Although it happens less and less frequently these days, the concept of a director making a brief cameo in their own movie used to be pretty popular among the industry’s most recognizable names and faces. Plenty of the most successful and acclaimed directors have made appearances in their works, and eagle-eyed fans often enjoy spotting them.
The voters at Ranker have put together a collection of the best examples of directors making cameos in their own works, ranked according to how ‘cool’ the site’s users think they are. Cameos can often be an unspoken way of the director conveying appreciation to their dedicated fans, so a lot of these examples are extremely fun to see.
Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
10 Todd Phillips in The Hangover (2009)
Stream On HBO Max
The Hangover Trilogy is one of the most popular comedy series of all time, and the first installment is widely regarded as a perfect example of how to do these kinds of buddy comedies effectively. The films rely heavily on the chemistry between Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper – three fantastic comedic actors that work brilliantly together.
In the first movie, director Todd Phillips appears briefly towards the beginning of the film as an unnamed man getting intimate with a woman in an elevator. It perfectly sets the tone for the film to come, whilst also proving Phillips’ own sense of humor.
9 Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds (1963)
Rent On Apple TV
The Birds is often cited as one of the first examples of a mainstream horror film, even though it does not really take itself quite as seriously as many modern horrors do. Hitchcock is famous for making appearances in his own films, but his cameo in The Birds is undoubtedly one of the best.
Hitchcock’s appearance happens merely two minutes into The Birds, as he walks out of a pet store with two adorable terriers on leashes. It’s a perfect example of how Hitchcock was willing to have fun with his own films, acting as a subtle nod to his long-term fans.
8 Stanley Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stream On Hulu
1999’s Eyes Wide Shut chronicles the complicated and failing marriage of two unsatisfied intellectuals as they navigate the holes in their relationship. Tom Cruise plays the protagonist, Bill Harford, as he explores the city’s underground sex scene in an attempt to rekindle the flame of his marriage.
For the most part, Eyes Wide Shut is widely considered to be one of Kubrick’s best movies, though his cameo is admittedly a very subtle one. Not drawing attention to his cameo as a lot of other directors do – eagle-eyed viewers can see him briefly in the background as Bill meets his old friend Nick in a nightclub.
7 Martin Campbell in Casino Royale (2006)
Stream On Netflix & Amazon Prime
Campbell’s soft-reboot of the franchise in Casino Royale resulted in one of the most original and least formulaic James Bond movies there’s been for a long time. The film explores Bond’s deadly rivalry with a professional gambler named Le Chiffre, who poses a serious threat to Bond’s work.
Although Campbell’s cameo is only a small one, he still managed to get himself thrown in the middle of the action by playing a tanker truck driver that finds himself caught up in one of Bond’s intense action sequences. The cameo proves that Campbell is willing to have fun with his spy-thriller, giving it an extra dimension of entertainment.
6 Sam Raimi in Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Stream On IndieFlix
The Evil Dead The franchise is some of Sam Raimi’s most popular and prolific work, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to get involved in front of the camera too. Raimi’s films all have a very distinct style and tone, and his cameo certainly fits in with that.
The director appears at the end of Evil Dead 2 when Bruce Campbell’s character Ash is sent back in time through a magical portal. He plays one of the Medieval Knights that greets Ash upon his arrival, leaving his character only to be credited as ‘Knight Hailing Ash.’
5 Robert Rodriguez in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)
Stream On Starz
There’s no denying that Robert Rodriguez had a huge influence on the comic book movie with his 2005 hit Sin City, but his wildly inventive follow-up sadly isn’t discussed quite as much. A Dame To Kill For might not quite be as revolutionary and acclaimed as its predecessor, but it remains a fun couple of hours nonetheless.
Rodriguez managed to sneak both cameos for himself and the film’s writer, Frank Miller, into his superhero sequel. They appear alongside each other in a fake gangster movie that’s being watched by one of the film’s protagonists – making them actors within a movie within a movie.
4 Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver (1976)
Stream On Netflix
Martin Scorsese isn’t just one of the greatest directors of all time, but he also has a history of acting that has landed him plenty of popular roles in the past. It’s because of this acting background that his iconic cameo in Taxi Driver feels so natural and fitting to the story.
1976’s Taxi Driver is full of Martin Scorsese’s directing trademarks, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he wanted to include a couple of cameos too. The most noticeable comes when he plays one of Travis Bickle’s taxi passengers, who tells the protagonist all about his plans to kill his cheating wife.
3 David and Jerry Zucker in Airplane! (1980)
Rent On Vudu
Alongside Jim Abrahams, the Zucker Brothers are responsible for directing the 1980 comedy classic, Airplane! – a film that many members of a certain generation consider to be the funniest film of all time. It’s one of the sharpest and most intelligent comedy screenplays out there, brought to life by a standout performance from Leslie Nielsen.
David and Jerry Zucker both appear at the beginning of the film as members of the airport’s ground crew, and even end up being the reason that the film’s disastrous events take place. It’s one of this list’s least noticeable cameos – unless you know what you’re looking for.
2 Wes Craven in Scream (1996)
Rent On Apple TV
The Scream franchise’s killers might often be hiding in plain sight, but Wes Craven’s cameo in the original film certainly isn’t. It’s an appearance that most audiences would easily miss, but once you know that it’s there, it’s one of the most entertaining on this list.
Craven appears right before Henry Winkler’s gruesome death, taking up the role of a high school janitor who looks eerily like another one of Craven’s most iconic characters, Freddy Krueger. It’s an effective little nod to Craven’s long-term fans – and one that allows for a hilariously subtle joke in the film.
1 George Lucas in Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
Stream On Disney +
George Lucas has always been willing to have a little fun with his movies, but his bizarre cameo in Revenge of the Sith just proves this further. Although the sequel trilogy might not be the most acclaimed area of Star Wars, it admittedly features some of the most fun moments.
Lucas appears briefly in Revenge of the Sith as Baron Papnoida, a man from the moon Pantora with a unique fashion sense and dark blue skin. He shows up when Anakin visits Palpatine at the opera house, though you’d be forgiven for not recognizing him in the costume.
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