The 10 Best Phase Four MCU Cameos, Ranked

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been rife with cameos over the last fifteen years, from television hosts to hubristic billionaires who pick fights with rock stars. In Phase Four, the very nature of what makes a cameo was tested. Minor characters popped up for full episodes of "She-Hulk." Kevin Bacon played himself and became the MCU-canon lynchpin of the "Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special." Bacon's ecstatic turn as himself pursued by Drax and Mantis is too substantial to be a cameo, but it works because it's cameo-adjacent. Great cameos take a recognizable actor or character and deploy them surprisingly for a brief period. Even if Bacon's appearance was supersized, it works because he seemed destined for the MCU in a marquee role. Here, director James Gunn takes advantage of the actor's self-awareness and makes him important to beloved Marvel characters.

 The best cameos in Phase Four achieve similar highs. From the re-emergence of a "Spider-Man" bit player to the stylistic redefinition of a Netflix favorite, here are the best cameos of Marvel's Phase Four ranked.

The New Asgardian Players in Thor: Love and Thunder

"Thor: Love and Thunder" is a film of diminishing returns. Its attempt to expand and refine the balance of madcap comedy and genuine feeling that made "Thor: Ragnarok" a smash with critics and audiences falls short on almost every level. It's a shame, in no small part because the movie's best moments and performances are among Phase Four's best. There's a battle against war-mongering puppets that's as hysterical as it is comically bruising. Christian Bale is reliably revelatory. And when "Thor: Love and Thunder" brings back the Asgardian players from "Thor: Ragnarok," — "Thor" (Liam Hemsworth), "Loki" (Matt Damon), and "Odin" (Sam Neil) — it does so with a knowing wink and brazen conviction. Their appearance, however brief, suggests Taika Waititi and his creative team know exactly what they're doing and are likely to execute it effectively.

Why? Simply put, the New Asgardian Players' appearance is a callback back that doesn't feel stale. The troupe's play version of "Thor: Ragnarok" is just as poorly acted as their depiction of "Thor: The Dark World," but this production is more obviously low-tech. That's due to the addition of writer-director-actor Ben Falcone as a stage manager struggling to keep the show from falling apart. Falcone is married to Melissa McCarthy, who then makes her own appearance as Cate Blanchett's villainous Hela. The sequence is enough to make a New Asgardian Players Marvel Special Presentation feel like an enticing proposition, and it's proof that the cameo plays like gangbusters.

Bruce Campbell as Pizza Poppa in Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, in this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes, and Bruce Campbell making cameos in Sam Raimi comic book movies. Campbell is the ultimate Raimi actor, a square-jawed matinee idol with extreme comic ability. Heightened stylistic choices seem natural as breathing to him. Whether it's Spider-Man's New York City or the Multiverse of Madness, Campbell makes any world Raimi builds more believable. He's played a Snooty Usher and a boisterous underground wrestling promoter, but Campbell's work as Pizza Poppa might top them all.

Again, the character's name is Pizza Poppa. The ridiculousness is built into the moniker. Campbell makes it work. His self-proclaimed father of pizza is a not-so-humble salesman of the multiverse's most reliable food item. When Doctor Strange and America Chavez attempt to purchase some from him, tempers flare hysterically. Pizza Poppa winds up pizza-popping himself in the face, seemingly for three weeks or so. It's an unjust punishment but it also firmly establishes the madcap gallows humor Raimi deploys in his most wonderful movies. That's important given what follows. It's no accident that Pizza Poppa gets hysterically self-waylaid a few scenes before the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) delivers a set of grim, morbidly funny punishments to the Illuminati. Pizza Poppa's cameo isn't just the latest Campbell and Raimi collaboration. It's a necessary bit of stylistic foreshadowing.

Pip (Patton Oswalt) and Eros (Harry Styles) in Eternals

"Eternals" is the most bizarre offering in all of Phase Four, a movie that frequently misfires but is also the most haunting film in Marvel Studios' history. Some of its tonal mishmashes are great. Some don't work at all. The arrival of Pip (Patton Oswalt) and Starfox (Harry Styles) is closer to the former.

Midway through the "Eternals" end credits, we're treated to a sequence that finds Druig (Barry Keoghan), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), and Thena (Angelina Jolie) aboard the Domo, determined to find other Eternals and deprogram them. Before their quest can begin, Pip the Troll stumbles and belches his way across the Domo's deck and announces the arrival of Eros (aka. Starfox). Eros promises to help the Eternals find their brethren as the score deploys a tasty guitar lick. Roll the rest of the credits.

