When you look at DC films, it’s obvious that Warner Bros. goes all out in its attempt to assemble the strongest casts possible. These aren’t productions where any no-name actor can walk onto, as this billion-dollar franchise demands only top-tier individuals with famous faces to get audiences roaring to head to the movie theater.
At the same time, Warner Bros. understands the value of including people you might not expect to see in a DC film, such as musicians or even actors in walk-on cameos. In some instances, these cameo appearances become huge talking points after the films’ releases, while others make up much of the chatter beforehand as fans debate whom said celebrities could be portraying (more often than not, we’re completely wrong).
Regardless of your opinion on cameos, it’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The question is, do they add something a little extra to the movies, or take us away from the spectacle? For a balanced answer, we need to look at it on a case-by-case basis and how the cameo influenced (or failed to) the movie in question. After all, not every cameo appearance is equal.
With that said, let’s take a look at 10 A-Lister Cameos That Hurt DC Movies (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Elle Macpherson (Batman & Robin)
It’s unlikely that any of us have fond memories of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. There were so many puzzling decisions and choices to process. One of them was the inclusion of Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison, Bruce Wayne’s high-society girlfriend. Interestingly enough, Julie is actually Bruce’s first significant romantic interest in the comic books.
In the movie, though, Julie was Bruce’s trophy girlfriend. While all his previous love interests served a purpose in the narrative, Julie could’ve been removed from the storyline altogether. Sure, she might’ve not been as flashy as Vicki Vale or Selina Kyle, but she certainly deserved a role where she’s more than just the nagging girlfriend wanting to get married.
19 Saved: Stan Lee (Teen Titans Go! To The Movies)
For Marvel fans, seeing Stan Lee cameo in the movies became an event in itself. Whether it was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment as an innocent bystander in Spider-Man or him cutting Thor’s hair in Thor: Ragnarok, the late, great creator made every Marvel film more memorable with his appearances. Thus, it was surprising to see him pop up in a rival movie.
In Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Lee played an animated version of himself who’s obsessed with cameos until he realizes he’s in a DC production. It was extremely tongue in cheek and undoubtedly Lee found the funny side of it. If Lee could do something like this, it makes the whole Marvel vs. DC fanboy debate even more silly in hindsight.
18 Hurt: Jena Malone (Batman V Superman)
Remember when the news broke that Jena Malone was set to appear in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice? Fans went crazy at the prospect that she was set to portray Carrie Kelley, the Robin from Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s The Dark Knight Returns. Then, another rumor started up that she’d actually be Barbara Gordon.
Well, it was all for nothing, as Malone’s scene was cut from the theatrical version of the movie. In the Ultimate Edition, her scene was reincluded, revealing that she was neither character but a scientist named Jenet Klyburn. After such a build-up, it was a disappointment and complete waste of Malone’s skills to cast her in such an insignificant role.
17 Saved: Julie Andrews (Aquaman)
In one of the most bizarre turn of events, Julie Andrews didn’t appear in Mary Poppins Returns but in the fellow December release Aquaman. Considering how seminal Andrews is to 1964’s Mary Poppins (she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, for goodness’ sake), it didn’t make sense. Although, it’s since been revealed that Andrews turned down the opportunity to cameo in the film.
Andrews’ appearance in James Wan’s Aquaman came in the form of voice work as she provided the harrowing pipes for the Karathen, the leviathan that guards the trident. While the creature seems scary and malevolent at first, it ends up helping Arthur Curry claim back the throne of Atlantis from Orm.
16 Hurt: Michael Shannon (Jonah Hex)
Looking back at 2010’s Jonah Hex, it’s remarkable how it failed with a cast featuring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, and Wes Bentley. Shannon, of course, would get a chance to redeem himself in the DC Universe three years later, as he portrayed General Zod in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
The strangest thing about Jonah Hex was how it wasted Shannon as Dr. Cross Williams, the ringleader of the circus. While Shannon did as well as you’d expect in the part, it was such a minor role in the grand scheme of things. Reportedly, the character was meant to return and have a bigger role if the film received a sequel.
15 Saved: Anthony Michael Hall (The Dark Knight)
When The Dark Knight debuted, everyone was surprised to see Anthony Michael Hall as the reporter Mike Engle, especially after the rumors that he was set to play the Riddler in the movie. Despite how limited his role was, Hall brought his part and added some sheen to the production.
