The movie world has been poorer over the last few years because of the absence of Channing Tatum. But after taking an extended hiatus, he’s back this week with Dog, which he co-directed and stars in, and will then appear with Sandra Bullock in The Lost City in March. (And, of course, there’s also a third Magic Mike on the way.) It definitely feels like he’s making up for lost time.
But while Tatum has been a consistently entertaining presence in the Jump Street and Magic Mike movies, and a compelling dramatic actor in Foxcatcher, he also has a tendency to pop up in small roles in other people’s films, essentially as a lark. Few stars of his stature have delivered as many endearing, sometimes bizarre cameos as he has over the last 10 years. Below, we rank them — including the one that wasn’t, initially, meant to be just a cameo. (It’s complicated.)
7) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
What’s He Doing in This? This sequel to the 2014 hit introduces the British secret agents to Agent Tequila (Tatum), who’s part of the Statesman, which is the U.S. equivalent of the Kingsmen. The movie allowed Tatum to wear a cowboy hat and rock a Southern accent.
How Is He in It? So, this is a weird one because, initially, his role in The Golden Circle wasn’t meant to be a cameo. But during production, his part shrunk, although it wasn’t because he was bombing. “There was a shift of sorts,” star Taron Egerton admitted around the film’s release. “There was some changing because of Channing’s schedule. The thing is that the script is constantly in flux.” As a result, some of the plot stuff that was meant to be for his character ended up going to Pedro Pascal’s Agent Whiskey.
This development was very confusing for fans who had seen early trailers and expected Tatum to have a much bigger role — and yet, The Golden Circle’s finale suggested Tatum would be signing up with the Kingsmen for the next sequel. “I hope so,” director Matthew Vaughn said when asked if Tatum would definitely be part of subsequent films in the series. “But that’s on Channing, not me. Channing isn’t an actor who signs options, let’s put it that way.” Long story short: Tequila didn’t show up in any other Kingsman films — resulting in the character ending up little more than a weird curio.
6) Free Guy (2021)
What’s He Doing in This? After 2017’s Logan Lucky, Tatum didn’t appear on screen again until this cameo, where he plays Revenjamin Buttons, an online character that the mild-mannered Guy (Ryan Reynolds) has to confront. Buttons is built up to be a really cool individual, but because he’s controlled by a nerdy gamer (Matty Cardarople) who’s a big fan of Guy’s, Buttons ends up just fan-boying our hero to a disturbing degree.
How Is He in It? For fans who had missed Tatum, it was great to see him dance a little and do some of his patented weirdness. But in keeping with Free Guy as a whole, the character’s just not very funny. And, right, Tatum is supposed to be a loser because Buttons’ gamer is a loser, but that doesn’t make it any cleverer.
5) The Hateful Eight (2015)
What’s He Doing in This? It’s saying something, but this nihilistic Western may be Quentin Tarantino’s bloodiest, savagest film. Tatum plays Jody, brother to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s psychopathic Daisy, whom his crew plans to rescue before she’s executed for her crimes. Jody is a pretty vicious killer in his own right, and Tatum was obsessed with being cast for the part. “I basically sent about an email a day for about a month just threatening any other actors that might be up for the role,” he later said. “I was just praying that no one really tough was up for the role.”
How Is He in It? If you’ve ever wanted to see a Channing Tatum character’s head explode, literally, then The Hateful Eight is the film for you. He’s fine in the role, but he can’t compare to the collection of badasses Tarantino assembled for this movie. In comparison to Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern — and especially Leigh — he’s merely an intriguing lightweight.
4) Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)
What’s He Doing in This? The original Step Up helped launch Tatum, showing off his incredible dance skills and pairing him with future wife Jenna Dewan. By the time of the 2008 sequel, though, he’d moved on to other projects, but his character Tyler does show up briefly, offering words of wisdom to new main character Andie (Briana Evigan), encouraging her to get serious about her dancing and enroll in the Maryland School of the Arts. She’s resistant, however, which can only mean one thing: They’re gonna have to have a dance-off to settle this!
How Is He in It? Revisit the Step Up films and you’ll be reminded how charismatic a young Channing Tatum was. As for his acting, well, he was still really unpolished back then — he’s a bit melodramatic and corny. But he’d figure that part out soon enough, and his dance moves are legitimately great. All these years later, we still don’t quite know how he pulled off that escape-from-the-sweatshirt thing at the end of his Step Up 2 number.
3) This Is the End (2013)
What’s He Doing in This? This story’s pretty well-known — how Seth Rogen, who co-wrote and co-directed This Is the End, pitched Tatum in the middle of the night, asking him if he’d play Danny McBride’s gimp in his apocalyptic comedy. “The Gimp is wearing a wrestling mask,” Rogen wrote, “and when he pulls it up we would love nothing more than for it to be you underneath. I know this is crazy, but we really think it will get a massive laugh. Please don’t take this the wrong way or be insulted by this. We just think it’s a great joke and you would be great doing it.”
Tatum agreed, although he might not have been very clear-headed when he said yes. “I think I must have been on Ambien and drunk,” Tatum said later, “and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it, no problem,’ and then ultimately had to actually go and do it. That was a terrible idea, probably.”
How Is He in It? If we’re grading on a scale of sheer WTF-ness, his This Is the End cameo is easily his craziest. But it’s mostly just the shock of “Oh my god, they got Tatum to do that” — he actually doesn’t have a ton to do. (And if we’re being honest, the actual funniest bit is when McBride refers to him as G.I. Joe.)
2) Don Jon (2013)
What’s He Doing in This? Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have been buddies for a while, first working together on 2005’s Havoc. So it probably wasn’t a surprise that when Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed his first feature, Don Jon, in which he plays a lothario, he’d find something for his friend in the film. Tatum plays Conner Verreaux, a fictional movie star who, apparently, does a bunch of lame romantic dramas. One of those, Special Someone, is a film that Jon’s new girlfriend Scarlett Johansson makes him go to see. It doesn’t look very good.
How Is He in It? Both Tatum and Anne Hathaway are good sports essentially sending up their image as squeaky-clean Hollywood royalty. For Tatum, though, the joke’s even funnier because, prior to his career transformation working with Steven Soderbergh, he did make some classic “chick flick” films in the vein of Special Someone — namely, Dear John and The Vow. It’s amusing (and pretty meta) to watch Tatum make fun of the career path he had escaped now that he was part of 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike. That dope Conner Verreaux wasn’t going to be his fate.
1) The Lego Movie (2014)
What’s He Doing in This? In between 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller released this inspired action-comedy, finding a small but pivotal role for Tatum, who voices Lego Superman. He’s just like the regular Superman, except his weakness (other than Kryptonite) is that he can’t get away from Green Lantern (voiced by Tatum’s Jump Street co-star Jonah Hill), who mistakenly believes they’re best buds.
How Is He in It? Pretty fantastic, actually — so fantastic, in fact, that there have been online petitions requesting Warner Bros. recast him as the live-action Superman. As he does in the Jump Street movies, Tatum uses his macho voice to convey the Man of Steel’s square-jawed heroism, only to have the character be taken down a peg when he’s the butt of every joke. Quite simply, the guy just sounds like Superman, but in The Lego Movie (as well as its sequel and The Lego Batman Movie), the filmmakers keep finding ways for this superhero to be petty and ordinary, puncturing his mystical aura. And, seriously, it never gets old watching Superman be annoyed that Green Lantern keeps sidling up to him — god, Hal Jordan, read the room.