Christopher Walken has a habit of appearing in small roles in just about anything. A good solid chunk of his roles are him just showing up in the middle of the movie, stealing a scene, and going on his merry way, as aptly illustrated by the poster on the main page. Walken is firmly on record as never turning down a gig, as long as he has the time in his schedule. It doesn't matter how good or bad your movie is, or how large or small the part is; you give him some money (and it doesn't have to be very much money, either), and Christopher Walken will show up and act.
Romance and Cigarettes. He turns up, sings "Delilah," sings "Red Headed Woman," fucks off again, and the best part of the movie is over.
MouseHunt sees Walken playing a hammy and delightfully over the top exterminator who completely steals the scene and ends up blowing up a large portion of the house in his efforts to kill a single mouse.
Walken is also the centerpiece of probably the only good scene from Gigli.
Christopher Walken shares credit with Dennis Hopper for completely stealing the entire film when both appear together for a single scene in True Romance.
Likewise, his appearance as Clem the Janitor in the otherwise forgettable Joe Dirt, where he threatens to stab Kid Rock in the face with a soldering iron.
Although he might have had a bit too much screentime to count as one in The Rundown it still follows the same general pattern.
Does a similar thing as the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow, this time even without dialogue.
Again in Abel Ferrara's philosophical vampire film The Addiction, where he shows up just to deliver a five-minute monologue on Sartre and vampirism.
An early example is his turn as Annie's disturbed brother in Annie Hall.
Jean Reno as "the cleaner" has one scene in La femme Nikita, but it is probably what viewers remember best about the whole movie. In fact the scene was so memorable that director Luc Besson decided to make a similar character the protagonist of his next film, with the role specifically written for Reno.
Orson Welles's role as Cardinal Wolsey in the 1966 film version of A Man for All Seasons. He's in two scenes, and is probably the best thing about this very excellent film. In a later version of the film, John Gielgud did a pretty decent, though less remarkable, job in the role as well.
Diedrich Bader in Napoleon Dynamite as Rex the patriotic martial arts instructor with the bodybuilder wife.
Diedrich Bader as a mugger in Euro Trip who robs Jamie while he's being orally pleased, though he's unaware of it and confused by Jaimie's remarks.
Orson Welles as Father Mapple in the 1956 version of Moby-Dick, which also can boast Gregory Peck and John Huston as stars, with a screenplay by Ray Bradbury.
Alec Baldwin is in Glengarry Glen Ross for exactly one scene, in which he delivers a monologue that establishes the atmosphere of menace that overhangs the rest of the film. It's one of the more famous monologues of cinema. Interestingly, the character and his speech were created exclusively for the film, due to studio executives feeling that the original play lacked the necessary exposition needed to establish the premise.
In Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the main character and his band meet famous musicians of the 60s during the height of their fame. Scene-stealers include Jack White as a conceited, drugged-out, mumbling Elvis with kung-fu skills and Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman as the Beatles.
Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands, who almost steals the film from Johnny Depp. In fact the film created him a whole new following, his mannerisms and deep character acting captivating a lot of new fans.
Cyd Charisse. The entire "Broadway Melody" sequence is completely superfluous to the plot, and done entirely to try to recapture the glory of An American in Paris, but Charisse's silent performance as an icy gangster moll is still one of the most memorable things in the film. The screaming fanboy who shows up at the movie premiere in the opening sequence is also surprisingly memorable.
Julius Tannen, who will forever be known as the "Talking Picture Man". Especially his feigned humility anticipating applause at the end.
Vendice Partners in Absolute Beginners. This character is one of several antagonists in on an evil scheme, and he convinces the idealistic photographer hero to join his advertising agency and become a sellout. He gets one big sequence, a brief appearance beforehand, and a wordless bit prior to the climax. But that's enough time for the spectacular Villain Recruitment Song / Disney Acid Sequence "That's Motivation", and between that and performing the movie's Title Theme Tune (he wrote both songs too, and there was a music video for the latter on top of that), Bowie was billed third in the credits, behind only the young lovers at the story's heart.
Heavily lampshaded in Zoolander, where they give his brief appearance as the Walk-Off judge a ludicrous amount of fanfare — to the point of plastering his name on the screen and starting up the song, "Let's Dance."
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back does something similar to Zoolander for Mark Hamill's cameo, but ratcheted up the cheesiness. George Carlin's cameo as a hitchhiker is also very much an example, as is Chris Rock as the director of Bluntman and Chronic, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as themselves on the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. And Gus Van Sant as himself. And Tracy Morgan essentially playing a black version of Jay.
