You know when you were in high school, and you’d see one of your teachers around town, and it was really weird? It’s kind of the same feeling when you see a celebrity acting in a movie as themselves.
“Reality stars” aside — who really aren’t supposed to be acting, anyway – it’s always interesting to see an actor doing their job to act like themselves. A lot of star-studded movies end up being a flop, but it’s different when the stars are just being themselves (or at least a version of themselves), like in these 24 roles.
19. Topher Grace
See him as himself in: Ocean’s Eleven
In the 2001 remake of the 1960 Rat Pack movie, Topher Grace plays a bit part as himself. He has the biggest speaking part when he joins fellow actors Joshua Jackson, Shane West, Barry Watson, and Holly Marie Combs at a poker table to learn how to play cards from Brad Pitt’s character Rusty Ryan. When the movie was released, these celebrity cameos featured teen idols from the hit shows That ‘70s Show, Dawson’s Creek, Once and Again, 7th Heaven, and Charmed. The scene was fairly ad-libbed, except of course for George Clooney showing up when his character Danny Ocean gets out of jail.
18. Bruce Willis
See him as himself in: Ocean’s Twelve
A few years after its predecessor, Ocean’s Twelve was released, also featuring a celebrity cameo appearance. This time it was Bruce Willis. His scene is meta in oh so many ways. Although he’s playing himself, he interacts with Tess Ocean, played by Julia Roberts, who is actually pretending to be Julia Roberts at the time. He asks her about Danny, when of course he doesn’t know that Tess is working with Danny Ocean, but rather, referring to Roberts’s real-life husband Danny Moder. Matt Damon as Linus Caldwell makes a reference to Willis’s lack of an Oscar, and also to his role in The Sixth Sense. And of course, Willis foils their plot to pretend Tess is the real Roberts because he can tell she’s not.
17. Sean Penn
See him as himself in: What Just Happened
In another interestingly meta role as himself (in a movie which also includes a cameo of Bruce Willis as himself), Sean Penn is the main character of a fictional movie around which the plot of What Just Happened revolves. In the fictional movie, he plays a fictional character role, but later on, Sean Penn as himself engages with the other characters surrounding the drama of the fictional movie and his fictional character’s ending. Bruce Willis also makes an appearance as himself, attempting to be convinced to shave his beard in order to fulfill an upcoming fictional character’s role. What’s true and what’s fiction in a fiction movie that is about a fiction movie??? Our brains hurts.
16. Spice Girls
See them as themselves in: Spice World
The 1997 plot of the Spice World musical movie is reminiscent of the 2001 plot of the Josie and the Pussycats musical movie, which was based on the Archie comic of the same name, except that Josie and the Pussycats was never a real band and the Spice Girls played themselves in Spice World. Industry maniacs want to bring them down, they want a break from fame to go back to their roots, and someone tries to blow up their tour bus. But ultimately the UK pop princesses make it through and manage to get to their big show on time.
15. Neil Patrick Harris
See him as himself in: the Harold and Kumar movies
Although Neil Patrick Harris plays himself in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, it’s a highly fictionalized version of himself. When he appears in the first movie, he is indeed himself insomuch as he identifies as the actor Neil Patrick Harris, but he’s high on ecstasy and a hitchhiker who steals the boys’ car. In the second movie, they visit a brothel of women with Harris, who is of course married to a man IRL, and he gets shot. In the third movie, the boys discover that Harris was kicked out of heaven. Harris has not been dead IRL, either.
14. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
See them as themselves in: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is one of actor Kevin Smith’s “View Askewniverse” creations. The comedy features multiple cameos of actors starring as themselves, the most memorable being Ben Affleck and Matt Damon pretending to reprise their roles as Holden McNeil and Will Hunting, respectively, from Good Will Hunting so that they can film a sequel. Actors Jason Biggs and James Van Der Beek make an appearance as well, also as themselves pretending to have an acting role as characters in a fictional movie.
13. Steve Carell
See him as himself in: Knocked Up
Pregnant E! television journalist Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) gets, as the name of the movie implies, impregnated during a one night stand with Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and initially tries to hide it from her employers. Once the cat’s out of the bag that a bun is in the oven, they try to spin it as a positive and have her connect with stars and the audience as a pregnant woman, which proves difficult when she tries to get celebrity interviews on the red carpet. She approaches Steve Carell, acting as himself, who says she looks great even as she refers to herself as a “fat cow,” but refuses to give an interview or say the E! slogan, even when she calls him an asshole as he awkwardly walks away.
See her as herself in: Stuck On You
Cher plays herself landing a role as a TV host in Struck On You, a movie about conjoined twin brothers Bob and Walt Tenor (Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear). Despite their unique physical situation, Walt still wants to become a famous actor, though it’s difficult to find a job. When Cher is given a talk show that she doesn’t want to do, she hires Walt for the job because she assumes that will get the show canceled. Instead, with some Hollywood magic they manage to keep Bob off-screen and Honey and the Beaze ends up becoming a success, earning Walt his fame.
11. Chuck Norris
See him as himself in: Dodgeball
During a high stakes dodgeball tournament game between Globo Gym and Average Joe’s, the result of which decides not only the winner of the tournament but the fate of Average Joe’s as a company, Chuck Norris as himself casts the deciding vote that allows Average Joe’s to compete rather than forfeit. They, of course, go on to win the tournament, receive a huge cash payout, and remain open rather than sell themselves to Globo Gym. Dodgeball also features a brief cameo of Lance Armstrong as himself, when Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) runs into him, and the athlete convinces him to return to his team to compete in the last game, which he had initially walked away from.
