While he isn’t quite at Stan Lee’s level, Stephen King is certainly a pro when it comes to the art of the cameo. His works have been getting turned into movies and television for decades now, and while he’s not in every single adaptation of his books, he is featured in a considerable number of them – not to mention films and shows that simply invite him on set to make an appearance. He can sometimes be a bit hard to find, as his roles are occasionally of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety, but in that realm I am now here to help you out.
Delving into the author’s filmography, I’ve dug up every live-action Stephen King cameo in features and TV (you won’t find his voice-only parts on The Simpsons or Frasier here), and organized them into this handy chronological guide. Let’s take a trip through time, Constant Readers!
Knightriders – Hoagie Man (1981)
As you’ll find reading this feature, the vast majority of cameos that Stephen King makes are in movies or television shows he is associated with via either source material or direct creative involvement, but it’s funny that his first ever doesn’t fall into either of those categories. Director George A. Romero later became a frequent collaborator with King, working together on Creepshow and The Dark Half, but their seminal shared credit is Knightriders, which sees King briefly appear as a hoagie-eating audience member at a motorcycle dueling event. (Fun bonus: the woman he is sitting next to in the shot is his wife Tabitha King.)
Creepshow – Jordy Verrill (1982)
Stephen King’s appearances in movies and TV are typically limited to a single scene, but in one segment of Creepshow he is literally the star of the show. King plays the titular lead in "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," which sees him as a backwoods hillbilly who gets infected by a rapidly-growing, plant-like virus that he catches while investigating a meteorite crash site.
Maximum Overdrive – Man At Bank ATM (1986)
Maximum Overdrive remains the only thing that Stephen King ever directed, but he certainly made the most of it by also giving himself a fun cameo. King actually says what is the first line of dialogue of the movie, complaining when the ATM at his local bank starts calling him an “asshole” – a set up for all of the mechanical mayhem the film eventually unfurls.
Creepshow 2 – Truck Driver (1987)
Bit of trivia for you: Creepshow 2 marks the only time Stephen King has been in a sequel to one of his own movies. The author shows up in the segment titled “The Hitch-hiker,” appearing shortly after Lois Chiles’ Annie Lansing accidentally hits the eponymous character with her car and flees. King plays a truck driver who comes across the scene of the bloody crime, but he’s hardly affected by it, bluntly commenting that it’s a thing that happens all the time.
Pet Sematary – Minister (1989)
Between books like Carrie, Desperation, Revival, The Stand, and more, Stephen King has demonstrated a very complicated relationship with religion throughout his career, and that only serves to make his cameo in Pet Sematary that much more notable. His role is brief, appearing as a minister at the funeral for Susan Blommaert's Missy Dandridge, but the sight of him wearing those robes and holding that bible sticks in your mind.
Golden Years – Bus Driver (1991)
It was in 1991 that Stephen King made his small screen acting debut, playing a bus driver in the fifth episode (“Second Chance”) of the first TV series he created, Golden Years. It’s a very brief role, featured in a scene where fugitive Harlan Williams (Keith Szarabajka) is trying to keep his wife and daughter (Frances Sternhagen, Felicity Huffman) safe by sending them on a trip to Chicago. He has a bit of a mouth on him, complaining about picking up “side of the roaders,” but he gets put in his place with a harsh stare from Huffman.
Sleepwalkers – Cemetery Caretaker (1992)
This is a fun one, because the cameo by Stephen King in Sleepwalkers is really a cameo-palooza. The author appears in one scene as a cemetery caretaker who is worried about being seen as liable for an assault that has been committed on his property, and not only is it a funny performance, but the two characters he bothers with his grousing are played by horror directors John Landis (An American Werewolf In London) and Clive Barker (Hellraiser).
The Stand – Teddy Weizak (1994)
The original miniseries adaptation of The Stand marks another instance where King plays a legitimate character instead of just making a cameo – but it’s still not that big of a part. As Teddy Weizak, he’s the one who ends up transporting Laura San Giacomo's Nadine Cross to the Boulder Free Zone, though it is noteworthy that he doesn’t seem to suffer the same fate as Teddy in the Stephen King book (who dies in the explosion created by Nadine and Harold Lauder).
The Langoliers – Tom Holby (1995)
Throughout The Langoliers, Bronson Pinchot's Craig Toomy is constantly ranting and raving about his need to get to Boston so that he can meet with his business associates – and while he never actually makes it to that meeting, we do learn through a hallucination that his boss has more than a passing resemblance to one of the greatest horror writers of all time. It’s not a big part, as Toomy’s vision of Tom Holby is quickly replaced by the character’s domineering, abusive father, but you have to love that intense smile on Stephen King’s face.