Jay and Silent Bob turn up in Scream 3 for all of ten seconds.
In the movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Mark Hamill was cast as Daryl Tayloronly to be killed off within about three lines. All of these previously-mentioned tropes are later subverted when, later on, he provides the voice for one of the Haydonite villains.
Cary Elwes gets one in The Chase, as a smarmy newscaster who has to apologize to his viewers due to Charlie Sheen's flipping off the camera.
The Princess Bride: Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Miracle Max and his wife Valerie, a bickering old couple. There's also Peter Cook's role as the aptly titled Impressive Clergyman with the ridiculous speech impediment.
Four Weddings and a Funeral has Rowan Atkinson in a minor role as Gerald, the priest who keeps screwing up his lines in Wedding Number Two. He gets the names of both parties wrong, mentions the Holy Goat and the Holy Spigot, and utters the classic line "awful wedded wife". He gets the coveted ''and''.
Rowan Atkinson is in all of two scenes in Love Actually, one of which has him on-screen for maybe 10 seconds, and they're both absolutely hilarious.
John Hurt as Jellon Lamb, the Bounty Hunter who believes in neither God nor evolution, but is a big racist, in The Proposition. Only in two scenes, but completely owns both of them, and is billed as one of the film's stars. In the Making Of featurette on the DVD, he mentions that many of the other actors had originally wanted his role, even though it would mean less screen time than some of them actually got.
William Hurt, in A History of Violence, has a single scene as Joey Cusack's brother. It's about five to ten minutes long. He was nominated for an Oscar.
William H. Macy has one scene as a CIA agent in Wag The Dog and is absolutely brilliant. The man keeps up with Robert De Niro.
True Romance is filled with Wonders (though a few manage to split their appearances in two scenes), including Gary Oldman as the menacing pimp, Christopher Walken as the formidable gangster, Dennis Hopper as the sacrificial father, Brad Pitt as the clueless stoner, James Gandolfini as a hitman who suffers a Rasputinian Death, Saul Rubinek as a coked-out movie producer, and Val Kilmer as the ghost of Elvis.
Essentially as himself, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The twist is that he takes all of the Dracula and Saruman mannerisms and transposes them onto a dentist. Just imagine Christopher Lee throwing his resonant basso into the word "Lollipops."
Hannibal Lecter started out as one of these in Manhunter, back when he was Brian Cox. Three scenes, owns the movie. He doesn't even do much except sit there with his jaw hanging out, taunt the hero, and talk on the telephone, and yet... and yet... (In fact, he only has eighteen minutes of screen time in Silence of the Lambs, less than any other (leading) character that an actor has won a Oscar for portraying in a movie.)
Sir Alec Guiness often did this, and the smaller his role, the more memorable it often is. He managed to upstage both Peter O'Toole (in Lawrence of Arabia) and Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago) playing roles which, while crucial to the films, had relatively little screen time. He has a memorable role as Pope Innocent in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. He was so mesmerizing as Jacob Marley in the musical Scrooge that he earned an additional scene that appears in longer versions of the film.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage's role in the first movie as "Bonesaw Mcgraw", a crazy wrestler who wouldn't look out of place on something like ECW.
And Hal Sparks' hilariously awkward elevator scene in the second movie.
Tap dancing duo The Nicholas Brothers were very much this, as they were usually only in all of their films for a dance number - all of those dance numbers being so amazing many people can't remember anything else about the films. Such as this scene from Stormy Weather.
Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a troupe pulled from the dance floors of Harlem, would show up in movies like Hellzapoppin or A Day at the Races, go through some jaw-dropping gravity-defying moves, and exit.
Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet in Casablanca, as, respectively, the conniving Guillermo Ugarte and the scheming restaurateur Mr. Ferrari.
Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet also appear in this scene in Hollywood Canteen.
Viggo Mortensen has a small part playing Satan in The Prophecy. He only has three scenes, two of which are fairly short, but they're the best part of the movie and and very, very chilling, particularly the first scene. Considering the main villain is Christopher Walken as an evil angel, that's a tall order.
Mortensen has a memorable one scene as the wheelchair-bound Lalin in Carlito's Way.
Bernie Mac plays a memorable used car salesman in only one scene.
Sideswipe is shown being absolutely Badass in the opening scene or Revenge Of the Fallen, but barely appears in the rest of the movie.
Jetfire is one of the most beloved characters in the movie, even though he only appears twice: the first to teleport the main characters and leave, the second to die. Being a Cool Old Guy who is also an SR-71 probably does it.
