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A well-handled cameo subtly acknowledges the fourth wall without taking the audience out of the flow of the movie. A poorly-handled cameo hurtles through the fourth wall and furiously pimp slaps you until you're unable to remember what the fuck this movie was about in the first place. Here are six of the pimp-slappingest cameos of all time.

6
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The Cameo:

Ted Danson

The Lead Up:

We're immersed in the movie for a full hour already. We've seen the most graphic vision of D-Day ever shown on film. We've learned of the mission to save one man and we've seen the team lose a man in exchange.

Philosophical questions abound when suddenly the soldiers find themselves face to face with a squad of Nazis. Everyone has their guns pointed at one another, sweat is slowly forming on top of each and every brow. People are screaming in German and English and the entire theater is quiet with tense anticipation. And then it happens, the Germans get mowed down by ... Sam mother-fucking Malone from Cheers. Hey, Sammy!

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

Maybe they got the idea to cast an '80s sitcom star in a war movie from Casualties of War. That Vietnam movie answered the question "Who do people want to see in a horrifying movie about cultural and oh so literal rape?" with the name Alex P. Keaton.

But Sgt. Sam Malone causes even more problems than Private Marty McFly, because his whole comedic persona on Cheers was based around a stone-faced droll delivery. So when he actually tries to be serious, you just keep waiting for him to crack a joke about how much tail he used to score when he was pitching in the minors.

Think back right now and see if you can remember anything about Ted Danson's role in the movie. If you're like us, all you hear is:

Sam: Hey there guys, looks like you've had a rough day. Sit down and tell me all about it.

Tom Hanks: We're looking for a Ryan. Private James F. Ryan.

Sam: Ryan eh? Let me go check. Carla! Hey Carla! You know guy named Ryan?

Sergeant Carla: Yeah, two of my eight kids are named Ryan.

Sam: No, Private James Ryan. Poor sap lost all his brothers and these guys need to find him.

Sergeant Carla: Haven't seen 'em. But you can have my boys instead. They're already proficient with firearms.

Tom Hanks: Thanks anyways, we'll be leaving now.

Lucky for us, Danson's only on screen for about six minutes, and Spielberg sucks us back into the action with a 10-minute scene of the guys holed up in a church for the night doing nothing but talking.

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5
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock(1984)

The Cameo:

Christopher Lloyd

The Lead Up:

Spock is dead, Bones has Spock's soul, the Vulcan chick isn't Kirstie Alley anymore and Scotty's weight gain continues unabated. Kirk and crew then proceed back to the Genesis planet so that they can save Kirk's bastard son because he's being threatened by ... Christopher Lloyd?

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

This cameo transcends the space-time continuum that Trek writers regard with such reverence that they screw with it at least once per movie (and 10 times per season). People who watched The Search for Spock on the big screen in 1984 did not see the Klingon villain Kruge, but rather the perpetually stoned cab driver "Reverend" Jim Ignatowski from the recently canceled TV show Taxi. For our under-30 readers, imagine if The Matrix had ended with Neo having to fight Kramer.

And while the makers of The Search for Spock can't be blamed for what came later, it should be noted that things didn't get any better for the later generation, who watched it post 1985 and saw the guy from Back to the Future who liked to say Jiggowatts.

While he's on screen for a large portion of the movie (being the main villain and all), Lloyd's role seems less like a top-billed performance and more like a cameo that just won't end. In trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about Christopher Lloyd's performance that made a horrible movie worse we discovered that he bore a striking resemblance to a stereotypical relative most of us have.

Lloyd is that annoying uncle that comes for Thanksgiving and doesn't leave until Groundhog's Day. While he's there he eats all the food (takes up all the screen time), bullshits about how he used to be in the special ops (pretends he's a barbaric Klingon warrior) even though there's no picture of him where he weighs under 200 pounds (looks like he could scare a 4-year-old). When he finally leaves (gets kicked into a river of molten lava) we feel relieved that we will not have to see him until next Thanksgiving.

