Update: Stan Lee passed away yesterday, and that was obviously before we originally posted this article. It remains how it was written back in February, minus the adding of the newer cameos.
There will eventually come a time in life when Stan Lee isn’t around anymore to cameo in Marvel movies. And I’m not yet emotionally ready to deal with that…
Stan The Man has been an integral part of the Marvel comic-book empire since the 1950s, creating a significant number of their most recognised properties, as well as being a very public and recognizable focal point for the continually evolving Marvel brand. He first started lending voiceovers and appearances to the company’s various movie and TV offerings back in the early 80’s, and at the tender old age of 95, he’s still going strong, having just wrapped his cameo for this month’s Black Panther.
So prolific and endearing are Stan’s cameos, they have actually managed to evolve their own fan theory. A couple of years ago, an overthinking Marvel fan somewhere out there in the depths of the internet first floated the theory that Stan wasn’t actually appearing in the movies as lots of different characters, but was in fact playing a Watcher. An inter-dimensional alien guardian tasked with overseeing all of the various different Marvel universes.
The theory quickly gained traction, with a growing number of commentators and observers all too keen to buy into a concept which would have eventually spectacularly broken through the fourth wall to reveal that one of Marvel’s founding fathers held the record for having played the longest-running, and most prolific comic-book character of all time. Even Marvel themselves seem to have become enamoured with the idea, having Stan sat relating his travels to a number of Watchers for his recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 appearance.
But this month saw the iconic nonagenarian (It’s a thing, look it up…) rushed to hospital with an irregular heart murmur. The internet held its breath, until the legend himself thankfully emerged from treatment several hours later to reassure fans he was fine.
This false alarm though has reiterated the hard, cold fact that Stan sadly doesn’t have that many more cameos left in him. Virtually blind, and with increasing mobility issues, the time when he can no longer put in a a physical appearance is now no longer far away.
But, enough of these sad times, we should be celebrating Stan The Man, not prematurely mourning him. He’s a one-off, no other company or industry will ever produce another like him, so let’s glorify his movie career by bringing you all thirty of his Marvel Movie cameos to date. Some you’ll quite easily and fondly remember, others you’ll have long since forgotten. Here they all are:
1. X-Men (2000)
Hot Dog Vendor
Stan had previously already cropped up in one live-action Marvel offering when he played the Jury Foreman in the 1989 TV movie ‘The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk’. His first cinematic outing for the company though came 11 years later in Brian Singer’s original X-Men movie. As a naked and mutated Senator Kelly (Bruce Davidson) emerges from the sea and slowly makes his way up the beach, Stan can momentarily been seen hanging out at a nearby hot dog stand.
2. Spider-Man (2002)
Man At Funfair
In the absence of a structured Marvel Cinematic Universe during the early 00’s, and with the company having to haphazardly sell off the rights to some of its bigger properties in order to balance the books, Stan skipped a year before his next onscreen appearance in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie. As Spidey and the Green Goblin first meet each other during their fight at the City Parade, Stan can be seen down in the crowd below, saving a young girl from some falling debris.
3. Daredevil (2003)
Man At Crossing
The following year saw one of the most knowing and memorable cameos of the bunch, as Stan cropped up in the Ben Affleck Daredevil adaptation. During the flashback scenes that show how Matt Murdock lost his sight and was forced to come to terms with his new powers, Stan can be seen trying to cross a busy street whilst distractedly reading his newspaper. A young Matt immediately appears and then uses his cane to save the absent-minded pensioner from being crushed under the wheels of a passing truck.
4. Hulk (2003)
Another year, another cameo, as Stan this time turns up in the Eric Bana Hulk movie. He’s not alone either, as he’s cleverly reunited with original Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno to play a pair of bumbling security gaurds at a facility targeted by Nick Nolte’s sinister David Banner. Ferrigno would wait five years to reprise the role further down the line in the 2008 Edward Norton reboot, whilst for Stan the cameos just kept on coming.
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Man Dodging Debris
Having already appeared onscreen to perform a heroic act in the first Spider-Man movie, Stan returns to do more of the same in the sequel. Once again, he’s on heroic form, again saving another distressed member of the public from falling debris as Spidey and Doc Ock knock seven shades of shit out of each other. What a guy….
