It is nearly impossible to overstate the immense cultural impact of legendary Marvel Comics editor, writer, and publisher Stan Lee, who passed away on Monday (November 12) at the age of 95. The groundbreaking visionary—who co-created such influential superheroes as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Black Panther, Daredevil, and Power Man, aka Luke Cage—not only survived the commercial highs and lows of a comic book industry once viewed on its death bed, he became an international beloved icon.
Indeed, many of his characters have become the building blocks for Marvel Entertainment’s 2009 transformation into one of the most profitable movie studios in Hollywood as six of its films have each grossed at least $1 billion (2018’s Avengers: Infinity War leads the way with an astounding $2.05 billion worldwide). But more than astronomical financial success, Lee’s often times troubled and all-too human heroes bucked the traditional mode of perfection, tackling everything from teenage angst and drug abuse to racism.
Of course, Lee didn’t expand the Marvel world alone. At times he was criticized for taking too much of the spotlight from fellow genius talents, writers and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. But in the end, it was Stan Lee who became the comic book industry’s most optimistic and fierce advocate. In honor of the rich legacy of the former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, BET presents every Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel film world from X-Men to the cinematic Avengers series—ranked. Excelsior!
34. Iron Man 2 (2010)
The Stan Lee Iron Man 2 cameo was so subtle if you blink you will most likely miss the split-second appearance by Lee who doubles for geriatric talk show giant Larry King.
33. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Certainly Stan Lee deserved a more inspired nod in the Merc with a Mouth’s rollicking, R-rated romp of a sequel besides graffiti art of his recognizable face and a few art pieces in Professor X’s home. Stan Lee's cameo in Deadpool 2 had more presence in the teaser trailer than the actual movie.
32. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Throughout his various big screen pop-ups, one gag has gotten an abundance of mileage: that of the lovable, lecherous old man. In the Iron Man 3 Stan Lee Cameo, the Marvel godfather channels his inner beauty-pageant judge giving one swimsuit-wearing contestant a perfect 10.
31. Black Panther (2018)
Marvel Studio’s most critically acclaimed effort deserved a better Stan Lee cameo in Black Panther than just popping up as a shady gambler who happily takes T’Challa’s winnings at an underground casino in Korea. But it’s not like the Wakandan king, who makes Tony Stark’s bank account look like chump change, needs the money.
30. Daredevil (2003)
To be fair, Ben Affleck’s uneven take on the Man Without Fear gets a better second look with its extended Directors Cut. But the extra footage may not be enough reason to go back and see a young (and “blind”) Matt Murdock saving Lee from stepping into ongoing traffic.
29. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It’s pretty amusing that Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man, is the only person at Peter Parker’s graduation who sees the Web Head changing back to street clothes (“I think I know that guy!!!”).
28. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
It’s no secret that the Brett Ratner-directed X-Men: The Last Stand is not the most acclaimed statement in the mutant-powered series. Which is why Lee watering his garden, as a young Jean Grey flexes her otherworldly telekinetic and telepathic powers, may just be the highlight of this at times cheesy film.
27. Iron Man (2008)
The Marvel world has been receiving the big screen treatment since 1998’s excellent, era-igniting Blade (thanks Wesley). But Stan Lee’s Iron Man cameo was his first appearance in the MCU. Yes, it’s kind of amusing that Tony Stark mistakes Lee, wearing a bathrobe and sandwiched between two beauties, for the late Playboy icon Hugh Hefner. But Stan-the-mack is the oldest punch line in the book.
26. Captain America: The First Avenger (2014)
Stan Lee's cameo in Captain America had him stick the landing as an army general who, after seeing American super soldier Captain America up close, dryly muses, “I thought he’d be taller.”
25. X-Men (2000)
Lee is easy to miss as a hot dog vendor, but the distinction here is pretty big. It’s the first appearance of the co-creator of the X-Men in a Marvel-based film.
24. The Avengers (2012)
Extra points goes to NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan keeping a straight face as Lee, playing a none-too-impressed curmudgeon, thoroughly dismisses Cap and the crew: “Superheroes, in New York? Give me a break.”
23. Fantastic Four (2015)
Lee makes his debut as an actual Marvel character—the FF’s longtime mailman Willie Lumpkin.
22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
No one is sure if Lee’s character survived his sip of Slurm, the green soda diluted by the Hulk’s radioactive blood. But the odds are not looking good.
21. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Arguably Stan Lee’s most beloved creation finally got his mojo back when Sony decided to team up with Marvel Studios for this all-heart reboot. Now let’s all bask in the brilliant wackiness of the icon playing a Queens man who finds Spider-Man’s loud hero shenanigans so annoying that he sticks his head out the window and barks, “Don’t make me come down there, you punk!”
