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The Best and Worst Cameos in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,' Ranked

From Lena Dunham to Brad Pitt's pit bull.

by River Donaghey
Jul 24 2019, 6:32pm

Original image via Leonardo DiCaprio's Instagram. Dunham photo by Josiah Kamau/Buzzfoto/Getty.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a long movie with an even longer cast list. Tarantino's ninth (and apparently second-to-last) film is 165 glorious minutes of Hollywood nostalgia, Manson dread, and Brad Pitt's dog eating rat-flavored food, all strung together by so, so, so many cameos. Everyone from Al Pacino to Dakota Fanning to Bruce Dern to Lena Dunham make appearances, and while the movie is easily Tarantino's most consistent movie in the past decade, the celebrity cameos are not.

For every brilliant scene where Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell pop in for a second to chew out Brad Pitt, there are plenty of weird, distracting, and just generally awful walk-ons that pull you right out of the film. So in honor of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's release this week, we here at VICE have painstakingly scoured the film as though it were a celebrity Where's Waldo to put together a list of the greatest—and the most distracting—cameos in Tarantino's latest film.

Don't worry, we're not going to trot out the tired cliché that 1960s Los Angeles is actually the best cameo in the movie—although that might actually be for Once Upon in Hollywood, since Tarantino has recreated the California of his youth in Chernobyl-esque levels of detail. Only people are allowed in this list. Oh, and the occasional animal or body part.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

The Best

6. Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder

Luke Perry died last March at 52, making his brief appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the actor's final role. Perry plays an actor in the TV western Lancer, which Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Rick Dalton, is guest-starring on. Perry plays the platonic idea of the good guy, right down to the all-white suit, and he goes head-to-head with Rick Dalton/DiCaprio's mustachio'd villain.

It's a short but memorable moment in a movie overflowing with memorable moments, and it seems only fitting for an iconic TV actor like Perry's final role to be, well, playing a TV actor. He will forever be remembered for his role in 90210, but it's scenes like this that remind us how well the guy transcended his basic, teen heartthrob beginnings.

5. Maya Hawke as Linda Kasabian

Maya Hawke is having a great summer. She was the breakout star of Stranger Things season three as the ice cream scooper–turned Soviet code breaker Robin, and she delivers another memorable performance in her short time on screen in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Although she's not named in the film, Hawke plays Linda Kasabian, the Manson Family member who famously got cold feet and didn't participate in the murders, later becoming the lead witness for Attorney General Vincent Bugliosi's case against Manson, and Hawke does a lot of emotional work with her few, spare lines.

4. Julia Butters as Trudi/Millicent

The 11-year-old Julia Butters isn't exactly a household name, so maybe we're stretching the concept of "cameo" here, but come on—she absolutely slays as the Method acting wunderkind starring alongside Rick Dalton in Lancer, and the way she effortlessly holds her own up against Leonardo DiCaprio earns her a spot on this list.

3. The Real Sharon Tate as Pat in The Thirteen Chairs

At one point during the movie, Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate stops at a movie theater playing her latest film and convinces the staff to let her in for free (after taking a picture with the poster, of course). The film then takes one of its many interludes where it pauses to watch some late-60s TV or movie; in this case, it's The Thirteen Chairs, starring Tate as a clumsy antiques dealer named Pat. But the Tate in the theater isn't the same Tate on screen—it's Sharon Tate herself.

Sharon Tate's gruesome murder has overshadowed her acting in the past 50 years, but for these few moments, Tarantino gives us a chance to remember Tate for who she was in life instead of in death. It's a beautiful, subtle tribute to a starlet who died long before her time.

2. Mike Moh as Bruce Lee

Actor and martial artist Mike Moh has been praising Bruce Lee's influence over his own career for years, and he was the perfect choice to play the then-Green Hornet star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But Moh's cameo as Bruce Lee when he challenges Brad Pitt's character, Cliff Booth, to a fight isn't great just because of the casting—it's because he and Pitt have impeccable comedic timing. Their fight—which gets interrupted all too soon by one-time Uma Thurman stunt double Zoe Bell—is one of the funniest scene in the film. It would probably earn Moh the title of Best Cameo if it weren't for a certain four-legged actor who steals the whole show...

1. Brandy the Pit Bull

Yes, it's true. Whatever dog is playing Cliff Booth's pit bull pet is absolutely the best cameo in the entire movie. She brings it all—the laughs, the thrills, the action. If you don't leave the movie immediately ready to adopt a pit bull, you watched the movie wrong. We all need a Brandy in our lives.

The Worst

4. Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz

Al Pacino has become more and more Pacino-y in his later years, and his over-the-top performance as Rick Dalton's agent with an unpronounceable name is one of his Pacino-iest. It's broad, it's loud, it completely pulls you out of the movie. But not as much as...

3. Lena Dunham as Gypsy

If Pacino is bad, Dunham is worse. The way she plays Gypsy, the Manson girl who takes control of the Family while Manson and Tex are away, is completely incongruous with the rest of the scene. The character feels like she strolled onto Spahn Ranch from the set of Dunham's HBO show Camping. She's dressed more like a Millennial Pinterest board than any Manson Family member. Thankfully, she isn't on screen for long.

2. Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen

This one could've gone so well. Damian Lewis actually nails the Steve McQueen look, like he just stepped out from behind the wheel of that Mustang in Bullitt. But Tarantino strangely squanders his cameo by mostly just using him for unnecessary exposition. In his only scene at the Playboy Mansion, Lewis-as-McQueen spouts some awkward dialogue to a partygoer spelling out the relationship dynamics between Sharon Tate; her husband, Roman Polanski; and her friend, Jay Sebring. Maybe there's some better McQueen moments on the cutting room floor along with those James Marsden and Tim Roth cameos, but his scene in the Playboy Mansion might've been better left there, as well.

1. The Gratuitous Shots of Women's Bare Feet

And here it is—the worst cameo in all of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. What do you expect? This is a Quentin Tarantino movie after all, so there are, uh, a distracting amount of foot shots. The grossest and most leering of them is when Margot Robbie kicks off her shoes in a movie theater and puts her feet up on the seat in front of her, and the camera spends an inordinately long time watching Robbie watch the movie with the soles of her feet framed in the foreground. There's an almost identically-framed shot, not long later, when a Manson girl named Pussycat smashes her bare feet against the windshield of Brat Pitt's car. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may be Tarantino's mature film—apologies to the Jackie Brown heads out there—but he's still the guy who drank champagne out of Uma Thurman's stiletto that one time.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.