6. Fantastic Four (2005)
The following year finally saw Stan get the chance to play one of his own creations. He was cast in the original Fantastic Four movie as a mail man, Willie Limpkin. Lumpkin is a recurring character in the original comics, and a beloved member of the extended Richards family.
7. X-Men 3 (2006)
Having skipped an appearance in the original movie’s sequel, Lee returned in the X-Universe’s third cinematic outing when he played one of the Grey family’s neighbours. He can be seen stood out in the street hosing down his front yard when Charles Xavier and Eric Lenscherr pay a visit to take custody of a young Jean Grey.
8. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Man in Times Square
Stan elected to show his face in the last move of the original Spider-Man trilogy. Seemingly playing the same benevolent old man, he skips the heroics this time to deliver some timely and worldly advice to a lost and conflicted Peter Parker (Toby Maguire). Encountering the future Avenger in Times Square, he knowingly points out that “one man can make a difference”.
9. Fantastic Four 2 (2007)
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe now just around the corner, Lee managed to squeeze a double-appearance into 2007. As well as bidding a fond farewell to Spidey, he also turned up in the second FF movie. Sadly, it wasn’t to again play Willie Lumpkin, with Stan instead playing a confused wedding guest at the Reed-Storm nuptials.
10. Iron Man (2008)
With Marvel Studios now firmly back in the driving seat, it was time to increase both the scale and the significance of the cameos. Seemingly playing himself, and with an attractive lady in tow on each arm, Stan encounters Tony Stark at a party. So visually striking is his resemblance to another iconic elderly party-animal, Tony assumes he’s talking to Hugh Hefner, fondly acknowledging the interaction before continuing on his way.
11. Incredible Hulk (2008)
Man with Soda Bottle
Stan’s second MCU cameo might not have seen him interacting with any other characters, but it’s one of his funniest and most relevant cameos of all time. Whilst quietly living his sleepy suburban life (probably still around the corner from Jean Grey’s parents) he accidentally ingests some of Bruce Banner’s DNA following an accident back at the soda bottling plant, leading to an offscreen Hulk-out and SHIELD investigation.
12. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Another Iron Man Movie, and another case of mistaken identity for our hero, as this time he briefly encounters Tony Stark at a computer expo. Distracted by his ongoing alcohol and illness issues, the billionaire businessman this time mistakes Stan for Larry King, on account of be braces he’s wearing.
13. Thor (2011)
Stan the Man
Having been temporarily upgraded in the titles from ‘Stan Lee’ to his signature ‘Stan The Man’, Stan next cropped up as part of the group of drunken townspeople trying to move Mjolnir from its impact crater. Whilst everybody else heaves away, Stan ties the hammer to the back of his truck, inevitably tearing the vehicle in two when his misguided effort fails.
14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
With the MCU now in full swing, 2011 turned out to be another busy year for Stan. Following his cameo in Thor, he was straight back in action again for the first Captain America movie. When Steve goes MIA and fails to turn up for his first frontline troop show, Stan (playing a Four-Star General) mistakes an aide for Rogers, telling a colleague that he’d expected the Super-Soldier to have been taller.
15. The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers showcased everything that Marvel had been teasing their MCU was going to be. With all of the key players for the Avengers finally bought together, the scene was set for the mother of all right scenes with the Battle for New York.
Perhaps reflecting Stan’s advancing years, his ‘average joe’ persona is this time spared the need to dodge falling masonry, instead appearing on a news report to mock the arrival of the new superhero community in his home city.
16. Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Here we have another of Stan’s most famous cameos, where he briefly appears as Peter Parker’s school librarian during the wall crawler’s fight with a mutated Dr Connors. As the two super powered combatants reduce the school Library to matchwood behind him, Stan remains blissfully unaware of the destruction as he stands in the foreground listening to classical music on his headphones.
17. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 sees Tony regretting having given his address to the Mandarin via national television, and being forced to seek refuge in rural Tennessee following the destruction of his home and suits. As he tries to plan his way out of trouble, he hijacks a news van covering a local beauty pageant, where Stan is playing a peculiarly enthusiastic judge. At least it doesn’t feature a case of mistaken identity this time round.
18. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Fast-forward six months, and this time it’s Dr Erik Selvig who’s having a hard time of it. Temporarily incarcerated in a London mental institution, he spends his days trying to explain the dimensional convergence theory to his fellow inmates. The lecture doesn’t seem to receive much attention, other than from a familiar looking resident who’d quite like Erik to stop using his shoe as a prop.
19. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Despite the quite dark and sobering themes that run through the second Captain America movie, there’s still room for some humour within the proceedings. Temporarily lacking a costume, Steve is forced to steal his old WWII suit from its display in the Smithsonian. This in turn leads to Stan’s hapless security guard can then be seen coming to the realisation that he is ‘so fired’…
20. Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Having been presumably fired from his job back at the museum, Stan subsequently turns up at Peter and Gwen’s graduation ceremony. As Peter hurriedly makes his way up to collect his diploma, Stan The Man can be seen trying to figure out where he knows the familiar High School kid from.
21: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Xandarian Ladies Man
The first GOTG movie also represents the first time that Stan managed to pull off a hat-trick of cameos in the same calendar year. Having wrapped appearances in Cap and Spidey’s movies for the year, he next shows up on Xandar. As Rocket scans the city square looking for a bounty; his gaze falls on a familiar looking elderly gentleman, who is desperately trying to woo a young female companion.
22. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
The following year see’s Stan’s feet firmly back down on terra firma, as he plays one of the military veterans at Avengers Tower who challenge Thor to a drinking competition. This proves to be somewhat of a bad idea, with his colleagues dragging him out of the room as he drunkenly mutters his trademark ‘Excelsior’ line.
23. Ant-Man (2015)
For Scott Lang’s origins movie, Stan can be fleetingly seen during Luis’s story about why the heist he is planning is foolproof. As the lengthy tale quickly rattles through various locations and players, all hilariously voiced over by Luis (Michael Pena), Stan’s bartender can be seen giving relationship advice to one of Luis’s friends at a bar.
24. Deadpool (2016)
Strip Club DJ
The following year sees Stan’s next cameo again playing out within the confines of a licensed premises, just not as classy as his previous outing outing in Ant-Man. When Wade goes searching for Vanessa at the strip-joint where she works, Stan can be seen in the background having a riot of a time playing the club’s DJ.
25. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
It’s the cameo that is probably best remembered, and certainly launched the most internet memes after it happened. At the new Avengers HQ, as Tony and Rhodey try to come to terms with what happened back in Berlin, an elderly and confused FedEx delivery guy turns up with a package for ‘Tony Stank’, much to Rhodey’s amusement.
26. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
A poignant offering this time round, as a Stan is joined in this appearance by his wife Joan Lee, who sadly passed away a short time later. She was married to the Marvel legend for 70 years, and the two appear onscreen holding each other in shock and horror as Apocalypse launches Earth’s entire nuclear arsenal simultaneously.
27. Doctor Strange (2017)
At the height of Doctor Strange, Steven and Mordo are pursued through New York by Kaecilius, who uses his newfound powers to fold the city in on itself to try and prevent their escape. At one point the two heroes are stopped in their tracks as they comedically run into the side of a passing bus. Stan plays the passenger sat beside the window they collide with, not noticing the events occurring on the other side of the glass as he is engrossed in his book.
28. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
As previously mentioned, in GOTG2, Marvel decided to buy into the fan theory that Stan had been playing the same character for the last thirty years. When Yondu and Rocket pissball past the planet Stan is sat on, he’s relating a story to a couple of Watchers about the time he was a FedEx Driver during the events of Civil War. He also reappears in one of the post-credits scene, asking the Watchers if they can now give him a ride home.
29. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
By now appearing onscreen alongside his third different Spider-Man actor, Stan crops up in Homecoming as part of the group of neighbours who berate Peter when he mistakenly detains an innocent motorist on suspicion of car theft. As Pete desperately tries to talk his way out of the misunderstanding, Stan threatens to come down and give him a good old ass-kicking.
30. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Taika Waititi’s Thor three-quel was unashamedly bonkers in the way in which it tackled the various MCU characters it was given to play with. And with Chris Hemsworth’s Odinson on the receiving end of such a controversial haircut, who better to be the barber in question that Stan The Man.
Playing up his advancing years and failing eyesight; he employs the use of a particularly spectacular pair of clippers to brutally shave the Asgardian prior to his big arena battle with Hulk.
31. Black Panther
32. Avengers: Infinity War
33. Deadpool 2
Man Walking His Dog
We”ll continue to add them until there aren’t any more. R.I.P. Stan Lee.