In the third movie, we have (Ken Jeong as) Jerry Wang, a crazy Conspiracy Theorist who works at Sam's office. What did he do that made him so memorable? Faced with immediate termination at the hands of Laserbeak, he decides to forego pleading for his life in favor of suddenly pulling out two very large pistols (which he holds gangsta-style) and pointing them right at Laserbeak's face.
Jerry Wang:You messed with the wrong Wang, bitch!
John Houseman started acting in movies (rather than producing them) when he was over sixty years old, and so, his example of this trope in Seven Days in May as one of the military coup-plotters was in fact his first appearence on screen. And then twenty years later, he did the same with his last role, as the hilariously unflappable driving instructor in The Naked Gun.
Crispin Glover again in David Lynch's Wild at Heart. His role as Christmas-obsessed, sandwich-making cousin Dell, who enjoys putting cockroaches in his underpants and has a terrible fear of black gloves - in lasts for about three minutes and is probably the weirdest damn thing he's ever done, which is saying a lot.
Also in Hallows, Bill Nighy is Rufus Scrimgeour, inexplicably Welsh Minister for Magic, symbol of strength, beacon of hope to the Wizarding World! Gets maybe ten minutes before being Killed Off for Real.
In Network, Ned Beatty as ominous CEO Arthur Jensen. The guy's onscreen probably five minutes, but his speech is utterly fantastic. "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I WON'T HAVE IT! IS THAT CLEAR??"
And then there's Beatrice Straight in the same film, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for what is the shortest amount of time an Oscar-winning role had been onscreen. (five minutes and forty seconds) Beatty was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Thomas Haden Church as the CEO of Brawndo in Idiocracy. Two minutes of pure hilarity. "The computer's doing that auto-layoff thingy!"
Bryan Forbes' comic period piece The Wrong Box, from 1966, has a big cast of British stars including Michael Caine, Ralph Richardson, John Mills, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Nanette Newman, and Tony Hancock. But it's Peter Sellers as a pathetic, old, deranged, cat-loving doctor called on to provide a death certificate who steals the movie with two scenes totaling less than 10 minutes screen time.
William Fichtner, being one of the great Hollywood character actors, has more than his share of these.
He's the ice-hearted, millionaire stage dad in Blades of Glory, disappearing shortly after the opening credits.
Notes on a Scandal. Bill Nighy. He is in two scenes. The first introduces his character, the second is an argument with his wife, (Cate Blanchett) when he discovers that she's been having an affair with one of her fifteen year-old students. The movie stars two excellent actors in Judi Dench and the aforementioned Blanchett, both at the top of their respective games. The subject matter is titillating, and the script is well written. It would take one heck of an actor to draw attention, even momentarily, away from all of that to show the real human cost of such a scandal. Bill Nighy is such an actor.
Ben Stein in, of course, Ferris Buellers Day Off. "Bueller? Bueller?" Also, Charlie Sheen as the hoodlum in the scene in the police station with Jeannie near the end. "You wear too much makeup. My sister wears too much makeup. She looks like a whore."
Ben Stein gets a scene in The Mask when Stanley Ipkiss tries to make sense of his zany newfound artifact, and the beginning of Son of the Mask, where his face gets separated from his head and put on display by Loki.
Marissa Jaret Winokur's sullen fast-food server, Janine ("You are so busted!"), in American Beauty. At a screening of the film, the character's smug little smirk at Annette Bening not only elicited laughs from the audience, but actual applause.
Both the lemur king (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the penguins in Madagascar. Both had extended roles in the sequel, and remain the funniest things in both movies, to the point where some reviews are lamenting the fact that the main cast has to appear at all. Nana as well. She had fewer than five lines in the first movie, but proved so popular that she was brought back for the sequel as a Designated Villain.
To drive the point home, when they Recycled: The Series, it was solely the penguins and the lemur they focused on.
In the classic, star-studded movie version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express from 1974, Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her role as the half-crazy Swedish missionary Greta Ohlsson, who is practically only seen onscreen during a 7 minute near-monologue. Bergman herself, however, said that Valentina Cortese should've won. This trope applies to nearly everyone in the film; with the exception of Hercule Poirot and the director of the train, who interrogate each passenger, no one has more than three scenes. Just the same, every actor gives a full movie's performance in their 7 minutes on-screen.
Dame Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I needed only nine minutes of screen time to run away with Shakespeare in Love and an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
"Have her then, but you're a lordly fool. She's been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you... it takes a woman to know it."
Barbara Billingsley, even though she's only in one scene, has one of the greatest comedic moments in movie history:
"Pardon me, stewardess, I speak jive."
