Stan Lee is more than just a guy who showed up in nearly every Marvel movie. A World War II veteran (U.S. Army title: “Playwright”) who seismically changed pop culture in profound ways, the comic book icon died at the age of 95 on Monday, leaving behind an unmatched legacy built upon beautifully imperfect characters.
While hardcore comic book readers will remember Lee for his zany comic book creations, such as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, moviegoers know Lee as a mail man. Or a friendly neighbor. A strip club DJ. An astronaut. A guy in a bus. Fred’s dad. Hugh Hefner.
Lee’s cameos — at least 39 of them on film, not including non-Marvel TV, animation, and video games — have become as much a part of the Marvel franchise as the superheroes.
While ranking the dozens (and dozens) of cameos is a highly-ambitious effort, there are several outstanding or unexpected cameos that are worth watching an entire movie for. Excelsior!
9. Fred’s Dad (Big Hero 6, 2014)
One of Lee’s only two animated feature film appearances was in the post-credits scene of Disney’s Big Hero 6, in which Lee lends his likeness and voice as Fred’s dad to continue a pretty gross joke involving underwear patterns. Lee was long-gone from Marvel by the time the publisher introduced its earliest versions of the Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 is the only film featuring Lee that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. (2004’s Spider-Man 2, which dramatically cut down Lee’s cameos, won Best Achievement in VFX.)
8. Astonished Neighbor (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)
While The Last Stand is far from anyone’s favorite X-Men movie, Lee gets his cameo done with early in the movie as a gobsmacked neighbor in a flashback scene depicting a young Jean Grey harnessing her powers. It was a time when Lee’s cameos were still novel, and was extra special as Lee appeared alongside legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont. While Lee may have come up with the X-Men, Claremont undeniably reinvented them.
7. Hugh Hefner and 6. Larry King (Iron Man, 2008, and Iron Man 2, 2010)
Sometimes, less is more. Lee’s quick, blink-and-you-miss-it appearances as “Hugh Hefner” (or at least that is what Tony Stark thinks) and elder newsman Larry King are some of the best examples of Lee’s cameos. He’s not a grumpy old guy yelling at a kid to get off his lawn. Instead, Lee easily slips into the silhouettes of two other pop culture icons in their own right.
5. “Did it work?” (Thor, 2011)
When half of New Mexico turns out to pull out Thor’s hammer, there is none other than Lee, whose truck is ruined. Another “less is more” cameo that is still funny after all these years.
4. War Veteran (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)
Only Lee could shrug off Asgardian liquor from Thor.
3. Elder Hippie (Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018)
This one is funny in a weird way, if you bother to do the math. When Lee’s car is shrunk by The Wasp, Lee quips, “Well the ‘60s were fun, but now I’m paying for it.”
It’s funny, but hold up: In the ‘60s, Lee was in his forties (which is also when he began envisioning the modern Marvel universe). So it’s extra funny when you consider Lee had his fun as a middle-aged man and not a freewheeling twenty-something amidst the summer of love.
2. Himself (Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, 2018)
Yes, Lee appeared in a DC film, and it was in 2018’s Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, a genuine love letter to the superhero genre that made fun of anything and everything. Including Lee, who actually realizes he’s not in a Marvel movie during his own cameo.
1. Himself (Mallrats, 1995)
Lee’s greatest cameo happened long before it was a thing. In the 1995 comedy Mallrats, from fanboy director Kevin Smith, Lee appears as himself to help Brody (Jason Lee) get through a rough spot.
Perhaps the single longest narrative film appearance of Lee (it’s about three minutes total), it’s also the most enriching as Lee gives Brody universal advice on love and loss we can all benefit from. With or without gamma radiation.
Here are some of Inverse’s most-read stories about the iconic comic book creator.
- 5 Times Lee Took on Racists in Comic Books
- Marvel Confirmed a Theory About Lee’s Movie Cameos
- Leo DiCaprio Wants to Play Stan Lee, But Marc Maron Exists
- Marvel, Mortality, and Protesting Anti-Stan Lee with Dave Baker
- Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie
- Elon Musk’s Twitter Rant Gets Support from Stan Lee
- Lee’s ‘Infinity War’ Cameo Supports a Popular Fan Theory
- Lee Pins Continued Marvel’s Push for Racial Respect
- Lee’s Biopic Will Be a ‘70s Period Piece
Marvel Cinematic Universe movies with a Lee cameo:
- Ant-Man and the Wasp
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Black Panther
- Captain America: Civil War
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Captain America: The Winter Solider
- Doctor Strange
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- Iron Man 3
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- The Avengers
- The Incredible Hulk
- Thor: The Dark World
- Thor Ragnarok
These movies aren’t in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but feature a Lee cameo.
- Big Hero 6
- Deadpool 2
- Fantastic Four
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
- Ralph Breaks the Internet
- Spider-Man 2
- Spider-Man 3
- Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- X-Men: The Last Stand
- X-Men: Apocalypse