10. Bob Barker
See him as himself in: Happy Gilmore
Not only does Bob Barker appear as himself in Happy Gilmore and get in a fight with Adam Sandler’s character, their scene actually won the movie an MTV Movie Award for “Best Fight.” The fight occurs when volatile and nontraditional golfer Gilmore runs his mouth during a tournament, which escalates into a physical altercation with Barker and earns him a $25,000 fine and a one-month suspension. Barker and Sandler recreated their fight nearly 20 years later during Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars, in support of Autism Awareness.
9. Michael Jordan
See him as himself in: Space Jam
Unlike most of these movies, which feature a brief cameo of an actor portraying themselves, Space Jam is based entirely on a celebrity appearing as themselves: basketball star Michael Jordan. Because of the plot, there are other sports personalities who make appearances as themselves, too, including Larry Bird and Charles Barkley. Jordan is brought to “Looney Tunes Land” to help the Looney Tunes characters win a basketball game against their evil challengers the Nerdlucks. Though the Nerdlucks play dirty, Jordan helps the Looney Tunes team to victory. Surely the most thrilling game of Jordan’s entire career.
8. Lou Ferrigno
See him as himself in: I Love You, Man
The former Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno is somehow Peter Klaven’s (Paul Rudd) client in real estate. Though Klaven has been having difficulty selling off his estate, he keeps refusing help from his obnoxious colleague. When Klaven and his new best bro Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) see that obnoxious coworker meeting with Ferrigno behind Klaven’s back, Fife confronts them and ends up being put in a sleeper hold by Ferrigno. All’s well that ends well, however—Klaven not only sells Ferrigno’s estate but also has him as a groomsman in his wedding.
7. Will Smith
See him as himself in: Jersey Girl
Jersey Girl was the first movie written and directed by Kevin Smith that doesn’t take place in the aforementioned View Askewniverse. When Ollie Trinke’s (Ben Affleck) wife dies and he’s left to take care of their infant, his career also falls apart when the stressed single dad, a media publicist, trashes Will Smith for his upcoming movie Independence Day. Ironically it is Smith, appearing as himself, who gives him the best advice later. When Trinke runs into him years later as he’s trying to get back into the industry he was kicked out of for dissing this very client (who doesn’t recognize him), Smith’s talk of work and family make Trinke realize he’d rather continue to work with his dad in New Jersey and spend more time with his daughter instead of becoming a big shot in New York City again.
6. Megan Fox
See her as herself in: The Dictator
The Dictator is political satire black comedy in the same vein as and directed by the same man who did Borat and Bruno, also featuring Sacha Baron Cohen as the lead. Megan Fox plays a dramatized version of herself, the gorgeous actress who spends a night with the Middle East dictator. She also pokes fun at the real life Kardashians when she refuses to accept rubies for their night of passion. Fox said she appreciated the comedic cameo as a departure from her usual roles as the mean girl or a robotic woman.
5. David Bowie
See him as himself in: Zoolander
Tale as old as time: two hotshot male models decide to settle who’s best once and for all with a runway showdown, judged by a celebrity super star who happens to be present. In Zoolander, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are the contenders and David Bowie is the volunteer who judges their walk-off competition. After a series of stranger and stranger walk-offs, Bowie ultimately declares Zoolander to be disqualified when he can’t remove his underwear while still wearing his pants… totally rational way to settle an argument.
4. Justin Bieber
See him as himself in: Zoolander 2
In the sequel to Zoolander, Zoolander and Hansel reunite to work together to solve the case of the assassinations that appear to be occurring in order to steal Zoolander’s signature look, “Blue Steel.” Many celebrities make brief cameo appearances, including Justin Bieber, whose role in the movie actually kills him off. Bieber is one of the pop stars targeted by the mysterious assassins, and he manages to take a selfie of himself copying the famous Blue Steel look after being riddled by dozens of bullets before he dies.
3. Donald Trump
See him as himself in: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Nowadays we see Donald Trump on TV all the time because, you know, he’s the President of the United States, but back in 1992 he was just the owner of the Plaza Hotel from clever Kevin McCallister (a very young Macaulay Culkin) manages to snag a room and order ridiculous amounts of room service on his father’s credit card. Actor Matt Damon revealed that the only reason the now-President appears in the movie is because he used to demand that any time a movie filmed in one of his properties, a part for him was written in — usually the scene gets cut, but Home Alone 2 left it in.
2. Mike Tyson
See him as himself in: The Hangover
The Hangover depicts a bachelor party in Las Vegas, real unique. Things get out of hand for the group of four friends when one of them, the groom’s future brother-in-law, accidentally doses them all with roofies instead of ecstasy. One of the shenanigans they got into was stealing boxing champ Mike Tyson’s pet tiger. Thanks to video surveillance, which somehow didn’t include security measures to prevent the theft, Tyson finds the crew to demand his tiger back. Once they return the tiger to Tyson, he shares the video footage with them to help them locate the groom, whom they haven’t yet been able to find since waking up that day.
1. Emma Watson
See her as herself in: This is the End
Throughout the entire movie, the whole cast is playing a fictionalized version of themselves, though most celebrities are killed off very early on when the apocalypse starts, except Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, who band together. Emma Watson also survives the initial attack and earthquake, but when she happens upon the group of guys, she believes they’re going to harm her. So instead of joining forces with them, she steals most of their remaining water supplies and takes off again. Bravo Emma Watson, always the independent woman!