There's also Ethel Merman as the soldier who thinks he's Ethel Merman.
Sammy Davis, Jr, in the film version of Sweet Charity. He shows up, blows the rest of the cast right off the screen with a stunning rendition of the movie's best song ("Rhythm of Life"), then vanishes, his hipster-preacher character and the sequence in which he appears having absolutely nothing to do with the storyline. Classic Wonder.
In When Harry Met Sally, Estelle Reiner brings down the house with her one and only line, which is the most memorable line in the film: "I'll have what she's having!" (She's director Rob Reiner's mother.)
"I will be your sherpa up the mountain of gayness."
Christopher Plummer showed up at Nic Cage's grandfather at the beginning of National Treasure (one of his earlier roles in his 21st-century comeback, and it was pretty awesome).
The Street Preacher, Dolph Lundgren's Jesus-obsessed cyborg hitman, is easily the best part of Johnny Mnemonic. Admittedly, that's not saying much, but he easily outshines the film's other attempts at One Scene Wonders (Ice-T playing... Ice-T the urban revolutionary, and Henry Rollins playing... Henry Rollins the cyborg medic).
Street Preacher: Do you want him brought to Jesus, or to you?
Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith (in the suit, that is); the film was built up and marketed to lead to that scene; in the final film, Vader is shown in the suit for less than three minutes, with less than 30 seconds of dialogue by James Earl Jones.
Also from the original trilogy, the reaction from the owner of the Rancor after Luke is forced to kill it.
Greedo only gets one scene where he gets shot by Han Solo. He's since become so popular and well known (most likely due to the whole "Han shot first" thing) that a number of comics and cartoons have been written exploring upon him as a character. The most notable example would be the Underworld comic which reveals why Greedo took the job to kill Han (he was trying to become a well-known bounty hunter but was failing miserably) and why he wanted to kill Han (he was very jealous of Solo, who was kind of a dick to him).
Chris Sarandon's outstanding turn as Al Pacino's pre-op transgender girlfriend in the classic Dog Day Afternoon garnered him an Oscar nomination and made his career, despite his appearing in only two scenes.
Charles Durning as the Governor of Texas in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which got him nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar. It helps that he has one of the funniest musical numbers in the movie, "Sidestep", where he celebrates his ability to dodge questions put to him by the press.
Pinhead's brief yet ultimately memorable appearances in the first Hellraiser film counts as this. So much so that he went on to define the entire series. The original plan was to have Julia as the recurring villain, thus turning her into a rare female slasher villain. However, Pinhead's popularity caused the whole thing to be reworked.
Graeme Garden has two scenes in the 1986 film version of Whoops Apocalypse, both as different (but identical) creaky old servants limping hurriedly down different (but identical) corridors to get to a telephone and complete a call (which they fail to do). It's one of the more memorable sequences in the film.
Telly Savalas turns up close to the end of Horror Express and stops the story cold with his portrayal of swaggering, vodka-swilling Tsarist Captain Kazan. An aristocrat threatens to send him to Siberia, his reply is a bemused "I am in Siberia."
...although this was for all the wrong reasons, as his intonation of that line, which wouldn't be out of place in a Western, are fantastically Narmtastic.
In Midnight Cowboy, Sylvia Miles' Cass has less than five minutes of screen time, but it was enough for Miles to win an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. John McGiver (Mr. O'Daniel) and Bernard Hughes (Towny) arguably fit this as well.
Meat Loaf and Ronnie James Dio, and Dave Grohl in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, each get a scene dedicated to them; the former as Jack Black's father, who tears down all his posters while singing about how rock & roll is the Devil's music, and the latter as a poster of himself that comes to life afterward. Grohl provides the Big Bad. Tim Robbins also plays a crazy homeless man trying to rob the characters, but can't walk, and demands they come to him so he can stab them.
If '30s actress Mae Clarke is remembered today at all, it's for that one scene in The Public Enemy where James Cagney smashes the grapefruit in her face.
Silent Bob's speech in Chasing Amy is so memorable, it's easy to forget that he and his hetero life mate Jay are only in one scene.
Richard Harris as English Bob in Unforgiven, who just "shoots some pheasants, defends monarchy, gets beaten by Gene Hackman, gets arrested and then goes away" in across maybe 10 minutes of screentime. But it's a remarkable performance enough for "The Duck of Death" to be in the poster.
Viola Davis in Doubt. A single scene, about ten minutes of screen time, and while she's onscreen she overshadows Meryl Streep. It got her nominated for an Oscar, and many believed she should have won it.
