It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post… I had planned on highlighting his career on his birthday later next month, as I had written this piece six years ago as a tribute. I have always loved British actors and Alan Rickman is certainly at the top of the list of those iconic Brits whose voice alone makes him so unforgettable. Few actors have such sheer screen presence as the London-born thespian, and his versatility makes him perfect for both villainous and heroic roles. Most people perhaps only know him for his bad guy roles. I don’t blame them as I first saw Rickman on screen as the bad guy. The first one was as the ruthless-but-elegant German terrorist Hans Gruber in the first (which remains the best of the franchise) Die Hard, followed by his role as the unhinged Sheriff of Nottingham. But after I watched more of his work, he shall always be Colonel Brandon, the role that made me fall in love with him and one I shall always treasure in my heart.
It’s also interesting that one of my first movies I saw when I came here to the US was Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990). In the same year Patrick Swayze became a ghost that haunted his loved one, Rickman also played one in the British indie drama with such sensitivity that proves he’s just as adept at playing a romantic hero. Over the years I read quotes from people who’ve worked with him saying that Mr. Rickman is a warm and gentle soul, known for his loyalty and kindness as much as his phenomenal talent in front and behind the camera.
As I say goodbye to one of my favorite actors, let me reminisce in the wonderful roles he’s played over the years…
Col Brandon – Sense & Sensibility (1995)
I have made a tribute dedicated to his indelible performance. He easily tops my list of favorite period drama heroes, and has become one of my favorite film characters ever. Col. Brandon is perhaps one of the kindest, most selfless Austen character and Rickman brought that sensibilities to life. The moment he beheld Marianne and fell instantly in love with her, I too was besotted with him.
I’ve seen Sense & Sensibility over a dozen times and I melted every time I saw this scene. As Brandon’s heart was broken when Marianne picked a much younger and decidedly more charming suitor, he didn’t become bitter. As Marianne fell ill, nobody was more tormented than Brandon and that agony was so palpable in Rickman’s eyes. Such a beautiful role tailor-made for such a beautiful soul.
Hans Gruber – Die Hard (1988)
One of the most quotable action villains in cinematic history, Hans Gruber is one of the most exhilaratingly entertaining bad guys. If he had been played by someone other than Rickman, I doubt that he’d be as hugely popular. The movie has some bad-ass dialog, but it’s not so much just the lines, it’s the delivery. Rickman’s decidedly slow, imperturbable diction has become legendary that he’s a popular subject for fellow actors to impersonate.
He can make the most mundane dialog so utterly fascinating. He definitely gave Bruce Willis a run for his money here, it proves that once again it’s so good to be bad.
Severus Snape – Harry Potter series
Apparently Rickman was hand-picked by author J.K. Rowling to play Snape. He was hesitant to accept the role until Rowling revealed the backstory of his character that wasn’t even revealed until the final novel. Those who’ve seen the film surely know that Snape was a multidimensional character who’s more than meets the eye.
In a franchise filled with British acting royalty, Rickman managed to be the most interesting and memorable of them all, as he keeps you guessing which side he’s on. Later on we find out that he’s actually one of the true heroes of the franchise. As with many roles he’s perfected though, I think the reason Snape was such an awesome character is because Alan Rickman played him.
Harry – Love, Actually
Now, even though Rickman’s played far more despicable characters in the past, somehow Harry, the unfaithful husband infuriates me the most. Here Rickman played husband and wife with his real-life friend Emma Thompson. This segment is definitely my favorite as it is the most poignant and heart-wrenching. The Harry/Karen proves to be one that fans of the movie are intrigued by, as revealed by the film’s script editor Emma Freud’s (who’s married to director Richard Curtis) big plot revelation last December.
Harry might be a flawed character, a scoundrel even, but Rickman made his character so human that I can’t absolutely abhor him. Of course being that it’s a rom-com, there’s that hilarious scene of him at the department store with Rowan Atkinson. His exasperated face never fails to crack me up!
