13. X-Men: The Last Stand
Stan’s cameo appearances are pretty limited in the world of mutants. Perhaps Bryan Singer doesn’t like working with him after the whole “stare at this nude senator” scene. Lee’s only other X-Men scene is actually a bit better, mainly because it uses Jean Grey’s immense powers to explain away Lee’s stilted acting. He’s clearly more skilled at standing still than he is at acting. Bonus: Iconic X-Men scribe Chris Claremont also appears in this scene, doubling up your creator cameos.
By this point the MCU had really figured out Stan. Have him sitting down, give him one sentence to say, and make sure it’s funny. The only real issue I have with it is Lee’s New York accent feels out of place in the middle American setting. Maybe he moved out there after retirement, then bought an old pickup truck to fit in.
Pre-2009, most Staneos were under five seconds, and for a brief one this isn’t too bad. You don’t need to know who Stan is to get the bit, which is a blind child stopping a distracted old man from getting run over. Then you get an extra laugh when you see it’s Lee. I may also give this higher marks because I prefer it to Kevin Smith’s dopey DD appearance as a talkative coroner.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
Leave it to James Gunn to call Stan Lee an old pervert (or “prevert”). Seeing Lee talking up an attractive alien is a clever way to trade on the wholesome, fun-loving image Stan cultivated over the decades, and Rocket Raccoon’s commentary adds some extra laughs to the moment. The only negative of the scene is we could’ve seen something even better had Marvel not cut it. Originally Stan would be part of the Collector’s menagerie, giving the Guardians the middle finger. Now that would’ve secured it the number 1 slot.
9. Iron Man
Even though this is the first MCU film, Marvel fanboys like me knew to look for a Staneo when Iron Man first premiered. Instead of making him a gawking bystander or an old man talking to a confused Tobey MaGuire, Stan instead has a visual gag built just for him. Dressed as Hugh Heffner, famous Viagra user/publisher, Tony gives him a little hello, to which Lee turns around befuddled. I just can’t tell if he’s actually supposed to be Heffner of the MCU or that Stark misidentifies him. Perhaps the sequel has some clues…
8. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 fails to outdo its predecessor in just about every way, save for its use of Stan Lee. It’s a repeat of the same joke, only this time Lee is more believably cast in the mold of Larry King, curmudgeonly talk show host. Not only that, but we get to see this Staneo from a first person perspective. Now that I think of it, have we ever seen Larry King and Stan Lee in the same room? Could they actually be the same person?
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Unlike his stilted work in Hulk, this time around Stan has figured out how to properly play a security guard. Show up, do a surprised double take, make an obvious joke, and BOOM, your filming is wrapped. MCU gets Lee more consistently right than most by building quality jokes around the aged actor.
6. Fantastic Four
So, I know I knocked the FF films earlier, but the Staneo in this film might be my favorite part of the entire movie. Yes, Stan just shows up and says lines in his own… special… way, but it’s the continuity that I approve of. Stan isn’t just any random guy. He’s Willie Lumpkin, the FF’s mailman since 1963, and who Stan cocreated for a comic strip before the Silver Age even began.