In the Loop is not short of great performances or funny material. Steve Coogan is in the movie for what must be a grand total of five minutes all up, and interacts with few of the main characters and none of the main plot. However, in those five minutes he easily manages to steal the movie as Paul, the easily frustrated constituent who just wants the U.K. Minister for International Development to do something about the wall of his constituency office (which is collapsing into Paul's mum's back garden) whilst said Minister is self-importantly but foolishly involving himself in grand matters of geo-political diplomacy.
Pyramid Head in the Silent Hill movie. Two scenes, each lasting approximately thirty seconds, not a single line, and he's still one of the best parts.
You Only Live Twice features Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He's got a white cat, a bald head, and a scar. He's also one of the most memorable James Bond villains, parodied and referenced ad nauseam. Total screen time: Approximately ten minutes.
Wholly Moses has a few of these, but the one that really stands out is John Ritter's one-and-half-minute appearance as Satan.
Jack Palance had a film career of 50 years and over 70 movies, but when he died in 2006, one film role consistently stood out in all the obituaries and tributes dedicated to him: the role of the taunting, smilinghired gun Jack Wilson in Shane. Palance's Wilson is widely regarded as the definitive Western bad guy. Total screen time: eight minutes. Total words spoken by Wilson: less than fifty, but he makes the most out of two of them: "Prove it."
Holly Palance (Jack's daughter) had one memorable scene in the original The Omen as Damien's first nanny who is compelled by Satan to hang herself at Damien's birthday party. "Look at me, Damien! I'm doing it all for you!"
Matthew Atherton, A.K.A Feedback, of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, with a total of two memorable minutes in the utterly forgettable monster movie Mega-Snake.
Figwit, short for "Frodo is grea... who is that?" in The Fellowship of the Ring. Three seconds of screen time, but Bret McKenzie had such a large cult following that they even gave his character lines in Return of the King.
If you were to talk to a casual fan who has trouble telling the films apart, you can usually hit gold by telling them "Return of the King is the one with the Giant Spider". Shelob turned up twice for less than ten minutes, total, but she's always remembered.
In American Pie, then-unknown John Cho's one-scene appearance as the MILF guy. Not only did this scene popularize the term "MILF," Cho arguably went on to have the best career out of all the young actors in the film. It resulted in a movie roll being written just for him - the part of Harold in Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle.
He even returns to the fourth movie with a more expanded role - but still credited as only MILF guy.
Sulu: Attention: John Harrison. This is Captain Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise. A shuttle of highly trained officers is on its way to your location. If you do not surrender to them immediately, I will unleash the entire payload of advanced long-range torpedoes currently locked on to your location. You have two minutes to confirm your compliance. Refusal to do so will result in your obliteration. And if you test me, you will fail.
The Thor-Axine team (a trio of Viking themed drivers) during the first half of the Casa Cristo rally in Speed Racer. They fire a beehive out of a catapault. From a speeding racecar.
Mel Brooks' High Anxiety has future big time director Barry Levinson as a high-strung bellboy who gets progressively more irritated with Brooks' requests for a newspaper until...no, it's too good to spoil.
Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's Vacation was only in the movie for a fairly small amount of time (they go to his house, have a BBQ, spend the night, then leave), but he was so funny and so popular they brought him back into a much bigger part for Christmas Vacation.
ZombielandBill Murray makes a completely out of left field cameo as himself that is one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Amber Heard, also, as "406", Columbus' hot, blonde neighbor who unfortunately turns into a zombie and tries to kill him.
A deleted scene in Fun With Dick And Jane features James Whitmore as an elderly ex-Marine, now employed as a security guard in a toy store in the profession of "kicking Jim Carrey's butt". It's quite possibly the funniest, most memorable scene not in the movie.
Glen Coco in Mean Girls has gone memetic. He does not even have a line, but is mentioned in one of the most quoted lines of the film.
Claude Rains as the slightly creepy, elderly millionaire Frederick Lannington in the 1950 film noir thriller Where Danger Lives. He can't be on screen for any more than five or ten minutes, but you'll remember him. He receives top billing alongside Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue.
Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite in Across the Universe. His Large Ham performance is definitely memorable, and provides some of the funniest lines in the movie ("Have you seen it? It's great. They've got stuff.").
The nameless cigar-smoking mobster from Ninja Assassin. When your response to getting stabbed in the neck is to hold it with one and do a spinning close-fisted backhand to your would-be killer with the other, well, you will be memorable. The rest is just icing on the cake.
