What started as a low-budget passion project from George Lucas turned into a global phenomenon and Star Wars has brought many celebrities into the mix. Since the release of the original trilogy, so many celebrities have aspired to join the galaxy far far away.
Once the sequel trilogy came, many of the filmmakers involved invited notable actor friends to appear in the films. As unexpected as those appearances were, there were even more surprises in movies prior to that, featuring some notable Hollywood names.
John Ratzenberger (The Empire Strikes Back)
Ratzenberger has been around in the entertainment industry for decades. Long before he would star in Cheers as Cliff Clavin and appear in nearly every Pixar film, Ratzenberger had a small cameo role in Episode V as a Rebel officer in Echo Base shortly before the Battle of Hoth.
His character was later identified as Major Bren Derlin. While not appearing in Return of the Jedi, canon lore states Derlin also served during the Battle of Endor. Ratzenberger also returned to voice the character 37 years later in the Disney XD animated series LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures.
Keira Knightley (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace)
Keira Knightley’s cameo is one that Star Wars fans tend to forget about. Knightley appeared in Episode I as Sabé, one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens. Knightley was cast due to her strong resemblance to Natalie Portman and according to The Guardian, during filming, Portman’s own mother couldn’t even tell the two apart!
While only appearing in a small role in The Phantom Menace, Sabé has gone on to have an integral role in the current run of Marvel’s Darth Vader comics. The one difference here from most other cameos is that Knightley wasn’t a major star just yet.
Karl Urban (Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker)
After Star Trek co-star and frequent collaborator of Abrams, Simon Pegg appeared in The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams brought Bones himself, Karl Urban to play a small role for Episode IX. He appears as a stormtrooper in the hallways of a Star Destroyer as Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren pass by.
He utters the single line “Knights of Ren.” Speaking on the experience with DigitalSpy, Urban said “[…]we had a really fun day on set. It’s been one of my life-long goals to be a stormtrooper, so I can tick that off now.” This cameo is not talked about enough and fans seemed to have missed it in The Rise of Skywalker.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Friends since their first collaboration Brick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has appeared in every Rian Johnson film. Whether it be a full-fledged leading role or a small cameo, Gordon-Levitt has worked with Johnson six times now and soon to be seven with their upcoming Peacock series Poker Face.
Gordon-Levitt appears in The Last Jedi as Slowen Lo, an alien complaining about Finn and Rose illegally parking their shuttle on the beaches of Canto Bight. While a small role, it was fun to see Gordon-Levitt as an unrecognizable alien. A lifelong Star Wars fan himself, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would also later go on to star in the Star Wars: Visions episode Tatooine Rhapsody.
*NSYNC (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones)
For years, rumors have persisted that the famous boy band *NSYNC filmed scenes as Jedi for Attack of the Clones. Many mistakenly reported that the cameos were cut due to fan backlash but this year, Joey Fatone finally set the record straight.
Due to Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez being SAG members, they had to be cut as the Star Wars films were made outside of the SAG, per ScreenRant. While their scenes were cut, it’s rumored they can still be seen at points in the background as fighting Jedi during the Battle of Geonosis.
Justin Theroux (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
While The Last Jedi has become one of the most polarizing blockbusters of late, it still had some really fun moments. As Finn and Rose search for the “master codebreaker” on Canto Bight, they eventually run into him and it’s revealed to be Justin Theroux but before they can say anything, they are apprehended and taken to a jail cell where they meet Benicio Del Toro’s DJ.
It’s a fun little role and a neat misdirect as audiences totally expect Theroux to be playing a sizeable role. He’s also very memorable thanks to his standout outfit which is heavily inspired by Indiana Jones’ tuxedo from the opening of Temple of Doom.
John Williams (Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker)
After scoring and being a part of every Star Wars film except for The Clone Wars and Rogue One, Abrams wanted to have John Wiliams appear onscreen in Episode IX, the final film of the Skywalker Saga. Williams appears as a bartender on Kijimi while the heroes attempt to get C-3PO to translate the Sith dagger.
In his brief cameo, Williams is surrounded by a multitude of props all representing films that he worked on. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment but it’s a great way to honor the legendary composer. While many thought Episode IX would be his final work, he is currently working on the score for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series and Indiana Jones 5.
George Lucas (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith)
The legendary maker of the entire saga made his debut role in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Lucas appears on Coruscant as Baron Notluwiski Papanoida. He is seen conversing in the background at the Coruscant opera house with Chi Eekway, played by Lucas’ daughter Amanda.
Though it’s a small role in the film, Papanoida would go on to play an integral role in the Clone Wars episode Sphere of Influence. While still retaining the likeness of George Lucas, the character was voiced by Corey Burton, who based his performance on Orson Welles, via StarWars.com.
Jason Sudeikis (The Mandalorian)
Seeing Jason Sudeikis in Star Wars is by far one of the most unexpected things to happen in The Mandalorian. Sudeikis appears in two episodes in-costume as a Scout Trooper. He first appears during the end of “The Reckoning” as one of the scout troopers who snatches Grogu from Kuiil.
He appears again in the following episode during the cold open, alongside fellow comedian Adam Pally. It’s a really humorous scene and a nice contrast to the extremely grim ending of the previous episode. He is then killed by IG-11.
Daniel Craig (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Daniel Craig’s cameo in The Force Awakens created headlines everywhere and for a time, fans would refer to his stormtrooper with the designation JB-007. He appears as the stormtrooper who gets Jedi mind tricked by Rey. The way his appearance came to be is honestly pretty funny.
In the Star Wars: The Force Awakens audio commentary, J.J. Abrams said the cameo came to be because Daniel Craig was also at Pinewood during the filming of VII working on Spectre. Abrams invited him for a quick role and history was made!