The amount of screen time a character has is sometimes indicative of their star power, but there are instances where a cameo or other performance lasting fewer than 10 minutes becomes the most memorable part of the movie. This can be seen in iconic appearances like Matthew McConaughey’s brief yet memorable role in The Wolf of Wall Street. There is also Drew Barrymore in Scream‘s opening scene, which set the tone for the entire movie, despite her limited screen time. These performances showcase the ability of talented actors to steal the movie, making their mark despite the brevity of their roles and creating moments that remain etched in cinematic history.
Cameos often serve as delightful surprises for the audience, giving freshness and star power to a storyline. They provide an opportunity for well-known actors to shine in short but memorable roles, sometimes outshining the main cast. There are also supporting characters who do a lot with very little, with regard to their limited time on screen. Whether it’s an unexpected cameo appearance by a major celebrity or a lesser-known actor powerfully gracing the screen for a short amount of time, these brief performances can become the most talked-about moments in a movie.
10 Estelle Reiner In When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Estelle Reiner appears in the movie for only 30 seconds, but she delivers one of When Harry Met Sally‘s most timeless quotes. The classic rom-com is directed by Rob Reiner and Estelle Reiner happened to be his mother. Her appearance occurs during the famous scene where Sally (Meg Ryan) “fakes it” in a crowded diner. Despite Ryan putting on quite the performance, it was Reiner who stole the movie with her deadpan response, “I’ll have what she’s having.” This often repeated line has since become the most memorable part of the film, making Estelle Reiner the honorary star of the movie.
9 Robert Englund In A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Freddy Krueger is known as one of the most terrifying horror movie villains of all time, yet his first appearance in the 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street only amounted to about seven minutes of screen time. This is a testament to the star power of Robert Englund, who plays the legendary role, and his ability to take a character with limited exposure and turn him into one of the most enduring and feared figures in the horror genre. The actor’s interpretation of the sadistic dream stalker, combined with the film’s creative premise, greatly impacted the franchise, birthing numerous sequels and cementing Freddy Krueger’s status as a horror icon.
8 Dame Judi Dench In Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Dame Judi Dench is a legendary classically trained actress and one of the best of her generation. Her brief, yet unforgettable role in Shakespeare in Love as Queen Elizabeth I was so commanding and poignant that it earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Dench’s ability to infuse the character with depth and wit in the eight-minute appearance is a prime example of her remarkable talent and her knack for leaving a lasting impact. Throughout her career, Dench has delivered numerous impressive performances, earning critical acclaim for her roles in both theater and film, and this one stands out despite its minimal screen time.
7 Bill Murray In Zombieland (2009)
In one of the most ridiculously absurd movie cameos in history, Bill Murray gave audiences an extra layer of humor and self-deprecation in the hit movie Zombieland. Portraying himself in a post-apocalyptic world taken over by zombies, Murray has a relatively brief but memorable appearance pretending to be a zombie in order to get around unharmed. Murray’s willingness to parody his own celebrity status made the scene one of the best in the movie. Zombieland is a fun film with some decent moments, but the scenes with Bill Murray are most definitely where it peaks.
6 Beatrice Straight In Network (1976)
Beatrice Straight’s performance as Louise Schumacher in the film Network was so impactful for audiences that she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, despite having only about five minutes of screen time. She plays a woman dealing with the revelation of her husband’s affair, delivering a raw and emotionally charged monologue that profoundly impacts viewers and the overall film. Her Oscar win was a testament to her ability to captivate audiences in such a short amount of time, leaving audiences to wonder what other directions the film could have taken if she had been given more scenes.
5 Donnie Wahlberg In The Sixth Sense (1999)
Not many people know that Donnie Wahlberg has a role in The Sixth Sense. This is because his scene in the movie is only three minutes long, but those brief moments are unforgettable. Wahlberg plays Vincent Grey, a former patient of Bruce Willis’s character. Grey’s surprise arrival is one of The Sixth Sense‘s scariest scenes. Wahlberg also lost 43 pounds in order to portray a man who had been tormented by vengeful spirits. This added a gripping, emotional layer to the film, enhancing his short yet impactful performance. While Wahlberg’s brief role isn’t always mentioned when discussing the film, it remains a pivotal and haunting moment nonetheless.
4 Drew Barrymore In Scream (1996)
Technically, Drew Barrymore’s cameo in Wes Craven’s Scream lasts slightly more than 10 minutes, but it’s worth mentioning as her surprise of a performance really sets the tone for the entire film. Playing Casey Becker, Barrymore had around 12 minutes of screen time, which was just enough time to catapult viewers into the movie’s atmosphere of suspense and terror. Her unexpected opening scene, where she becomes Ghostface’s first victim, is both shocking and memorable, reminding everyone why Barrymore is considered Hollywood royalty. This scene remains one of the genre’s more iconic moments, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her.
3 Matthew McConaughey In Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Matthew McConaughey’s seven-minute appearance as stockbroker Mark Hanna in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street stands out as one of the best parts of the film. His improvised chest-thumping chant became iconic, with McConaughey planning the bit without Scorsese’s knowledge. Following the film’s release, viewers were completely captivated by the odd scene. Even though no one knew what it meant, it turned out to be a lot of fun, and what was supposed to be a simple cameo role for McConaughey ended up becoming one of The Wolf of Wall Street‘s most quoted scenes.
2 Viola Davis In Doubt (2008)
Viola Davis’s powerful performance in the film Doubt is one of her most recognizable and lauded performances, which says a lot, considering she’s only on the screen for a total of eight minutes. In the movie, Davis portrays Mrs. Miller, the mother of a young boy at the center of a school controversy. Though her role is relatively brief, her emotionally charged scene with Meryl Streep’s character is a standout moment in the film. Viola Davis’s remarkable ability to convey a wide range of emotions in such a short amount of time earned her critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
1 Michael Cera In Barbie (2023)
Michael Cera’s portrayal of Ken’s buddy Allan is one of the best parts of Barbie. His inclusion in the Barbie universe not only serves as a delightful Easter egg but also introduces a refreshing twist to Ken’s story. Allan defies conventional gender norms and challenges the traditional male archetype. Providing both comic relief and a touch of reality in the magical world of Barbie, Cera’s portrayal of Allan became an unexpected fan favorite. While the actual Allan doll may not have been widely known, Cera’s portrayal left audiences wanting more, making him one of the film’s most memorable characters.