The three-breasted mutant chick from the original Total Recall (1990). Johnny-cab, as well. 'cab is on screen for a total of two minutes. In this time, he spouts chirpy nonsense, gets torn apart by Arnold Schwarzenegger, starts screaming and glowing, tries to kill Arnie by driving at full speed into him, misses him, and hits a wall and explodes. "Fasten your seatbelt!"
The three-breasted mutant chick was indeed so popular that they were forced to include her in the remake and to make sure fans know it was added to one of the trailers.
A young Robert Duvall as the reclusive Arthur "Boo" Radley, his first movie role. He doesn't even so much as speak, but his appearance stays with you.
A lesser known, but still powerful example, is Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, his one scene being the courtroom scene. He cried when filming the scene, something he had not rehearsed up to that point, which nearly caused Gregory Peck to cry as well.
Another example from the courtroom scene: Collin Wilcox Paxton as Mayella Ewell. Her closing words when she breaks down in front of Atticus also leaves quite an impact.
Carla Perez's thirty-second cameo as Rita Repulsa in Turbo: A Power RangersMovie, with all the ham her presence implies, may be the best thing about it.
Mathieu Amalric appears in the first and last scenes of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) as the titular heroine's revolting arch-nemesis Dieuleveult, dressed entirely in a black trenchcoat, hat and sunglasses like a Gestapo officer, completely unrecognizable under a thick layer of makeup with rotten-looking false teeth and speaking with a wheezy voice, all in all resembling Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark. After stealing the scene with a wonderfully over-the-top creepy performance, his character is mummified alive and only seen at the end of the movie, observing Adèle embarking on the Titanic and ominously wishing her "bon voyage". This is made even more infuriating due to the fact that Dieuleveult is, as previously indicated, her arch-nemesis in the comics and yet has no other role in the plot other than failing to prevent her from stealing a mummy she hopes will bring her sister back to life. Needless to stay, the fans of the original comic were not pleased.
American Gangster has Ruby Dee in an Academy Award nominated role as Frank Lucas' mother. She had less than 10 minutes of screen time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in The Rundown for about five seconds of screentime, enough to say exactly two words. His appearance is mentioned in just about every professional review of the movie listed on IMDb.
Bruce McGill in The Insider, as the lawyer who deposes Russell Crowe. "WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE!"
Johnny Depp has two very brief scenes in the French film Ils se marient et eurent beaucoup des enfants (also known as Happily Ever After), one of which contains no dialogue (only some cute eye-flirting to the sounds of "Creep"), and then another scene at the end in which he—get this, ladies—speaks French, and then kisses the female lead in a dreamy, magical elevator ride, implying that her romantic life will turn all right after all.
Jon Lovitz has exactly one scene in The Wedding Singer as a rival wedding singer to the main character, but thanks to a single line of dialogue and a facial expression, it's a scene you'll remember:
He's losing his mind... and I'm reaping all the benefits!
Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Expendables. They're in the movie for all of a few minutes, yet their presence is mentioned constantly in the advertising campaign - for good reason, as those two and Sylvester Stallone haven't worked together in movies before, and likely never will again. (At least, until the sequel.)
The Vegan Police, played by Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr., in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. They have some truly hilarious lines, and make their exit with a slow-motion leaping high five.
Noah Cross does not appear in Chinatown until the movie is over halfway through. And he doesn't appear again until near the very end of the film. However, he is remembered as one of the most despicable villains in cinematic history. Roman Polanski's appearance as the man who cuts Jack Nicholson's nose with a knife also deserves a mention. It's probably the scene most people remember.
Ralph Fiennes in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. In his only scene, he helps set up the film's climax and in the process patches up things with his children and relatives.
And now I'll give you some advice, young man. Never tell the truth to an old woman — especially if she asks for it.
Gary Busey tends to do this in any film he isn't headlining.
As a crazy psycho Vietnam War vet in Black Sheep opposite Chris Farley and David Spade (although it's two and not just one), and his 'stint' as a Heavy-like demon hunter in Succubus: Hell Bent, in which he gives quite possibly the least rousing morale boosting speech ever submitted to celluloid (he basically tells the kid he has no hope of winning and he should just let the succubus do what she wants because he'll only manage to piss her off worse), dumps a load of weird junk that actually seems to work on the hero, and then drives off to leave him to his fate.
Speaking of Fear and Loathing, there's also Ellen Barkin's moving cameo as a waitress in a depressing café who gets terrorized by the main characters.
Jon Hamm's appearance in The A-Team is technically The Cameo, but may also fall under this because he comes out of nowhere (he wasn't mentioned in any of the promotional material) and is pretty darn awesome, despite being onscreen for only about two or three minutes.
