Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.
Stan Lee is, by all means, an American hero. He created the heroes that people needed at the time they needed them. Captain America during World War II, Iron Man during Vietnam, Spider-Man to appeal to teens and kids who felt like they wouldn't amount to anything special. Adults and kids everywhere were impacted by these characters and so many are still impacted decades later. In honor of this wonderful man with a heart of gold, I decided to take a journey through the Marvel properties and find my picks for the top 10 best cameos Stan Lee ever made in Marvel films, TV, and games. This is NOT restricted to only the MCU, but rather any Marvel film, show, or game in which Lee appears.
#10: "Superheroes in New York?" - Avengers
When the first Avengers was announced, it was every fanboy's dream come true. No one had ever thought that we'd be able to have an Avengers film, much less have the perfect cast that embodied these characters so well. Stan's cameo in the film is one of my personal favorites, just because of the level of irony it contains.
After the Battle of New York, we see different news clips of people who either support or don't support the Avengers. Then Stan is shown and he says, "Superheroes in New York? Give me a break." The irony is, he created these characters. He's the first "True Believer". To see him doubt their existence is almost parodical in the best way possible.
#9: "I think I know that guy!" - The Amazing Spider-Man 2
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker is attempting to juggle more than he can actually handle. He's supposed to be at graduation, but instead he's taking down some bad guys. Hey, some people prefer coffee to start their morning and others prefer a beat-down. As he arrives (late) to the ceremony, he pulls off his Spidey costume and throws on the graduation gown but almost forgets to take his mask off. It was a close-call, but one man saw the whole thing - Stan Lee, of course!
Just as teachers have students that they love more than everyone else, it seems that Stan treasured Spider-Man above all his creations. It's a bit funny and rather cute to hear him say "I think I know that guy!" when he catches Spidey changing back into Peter.
#8: "Don't make me come down there" - Spider-Man: Homecoming
What's funnier than bad guys calling Spider-Man a punk? Stan Lee calling Spider-Man a punk. Spidey was Stan's prize creation, almost like if Frankenstein's monster had been treasured instead of feared.
When Spidey is swinging around the neighborhood, trying to do good and keep people safe, he thinks he's found a car thief. Turns out, the guy had just locked his keys in his car and was trying to unlock the door. Spidey inadvertently set off the car alarm, disturbing the entire neighborhood. Stan sticks his head out of the window and shouts, "Don't make me come down there, you punk!" and then engages in a lovely conversation with his neighbor. If that's not a precious classic Stan Lee moment, I don't know what is.
#7: "My favorites" - Spider-Man PS4
Spider-Man was probably the most exciting, surprising, impressive game that released in 2018. It was immersive and had more Easter Eggs than the entire MCU put together. What made the game perfect, however, was the appearance of Spidey's creator Stan Lee.
In the game, Peter is juggling his job as Dr Octavius' partner, being Spider-Man, volunteering at FEAST, and trying to patch things up with Mary-Jane. All of his time, however, has been taken up by helping find the proof the police need to bring Kingpin down. Things seem to finally be going his way when he gets a call that the cops are in the process of busting Kingpin.
Long story short, after a few missions together, Peter and Mary-Jane sit down together in a cafe and talk. Sirens go off and Peter runs to help. As Mary-Jane leaves, Stan Lee smiles and says, "Love seeing you two together again. You always were my favorites." Now, if that doesn't just make your heart leap, nothing will.
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#6: "Are you Tony Stank?" - Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War was a plethora of emotions. We saw the government doing what the government does best: give an ultimatum while accusing the Avengers of the very thing America is guilty of doing daily. This causes a rift which tears our heroes apart. Friend turned on friend, bonds were broken. If that wasn't bad enough, we learned that Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, was brainwashed for 70 years and forced to kill Tony's parents. Because Captain America was so keen on protecting his friend, Tony turned on Cap, considering he and Bucky to both be enemies.
Through it all, Rhodey's spine was damaged, paralyzing his legs. The team was disassembled.So Stan's cameo as a FedEx man mispronouncing Tony's name was the comic relief that we all desperately needed in that moment. Stan came to the rescue once again.
#5: Watching Nuke Launch - X-Men: Apocalypse
While many people would argue that Apocalypse was one of the weakest entries in the long-running X-Men series, there were still many powerful elements that helped the film, including Stan Lee's cameo.