20. Deadpool (2016)
This time around, the left-field superhero movie that revels in breaking the 4thwall finds a more humorous (and salacious) way to utilize Mr. Lee, who seems like he’s having the time of his life as a strip club DJ.
19. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
When Lee jokes that it’s time to put down the drugs after witnessing some serious, out-of-this-world shrinking of his car, it’s a quip that more than works.
18. Captain America: Civil War (2014)
Sure it’s a bit sophomoric to hear Lee, dressed as FedEx guy, deliver a package for “Tony Stank.” But hey, a good laugh is a good laugh.
17. Ant-Man (2015)
Stan Lee's cameo in Ant-Man had him mouthing the words “Yeah, crazy stupid fine” doesn’t make you snicker I don’t know what will.
16. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
It took the impending doom of nuclear war to get Lee to unleash the look of sheer terror.
15. Thor (2011)
The Thor Stan Lee cameo had him deemed "unworthy" when he attempted to use a pick-up truck to drag Thor's hammer from a hole in the desert. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t work.
14. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Another disappointing Fantastic Four flick (hey, at least we got to witness the cooler-than-cool movie adaptation of the Silver Surfer). Yet Lee getting turned away from the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm (at the 2:51 mark) was a nice touch.
13. Spider-Man (2002)
The movie that transformed Toby Maguire into an A-lister and forever cemented the comic book film as this era’s most bankable genre. Once again Raimi places a brief spotlight on a heroic Lee who saves a little girl from being crushed as Spider-Man battles the evil Green Goblin.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Maybe Marvel producers were aware that the dirty-old-man-young-chick gag was becoming stale and decided to use Rocket Raccoon to give Lee a very self-aware side-eye. “Mr. Smiles, over here — where’s your wife, old man? What a class-A pervert,” needled the Guardians favorite as Lee was busy kicking game to a lovely Xandar woman. Never let it be said that the man wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. (4:20 mark)
11. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
What’s funnier than Stan Lee playing the driver of Peter Parker’s school bus? Try giving this ironic, eye-winking quip as teens freak out over what looks to be the otherworldly end of the planet above the skies of Manhattan: “What’s the matter with you kids — you’ve never seen a spaceship before?”
10. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Imagine Lee spending his days in a mental facility with brilliant crackpot Erik Selvig. By the time the professor goes on another tangent about how all nine realms are set to align, all but ensuring the destruction of earth, Lee just wants his shoe back.
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Lee, a WWII vet, makes the mistake of sipping Asgardian drank at an Avengers party. The beyond inebriated soul is carried out the bar uttering “Excelsior,” the comic book great’s signature sign-off.
8. The Hulk (2003)
There are those who still swear by Ang Lee’s dark, artsy, and moody take on the big guy. While the greatness of Hulk is up for debate, there’s one thing we can all agree on: witnessing Lou Ferrigno—who originally played the mean green world-breaker in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s television series—and Lee on the screen together as a pair of security guards was as surreal as it was nostalgic.
7. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The artistic high mark for all Spider-Man films, director Sam Raimi did not mess around when it came to showing appreciation in his Spider-Man 2 Stan Lee cameo. Here he is portrayed as a valiant hero who (again!) saves the lives of bystanders from falling debris. Nice.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
It’s not like Lee, a bumbling Smithsonian guard, could do anything to stop Steve Rogers from stealing his original Captain America suit.
5. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The weakest of the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 still manages to impart some good old fashion wisdom. “You know, I guess one person can make a difference,” Lee tells Parker, who is dealing with the crushing realities of being the Web Crawler. It’s yet another reminder we all have a part to play.
4. Dr. Strange (2016)
Stan Lee's cameo in Dr. Strange was one of his most bizarre appearances. This mind-bending joke within a mind-bending joke only works if you are aware of the Aldous Huxley’s 1954 read The Doors of Perception. It’s then you can connect Lee laughing with wonder at the landmark trippy book as a dimension-hopping Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo find themselves hitting the side of his bus.
3. Thor: Ragnaraok (2017)
The greatness of this particular cameo is that it swings for the fences and never forgets the absurdity of the Marvel world. Lee is an intergalactic barber who looks like he wants to cut more than just Thor’s long Asgardian locks.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Andrew Garfield was a more than decent Spider-Man. And while not in the same weight class of the first two Spidey flicks, the complex choreographed library fight scene is pretty epic as a totally unbothered, headphones-wearing Lee, caught up in the sounds of classical music, has no idea that the Web Swinger has saved him from being crushed by a table, compliments of the Lizard.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2014)
Stan Lee's cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 has him play a member of the alien race the Watchers. This is a fitting title given that he has witnessed every Marvel happening since the beginning. Stan The Man…Rest In Power.