Here’s to the bit parters, the day players, the famous favours, the uncredited scene-stealers, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-’ems, the blink-and-you-can’t-quite-believe-’ems: the cameos that injected 2016’s films with a bit of unexpected spice.
15. Canary Wharf Station in Rogue One
Granted, an inanimate subterranean transit station might seem like a bit of an outlier on this list. But we could not ignore the surprise appearance of a Jubilee Line tube station, doubling as an Imperial station in the latest Star Wars movie. Who knew the galaxy far, far away was actually only as far away as Zone 2?
14. Everyone in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
The Guinness World Record bean-counters must have been keeping a close tally on the flood of famous faces filling the Ab Fab movie, which boasted (deep breath...) Alexa Chung, Dame Edna Everage, Christopher Biggins, Daisy Lowe, Graham Norton, Giles Deacon, Gwendoline Christie, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Paxman, Jerry Hall, Joan Collins, Kate Moss, Sadie Frost, Sophie Raworth, Stella McCartney, and over 60 others. It’s actually easier to list who was not a cameo.
13. Ed Sheeran in Bridget Jones’s Baby
Giving Hugh Grant and Colin Firth a run for their bumblingly English money, the singer behind the song Photograph is asked to take a photograph for Bridget and her best pal, mistaking the situation for a celebrity selfie. Cue a charming misunderstanding of Britcom proportions.
12. Jim Rash in Captain America: Civil War
Before they were the next great hope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directing siblings Joe and Anthony Russo were stalwarts of sitcoms like Community. Fans of Dan Harmon’s show were delighted when The Winter Soldier featured a cameo from Danny Pudi (aka Abed), and keeping up the tradition, Civil War features a memorable appearance from Jim Rash, aka Community’s Dean Pelton. Dean-a-ling-a-ling!
11. R.L. Stine in Goosebumps
Somewhat confusingly, the writer of Goosebumps, R.L. Stine appears in the movie Goosebumps as a main character (played by Jack Black) – and the actual R.L. Stine also appears in the movie, bumping into the pretend R.L. Stine, who addresses the actual R.L. Stine as “Mr. Black”. Disconcertingly spooky!
10. Hugh Jackman in X-Men: Apocalypse
This year’s X-Men movie was something of a disappointment, and slightly overshadowed by the mutant team’s younger, naughtier, swearier Ryan Reynolds–shaped cousin. Thank goodness, then, for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, the undisputed highlight of the film, unable to resist a bit of Weapon X slash-and-kill before he hangs up his claws next year.
9. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters
After decades of vetoing even the thought of a whispered conversation about a new Ghostbusters movie, it was a sign of supreme confidence and good faith that Bill Murray agreed to star in Paul Feig’s lady-heavy reboot. This being a reboot, he was Martin Heiss rather than Peter Venkman – but all the same, Murray still got slimed. Funky.
8. Martin Sheen in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
The Lonely Island’s pop pisstake was hardly short of cameos – Mariah Carey talks about how she’s the best at being humble – but the best of the bunch is the former President Bartlet starting a fight with the words: “How about you punk? You want some hummus?”
7. Chris Hemsworth in Doctor Strange
“So Earth has wizards now?” When it comes to Marvel, everyone knows by now to stay in your seat until the credits have finished rolling. And sure enough, patient Doctor Strange viewers will have been rewarded with a fun little scene between Stephen Strange and Thor – all but confirming Cumberbatch to pop up in next year’s Thor: Ragnarok.
6. Dolph Lundgren in Hail, Caesar!
Of all the cameos on this list, few were quite as blink-or-you’ll-miss-’em appearance from Ol’ Ivan Drago himself in this cunning Coen comedy. Frankly, it was more of a don’t-blink-and-you-are-still-likely-to-miss-’em cameo: the Swedish action star is barely visible at all as the Soviet submarine commander. It was, apparently, a small role made even smaller in the edit.
5. John Waters in Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Roadchip
Yes, you read that correctly: John Waters, the visual artist, noted bibliophile, and enfant terrible of queer cinema appeared in the fourth Alvin And The Chipmunks movie, alongside some CGI voice-modulated chipmunks. Waters was less surprised than you might have been – he claims to have “always wanted to be in an Alvin movie”. Huh.
4. Kristen Bell in Zootropolis
Kristen Bell’s love of sloths has been well-documented. So it seemed rather appropriate that Disney invited Princess Anna to return to the fold to voice one of the sloths, in the movie’s standout scene. Did you hear the one about the three-humped camel?
3. Justin Bieber in Zoolander 2
Jostling with Ab Fab, it’s no exaggeration to say that almost every speaking role in Zoolander 2 is a cameo, including Billy Zane (of course), Kiefer Sutherland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the entire catwalk-eratti of the fashion world. The winner by a nose is the King Joffrey Of Pop, realising the wishes of many internet trolls by dying horribly – though not before taking a pouting selfie or two.
2. Margot Robbie in The Big Short
Nobody was really all that interested in bonds, subprime mortgages, or collateralised debt obligations. Then Margot Robbie sat in a hot tub and explained a few financial concepts between sips of champagne, and suddenly everyone was extremely interested indeed.
1. Sigourney Weaver in Finding Dory
“Hello. I’m Sigourney Weaver.” It’s not something you expect to hear in the depths of the ocean. That’s why it probably ranks as Finding Dory’s funniest joke, and among the best gags found in any film this year, as Dory, lost and confused, suddenly hears the unmistakable tones of Ellen Ripley, blaring through the loudspeakers of a nearby Marine Life Institute, welcoming human visitors and fish refugees alike.
Speaking to Empire for our most recent issue, the iconic actor explained how it all came about. “I’d worked with [director] Andrew Stanton on WALL-E,” says Weaver, who voiced the ship’s computer in that film. “He called and said, ‘I have something for you on Dory’. I was flattered as I’ve done a lot of work about the oceans and conservation.” And in a lovely touch, Sigourney becomes more than just a winking in-joke, but intangible, God-like presence, offering hope and purpose (or should that be porpoise?) to Dory and pals. “When the fish say, ‘My friend Sigourney’, I was thrilled,” Weaver says. We could all use a friend like Sigourney.
More from Empire's review of 2016: