Any show, movie, etc., where the majority of the lead roles are played by big-name actors. They don't have to be A list. B, C, and even D will do, although in that case, relying on their talents is preferable to relying on their names. If the character list is really big, this can spill over into supporting roles as well.
In the days of the studio system, this was easy to do, but once actors' salaries started rising, this practice gradually declined. Compare the casts at the beginning of the Disaster Movie Era with those at the end of it.
These days, you'd either need a lot of money to pull this off, convince the actors that this is just a fun breather film or be willing to settle for loads of cameos. The exception is animated films, where stars are willing to get paid a lot less just to do voice work.
A good way of being able to tell if it is an all star cast is by an examination of the theatrical poster, if it has more than five names listed on it it is usually big names.
Roger Ebert referred to films with All-Star Casts as "Box Pictures" due to the tendency (at least in the '70s) to display headshots of the cast in little boxes on the poster.
Compare Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Celebrity Voice Actor, Dream Team. Contrast Amateur Cast.
Queen's Blade, where every female character is voiced by someone famous, eg. Rie Kugimiya, Mamiko Noto, Aya Hirano... Someone at the Anime News Network forum even described it as "its like having all the A-list Hollywood Actress starring in a porn film".
Pani Poni Dash! has both dubs as this. The Japanese version has the whole class of 1-C as this already, even Sayaka Suzuki's vocie actress, who's next sucessful role wouldn't be until the infamous Yosuga no Sora anime. While the dub version for class 1-C had notable VA's such as Hilary Haag and Monica Rial, it did have 3 notable breakthrough debuts for Melissa Davis, Brittney Karbowski and Maggie Flecknoe. Brittney Karbowski already had a lead role months before in Jinki:Extend. Although she's been in dubs since at least Ganz, where she had some small roles.
The Thief and the Cobbler:Richard Williams, director of the film, went to great lengths to secure not only the greatest voice cast of all time for a cartoon (Vincent Price, Donald Pleasance, Anthony Quayle to name a few) but also the greatest team of animators:
Emery Hawkins, who worked for every single cartoon studio that existed in Hollywood between the 30s and the 50s. It is not exactly known what he animated on Thief (many animation buffs guess he drew the ogre-prince who isn't in the Recobbled Cut).
The Dark Knight Saga became probably the best modern use of this. Like Pixar, he was concerned with casting talent over name. It just happened that a lot of the talent cast were seasoned name actors. Scarecrow and Two-Face probably had the least famous actors cast in the major roles (Cillian Murphy and Aaron Eckhart, respectively), but again, it was their talent.
Just about every adult in the Harry Potter films is played by a renowned British character actor. Try to find a decently-budgeted, British movie made within the last twenty years which doesn't include at least one actor who appeared in the Potter series. In fact, actor Bill Nighy once quipped that he played Rufus Scrimgeour in the seventh film was because he didn't want to be the only actor in England to not appear in a Harry Potter film.
Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier movies. Boogie Nights and Magnolia both feature large casts with lots of big names. Some of the supporting players (John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, and most notably Phillip Seymour Hoffman) have even become bankable (or at the very least, highly respected) leading men since.
In 1983, The Outsiders was a pretty big deal, what with C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Leif Garrett, Tom Waits, a twelve year-old Sofia Coppola, S.E. Hinton herself as a nurse and Diane Lane as Cherry Valance!
The movie adaptation of the musical 9: The lead male role was originally offered to Javier Bardem, who turned it down and was subsequently replaced by Daniel Day-Lewis, thus providing perhaps the only instances were NOT putting Javier Bardem in your movie was the better choice. It also stars Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and... Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.
The Scream movies certainly count, particularly the second one, which features performances by Jada Pinkett-Smith, Omar Epps, Liev Schreiber, Courteney Cox, Buffy Summers herself, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Timothy Olyphant, Portia de Rossi, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O'Connell and of course Jamie Kennedy.
Scream 3 has well known actors in even the relatively small roles (Carrie Fisher, Patrick Dempsey, Lance Henriksen, Kevin Smith, Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Warburton) along side the already star-studded main cast.
And then there's The Shootist. When word got out that John Wayne was doing what everyone assumed would be his final movie, people were nearly begging for parts. Wayne personally selected Lauren Bacall for the female lead, with Ron Howard and Jimmy Stewart in the two main supporting roles. Presumably the director was too scared of John Carradine to ask him to leave. Harry Morgan shows up for two scenes, Scatman Crothers for one. Richard Boone and Hugh O'Brian were also smuggled onto the set. Ricky Nelson is also shown briefly in flashback (actually a clip from a previous film).
The Thin Red Line, because Terrence Malick spent 20 years away, and almost any male in Hollywood wanted to be a part of his new movie. Many (Gary Oldman, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen...) even had to be cut!
The underknown British gangster flick The Hit stars John Hurt and Terence Stamp, features Jim Broadbent in small role, and marks the first film role of Tim Roth, who received a BAFTA nomination for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Film.
The 1982 film adaptation of Annie cast its net wide for stage and screen stars to fill the adult roles: Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, Albert Finney as Oliver Warbucks, Ann Reinking as Grace, Tim Curry as Rooster, Bernadette Peters as Lily, and Edward Herrmann as FDR (who had already played that president in two acclaimed TV movies in the late 1970s).
Uwe Boll's versions of BloodRayne and Dungeon Siege. Sadly, neither achieved the same goal as the rest of the movies listed here.
The Continuity Reboot of the Spyro the Dragon series actually billed itself on its name talent, which included people like Elijah Wood, Gary Oldman, David Spade and Wayne Brady in its primary roles. Even the minor roles tended to be filled with well-known (among voice acting afficionados) cartoon voice actors.
Robert Redford has been signed to play the head of SHIELD in the second Captain America film, and probably several more Marvel films after that.
The 1978 Superman. Apart from the stars Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, there's Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, and Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter (as the Kents). Susannah York, a pretty well-known British name in the '70s, appears as his mom. And of course, in perhaps the biggest cameo ever, Marlon Brando got top billing as his dad. Terence Stamp has a cameo as General Zod just to set up his role as the primary villain in the second film. Quite a few of these actors have received Oscar nominations and wins.
By this point, it's pretty much a given that Christopher Nolan will find some role for Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Ken Watanabe in almost anything he directs. He has his repertory and he's happy with it.
Cloud Atlas. Holy crap. Possibly one of the first movies with an international All-Star Cast, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D'arcy, Hugh Grant, Bae Doona, Zhou Xun, and Keith David. Maybe the only main actor who's not at least well known in his country of origin is David Gyasi.
Hot Fuzz has roughly as many famous British and Irish actors as the average Harry Potter movie (indeed, with much crossover between them). Throw in Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett for good measure.
Waiting to Exhale, starring Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett, and Loretta Devine. Also features Dennis Haysbert, Gregory Hines, and Wesley Snipes (in an uncredited role). Also directed by Forest Whitaker.
Shanghai, which features a mix of big-name actors from both Hollywood and Asian cinema, including John Cusack, Chow Yun Fatt, Gong Li, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Franka Potente and David Morse.
Yellowbeard (1983), a pirate comedy, had Graham Chapman in the title role, and a colorful lineup of comic and character actors supporting him: in alphabetical order, Peter Boyle, Cheech & Chong, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Michael Hordern, Eric Idle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, James Mason, Spike Milligan, and Beryl Reid. And an unbilled cameo by David Bowie!
Most, if not all of Tyler Perry's movies, have quite a few stars in them, even if they are just cameo roles.
The 1988 comedy Working Girl has an All-Star Cast retroactively. The only big stars in the film at the time were Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver, but the movie also has Melanie Griffith as the lead, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, David Duchovny, Ricki Lake, Olympia Dukakis, and Saturday Night Live alumna Joan Cusack and Nora Dunn, in roles of varying size.
Eve's Bayou has Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield and Meagan Good in starring roles, as well as minor roles for Diahann Carroll and Victoria Rowell.
Outbreak is Dustin Hoffman - assisted by Cuba Gooding Jr, and formerly married to Rene Russo who's now with Kevin Spacey - vs Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman (who eventually switches sides and has Sutherland arrested by Dale Dye) in trying to manage a virus brought into the country by Patrick Dempsey.
The French comedy Papy fait de la Résistance, down to the extras. The tagline said that it had cost more than the Normandy landings.
Damages has Glenn Close, Ted Danson, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Campbell Scott, Martin Short, Lily Tomlin and John Goodman as part of the regular cast at one point or another along with up and comer Rose Byrne. That roster is enough to make the one off Stunt Casting guest list of some series blush.
The Stolen Jools, a 1931 crime spoof that featured cameos from the likes of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and about 30-40 other big name actors.
13, the American remake of 13 Tzameti, features a surprising number of recognizable faces: Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Ben Gazarra, Alexander Skarsgard, 50 Cent, Dexters David Zayas, Entourages Emmanuelle Chriqui and MMA fighters Don Frye and Forrest Griffin.
Timeline features the likes of Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Neal McDonough, Matt Craven, Ethan Embry, Michael Sheen, Lambert Wilson, Marton Csokas and Rossif Sutherland.
The Wizard of Oz is one of the earliest examples of this. Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow), Jack Haley (the Tin Man), Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch), Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion), and Frank Morgan (the Wizard)note The only member of the cast who didn't live to see the movie become the American institution it is today were some of the foremost actors in the early days of blockbuster talkies. Bolger, Haley, and Lahr in particular were also noted vaudeville performers.note Judy Garland (Dorothy) had appeared in a few movies before this one, but was still up and coming at the time.
