10. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
(Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Co-written by Coppola and John Milius, and featuring Coppola in a cameo role)
Cameo roles by directors in their own movies are not uncommon. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, was the master, famously appearing briefly in all his films, most notably Lifeboat, where his photograph was shown in a newspaper found aboard the eponymous vessel.
Among the best cameo performances by directors in their own films are those of Roman Polanski in Chinatown, as the nasty, knife-wielding villain who slits open Jack Nicholson’s nose, and Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver, as one of Robert De Niro’s “fares” who spies on his wife and launches into what is perhaps the most misogynistic diatribe ever caught on camera.
However, because Polanski and Scorsese did not write those films but only directed them, the award for best cameo performance by a writer-director in one of their own films goes to Francis Ford Coppola for his brief but unforgettable appearance as a TV news director in Apocalypse Now. It is entirely in keeping with the insanity of the film (which, of course, was trying to capture the insanity of the Vietnam war) that Coppola’s director screams at the soldiers who are astonished to see him beside them: “Don’t look at the camera. Keep on fighting!” And for added verisimilitude, the cameraman shown working alongside him was his own cameraman, the great Vittorio Storaro, who did so much to bring the beauty and majesty of Apocalypse Now to life.