11 Memorable 'Dancing With the Stars' Guest Judges

by Kristyn Burtt | 10/7/2019 2:12 PM

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

On Monday, the ballroom on Dancing with the Stars is going to get a lot funnier. Season 17 contestant Leah Remini is returning to the show as part of ABC’s “Cast from the Past” week, where familiar faces reunite on shows on the network’s roster.


Remini has always been unpredictable, warm and hilarious when she's guest-hosted on DWTS, so we expect her debut on the judging panel to be no different. The show has had over 30 guest judges during its 28 seasons, so it's fun to look back on a few judges who made their mark on the show — for better or for worse.


More: 13 Celebs Who Quit 'Dancing With the Stars' Due to Injury


1. Cher, Season 17

Cher wasn't inexperienced in the ballroom when she came on the show in Week 8. She wasn't a contestant on the show, she was a proud dance mom when her son, Chaz Bono, competed on Season 13. Her gig as a judge was hilarious because she was never really sure when to swing that paddle and she would announce, "Cher," along with her score.


2. Julianne Hough, Season 17

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

Before Hough became a permanent fixture on the judges' panel, she did a few guest spots. In Season 17, she ruffled pro Mark Ballas' feathers when she critiqued his Foxtrot with partner Christina Milian.


"I really want to see Christina shine. I've danced with Mark, you have to stand in front to make sure you're seen," she said with a laugh.


Ballas took issue with her comments because he felt like Hough insinuated that he made the dance all about him and not Milian. The producers sure liked what they saw, though, they made Hough a permanent judge in Season 19.


3. Kenny Ortega, Season 18

Photo credit: ABC.

Season 18 provided viewers with seven weeks of guest judges, sometimes they worked and sometimes it was a bit of a disaster. No one was more qualified than director/choreographer Kenny Ortega, who provided the right amount of wisdom and constructive criticism to the contestants during American Icons week.


More: 'DWTS' Enlists Choreographer Kathryn Burns for This Week's Opening Number


4. Donny Osmond, Season 18

Photo credit: ABC.

The Season 9 winner came back in Season 18 to judge the contestants, but Mr. Nice Guy was a little tougher than expected on that panel. Donny Osmond drew the ire from DWTS fans for criticizing Cody Simpson for not smiling through his Simba Samba with partner Witney Carson on Disney Night. The criticism didn't matter because the couple was sent packing at the end of the episode.


5. Abby Lee Miller, Season 18


Producers had to know when they invited controversial Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller to the judges' panel there was bound to be an outcry from viewers. What they didn't expect was a resistance from some of the pros, including Maks Chmerkovskiy. After his beautiful rumba with Meryl Davis, Miller criticized Davis' sickled feet during the routine. The audience broke out in boos and Maks, Mark, Val Chmerkovskiy and Derek Hough hit back about her participation in the episode.


6. Ricky Martin, Season 18

There was no one better to critique Latin week than singer Ricky Martin. He was a congenial judge, who didn't feel the need to follow the lead of the other judges. He formed his own opinion and didn't feel pressured to give a similar score. Bravo!


More: A Ballroom Couple is Officially Lead & Follow, Not Male & Female


7. Redfoo, Season 18

Photo credit: ABC.

Redfoo was another guest judge head-scratcher, but at least the viewers knew he was having a good time. The LMFAO singer delivered a lot of silliness and fun to the judging panel on Party Anthem night and host Tom Bergeron described Redfoo as the “first guest judge to make Bruno look like an accountant.” It must have made enough of an impression on DWTS producers because he came back as a short-lived contestant in Season 20, partnered with Emma Slater.


8. Kevin Hart, Season 19

Kevin Hart might have been a random pick for a judge on DWTS, but he delivered a night of comedy in the ballroom. From screaming his scores to giving Tommy Chong a "10" for his Argentine tango with Peta Murgatroyd because he's Tommy Chong, was everything the DWTS fans didn't know they needed on Movie Night.


9. Pitbull, Season 19

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

Pitbull has been on DWTS so many times, it's hard to count at this point. In Season 19, his judging stint did draw a few question marks, especially after he said, "I don’t know nothing about ballroom dancing,” while critiquing Val Chmerkovskiy and Janel Parrish. That pretty much summed up his time as a judge, which is why having a judge with some dance experience makes a difference. That lack of experience didn't stop him from getting another invite, Pitbull returned to guest judge on Season 23. 


10. Maks Chmerkovskiy, Season 21


While he had been a guest judge before in Season 17, there was a lot of fanfare around his Season 21 appearance. The producers titled the promo, "Maks is back" because the pro had exited the series after his Season 18 win. While he eventually returned to dance again on the show in Season 23, Chmerkovskiy hit all of the right notes as a judge — knowledgeable with just the right amount of constructive criticism.


11. Mandy Moore, Season 24

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

Why did it take DWTS producers until Season 24 to get Mandy Moore on as a guest judge? The show's then creative producer knew exactly what to say to the pros and contestants that would be helpful advice when they returned to the rehearsal studio. This guest stint probably paved the way for her Season 1 Dancing With the Stars: Juniors job as the head judge.


Don’t miss ‘Dancing With the Stars’ pro Daniella Karagach on ‘To The Pointe’ this Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET on Dance Network.

Dance Network’s latest ‘To The Pointe episode with ‘High Strung: Free Dance’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ choreographer, Tyce Diorio:

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