Thinner – Pharmacist (1996)
Director Tom Holland didn’t waste much time between Stephen King adaptations in the mid-90s, going from making the Langoliers miniseries right into making the movie Thinner, and the filmmaker brought the author into both productions. In the 1996 film, King appears as a pharmacist named Jonathan Bangor, whom Michael Constantine's Tadzu Lempke goes to so that he can get ointment for a lesion on his nose.
The Shining – Gage Creed (1997)
While he may share the name of the villain he created in Pet Sematary, Stephen King’s Gage Creed in Mick Garris’ The Shining miniseries is not actually an evil two-year-old who is brought back from the dead. Instead, that’s just a cute Easter egg, as King instead plays a ghostly conductor leading the orchestra during a party at the Overlook Hotel that Steven Weber’s Jack Torrance wanders through during his descent into madness.
Storm Of The Century – Lawyer In Ad (1999)
Stephen King recently called Storm Of The Century his personal favorite among all of the small screen works he has worked on/been associated with over the course of his career, and it also happens to feature one of his odder cameos. He is featured as a lawyer in a commercial that is playing on television, but what makes it particularly weird is that the unit playing the ad in the scene was previously smashed by a basketball. It’s bizarre, but it’s also noteworthy that it’s not the only King-related project where the ad has been featured…
Rose Red – Pizza Delivery Guy (2002)
It’s always nice to have a calm before a storm in a horror story, and that’s something that Stephen King directly facilitates in the first half of the miniseries Rose Red. As the characters assemble in the titular haunted mansion, King shows up with the classic party starter: a few pizza pies and two six-packs of soda. (He's also featured in the faux documentary that preceded the release of the TV miniseries, titled Unlocking Rose Red: The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, though it's pretty easy to tell that his appearance is just repurposed interview footage)
Kingdom Hospital – Johnny B. Goode/Lawyer In Ad (2004)
There is a running gag throughout Kingdom Hospital Season 1 that finds Bruce Davison's Dr. Stegman frustrated that he can never find the titular institution’s head of maintenance – the mysterious Johnny B. Goode (named after the Chuck Berry song). It’s in the finale that the character is finally revealed, played by Stephen King, and his appearance becomes a great bit that only enhances Stegman’s exponentially growing frustration. (As a bonus, the scene is also preceded by the lawyer ad from Storm Of The Century, as both projects were directed by Craig R. Baxley).
Fever Pitch – Himself (2005)
Given that Stephen King is a lifelong Boston Red Sox, it’s only right that he has a role in the romantic comedy that uses the team’s 2004 World Championship victory as a backdrop. The author doesn’t actually have a role in the movie, as he just featured as himself throwing out a first pitch at Fenway Park, but it counts!
Sons Of Anarchy – Bachman (2010)
Playing a character with a name inspired by his famous alter-ego, Stephen King appears in the third episode of the third season of Sons Of Anarchy, titled “Caregiver.” Appearing late in the story, he is introduced as a “cleaner” who has skills when it comes to disposing of a dead body. Unlike Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction, Bachman is a total creep, and King delivers a great performance.
Under The Dome – Diner Patron (2014)
Stephen King recognizes that Under The Dome went “off the rails” as it was working to expand on the author’s original text, but King’s cameo has the fortunate timing of preceding the messiness. You can spot him in the Season 2 premiere of the series, the episode titled “Heads Will Roll,” where he is featured as a diner patron who requests a cup of coffee from Britt Robertson's Angie McAlister.
Mr. Mercedes – Line Cook (2017)
Clearly most Stephen King cameos have been featured for comedic effect, but his appearance in the sixth episode of Mr. Mercedes’ first season, “People In The Rain,” is all about contributing to the horror. The scene in question features Harry Treadaway's Brady Hartsfield having a violent fantasy while at a business lunch, imagining that he kills everyone in the restaurant where he is eating, and one of his victims is revealed to be a familiar-looking line cook murdered while serving a salad.
IT Chapter Two – Shopkeeper (2019)
Finally we have the most recent Stephen King appearance/cameo, and it also happens to be one of his best. Derry, Maine is a place with no shortage of weirdos, and the author plays a great one in IT Chapter Two, where he is featured as the proprietor of the Second Hand Rose pawn shop. When James McAvoy’s Bill Denbrough comes in after seeing his old bicycle, Silver, in the window, King’s character does nothing but give the famous writer grief – first by hiking up the price of the bike, and then rejecting an autograph by complaining that he doesn’t like the ending of one of Denbrough’s books.
That marks all of the author’s live-action appearances to date, but with so many upcoming Stephen King movies and TV shows, it’s not hard to imagine that this list will continue to grow in the not-too-distant future.