This article is part of Consequence‘s Marvel Pop Culture Week, examining all the ways in which the MCU invokes our world’s pop culture and creates its own. Here, we catalog every real-life pop culture celebrity who cameos as themselves in a Marvel property.
Over the last week, we’ve explored the various ways the Marvel Cinematic Universe intersects with pop culture, from the meta to the infra. It’s been a fascinating journey into how a multi-platform entertainment franchise has both been absorbed by and has itself absorbed the world in which it exists. In fact, the MCU’s reach is so deep it has actually pulled some very real people into its very comic book-y universe.
Think about it: If Batman and Superman exist as characters in a world populated by real Avengers, it stands to reason Bob Kane and Jerry Siegel (or some variants thereof) also witnessed Captain America selling war bonds. People who exist in our reality must also exist on Earth-616. (Or Earth-199999, if you ignore the in-universe fan-service designation of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.)
There are plenty of instances that prove this to be true. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent refers to Hogun of the Warriors Three as Jackie Chan in Thor, and Luis recounts Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic death in Ant-Man. But it goes beyond mere mentions of celebrities: We’ve actually seen some real-world personalities cameoing as themselves in Marvel movies.
Below, we’ve listed out every famous person who has popped up in the MCU using their real personas. Keeping with the conceit of the rest of our dissections during Marvel Pop Culture Week, we’ve skipped the Netflix series and stuck with the Feige-led films and TV series. We realize that leaves off every musician who played Harlem’s Paradise in Luke Cage, but we drew our line in the sand and we’re standing on this side of it.
Even without the Dapper Dans and Faith Evans…es of it all, there are still plenty of familiar faces who have crossed over from our world to the MCU’s.
Bill Maher — Iron Man 3
We’ll see this quite a bit throughout this list, but television personalities have a lot of thoughts on Tony Stark and his power armor. In Iron Man 3, Real Time host Bill Maher questions giving War Machine “a paint job” and rebranding him as Iron Patriot; in an extended version of the scene, he adds, “I guess Captain America was already taken.” This was, of course, before Maher thought people who like comic books and superhero movies need “to grow up.”