This isn't much on paper (most cameos aren't), but it rocks for two disparate reasons. First, the appearance that any "Eternals" follow-up will be far less consistently stone-faced thanks to these two characters. Pip and Eros have an amusing, swashbuckling dynamic and they're a welcome counterbalance to the Eternals' frequent existential angst. Second, it cements Harry Styles's role in the MCU.

No matter what you make of Styles as an actor (and this year has been quite a litmus test for that), there's no question he's one of the most important pop culture figures on the planet. Everything is more interesting and charged when he's involved. That bodes well for Phases Five and Six and means this cameo should get its due.

The Illuminati in Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness

The Illuminati are as much cinematic trolling as they are a cameo. Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige cast John Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic because the internet demanded it, leading to feverish fan debate about whether Krasinski would continue playing the role. There were months of buzz concerning who would make cameo appearances in "Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness." It only amounted to The Illuminati (Krasinski, Hayley Atwell, Anson Mount, Lashana Lynch, and Patrick Stewart) and they exist in "Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness" only to get wrecked by the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). For some, this was disappointing. For others, it was a highlight of Phase Four.

The Illuminati offers director Sam Raimi an opportunity to lean into his horror roots and illustrate the depths of Wanda's rage with alacrity. Each Illuminati member is murdered in a way that ostensibly hoists them with their petards. Captain Britain is cleft in two by her shield. Black Bolt, whose voice is a weapon, gets robbed of his mouth. Most graphically, Professor Charles Xavier gets his head ripped in two within the landscape of Wanda's mind. This is wild, distressing stuff. It serves Raimi's movie well. "Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness" must bridge the gap between "WandaVision" and itself, and it almost bursts at the seams trying to do so. The Illuminati cameo — which shows and not tells us who Wanda is now — is sweet, gory relief.

Old 97's in The Guardians of The Galaxy Holiday Special

For those who don't know, Old 97's is a terrific alt-country band whose excellent discography is worth anyone's time. They're also one of writer-director James Gunn's favorite artists. Gunn employs Old 97's to terrific effect in "The Guardians of The Galaxy Holiday Special," essentially letting the group bookend the Marvel Special Presentation with original, wonderful Christmas music. That's an even more difficult task than it seems when you consider that the "Guardians of The Galaxy" soundtracks are some of the past decade's highest-selling albums. Expectations for the music in the "Holiday Special" are high.

Old 97's vaults them. "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmas Time Is Here)" is as funny as anything Gunn's ever written, and Rhett Miller's melodies draw on classic holiday musical motifs without ever feeling derivative. The group's third-act duet with Kevin Bacon is sweetly moving. In both instances, the group shows a remarkable amount of on-screen charisma for first-time actors, and their cameo appearances prove not only good but necessary to the thesis of "The Guardians of The Galaxy Holiday Special." The holidays are an opportunity to give and give gloriously, no matter if the gifts are spot-on or not. The thought is what matters. Old 97's offer up all the musical goodness they're known for and make the "Holiday Special" better for doing so. That's the mark of a great cameo.

Daredevil (Charlie Cox) in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Compared to many of Marvel's actual full-length projects, Daredevil's return to the MCU at the end of Phase Four feels easy and seamless. That's remarkable. When the character anchored three seasons of kinetically violent television on Netflix, he was more brooding than boisterous. That version of Daredevil yielded some incredible storytelling, but as Mark Waid's seminal run on the "Daredevil" comic book proves, Matt Murdoch works equally well when he's flirty and fun. That's the version of Daredevil we get in "She-Hulk," and one that's firmly established through the character's excellent cameo in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Daredevil (Charlie Cox) appears in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" as Matt Murdoch. Matt is acting as Spider-Man's attorney because he needs "a really good lawyer" in the wake of Mysterio exposing his identity. "Peter," Matt cautions, "you may have dodged your legal troubles but things will get much worse — there is still a court of public opinion." Moments later, a brick hurtles through the window toward Peter's head. Matt catches it gracefully. When asked how on Earth he managed to catch a projectile without seeing at it, Matt's response comes through grinning teeth: "I'm a really good lawyer."

This appearance has all the joy, pragmatism, and heroics we expect from Daredevil. It happens in less than a minute and firmly establishes that the Man Without Fear has effortlessly entered the Disney-friendly realm of Marvel Studios. That's an objectively excellent cameo.

Venom (Tom Hardy) in Spider-Man: No Way Home

By the end of "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," Tom Hardy's take on Eddie Brock and the murderous alien symbiote who loves him seems far removed from the MCU proper. Pick your reason why: There's the interpretation's knowingly sophomoric streak, its determined lack-of Spider-Man, or many other options. But during the film's post-credits sequence, Venom and Eddie got whisked into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, causing a swirl of studio IP chaos. The possibilities seemed enticing.