Speaking about how he secured the part to The Deadbolt (via GeekTyrant), Hall said, “I read for Chris Nolan. It’s interesting about my career; I’ve had different situations and I’ve been very fortunate. I’m not complaining, but I had to audition for probably 95% of the stuff I’ve done, because I think that I was always in transition. ‘What does he look like? Is he a kid?'”
14 Hurt: Marlon Brando (Superman Returns)
Look, we get it: Marlon Brando was an important part of 1978’s Superman. He was the big-name attraction that added the credibility to the project that desperately needed it. At the same time, he nearly bankrupted the whole thing with his salary and cut of the box-office profits. Additionally, he didn’t appear in Richard Lester’s Superman II due to money disputes.
While Superman Returns aimed to follow in the same continuity as the Christopher Reeve movies, it could’ve introduced a new actor as Jor-El, rather than rely on old footage of Brando. Yes, it was a little bit of fan service, but would anyone have been mad if we saw a new actor as Kal-El’s old man?
13 Saved: Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins)
If you think of the most-hated TV characters over the past decade, Game of Thrones‘ Joffrey Baratheon is likely at the top of that list. He was a despicable, little worm, and not one tear was shed when he met his demise on the show. Jack Gleeson, the actor who portrayed Joffrey, is exceptional at what he does, because he’s a complete sweetheart in the real world.
Long before he starred in Game of Thrones, Gleeson appeared as a little boy in Batman Begins. The role was tiny, but he made us feel how every kid does when he discusses the Caped Crusader. He had another scene with Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes as she protected him from the Scarecrow while he searched for his mother.
12 Hurt: En Vogue (Batman Forever)
If you were around in the ’90s and you weren’t familiar with who En Vogue was, you must’ve been cryogenically frozen or living on another planet. En Vogue was TLC before TLC and dropped more legitimate hits than MC Hammer. With all the hype and press, the group turned it up for television and film.
One of En Vogue’s high-profile cameos was in Batman Forever, where members appeared as girls on the corner when Dick Grayson spun by in the Batmobile. Considering the popularity of En Vogue, you would’ve expected something a little more substantial and less belittling here. It wasn’t the worst cameo appearance, by any means, but it was kind of pointless and could’ve been portrayed by anyone else.
11 Saved: Carla Gugino (Man Of Steel)
One thing that many people have noticed is that Zack Snyder likes working with the same actors across multiple projects. In fact, you’ll see the cast from Watchmen appear in his DC films – some in different ways than others. In Man of Steel, Carla Gugino appeared as the voice of Kelor, the Kryptonian A.I. service-robot. She reprised her role for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While it would’ve been fantastic to see her as a lead character in the DC Extended Universe (maybe as Selina Kyle/Catwoman or even as Lois Lane), hearing her as the voice of Kelor was worth it. Gugino nailed the tone and you can’t imagine anyone else but her in the part.
10 Hurt: Taika Waititi (Green Lantern)
Most people forget that Taika Waititi popped up in Green Lantern as Hal Jordan’s friend Thomas Kalmaku. It wasn’t a substantial part, and you feel as if Waititi should’ve been given more screen time with Ryan Reynolds, considering their natural chemistry.
It wasn’t all a waste, though. In an interview with us, Waititi revealed what he learned from being on the Green Lantern set. “I mean, when I was in [Green Lantern] I was just determined to try and do a good job with the job I was doing there. I spent a long time just sitting around on set, as you do, and so I’d watch a lot of how Martin [Campbell] would run things,” he said.
9 Saved: Patrick Wilson (Batman V Superman)
Before Patrick Wilson appeared as Orm in James Wan’s Aquaman, he’d already popped up in the DC Extended Universe. In fact, he made his debut in the same film as his co-star Jason Momoa: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wilson secured the coveted role of the President of the United States – even if you didn’t see him, but only heard his recognizable voice on screen.
No matter how big or small the role is, Wilson is a consistent performer who gives his all to every performance – including this one as the POTUS. Slowly but surely, the world is starting to come around and realize that he’s one of the most gifted and underrated actors working today.
8 Hurt: David Harbour (Suicide Squad)
David Harbour was on a roll when he appeared in Suicide Squad. At that stage, the first season of Stranger Things had just been released to critical and fan acclaim, and Harbour’s Chief Hopper became one of the most popular characters on the show. Naturally, the hype was real to see him as Dexter Tolliver in David Ayer’s super-villain team-up movie.
Unfortunately, Harbour’s role was nothing more than a cameo. He had a few interactions with Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and some throwaway lines, but his influence was practically non-existent and his character is likely a one-and-done deal. Well, DC’s loss is Summit Entertainment’s gain, as he’s now set to portray Hellboy in the upcoming reboot.
