As good as the intentions may have been for USA for Africa's chart-topping single of 1985, "We Are the World" is infinitely irritating: seven minutes of singsong pap, performed by some of the biggest voices -- and egos -- in show business at the time (Bruce Springsteen, awesome as he is, doesn't need to shred his larynx for Ethiopia, and everyone knows it). But the video, filmed during the sessions for the song, have given film geeks one of the greatest did-that-just-happen? moments: during the full choral singalong, Dr. Raymond Stantz himself can be seen singing along, wearing a huge pair of glasses to read his sheet music. The actor was invited after attending that year's American Music Awards -- and he certainly has the musical chops, as one of The Blues Brothers.
A similar sensation occurred last year, when an updated, even more bombastic version recorded to raise money for the earthquake relief effort in Haiti counted Jeff Bridges, fresh from The Grid, among its ranks. Like the song itself, though, it wasn't quite as good as the first time.
4) Elijah Wood in The Beastie Boys' "Make Some Noise"
In 1986, The Beastie Boys made one of the funniest, snottiest music videos of all time: "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)." A quarter-century later, the group made a surprising sequel, which explained what happened to the group after they left that Brooklyn apartment. Naturally, the Beasties weren't going to reprise their roles as twentysomething rappers, so they recruited Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Elijah Wood to fill the roles of young Mike D., MCA and Adrock, respectively. Don't let those piercing blue hobbit eyes fool you: Wood has all of Adrock's sneering charm, and unintentionally sets up one of the funnier of the many cameos in the video -- Lord of the Rings co-star Orlando Bloom mugging endlessly into the frame, clad in a Def Jam Records jacket.
3) Christopher Lloyd in Huey Lewis and The News' "The Power of Love"
It may be a cheat to include a video from a sci-fi soundtrack, but it's not a written rule that a film's star will end up in the accompanying music videos (Case in point: the clip for El DeBarge's "Who's Johnny," featured in 1986's Short Circuit, which could only muster a cardboard cutout of costar Steve Guttenberg). But Back to the Future is nothing without its Emmett L. Brown, and even Huey Lewis knew that, forgoing his band's usual video theme of yachts and buxom babes for a straight performance clip bookended by new footage of Doc and the DeLorean outside a nightclub. You have to debate the logic behind Doc leaving the time machine for those crazy teens to use, though -- I have a feeling they were looking to go more than just 88 miles per hour, if you catch my drift.
2) Leonard Nimoy in The Bangles' "Going Down to Liverpool"
As if being the first officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise wasn't awesome enough, Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, managed to get another plum job for nerds: the personal chauffeur of the hottest ladies of '80s rock, The Bangles. But he's not only in front of the camera for the video to one of the band's first singles -- he directed it, too. Nimoy's son was a friend of Bangles leader/head bombshell Susanna Hoffs from college, the lucky bastard.
1) Forrest J. Ackerman in Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
It's the video that's widely accepted as the greatest ever made, so it only fits that it should have one of the nerdiest cameos. The first third of the 14-minute "Thriller" short film is a movie within a movie, as Michael Jackson turns into a werewolf and stalks a young bobby-soxer. If the transformation looks familiar, it's because MJ wisely adopted the crew of An American Werewolf in London for his project, from director John Landis to makeup artist Rick Baker. But the best homage of horror occurs as the non-film Jackson and his date leave the movie theater. As Jackson exits his row of seats, he passes by the Famous Monsters of Filmland editor and exalted collector of all things sci-fi, Forrest J Ackerman. It's a brief but brilliant tip of the hat to one of sci-fi's all-time legends, and arguably the crossroads where the cool factor of music videos could meet the subdued awesomeness of being a nerd.