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Top 10 Director Cameos in their Own Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Shane Fraser Directors need attention, too. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 director cameos in their own movies. For this list, we're counting down the most creative and memorable cameos where directors step in front of the camera for a few minutes max. Special thanks to our user mac121mr0 for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Shane Fraser

Top 10 Director Cameos In Their Own Films

Directors need attention, too. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 director cameos in their own movies.

For this list, we’re counting down the most creative and memorable cameos where directors step in front of the camera for a few minutes max. That means only one scene or a string of scenes in one sequence. Directors who play significant roles and recurring characters, like Kevin Smith, do not fit our criteria.

#10: Peter Jackson
“The Lord of the Rings” / “Hobbit” franchise (2001-14)

Jackson has made short, amusing cameos in all of his films, and those in “The Lord of the Rings” are the best of the bunch. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Jackson can be seen eating a carrot and eyeing the hobbits as they enter Bree. In “The Two Towers,” he throws a spear in the battle of Helm’s Deep. Finally, in “The Return of the King,” he walks the ship’s deck as one of the Corsairs of Umbar. The trend continued in “The Hobbit” trilogy, as Jackson cemented himself as a master of the cameo!

#9: George Lucas
“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005)

After the original trilogy and two prequels, the creator of “Star Wars” finally popped up in his galaxy far, far away. In the opera house scene from “Revenge of the Sith,” Lucas appears in the foreground of a transitional shot. His face is blue and he is wearing an outlandish outfit, as he portrays a lesser-known character named Baron Papanoida. Lucas’s real-life daughter, Katie Lucas, also makes a fitting cameo in this scene as the Baron’s daughter. There’s gotta be a “I am your father” joke in there somewhere.

#8: Todd Phillips
“Old School” (2003)

Phillips has a knack for playing creepy characters, as he makes unsettling, hilarious appearances in many of his films. He plays the guy on the bus with the foot fetish in “Road Trip,” the suspicious man in the elevator in “The Hangover,” and Juliette Lewis’s creepy roommate in “Due Date.” It’s in “Old School,” though, where he makes the most of his few seconds on screen. After Luke Wilson’s character makes a shocking discovery about his girlfriend, Phillips comes a-knocking as the man late to the party. Sorry Todd: there’s no such thing as showing up fashionably late to a gangbang!

#7: Wes Craven
“Scream” (1996)

The legendary horror director of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” and “The Last House on the Left” makes a self-referential cameo inthis meta horror movie. While Principal Himbry—played by Henry Winkler—is working in his office after school, he hears a knock on his door and goes to investigate. Upon opening the door, the only person out there is a janitor who is wearing a very familiar get-up. Craven plays the janitor, and the uniform he is wearing is the iconic outfit of Freddy Krueger, whom Craven created.

#6: Terrence Malick
“Badlands” (1973)

Terrence Malick, aside from being one of cinema’s greatest directors, is also a reclusive and enigmatic person. He doesn’t do interviews or make public appearances. Only a handful of photos of him exist online, and he sometimes waits 20 years between movie releases. The actor who was supposed to play the man at the door in this film did not show up for shooting, and that what makes this spur of the moment cameo that much more interesting. And thus, the only consensual capture of Malick on film was born!

#5: Quentin Tarantino
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)

It’s all coffee and cadavers. This appearance rides the line between cameo and full-fledged role, but since it amounts to only a few minutes of screen time, we decided to include it. After Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the face, he and Jules take the corpse filled car to Jimmie Dimmick, played by Tarantino. After they arrive at his home, they expect Jimmie to hide the car on his property while they figure out how to dispose of it. But instead, Jules and Vincent are met with a now infamous Tarantino monologue, as his character informs them of their severe error in judgment.

#4: Francis Ford Coppola
“Apocalypse Now” (1979)

There’s no mistaking Coppola in this movie. As Martin Sheen’s character is in the throes of battle during the Vietnam War, he is shocked to find a directorof a TV crew yelling filming instructions at him. The director is of course Coppola, and the scene is extremely insightful, both because of his meta performance and also because of the satire on the entertainment value and exploitation of war. Coppola clearly had a point when he made this film, and his opinions are obvious here.

#3: Roman Polanski
“Chinatown” (1974)

In this classic neo-noir mystery, Polanski picked one of the coolest scenes to appear in and one of the coolest characters to play. When private investor Jake Gittes—played by Jack Nicholson—is snooping around the reservoir, he is confronted by Roman Polanski’s character, who accosts him for sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. The intimidation tactic that the crook uses is sadistically appropriate, and foreshadows the corruption and cruelty that is prominent in the film.

#2: Martin Scorsese
“Taxi Driver” (1976)

“Taxi Driver” is considered one of the greatest movies in history and established Scorsese as the best director of the new Hollywood era. It’s fitting that inthis dark and twisted drama, Scorsese plays one of the darkest and most twisted characters. When Travis Bickle, who is played by Robert De Niro, picks up Scorsese in his taxi, he has no idea what he is in for. Scorsese takes him to an unexpected place and harangues him with a supremely unsettling monologue. This might be the best acting that a director has ever done, almost making the insane Bickle look relatively normal by comparison.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- David Cronenberg
“The Fly” (1986)

- Michael Bay
“Armageddon” (1998)

- M. Night Shyamalan
“Signs” (2002)

- Harold Ramis
“Groundhog Day” (1993)

#1: Alfred Hitchcock
Almost All of His Movies (1927-76)

He made the cameo appearance an art. In over fifty years of filmmaking, Hitchcock appeared in 39 of his 52 movies. These cameos range from fleeting glimpses in the background of scenes to unmistakable close ups on his face. Some of the more notable sightings are him sitting beside Cary Grant on the bus in “To Catch a Thief,” walking two dogs in “The Birds,” and in the newspaper advertisement in “Lifeboat.” Because of the cleverness of his pop-ups and the popularity of his movies, the Hitchcock cameo has been cemented in popular culture.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite director cameo? For more easy to spot Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to


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