Liam Dunn made a specialty of these roles in comedies in the early 1970's. He's probably best known for playing the besieged minister Rev. Johnson in Blazing Saddles and as the abused patient Mr. Hilltop at the beginning of Young Frankenstein, but his crowing moment has to be as Judge Maxwell, who has to legally sort out the problems created by his daughter Judy (Barbra Streisand) in What's Up, Doc? He has less than ten minutes on screen, but his reactions to the story being told to him are priceless. Buck Henry's wonderful dialogue was a big help.
"You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for ya life!"
And the Scary Black Man from the sequel. He doesn't even speak, yet he is remembered almost as much as the film's star.
Joan McCracken, who performs the show-stopping number ("Pass That Peace Pipe") in the Golden Age musical Good News, and has basically no other role in the rest of the movie. McCracken, who was a terrific dancer but only a moderately good singer, and who was quite plain-looking, especially by Hollywood standards, specialized in these kinds of roles.
Gary Sinise as the reporter in The Green Mile. The scene is a powerful one in the book, illustrating perfectly why John Coffey was convicted, even through doubts that he actually did the crime, and Sinise certainly put his stamp on it. Despite being in that one scene, his obvious connections with Tom Hanks gave him a spot in the movie's trailer.
About half the cast of Barton Fink, though most of them have about two scenes.
Tony Shaloub as Ben Geisler. About two scenes and five minutes and he owns every second of them. "Well, tell Lipnick he can kiss my dimpled ass."
Scorsese's under-appreciated mid-'80s gem After Hours is rife with one-off appearances and small recurring ones, but none more lustrous (or self-contained) than Teri Garr and Verna Bloom.
The psychotic neo-Nazi from Falling Down has one scene, and if it's not the best one in the movie, it's the one that caused the most laughter. Every line he spouts is caustic and vitriolic, and usually loaded with at least one slur, and five curses. The role could have been played spooky and subtle, but the actor instead decided that no scenery would go unchewed in his performance. If anyone quotes the movie, chances are good it'll be from that scene.
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle has Jacklyn Smith reprising her role as Kelly Garret from the series.
Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali in Midnight in Paris. His only scene turns out to be one of the funniest scenes in the film and he even got above-title billing on the posters with Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard.
Tiny Lister as the Scary Black Man convict on the ferry in The Dark Knight. He has less than three minutes of screentime, and just one brief monologue delivered in a hushed whisper...and does more to thwart the Joker than Batman and the entire Gotham City police force combined.
Susan Backlinie deciding to go swimming at an unfortunate moment in the opening scenes of Jaws. Not only is the scene itself one of the most memorable in cinema, but the bit-player actress gives us one of the most heart-stoppingly real depictions of terror and pain seen on screen.
Braindead: The priest who has had only a few unremarkable appearances shows up in the graveyard once the zombies start appearing and goes to town on the zombies in the most epic scene of the movie, ripping/kicking off limbs, throwing and beating up zombies with lines like "This calls for divine intervention" and "I kick ass for The Lord!"
James Cagney reprising his role as George M. Cohan (which won him the Best Actor Oscar for Yankee Doodle Dandy) for the Bob Hope vehicle The Seven Little Foys. Cagney and Hope trade hilarious barbs for a couple minutes, then do an epic tap dance number together.
Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man has almost an entire cast of them. Crispin Glover as the philosophical but illiterate train fireman, Robert Mitchum (in his final role) as the shotgun-toting town boss, Iggy Pop as a crossdressing, bible-thumping psychopath, Billy Bob Thornton as a creepy mountain man, and Alfred Molina as the racist missionary.
If you want a film that's utterly loaded with these, just watch Branagh's full-length version of Hamlet. The supporting cast (and roles) include Billy Crystal (Gravedigger), Robin Williams (Osric), Gerard Depardieu (Reynaldo), Charlton Heston (Player King), Rufus Sewell (Fortinbras), Richard Attenborough (English Ambassador) and BRIAN BLESSED (King Hamlet's Ghost) all in absolutely perfect roles! There's also a cameo by John Gielgud and Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi reprising his role as Clau-Clau-Claudius. Though he does get a rather prominent billing.
Robert Picardo has one scene in Star Trek: First Contact as the Enterprise's Emergency Medical Hologram and comes close to stealing the entire film.
The 1933 film Dinner at Eight alludes to this trope in-universe. One of the characters is a washed-up, alcoholic actor who learns he's been demoted from the lead in an upcoming play to a minor one-scene role. His agent persuades him to accept the smaller part on the grounds that he can make a bigger impression on the audience with his single scene.