Alexander Dane – Galaxy Quest
Rickman is one of those rare actors who can make a curmudgeon attitude so endearing (the only other actor I can think of is Harrison Ford). It’s yet another example of spot-on casting here. Rickman’s character is a Shakespearean-trained Alexander Dane who plays alien Dr. Lazarus in the space opera Galaxy Quest. It’s a hilarious spoof on Star Trek and I absolutely adore his character and his apparent disdain of being a part of the show is absolutely hysterical.
There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me. Look at me! I won’t go out there and say that stupid line one more time.
Of course Rickman’s got the best lines in the movie and rightly so. His alien makeup alone is a hoot, but again it’s Rickman’s indelible and inimitable delivery that made his character so fun to watch. I owned this movie on Blu-ray and it’s largely because Rickman’s in it.
Sheriff of Nottingham – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
I saw this movie with my brother years ago when it came out in the theaters. I remember how I thought Rickman absolutely stole every scene he’s in. At the time I had no idea who his name was, but he certainly was hard to forget. The Sheriff of Nottingham, with his lush, black mane, is such an unhinged and ridiculous character but oh so fun to watch!
Seriously, when Rickman plays the bad guy, he’s often more interesting than the hero and it’s the case here, especially against the vanilla Kevin Costner as Robin Hood! According to IMDb Trivia, Rickman turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte blanche with his interpretation of the character. Glad that he did and he surely made the character iconic by doing so.
Steven Spurrier – Bottle Shock
I have to admit that Rickman was the reason I even rented this movie. Here he plays an English wine stewart from Paris who comes to Napa Valley to take the best he can find to Paris for a blind taste test against French wine. I LOVE that he also narrates the movie with that silky voice of his. It may not be a perfect movie, but Rickman is still worth a watch and in a way he manages to make British’s hoity–toity attitude without making him such a stupid caricature. Just the scene of him eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in his car alone is a hoot! Nice to see Rickman display his comedic chops once again, definitely a must-see for Rickman’s fans.
King Louis XIV – A Little Chaos
This is the last film I saw Mr. Rickman in, a movie he also directed. I have to admit I never thought of him as someone suitable to play King Louis XIV but I thought he acquit himself well in the role. He might be a little too gentle and kind as the historically perfectionist and demanding Sun King, but Rickman certainly has that elegant and regal quality.
Of course I love the fact that this movie reunited him with his Sense & Sensibility‘s co-star Kate Winslet. My favorite scene is the one where Kate’s character, a landscape artist working on one of the gardens at Versailles, first met the King who was in disguise.
I miss you dearly Mr. Rickman, but your astounding work shall live on.
52 thoughts on “Remembering Alan Rickman – Seven favorite roles of the iconic British thespian”
A great actor who will be sorely missed. At least we have all these memorable moments on film.
Indeed Michael. I have most of these films here on DVD/Bluray so I can always watch him for years to come. No doubt it’ll be bittersweet every time I watch them.
I hate 2016. Bowie was horrible enough and then Rickman. I felt like Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when I heard the news. I love Rickman in that role. He was so funny.
Yeah, it’s been a horrible start to the new year 😦 Ooooh I LOVE his voice work as Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! As I mentioned, he’s the kind of actor whose voice alone is enough to entertain you.
Exactly. And now Glenn Frey of the Eagles just died as did Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople. Why do they have to die? I hate this year.
Such a sad news about Rickman, he’s definitely one of the great actors. Of course Hans Gruber is my favorite of his roles, Snape comes a close second. I’ve seen Die Hard so many times and it’s one of the great action films that the villain has as much screen time and character development as the hero.
I’ve never seen any of period dramas he’s starred in but I’m sure he’s great in those too. May he rest in peace.
Hans Gruber is surely one of the most iconic villains ever, he’s just so darn entertaining! I think the HP series are much richer because of Rickman’s involvement.You’ve seen Galaxy Quest right Ted? He’s so great in comedies as well.
Lovely tribute to a wonderful actor! I’m with you on all of it, except Gruber because I’ve never actually sat through a whole Die Hard movie. And Col. Brandon – yes! 🙂
Thanks Esther, welcome to FC btw! Oh I think Die Hard is well worth a watch up until the end because of Rickman. But Col. Brandon is always dear to my heart.