7 Saved: Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
Batman Returns was as much as an origin story for Catwoman and the Penguin as it was a sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman. One of the film’s biggest talking points was the flashback to Oswald Cobblepot’s childhood and why his parents abandoned him in the river. Portraying the part of Penguin’s father was Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman.
Despite Reubens only having a few seconds of screen time, fans went giddy for his appearance as Tucker Cobblepot. He received another opportunity to portray the Penguin’s father in the Gotham TV series; however, in this continuity, he was named Elijah Van Dahl. One thing’s for sure, though, no one can imagine anyone else but Reubens as the Penguin’s father.
6 Hurt: Common (Suicide Squad)
When you look at the who’s who of the Suicide Squad cast, it’s evident that a bulk of the film’s budget was spent on assembling the best actors around. With so many quality names involved, it was inevitable that some wouldn’t get as much screen time as others. In the case of Common, it was borderline criminal the lack of time he got in the film.
Watching Common’s performance in John Wick: Chapter 2 and Selma, it’s evident that David Ayer and Warner Bros. wasted the entertainer’s potential on an inconsequential part. Common deserves a bigger part in the DC Extended Universe. Considering the Green Lantern Corps is still happening, he should certainly be looked at for the role of John Stewart.
5 Saved: Joe Manganiello (Justice League)
Oh, how plans can change in the matter of a few months! Before Justice League even dropped, Ben Affleck had teased us with the potential of Deathstroke as the villain for The Batman. His departure from the film as the writer and director, though, has thrown a batarang into the mix, and no one knows the status of Slade Wilson in the DC Extended Universe.
Nonetheless, the appearance of Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke in the post-credits scene of Justice League was a sight for sore eyes. Not only was his look comic book-accurate, but there was a general excitement to see him again in a future film. Whether it happens or not, only Warner Bros. can tell us.
4 Hurt: Jesse Ventura (Batman & Robin)
By the time Batman & Robin was released in 1997, Jesse Ventura had successfully shaken off the notion that he was only a professional wrestler. He’d appeared in a host of films, including a starring role in 1987’s Predator alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, seeing his name among the credits of Batman & Robin, you expected him to appear as the mayor of Gotham or even as a villain.
Instead Ventura’s character was an unnamed Arkham Asylum guard. Heck, when your character doesn’t even have a name, you know that the part is rubbish. Much like everyone and everything else in Batman & Robin, Ventura looked like he didn’t know what he was doing in that movie.
3 Saved: Clancy Brown (Green Lantern)
Looking at 2011’s Green Lantern, apart from the shoddy CGI and weird pacing, was it really as bad as many people said? Yes, it was cookie-cutter, but the whole story (albeit simple) made sense and there were some decent performances from a strong cast. Warner Bros. certainly didn’t hold back in the character department, even introducing the Parallax in the film.
Of course, the Parallax was largely motion capture and CGI, with Clancy Brown providing the voice. It’s incredible to think about how many characters Brown has brought to life with his remarkable voice. While he might be best remembered as the voice of Lex Luthor from Superman: The Animated Series, he made the Parallax sound indomitable in Green Lantern.
2 Hurt: Drew Barrymore (Batman Forever)
Before Batman & Robin destroyed everything that Tim Burton had done with the Caped Crusader, the writing was on the wall in the form of Batman Forever. The dark, quirky tone of the initial series made way for neon colors and campy segments akin to 1966’s Batman. One of the silliest ideas was casting Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar as Two-Face’s assistants, Sugar and Spice, respectively.
While Barrymore wasn’t the rom-com queen she would become in a few years, the role of Sugar was certainly beneath her and her capabilities. Undoubtedly, these characters were created to make Two-Face more of a Joker-esque character with his own colorful gang. The problem is, it failed on every single level and missed the point of the character.
1 Saved: Neil deGrasse Tyson (Batman V Superman)
One of the biggest surprises to come out of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was seeing astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appear. His segment added a bit more reality to the film, addressing how society would react to Superman in real life.
Proving that deGrasse Tyson is smarter than the average internet troll, he also summed up what the crux of the film was before its release. On The Daily Show (via CinemaBlend), he said, “Nobody we have any insight into. [Superman] just behaves in any way he wants. And so at the end of the day, what might matter is the public reception of the superhero’s conduct. And if Batman executes our wishes in the city, and Superman does whatever the hell he wants: that’s a conflict.”
Tell us, which other A-list cameos ruined or saved DC films? Let us know in the comments!