What makes Venom's cameo in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" so wonderful is that it's what all those possibilities amounted to. Eddie gets wasted at a bar tended by Danny Rojas while describing the MCU's history in the dumbest possible terms ("There was a billionaire in a tin suit and he could fly"). As he's teasing paying Spider-Man a visit in New York, he and Venom start glowing and disappear. That's it. There's so much to love within the margins of this appearance. The bartender is completely unphased by an individual vanishing into thin air (his response: "And there he goes, without paying the bill ... and no tips."). Eddie thinks Thanos' collecting stones is stupid because the alien inside of him prefers eating brains. Most importantly, nothing about Tom Hardy's performance feels watered-down from the bug-nuts work he's done in two "Venom" movies. It is the cinematic equivalent of keeping Austin weird, and even if Eddie Brock is just a tourist in the MCU, his one appearance is a strange, sterling winner.

Wong (Benedict Wong), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) in Shang-Chi and the Legend of The Ten Rings

Now that Phase Four has come to a close, one thing is clear: Wong (Benedict Wong) was its connective tissue. The underrated sorcerer appeared in four separate movies and shows, anchoring an incredible episode of "She-Hulk" (we need a Wong and Madysinn show immediately) and adding gravitas to "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness." However, it's Wong's appearance alongside Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) in "Shang-Chi" that proves most entertaining and crucial.

Not only does Wong get blows in against Abomination (Tim Roth) in an underground cage match, he provides a crucial investigation of the 10 rings. Meeting with Hulk and Captain Marvel via projection, the trio confirms to Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) that the rings are secretly a beacon. No one knows where it's transmitting. Instead of investigating this mystery further, though, Hulk and Captain Marvel have to jet, leaving Wong with Shang-Chi and Katy. He advises them to get some rest. None of them do. Instead, there's a rapid cut to the trio belting "Hotel California" in a karaoke bar. I can't think of a Marvel Studios cameo that altered the trajectory of a character more than Wong's does here. He goes from a fun but notably stoic foil to Stephen Strange to a party-hard, secret fight club-attending sorcerer. He's cleaning up the MCU's messes while making plenty of his own. 

That makes his appearance in "Shang-Chi" one of Phase Four's best.

Kevin Feige in She-Hulk

Honestly, who saw this coming?

Kevin Feige, architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, doesn't make a cameo appearance in "She-Hulk." But "Kevin Feige," the robotic hivemind that engineers Marvel content for Disney+, does show up in the "She-Hulk" finale. There's no question in my mind this is the closest we'll ever come to seeing Feige or his signature dad cap in the MCU. More importantly, the reveal of Feige as the series "big bad" offers up a host of insane questions. Is the Feige that She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) negotiates with meant to be Feige in our universe as opposed to Earth-616? If so, are we part of the Marvel multiverse? And if Kevin Feige is actually a robot, who on Earth is the human Kevin Feige?

All this is good fun. None of that matters if Feige's appearance isn't artfully resonant. What could have been Marvel putting a hat on a hat where its visual effects issues and reliance on formula are concerned is, instead, a brief treatise on how society makes it nearly impossible for women to tell their own stories. It's the idea "She-Hulk" has been wrestling with over nine fun-lawyer-show episodes. Feige, as a character and producer, lets them pay that off spectacularly. Weaving Feige into the emotional heart of a show that sneakily tackled major issues makes his appearance a top-tier Phase Four cameo.

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

"What's up, cousin?" "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is full of memorable lines, but those three words, uttered by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) on the ancestral plain, are the movie's most searing. When Shuri (Letitia Wright) takes her synthesized version of the sacred herb, she sees who she needs to see, and it's the man who murdered Zuri (Forest Whittaker) and left her brother T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) for dead. So Killmonger showing up is surprising — to put it mildly. What he says, though, is even more shocking.

Killmonger reveals the second emotional heart of "Wakanda Forever," the one buried under the movie's deep love of and mourning for Chadwick Boseman. Namely, it's one torn between sadness and vengeance. How humans process loss, "Wakanda Forever" argues, defines the future of civilization. For Namor (Tenoch Huerta), getting broken by his mother's passing yielded Telochan. For Shuri, what T'Challa's death will mean isn't clear. Enter Erik Killmonger, who clues her in on the vengeance that her soul currently craves. He points out that he fundamentally changed Wakanda forever through vengeance. He notes that he, unlike T'Challa, was a man who took care of business. What, then, is Shuri going to do? Take care of business and vanquish Namor or be her brother's keeper?

Without Killmonger's cameo, the second half of "Wakanda Forever" doesn't have emotional stakes. No cameo in Phase Four was more important to a movie or show than his appearance, making it the entire run's crown jewel.