When looking at that list doesn’t the diversity of roles just shine? Comedy, drama, action, etc. Seems like we’re saying this a lot but what a sad loss.
Hello Keith! He’s so amazingly versatile indeed, and he shines in every single one of them. It’s a sad loss indeed but he’ll be remembered fondly by many.
A fantastic actor who Im gonna miss the hell out of. He practically redefined what it meant to be an antagonist
Hi Khalid, great seeing you man! Yes he’ll be sorely missed. It’s amazing how he’s redefined many of the roles he’s played. I love him equally as a villain and as a hero.
He was fantastic in Snow Cake too, one of my favourite pictures.
Oh I still need to see that one. I saw that on the list of another Rickman’s fans.
Beautiful post Ruth. Alan Rickman was one of my favourite actors and I’m very sad that he has left us so soon. Although I wasn’t completely enamoured with his last effort as director, A Little Chaos, I adored his scene with Kate Winslet in the garden. There was so much emotion in those few moments. He will be missed.
Thanks Natalie. It’s really heartbreaking as it seems so sudden. I feel the same way about A Little Chaos, but it’s still worth a watch because of him. I LOVE that scene in the garden too, truly the highlight of the film for me.
This post was very moving and a stunning tribute to a gifted actor. He will be missed.
Thanks so much Vin. He’s truly a remarkable actor, and he seems like a genuinely kind person in real life too, based on the responses of his co-workers/friends.
I noticed that the people who worked with him always spoke so highly of his commitment and friendliness.
Yeah, even Daniel Radcliffe said he’s the only actor who’s been to ALL of his plays. That shows how generous he was w/ his time and attention to his fellow actor.
He just sounded like such a generous, warm but very committed actor. May he rest in peace.
He will always be Colonel Brandon to me. Such a lovely performance from Rickman. (Alexander Dane is a very close second. “By Grabthar’s hammer…what a savings.”)
Hi Anna! Indeed he is, that’s exactly what I tweeted last night as I rewatched S&S for the umpteenth time. It’s so bittersweet to watch him on screen. Alexander Dane is hilarious!! I have to rewatch Galaxy Quest again, I bought the dvd because of him.
You picked his very best roles, I’ll be missing Alan for sure ;-(
Thanks Becky! Rickman was always interesting even in a so-so film, yes I miss him already 😦
Beautiful tribute Ruth! This is so sad. I had no idea he was ill. You are so completely right about Brandon – there is no way not to fall in love with him. Another movies with Rickman I’d recommend are Snow Cake and Dark Harbor where he is excellent
Thank you Margaret. It’s been a tough week for music/cinema lovers. Both Bowie & Rickman were 69 and gone because of cancer 😦 Col. Brandon is truly one of the best (if not THE best) period drama heroes out there. Forget Darcy, I think Brandon’s kindness and selfless-ness is something to be admire as well as swoon over.
I definitely will check out Snow Cake and Dark Harbor! Snow Cake has been mentioned quite a bit by commenters here.
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A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen, and Tom was watching in the sunroom. And I heard a man speaking from the TV. I asked Tom, which Rickman movie was it. He has such a distinguished voice, I don’t have to see it, and I know it was him. It turn out, Tom was watching A Little Caos. Anyway, my favorite still Prof.Snape.. He is a very convincing actor, and I can’t see anyone else playing Snape other than him. As far as Sherif Of Nothingham in Prince of Thieves, he’s the only one who speak with real English Accent..haha.
And off course I can’t get enough of Sense and Sensibility and Love Actually.. Tom and I sometimes jokes around and quote him, from the Rowan Atkinson’ scene “Are you going to dip that in yogurt?” . For me he is one of a REAL actor..
Hi Von! Rickman certainly had a very distinctive voice you can recognize anywhere! A Little Chaos isn’t great but I’m still glad I saw it because of Rickman and Winslet. He’s the perfect actor to play Snape, that’s brilliant casting on the part of JK Rowling. Ahah, very true about Sheriff of Nottingham! He’s so over the top that it’s so awesome to watch.
