the howling controversy that had engulfed the film, something no one wants when kicking back with a goofy sci-fi comedy.

Lance Armstrong's speech in Dodgeball ruins the one serious moment

The story of a team of plucky underdogs taking on the muscular might of, uh, Ben Stiller at a dodgeball championship, Dodgeball ain't noted for taking itself too seriously. Yet a serious core is there, hidden beneath the gags about steroid-taking women, David Hasselhoff-worshiping Germans, and drinking your own pee. As the film nears its climax, Vince Vaughn's Peter La Fleur has a crisis of confidence. He considers abandoning his team but changes his mind after receiving an inspirational speech from Lance Armstrong.

Yep, the movie's message about trying your hardest and overcoming adversity is delivered by a guy later stripped of his Tour de France wins for doping.

In the context of Dodgeball, Armstrong's fall from grace actually makes the scene funnier. But that's the thing. It's not meant to be a funny scene, it's meant to be the film's one inspirational moment. And today, its message seems to be "don't give up, just start doping." That's way more of a Globo Gym message than an Average Joe's message.

Quentin Tarantino personally strangles and spits on his actresses

Kill Bill is nominally the tale of a wronged woman who goes on a rampage of revenge, although recent headlines make it sound more like the tale of an actress repeatedly wronged and sadly unable to slay her tormentors with a samurai sword. There's the car crash that left Uma Thurman injured, which she claims Tarantino pressured her into doing (via Vanity Fair). There's the tale of how Harvey Weinstein tried to sexually assault her (via AV Club). Then there's Tarantino's super-uncomfortable cameo as the guy first strangling then spitting on Thurman. Yup, that's real spit.

Tarantino has a past of using his hands to strangle actresses in his films (it ain't Christoph Waltz choking Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds), which he has explained as taking responsibility for the scene going well. To be fair, Kruger said she had no problem with her choking scene. But combined with all the other stuff happening on the Kill Bill set, the two cameos feel like an uncomfortable metaphor for how Miramax was treating Thurman.

Hulk Hogan takes Gremlins 2 through the fourth, fifth, and sixth walls

Gremlins 2 is either a master class in how to create a rule-defying parody of a sequel, or a master class in how to take a gigantic dump on a beloved movie by making Part II campier than Christmas. Following the smalltown chaos of the first film, Gremlins 2 relocates to New York City, where the titular creatures run amok, at one point breaking through the celluloid and into the "real world," where they destroy the film and start playing shadow puppets on the screen. At that point, Hulk Hogan gets involved.

Hogan plays Hogan, who just happens to be watching the film in "real life," i.e., in the cinema where you are sitting as you watch Gremlins 2. When the gremlins rip up the film, an usher asks Hogan for help, leading to Hogan yelling lines at the gremlins like "do you think the Gremsters can stand up to the Hulkster? Well if I were you, I'd run the rest of Gremlins 2 right now!" It's either demented genius or just plain demented.

Anthony Kiedis makes Point Break's beach punks infinitely less threatening

Anthony Kiedis is a guy who knows how to take musicians and turn them into global superstars. He's on shakier ground when it comes to taking his own face and forcing it to assume appropriate expressions for movie roles. Early on in Point Break, a movie about what would happen if someone took the stupidest film script they could find and then made it awesome, Keanu Reeves is accosted by surfers who want to beat the Wyld Stallyns outta him. Three of them are intimidating dudes. One of them is Anthony Kiedis gurning like a man whose brain has stopped communicating with his face.

Kiedis looks goofy. He just does. His face is all goofy, his hair is all goofy, the line he delivers ("that would be a waste of time") is goofy beyond belief ... it sure isn't threatening. So when Keanu takes him out with one punch, it feels less like our hero is proving his mettle and more like he's channeling the feelings of Point Break's viewers.

Billy Dee Williams' Batman cameo reminds us of what could have been

There are so many things 1989's Batman does right, it almost seems churlish to pick the one thing it does really wrong. Especially because, without the benefit of hindsight, it seems to fall into the "doing things right" category. In the film, we're introduced to Billy Dee Williams' Harvey Dent. Yep, the character who goes on to become Two Face. Like an Easter egg in a Marvel film, Batman tees up Williams' villain ... then totally fails to follow up.

Dent was originally meant to be in Batman Returns (at least, according to Batman wiki), but was dropped from the script. When Burton and Keaton jumped ship prior to Batman Forever, the role was recast with Tommy Lee Jones. That sucks not just because Lando Calrissian kicks behind, but because there are already so few superhero films with a black villain. Pre-Black Panther, you've basically got Daredevil and Amazing Spider-Man 2. A Batman Forever with Michael Keaton taking on Billy Dee Williams would've been revolutionary. Instead we got Tommy Lee Jones dining on the scenery.

Arnie's deleted cameo in T3 would've ruined the Terminator's backstory

Here's a little secret, known only to internet writers and anyone who bought the DVD of Terminator 3. Arnie has a cameo in the film. Yes, aside from his starring role. In the deleted scenes, there's a bit where Skynet demonstrates the Terminator to the military. One of their videos explains the machine gets its muscular looks from an American sergeant named William Candy. Played by Arnie, Candy is a good ol' boy who speaks with a comedy Southern accent (via Cinema Blend).

The scene is as jarring as it sounds, with Arnie talking like he's just come back from marrying his bestest cousin. But it gets worse. After hearing Candy's drawl, we cut to the Skynet conference room, where one of the military guys asks if they can do anything about the voice. Cue a stern suit looking over and saying in a very familiar Austrian accent, "We'll fix it." And, in an instant, the image of the Terminator as an unstoppable killing machine is gone, replaced by one of it as an unstoppable hillbilly.