Prometheus has a pretty huge one in the last minute of the film. It's the first Xenomorph, which pops out of the Big Bad. It's particularly creepy.
Stan Lee, one of the masterminds of Marvel comics, makes a Cameo in just about every single live-action movie adaptation of the heroes. Sometimes he's a plain old man, sometimes he gets a few speaking lines, or sometimes he even does some Leaning on the Fourth Wall by playing himself.
The Hunger Games has Clove, who, despite while showing up in other scenes, has one scene dedicated to her almost sadistically killing Katniss.
Seneca Crane was practically mentioned only in name in the books. In the movie, however, Wes Bentley (of American Beauty fame) does a magnificent job playing up the charm and popularity of the Head Gamemaker, and his attempts to keep the games under control even as Katniss ruins everything for him and President Snow. (The fact that his beard ended up becoming a Memetic Mutation in and of itself probably helped, too.)
Thresh only gets to speak in one scene, in which he shows up out of nowhere, rescues Katniss from Clove by smashing Clove into a wall until she dies, and then spares Katniss' life because of what she did for Rue.
In the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, there's Jeffrey Wright as the deeply troubled Cpl. Al Melvin, who has a scene near the beginning of the film and doesn't show up much afterwards, but casts such a haunting shadow over the proceedings of the whole film.
Jerry the CIA agent in Apocalypse Now - "Terminate with extreme prejudice."
Walton Goggins in G.I. Joe: Retaliation as the Warden of Cobra Commander and Destro's prison, who utilizes every second of his screentime.
In Flight, protagonists Whitaker and Nicole meet in the hospital stairwell as they wanted a smoke. Then comes a cancer patient from Utah that only appears in that scene, but provides some insightful dialogue.
Bill O'Reilly, who makes a surprising cameo as himself, commenting on his show about Pepper Potts becoming CEO of Stark Industries. It's much like the segments on his show in real life, but the fact that he's in Iron Man 2 makes it hilarious.
O'Reilly also appears in Iron Man 3, where Joan Rivers and her Fashion Police cohorts also appear to comment on War Machine's new paint job. Both segments get extended in the deleted scenes, with hilarious results.
The Suitcase Armor. It's used for just three minutes and has the living crap beaten out of it, but the activation was so cool that the armor was used on the DVD cover instead of the Mark VI upgrade. Elements of it were also adapted into the Mark VII of The Avengers.
Adam Pally as a cameraman who is a Tony Stark fanboy in Iron Man 3, providing one of the funniest moments of the film.
Harry Dean Stanton's unnamed security guard in The Avengers. Not only does he take witnessing a giant green rage monster fall out of the sky in stride, but is also considerate enough to bring a change of clothes for the human that the monster changes into. His scene-closing line is one of the movie's most memorable.
Kenneth Tigar as the German Old Man who refuses to kneel to Loki.
In Epic Pitbull's character, Bufo, only appears in two scenes and was never mentioned or seen again.
Dieter Laser in the german drama film Big Girls Don't Cry. He is in it for less than 10 minutes and scares the living ***t out of the viewer as a pedophile.
There are quite a few cameos in Hot Fuzz and every actor is hilarious. But special mention must go to Bill Nighy as Kenneth, the chief inspector and Martin Freeman and Steve Coogan in the opening scene.
Did you know that Peter Jackson is in the movie, uncredited? He's in for all of 2 seconds, stabbing Nicholas in the hand dressed as Father Christmas.
Slightly in the 2003 live action Peter Pan. The actor only ever did that film and eight years later put up a Youtube video expressing his shock at having so many fans for such a small role.
Donald Sutherland as X in JFK. An unusual example though. It's played straight in that he's in one scene, it amounts to about fifteen minutes of screen time of a three hour movie, and it's arguably the most memorable scene in the movie. However since it's essentially a monologue it's probably the second biggest speaking part in the movie.
Taken to a shocking degree in the 1951 film Scrooge. Towards the end of the film, Scrooge arrives at his nephew's house and hesitates before going into the party. He is comforted by the door maid who nods for him to go in. She has no lines but it is a very warm and tender scene. For years there was a massive discussion online about the actress's identity as she was uncredited in the film. Eventually a relative of hers surfaced online and this blog post identifies her as Theresa Derrington.
Peter Sellers as the title character in Dr. Strangelove, where he's trying to talk to the President (also played by Sellers) while being attacked by his own prosthetic hand. Yes, it's so funny that Sellers steals the scene from himself.