The 2007 Cranford has Dame Judi Dench, Simon Woods, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Julia Sawalha, Philip Glenister and Eileen Atkins, not to mention a host of beloved British character actors in supporting roles, among them Emma Fielding, Jim Carter, Deborah Findlay, Barbara Flynn, Greg Wise, and Francesca Annis. Return to Cranford upped the ante, adding names like Celia Imrie, Tim Curry, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Dockery, and a pre-AvengersTom Hiddleston.
Deadwood has a pretty blinding cast for a TV show - Timothy Olyphant, Ian Mc Shane, Powers Boothe, John Hawkes, Brad Dourif, Keith Carradine, Jeffrey Jones and Titus Welliver, with Brian Cox, Stephen Tobolowsky and Garret Dillahunt appearing as guest stars.
Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre featured many well-known actors and actresses. There's Robin Williams, Eric Idle, Paul Reubens, Mick Jagger, Howie Mandel, Peter Weller, Billy Crystal, and Vincent Price, to name a few. Directors of individual episodes included Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton.
Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme is practically filled with name talent, most of them in cameos: Shelley Duvall (the female lead), Cyndi Lauper, Bobby Brown, Woody Harrelson, Little Richard, Howie Mandel, Cheech Marin... In fact, protagonist Gordon seems to be the only major character to be played by a nobody (albeit in a role that was turned down by Jim Varney).
Casting for Criminal Minds tends to go this way. In the first two seasons, the cast had the drawing power of noted TV actors Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore (well-known in the soap world as Malcolm on The Young and the Restless). The second season saw the addition of TV veteran Paget Brewster, with the third season seeing Patinkin replaced by Joe Mantegna, with the eighth season seeing Brewster replaced by veteran actress Jeanne Tripplehorn (most famous previously for Basic Instinct). The show has also become a Star-Making Role for Matthew Gray Gubler. A lot of guest stars on the show- especially lately- are name actors, with Wil Wheaton, Jason Alexander, Teri Polo and Michelle Trachtenberg, among others, all making appearances.
This is the entire point of a posse cut in hip-hop. Some well-known examples:
"Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest & Leaders of the New School
DJ Khaled is known for these; some examples are "All I Do is Win", "We Takin' Over", and "Out Here Grindin'"
The intersection of films and songs is of course concert movies, and Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, which documented and celebrated the last performance of The Band, assembled a murderer's row of talent. Aside from the group themselves, there were performances from Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, and Bobby Charles (Neil Diamond too, but we don't like to talk about him)—and of course, a set by Bob Dylan, who brought The Band to prominence as his backing group before they went solo. Oh, and just for completeness sake, the last song adds in Ringo Starr and Ron Wood as backing musicians.
This trope is the Raison d'être of the Supergroup, which assembles a group of famous musicians (or members of famous bands) and draws in fans with the promise of awesomeness by amalgamation. A special mention needs to go to The Traveling Wilburys, who assembled an utterly unbelievable amount of talent (to quote its own trope page," Bob Dylan. Roy Orbison. Tom Petty. George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. Holy Shit.")— and then released the entire thing under a Stage Name, with no reference to who they really were, because they were doing it to have fun and work with each other.
Jamie Foxx's video for "Blame It" both parodies this with its opening and plays it straight when you realize just how many famous people are in the video.
Michael Jackson's "Liberian Girl" which was literally just all his famous friends walking around a set talking and waiting for Michael to show up to the video shoot while the song plays in the background. That's the whole point.
David Bowie's second and third videos from The Next Day (2013) attracted some name acting talent to shore him up: Tilda Swinton plays his wife in "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", while Gary Oldman plays a Catholic priest and Marion Cotillard a prostitute in "The Next Day". (No links because neither clip is safe for work.)
Many Muppet films from The Muppet Movie onwards have a variation: the Muppets themselves are the stars, but most of the human supporting characters and cameos are name performers. And the first three films even work in cameos from Sesame Street characters!
A New York production of The Seagull featured Meryl Streep as Irina, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Konstantin, Natalie Portman as Nina, Kevin Kline as Trigorin, Christopher Walken as Sorin, Marcia Gay Harden as Masha, Stephen Spinella as Medviedenko, Debra Monk as Polina, John Goodman as Shamraev and Morena Baccarin was Nina's understudy.
The Scarlet Pumpernickel features Daffy, Sylvester, Porky, Elmer, Melissa Duck, Mama Bear, Henery Hawk, and J.L. Warner, an unusually large cast for the era.
Carrotblanca tops that by including Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite Sam, Tweety, Sylvester, Penelope Pussycat, Foghorn Leghorn, and Pepe Le Pew. Plus, cameos by Pete Puma, Giovanni Jones, the Crusher, Porky Pig, Sam Sheepdog, Spike and Chester, Granny, Beaky Buzzard, Elmer Fudd, Rocky and Mugsy, and Gossamer.