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4
Signs(2002)

The Cameo:

M. Night Shyamalan (playing a douchebag/himself)

The Lead Up:

Mel Gibson is an ex-Episcopal priest who stopped believing in God after M. Night's character killed his wife by being a drunken asshole.

Mel and his family discover a crop circle in their farm, they see an alien on their roof and chase it into a corn field where it disappears. It's around this time that they start to suspect something out of the ordinary might be going on. Unfortunately, it's not much longer before the audience starts to suspect the same.

It starts innocently enough. M. Night drives by in a car. No big whup. M. Night had tiny parts in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Sure it's egotistical, but Hitchcock did the background cameo thing, and Hitchcock has always given M. Night a boner. Time to get back to the business of story telling as the family has another close encounter and then ...

Wait a second, now M. Night is calling them at home. A voice cameo in addition to the visual? Wait, what is Gibson doing at M. Night's house? Oh, M. Night just happens to possess key plot development points (they don't make crop circles near water) while also inviting Gibson to go deal with the alien stuck in his basement. Why, that doesn't make sense at all.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

Up until this movie, fans of M. Night's work had two assumptions that always came to fruition:

1) The movies would have an engaging plot with a twist that would make your skull explode.

2) He'd have a short cameo that had little to do with the actual plot.

But this movie fell short on both accounts because:

1) A "twist" being that your dead wife gave you a clue to defeat ONE fucking alien, instead of ALL of them seems like a waste of the power to see into the future.

2) M. Night's cameo was one of the first "Signs" (betcha didn't see that coming!) that he was descending into clinically insane narcissism.

We're guessing the character he plays is supposed to be mysterious: is he a deeply remorseful man seeking redemption or a sadistic bastard that still wants to fuck around with Mel Gibson's mind? Of course this would have only been mysterious if the character wasn't such an unremitting asshole: he killed his wife and only apologizes to him when he needs someone to kill the alien in his basement? That's not spooky, that's just fucking wrong.

Also, if you're going to create a character who's only reason for existing is to deliver a key piece of information and move the plot forward, it's probably best not to cast yourself. That tends to feel less like a cameo and more like you realized your plot wasn't going anywhere, and jumped in front of the camera and made up a bunch of shit that would get your movie to make sense again.

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3
Finding Forrester (2000)

The Cameo:

Matt Damon

The Lead Up:

Very rarely can you find an instance where someone turns out to be the worst person on the planet for a job that they're given. For instance, while you may believe that our current President has done a poor job in office, you would have to acknowledge that if he was replaced by Osama Bin Laden, things would get a whole lot worse. Being bad for the job is one thing, but being the worst person for the job is almost unprecedented.

All the cameos up to this point on this list have been distractingly bad, but none featured the worst possible person for the job. Sam Malone was bad, but it probably would have been worse if Spielberg replaced him with Cliff Claven. But Finding Forrester manages to find the exact wrong guy for a cameo, and stick him in the film's most pivotal small part.

This cameo doesn't occur until the end of the movie, by which point you've either left or been sucked into the story. If you're still there, you felt bad when you saw Jamal (Rob Brown) get reprimanded for allegedly plagiarizing the first paragraph of an essay. You feel justice when Jamal is cleared and the jackass professor gets his ass verbally handed to him by Forrester. And the simple joy of watching Forrester ride a bike through New York has just uplifted your heart. The school outfit Anna Paquin wears throughout the film also uplifts your ... heart. Forrester moves back to Ireland and all is well with the world. Until Jamal is asked to meet with Forrester's lawyer, who happens to be ... Will Hunting.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

At what should be considered the most poignant moment in the movie we get a case of the What the Fucks, not to mention the Why the Fucks and the How the Fucks. Will Hunting shows up to tell Jamal that William Forrester has died and left everything to him. We think Will also tells Jamal that Forrester wrote another book, and asked him to do the foreword before excusing himself to go see about a girl, but we can't remember as our minds are reeling from being forced to acknowledge that the movie we've just been tricked into caring about was just the director of Good Will Hunting doing a lazy retread of his most successful movie.