As Charles Xavier uses Cerebro to try to find his old friend Erik Lehnsherr, Apocalypse uses his power to get inside Charles' head and inside Cerebro. Apocalypse took over people's minds the world over, forcing them to fire the entire world's supply of nukes into space. As the nukes flew higher and higher, we see a community of frightened people watching it happen. Among that group was Stan Lee with his real-life wife Joan. They hold each other in what they assume will be their final moments. This scene has always been so powerful to me. With the reality of nuclear warfare not as much of a stretch anymore, this scene strikes the heart more so than many of Lee's other cameos.
#4: Stan Lee Meets Brodie - Mallrats
Who doesn't love the Clerks series? Mallrats is probably one of the most loved entries in Kevin Smith's View-Askewniverse, not only for its story and humor and honesty, but also because of Stan Lee's beautifully moving cameo.
Brodie recently had a break up and was feeling down. He did love the girl but he also loved his comics. It was a literal struggle between choosing what he loves or who he loves. As Brodie wanders around the mall, Stan walks up to him and sparks a conversation. "Brodie, I'd give it all up for one more day with her." is the last thing Stan says to him. Now, whether or not Brodie's buddy paid Stan to say all that or if Stan really meant it, that's up to the viewer. But I'd like to think those character comparisons to himself were very much truth.
#3: "I'm going to miss him" - Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Into the Spiderverse broke a lot of rules, one of them being "Superhero movies can't win Academy Awards." It won Best Animated Feature and attempted an animation style not seen since A Scanner Darkly. Spiderverse was taking huge risks, but they paid off in the end.
Early in the film, the Spider-Man we know is killed and Miles Morales witnessed it happen. Miles had been bit by a spider and slowly started feeling differently. After witnessing Spider-Man's death, Miles decides he can't just standby any longer. He goes to a costume shop and buys a Spidey suit, the cashier none other than Stan Lee. Stan says "I'm going to miss him;" solemnly. After Miles asks if he thinks it'll fit, Stan smiles and says, "It always fits, eventually."
Stan believed that we all have a hero inside of us. This scene mirrors that perfectly, keeping alive Stan's beliefs and encouraging words even though he's gone from this world.
#2: Montage - Captain Marvel
I know, this isn't technically a cameo, per se, but it is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. The montage spans every cameo Stan made throughout the MCU, but, if you look closely, you'll see some other fascinating moments. Stan doing the Spider-Man pose, taking pictures with Robert Downey Jr at Comic-Con, and talking to several other castmembers. If you think about it, Stan was the first Marvel fan. He and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the Dream Team so to speak, giving our heroes form and life. Stan always called fans of his work True Believers because you have to be a True Believer to believe in heroes. Heroes do exist, and he believed there was a hero inside us all. Thank you, Stan, for being our hero.
#1: "One person can make a difference" - Spider-Man 3
In Spider-Man 3, Tobey Maguire's final outing as Peter Parker, he's seen walking down the street when he notices a sign reading "Spider-Man to Receive Key to the City." Peter smiles, proud of himself. Stan walks up and says, "You know, I guess one person can make a difference. 'Nuff said."
Stan didn't realize it back in the 40s, but he was that one man that made a difference. His creations inspired people to fight harder, to love more, to persevere through the dark times and to care for others. For every evil you see on the news, Stan inspired ten times as much good through his work. Marvel has done a wonderful job keeping Stan's beliefs and message alive.
"That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed, without a doubt, a real superhero."
That was Stan Lee's motto and it should be something that we all attempt to live by. If I could tell Stan anything, it'd be thank you. Thank you for helping me dream and inspiring me to think outside the box. You've given me characters that I can relate to. I may not have superpowers but I do have superpowered friends because of you. Spider-Man was the first comic hero I ever read, so I can also relate to how much you held him dear in your heart. I remember every Saturday morning I had to see the next Spider-Man episode and the next X-Men episode before I could start my day. Even now, with the MCU in tow, I truly believe your work is being appreciated even more than ever before. You've united an entire fanbase of people and in that, perhaps, we can begin to take steps toward true global happiness.
Maybe that's a dream of a hopeless romantic, but it was also Stan's dream and I'm proud to share it.
© 2019 Nathan Jasper
Jacqueline G Rozell on September 15, 2019:
Stan Lee was indeed a very special person with insight into what we needed at the times. The fool talk show host who ridiculed Stan and his accomplishments, along with all his millions of fans, on the day after his passing with the words, "It was just comics," should wish HE would be remembered with a fraction of the affection and respect garnered by Stan Lee in his life. Rest In Peace, Pioneer of Heroes. Say "hello" to Iron Man.