That scene in Love Actually is truly the best! I chuckle every time I watch it. Yes, a real actor and a genuinely wonderful human being, too.
For me it’s got to be the Metatron in Dogma.
I’m not a big fan of Kevin Smith’s movies, but I should give Dogma a watch just for Rickman.
I know that so many always reference his role in Die Hard, but my heart will always be with his Sense and Sensibility performance. It’s just so incredibly beautiful and moving in every way possible.
Hello Drew! Yes, he’ll always be Col. Brandon to me as well… he absolutely redefined what it means to be a true hero, romantic or otherwise. It’s amazing how he could be a chilling villain as convincingly as a tender period drama hero.
Great tribute to a great actor.
Hans Gruber – great movie villain. What a spectrum of roles. He will be missed.
Say – just saw that the A.V. Club posted an interesting article today calling out nine films Alan Rickman elevated just by showing up. Fun read. I was unaware of Rickman as Rasputin!
Hey there Rob! Always glad to see you stop by my blog 😀 Yeah, the spectrum of roles Alan Rickman’s done never cease to astound me. Oh I’ll look for that AV Club article! It’s so true that he elevated everything he’s in just by showing up, even just his voice would elevate a so-so movie!
Hey Ruth! Hope you’re well. Great post and a lovely commemoration of the late Mr Rickman. For me it has to be Truly Madly Deeply; truly beautiful.
Truly Madly Deeply is largely unknown here in the US I think, which is a shame. Thanks to my ESL teacher who showed it to me (and fellow students) back in college, otherwise I might’ve missed it.
Good bye Mr Rickman.
I was late to know that he has passed away because of all the hectic that had been going on in my life lately. I like him quite a lot because he can be both evil and nice .
My favorite would be him in Die Hard and in Robin Hood.
Hi Nov, long time no see! Congrats on your marriage, wow I had no idea you were even dating, so I take it he’s fine w/ you crushing over Cillian Murphy? Unless he’s out of the picture completely now 😉
Yes, Mr Rickman is a hugely versatile actor. If you haven’t seen him in Sense & Sensibility, I highly recommend it as I think that’s one of his strongest roles.
Yeah long time no see 🙂 I just recently back to blogging and hope I can keep up at least one post a week.
He’s fine with everything I like and we even have same hobby 😉
I don’t…sense and sensibility doesn’t sound like my kind of movie
He likes hiking then? Or movie watching?
Aww, it’s too bad. I think Sense & Sensibility is an astounding film even for ppl who are not into period dramas. The writing alone is so inspiringly-good (Emma Thompson won an Oscar for Best Screenplay), but the performances, esp Mr. Rickman is one for the ages.
He was so good as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince of Thieves! Definitely one of the film’s highlights. Of course, Hans Gruber stands out for me as I’m such a big fan of Die Hard but Rickman is so watchable in everything he’s appeared in.
I think Rickman is always the highlight in ANY film. He made Costner look so vanilla in Robin Hood. Yes, Gruber is awesome and he’s still a great villain even decades later!
Ruth, sorry it took me awhile to post here. The ones you have listed are his trump hand, no doubt. I have not seen A Little Chaos, but ought to, since I love period films and it also features Winslet. BTW, The Sun King was Louis XIV and Louis XVI was the weak king beheaded along with Marie Antoinette. You didn’t think the film was very good?
Hi Cindy! Hey, no such thing as a late comment 😉 Ooops, I should update that info about Louis XIV, I always get those Roman numerals mixed up, ahah. I think the film is just so so, but as a big fan of the main cast AND French history, I still enjoyed it.
I shouldn’t have been pedantic. I doubt many will care or notice.
This makes me so sad. He was such a good actor.
He was indeed, and a great person IRL as well apparently.
Wonderful tribute to a fine actor. I go back and forth between Col. Brandon and Hans Gruber as my favorite Rickman role. He really could do it all.
Brandon and Gruber are definitely his most memorable roles, oh and Snape too of course as it’s such a huge franchise.