See if this sounds familiar: A Gus Van Sant directed movie about a poor kid living in the ghetto who turns out to be a closeted genius. He faces resistance from uptight academics, but is helped along by a mentor with a no-nonsense attitude and a beard. Eventually, the mentor helps the boy genius come to terms with his talents.

Films have been considered remakes that had less in common than these two.

Van Sant tries to disguise the similarities by exchanging Will's math genius with Jamal's literary genius, and authentic sounding South Boston accents for meme-spawning approximations of black slang. And it just might have been enough to distract you from the fact that this is basically a lazy Mad Lib of Good Will Hunting if he hadn't gone and tapped Will Hunting himself to deliver the most important news of the movie.

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2
Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass (1985)

The Cameo:

Scott Baio, Red Buttons, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sherman Hemsley, Telly Savalas, Ringo Starr, Ernest Borgnine, Beau Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, Patrick Duffy, Merv Griffin, Karl Malden, Pat Morita, John Stamos, Sally Struthers, Jonathan Winters and many many more.

The Lead Up:

The cameo-fest that is Alice in Wonderland starts when Alice meets the White Rabbit (comedian Red Buttons) and doesn't end until they mercifully roll credits on this two-part miniseries that aired on CBS in December of 1985.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

This movie ruins the lovable relationship most kids had with Alice in Wonderland. Oh, the child-friendly themes of following strange animals and drinking and eating poorly-labeled foodstuffs is still there. But then another actor or comedian pops up and takes our mind away from the whimsical story by making us go, "Wow, they must be desperate for money to wear that outfit."

Alice may go through the looking glass but we go through the tunnel of the childhood trauma. Mr. Miyagi is a horse, George Jefferson is a mouse, Ringo Starr is a Turtle and dear old Sammy Davis Jr. is a pot-smoking caterpillar.

Worst of all they take a badass like Kojak.



And turn him into this.



Which makes our faces look like this.

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1
Ocean's 12(2004)

The Cameo:

Bruce Willis

The Lead Up:

Danny Ocean's likable crew is tasked with undoing everything they did in Ocean's 11, the only movie from the series that was actually good. As if this isn't unsatisfying enough, they have to accomplish the task by stealing an egg! We wish to God we were kidding.

The plot to steal the egg involves one of the most retarded schemes ever shown on film. Tess (played by Julia Roberts) has to pretend to be ... Julia Roberts. Why? Because Tess (again we'll remind you, played by Julia Roberts) just happens to look like ... Julia Roberts. This unfunny meta-joke is what you'd end up with if Charlie Kaufman's retarded twin brother from Adaptation was a real screenwriter. But the utter ridiculousness of the idea doesn't truly get a running start and kick you in the groin until Bruce Willis shows up playing ... Bruce Willis.

Why it Nearly Ruined the Movie:

In a movie with a bad premise, bad setup and horrific execution (and later a few bad twists) you may think that a bad cameo would be par for the course. Oh how deliciously wrong you would be.

Bruce Willis has a total of two tricks in his acting bag, playing an edgy burnt-out cop and playing a quirky assassin. While these two tricks have given him more money, fame and women than any burnt-out cop or quirky assassin should have, we still like to believe that he wakes up every morning in a cheap motel with a bad hangover yelling at no one in particular to get him two aspirin and his ex-wife on the phone.

In Ocean's 12, Willis and director Steven Soderberg decide to take the character of Bruce Willis in a different direction, making him into a creepy guy that appears to stalk Julia Roberts. It's as if a deranged maniac that knows more about Ms. Roberts than her own parents came bursting into her dressing room.

In addition to being creepy, Willis also sounds like a pussy. It is simply unacceptable for Bruce Willis to utter the phrase, "You're not supposed to fly when you're eight months pregnant" unless he's fighting a female assassin who is pretending to be pregnant in order to conceal a bomb and he's just thrown her out of an airplane at 30,000 feet, and watched her body explode in midair. That is the only scenario in which that line is acceptable coming from Bruce Willis.

For a list of the nameless character actors who should have gotten the above roles, read up on The 20 Best "That Guys" of All-Time.

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