The world of television suffered a major blow with the passing of Alex Trebek at age 80 on November 8, 2020. Arguably the greatest TV game show host who ever lived, Trebek appeared in an astounding 620 episodes of America’s preeminent quiz show, Jeopardy, since its inception in 1984.
As someone who lived in the homes of many five days a week for more than 35 years, Trebek became a pop-cultural mainstay in his time as the host of Jeopardy. He has appeared in innumerable TV shows over the years and even a handful of feature films, often making cheeky cameos as himself. For a look back at Alex Trebek’s cinematic legacy, scroll below.
10 Rain Man (1988)
Trebek appeared in two films in 1988, including the award-winning Rain Man and the forgettable rom-com For Keeps. In both instances, Trebek appeared as the host of Jeopardy, which was only four years old at the time.
Rain Man follows Ray (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant who enjoys challenging his mind with quiz shows such as Jeopardy. Ray’s self-centered brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) tries to get him to share the family fortune left to him by their father, leading to a journey of self-discovery and brotherly love.
9 Dying Young (1991)
Trebek made his second big-screen appearance in Dying Young, the 1991 rom-com starring Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott. The simple but high-concept premise finds a beautiful young nurse falling in love with one of her terminally ill patients.
Directed by the late Joel Schumacher, the film follows Hillary, an idealistic nurse who can’t help but fall for Victor, a man beset with a form of blood cancer. Trebek is credited as The Host of Jeopardy in the film, which was released seven years after Jeopardy’s first season.
8 White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Trebek’s role as the host of Jeopardy played a major plot point in the classic buddy-sports-comedy White Men Can’t Jump, starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes.
Harrelson plays Billy Hoyle, a small-time basketball hustler who is in debt to a pair of brotherly gangsters. When he loses money from basketball matches to pay the brothers, Billy’s girlfriend Gloria (Rosie Perez) uses her Jeopardy acumen to get on the game show and win unthinkable sums of cash.
7 Short Cuts (1993)
Trebek’s fourth feature film in five years was Short Cuts, directed by the late great Robert Altman. The sprawling multi-narrative story features the lives of several interrelated Los Angelinos who cross paths on a daily basis. Trebek again appears as himself in the film.
By 1993, Jeopardy has been on the air for roughly a decade. As such, Trebek’s visibility and popularity increased to the point of getting to work with, or at least become immortalized by, Robert Altman.
6 Groundhog Day (1993)
Trebek’s role as the host of Jeopardy is used for freaky comedic effect in Harold Ramis’ time-loop classic, Groundhog Day. When weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) finds himself stuck in the same repetitive day in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania during the winter holiday, he must learn to become a better person before he can move on.
Having spent several years replaying the same day, Phil memorizes the entire Jeopardy episode that aired on February 2nd. Phil knows every answer by heart that he begins to answer before the question is asked, which freaks out his company.
5 Spy Hard (1996)
One of the few times Trebek played someone other than himself in a motion picture includes the comedic spoof Spy Hard, the Leslie Nielsen lampoon of James Bond and Die Hard.
Rather than portraying the host of Jeopardy, Trebek was credited as the Agency Tape Recorder in the film. While he technically does not appear in physical form, his voice was so recognizable by 1996 that it’s nearly impossible to mistake. Also in 1996, Trebek appeared in an episode of The X-Files, playing Man In Black #2.
4 Mafia! (1998)
From one silly spoof to another, Trebek made his next big-screen appearance in the 1998 mob parody Mafia!, directed by the creator of Airplane, Hot Shots, and The Naked Gun.
Rather than lending his voice this time out, however, Trebek makes an uncredited cameo as himself in the film when characters glance at a TV set playing Jeopardy.
3 Finding Forrester (2000)
Gus Van Sant’s touching coming-of-age drama Finding Forrester centers on Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), a budding writer who finds the most profound inspiration in the form of a famed but reclusive writer named William Forrester (Sean Connery).
As Forrester begins to mentor the talented Jamal, the two begin spending more and more time together in the former’s apartment. Part of their routine is to watch television together, during which Trebek appears as the host of Jeopardy.
2 Charlie’s Angels (2000)
The second film released in the year 2000 that film Trebek appeared in was Charlie’s Angels, the expensive big-screen adaptation of the classic ’70s TV show. Ironically, Trebek appeared in Finding Forrester the same year, the title character of which nearly went to Bill Murray, who does star in Charlie’s Angels.
The female-laden action film stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu as the titular Angels, three super-skilled detectives who must fend of an assassination attempt. Trebek shows up as himself in the film.
1 The Bucket List (2007)
Although he’s participated in a few documentaries since and is poised to appear in the upcoming film Free Guy, the last major motion picture Trebek appeared in was Rob Reiner’s The Bucket List in 2007.
The geriatric tear-jerker follows longtime pals and terminal cancer patients Carter (Morgan Freeman) and Edward (Jack Nicholson), who escape a hospital for one last hoorah of unadulterated fun. Trebek plays himself as the host of Jeopardy almost 30 years after first doing so in Rain Man.
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