Stan Lee has been many things throughout his life; editor, pitchman, writer, controversial figure, but, by and large, his most visible role is That Guy in every Marvel movie… because he’s had an awful lot of cameos, and that’s not even getting into his blink-and-you’ll miss it bit in Ant-Man. So, to celebrate his birthday, we’ve ranked his cameos from best to worst.
1) Big Hero 6, “Fred’s Dad”
Come on, admit it, you teared up a little bit at this one. This marks the one and only time Stan Lee has ben given the chance to be an actual superhero, plus it’s a genuinely affecting moment.
2) The Incredible Hulk, “Milwaukee Man Drinking From Bottle”
According to this movie, Stan Lee drank a whole bunch of gamma soda and is currently giant, green, and probably wrecking tanks. Really, can you think of a man who deserves Hulk powers more?
3) Deadpool, “Strip Club DJ”
In what is, by far, the most un-Stan Lee cameo of them all, the perfectly profane Deadpool solo film puts the kindly pop-pop of the Marvelverse in the DJ booth at a strip club. Play some White Snake, Generalisimmo!
4) Fantastic Four, “Willie Lumpkin”
Stan Lee actually gets to portray a character he wrote for years in a nice little nod to the comics that the 2005 movie was based on. It’s also one of the few bits in the Fantastic Four franchise where it actually reflected the comics.
5) Hulk, “Security Guard”
A two-fer, as he and Lou Ferrigno show up early in the movie to argue about the proper way to guard things. A nice touch is that it’s also not “HEY KIDS IT’S STAN LEE!” unlike some of Lee’s other cameos throughout the years.
6) Thor: The Dark World, “Patient”
Another cameo where Stan does more than just exist. In this case, Lee puts the cherry on top of Dr. Erik Selvig’s ridiculous pile of exposition as he explains the whole plot by pointing out that while Selvig might be right, he’s still not right in the head.
7) The Amazing Spider-Man 2, “Graduation Guest”
It’s oddly heartwarming that Stan Lee finally gets to attend Peter graduating from high school. Lee introduced Peter as a dweeby little twig in high school and gets to watch his creation step up to a new stage of life.
8) Doctor Strange, “Bus Passenger”
Insubstantial and not very demanding, Stan pops up in a nice, comical break in the action as he gets to witness Doctor Strange meet a city bus in a most unfortunate way.
9) Captain America: The Winter Soldier, “Security Guard”
Clearly, his guard from Hulk has been moving up in the world, he’s working at the Smithsonian now.
Okay, so this is clearly just Lee stuffed into a scene, but it’s still a nice touch.
10) Spider-Man 2, “Man Rescuing Woman” And Spider-Man, “Man Rescuing Little Girl”
More or less, Lee’s got one job here, namely rescuing civilians. And he’s surprisingly good at it for a guy in his eighties, but isn’t this Spidey’s movie? If we’re going to bust Superman’s chops for not saving any civilians, Spidey should be in for it just as hard that a senior citizen is more effective than he is.
11) Guardians of the Galaxy, “Xandarian Ladies’ Man”
Stan’s Hefner act goes intergalactic, and it’s about time. Okay, so it’s neither the most substantial nor the cleverest cameo on this list, but it’s a nice little nod to tradition that doesn’t take it too far.
12) Iron Man 3, “Pageant Judge”
Stan Lee launches a million jokes with just one image. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this under a thread about a Marvel movie, just wait. It’ll turn up.
13) X-Men, “Hot Dog Vendor”
Stan’s first major Marvel movie cameo, this was a nice little gag for fans who watched in glee as after forty years, there was finally a decent X-Men movie. Some movies have done more with him, but this was a nice little touch that gets a little more appreciation because it was so early in the run of these.
14) Captain America: Civil War, “Delivery Guy”
You almost think Stan is going to miss out on the fun but then, near the end, he drops off a crucial package to Tony Stark and gets to join in on the banter by giving Rhoadey something (completely silly) to hold over Tony.
15) Iron Man, Hugh Hefner
Okay, so he’s supposedly playing himself, but come on, we all know who Stan is really filling in for here.
16) X-Men: The Last Stand, “Waterhose Man”
Lee somehow hasn’t turned up in most of the X-Men movies but this cameo in X-Men: The Last Stand that feels like little more than fan service.
17) Iron Man 2, “Larry King”
Once again, Stan Lee fills in for a famous celebrity. This time, though, it feels less like giving Stan his due and more like Larry King backed out at the last minute, so they shoved Stan in for the requisite “LOOK, A CELEBRITY!” bit all Iron Man movies must have.
18) Captain America: The First Avenger, “General #1”
Stan finally gets a promotion. Shame he doesn’t get to do anything else.
19) The Avengers, Stan Lee
Stan Lee weighs in on whether or not the characters he created actually exist in the fictional world created from the comic books he wrote. Yes, movies are weird. That said, it’s probably the culmination of the man’s creative work, and the best he gets is a man on the street slot?
20) Thor, “Stan The Man”
Kenneth Branagh knows he’s supposed to have Stan Lee in his movie, but isn’t quite sure what to do with him. Well, at least he helped out Thor.
21) Daredevil, “Man With Newspaper”
Stan serves as Matt Murdock’s first rescue. Although we’ve got to wonder why Murdock bothered, because he kinda had it coming. It’s a nice touch in a movie that’s too faithful to the source material, but it seems a bit of a burn on poor Stan.
22) Avengers: Age of Ultron, Himself
Once again, tradition over sense strikes. Come on, you’ve got Stan Lee, whom everybody loves… and badgering Captain America is the best task they could come up with for him?
23) X-Men: Apocalypse, Probably Himself
This one gets some bonus points for co-starring Stan’s wife, Joan Lee, but it’s a pretty plain cameo by his standards as he simply stands by his door gazing up at the ominous sky. You wonder if, for this one, a cameraman just came to his door to get the shot. Is it getting that easy for Stan Lee and these cameos?
24) The Amazing Spider-Man, “School Librarian”
Those are some impressive headphones in that Lee doesn’t notice the millions of dollars in property damage that is happening right behind him. Seriously, though, this combines two bad habits of Stan Lee cameos; throwing him in for no reason other than “tradition” and sticking him with cheesy comedy bits.
25) Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer, “Rejected Wedding Guest”
Really, this just comes off as mean. After all Stan’s done for Reed and Sue, he can’t even get a seat at their wedding? We know Reed Richards is a jerk, but come on, not even he could be this cold. Also, how pompous is Reed that he has a bouncer at his own wedding ceremony? Your wife can wipe the floor with most people, your best man is a giant rock monster, and her brother is a walking flamethrower. We’re sure they can handle any crashers, Reed.
26) Spider-Man 3, “Man In Times Square”
Stan Lee gives Spider-Man a pep talk in a scene that feels less like a cameo and more like a knowing attempt to win back a crowd that was being forced to sit through Emo Peter and The Days of Our Webs. Once again, Lee deserves better.
Excelsior, Stan, and may you cameo for years to come!
This is an update of a post that was previously published.