Stan Lee is best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and the creation of the world’s favorite superheroes, including Spider-Man, Captain America, The X-Men, etc. Stan Lee was a writer ahead of his time, creating complex heroes and villains that aren’t the perfect archetypes of good and evil. “One of the things we try to demonstrate in our yarns is that nobody is all good, or all bad. Even a shoddy super-villain can have a redeeming trait, just as any howlin’ hero might have his nutty hang-ups,” Lee wrote in a column for Marvel’s March 1969 issues.
Lee had a knack for giving heroes realistic traits that allowed audiences to relate more to them. Tony Stark is a narcissist with an obsession of making his deceased father proud. Steve Rogers was just a scrawny guy that wanted to make a difference but was sorely underestimated. Bruce Banner is the victim of an experiment gone wrong and suffers an internal struggle because of the monster he’s become. Peter Parker is just a nerdy kid in high school with extraordinary abilities.
All of these characters aren’t the picture perfect Superman type that were commonplace in protagonists. They had their flaws and showed comic readers everywhere that anybody could be a hero. Stan Lee went against the curve and took risks, no matter what was widely accepted at the time. This is a man who introduced the world to Black Panther, the king and protector of an African nation, in 1966, a time where segregation and the civil rights movement were heightened.
Stan Lee was a creative genius that will forever be remembered through the stories he has created and with his characters that have won over the world. He has made his mark in each of the Marvel films by having a cameo in every one, a trademark that became an anticipated piece of the franchise.
To honor Stan Lee’s memory, here is my list of the Top Ten Stan Lee cameos.
10. Ant-Man and the Wasp
In the midst of an epic car chase and a race against time, The Wasp is throwing out shrinking discs to throw off their foes as they attempt to obtain the shrunken science lab and to get it back to full-size before Hank Pym and Janet Van-Dyne return from the Quantum Realm. One shrinking disc happens to hit a bystander’s car as he is about to unlock the door. Cue a hilarious quip from Stan Lee, the bystander, remarking that the 60’s were fun, but now he’s paying for it.
9. Avengers: Infinity War
As Thanos’s crew arrives in New York City, a bus full of high school students marvels (pun intended) at the space ship descending from the skies, as Peter Parker realizes he needs to jump into action as Spider-Man and readies himself to make a quiet exit from the bus. Stan Lee, the bus driver, expresses that the students should be used to this alien activity, poking fun at how unsurprising this should be after the many unexpected events that have occurred to the everyday citizens in the Marvel Universe.
8. Captain America: Winter Soldier
In order to stop HYDRA, Steve Rogers needs to take out the helicarriers that will be used to take out certain individuals who are threats against the terrorist organization. But Steve Rogers is without his Captain America suit. Luckily, in the Smithsonian Captain America exhibit, Steve is able to “borrow” a replica of the suit he wore in WWII. The poor Smithsonian security guard, played by Stan Lee, realizes he may very well be out of a job upon realizing that the suit is gone.
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
To get to know the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, the audience gets to see a montage of Spidey helping out with seemingly mundane problems around Queens. He mistakes a car owner for a car thief, webbing his hand stuck to the car and setting off the car alarm. This spawns an argument between the car owner and a few of his neighbors, one of whom is Stan Lee, who tells off a panicked Spider-Man… that punk.
6. Thor: Ragnarok
After being captured in Saskaar, Thor is sold as a gladiator to the Grandmaster and will be forced to compete in the Contest of Champions against his old buddy, Hulk. But to be a gladiator, you need the right look. Thanks to a barber, Stan Lee, Thor looks ready for battle. Though the barber’s hands aren’t as steady as they used to be.
5. Captain America: Civil War
After an epic battle between most of the Avengers and a subsequent confrontation with a trusted ally, Tony Stark helps his best friend, James Rhodes, recover after a nearly fatal fall from the sky during the battle. Tony then receives a package from the FedEx Delivery man, Stan Lee, who hilariously butcher’s Tony’s name. Will the real Tony Stank please stand up?
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While Rocket, Groot, and Yondu jump through space to join up with the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy, they pass over a group, supposedly The Watchers, listening to an informant describing his past adventures as a FedEx delivery man. Who would that informant be? None other than Stan Lee. At the end of the credits, the other Watchers are leaving the informant as he tells them he has so many more stories to tell.
The Watchers are an alien race in the Marvel Universe that seek to understand and compile all knowledge. Not only does this scene hint at their appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also suggests that all of Stan Lee’s cameos are linked together in continuity, rather than being seemingly random.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Avengers celebrate a victory with a swanky party at the Avengers headquarter skyscraper in New York City, formerly Stark Tower. Thor introduces some Asgardian liquor, boasting that “it is not for mortal men.” Stan Lee plays a WWII veteran attending the party, who makes the mistake of thinking he can best the foreign liquor. It turns out Thor was right after two other veterans are carrying Stan Lee out of the party, who is clearly inebriated and saying, “Excelsior.”
This cameo is great because it’s a tribute to Stan Lee’s catchphrase: Excelsior, which means “higher” in Latin. Stan Lee explained the meaning behind his catchphrase at a Comic Con, “I used to have a lot of expressions that I would end my comic book columns with: Hang Loose, Face Front, ‘Nuff Said, and I found that the competition was always imitating them and using them. So, I said I’m going to get one expression that they’re not going to know what it means, and they won’t know how to spell it. And that’s where excelsior came from, and they never did take up on it, thank goodness.”
2. The Amazing Spider-Man
The Lizard discovers Spider-Man’s true identity, following him to his high school, which erupts into an epic battle. The fight moves into the library, where an oblivious librarian, Stan Lee, is unaware of the fight due to having some very powerful headphones on.
The librarian peacefully goes about his job while this huge fight between a lizard man and a high schooler with spider powers are fighting it out right behind him. This cameo is so hilarious and memorable, it has to be at the top of this list.
The Stan Lee cameo that I believe to the best of them all is his appearance in Thor. Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, plummets to the Earth, creating a massive crater on impact. Only he who possesses the power of Thor can pick up the hammer. So when a hoard of local residents discovers the hammer, it turns into a King Arthur-esque game to see who can pull the hammer from its resting place.
A group of locals concoct a plan to tie a chain around Mjölnir and tying the other end of the chain to the bed of a pickup truck. The pickup truck floors it at full speed, the hammer still not budging. After a few more tries, the bed of the truck completely rips off. Come to find out, the truck driver is Stan Lee, who peers out the window, optimistically asking if it worked. This is one scene that I always look forward to in Thor.
What do you think is the most memorable Stan Lee movie cameo?