Who didn’t love Alan Rickman? The guy was pure class, charisma and magnetism whether on camera, in voiceover or simply on the red carpet during an interview. He didn’t do a whole multitude of films in his career but instead chose to carefully pick scripts and take on characters that would challenge him as an artist and inspire us, the audience. His steady voice was like molasses over mahogany, his line delivery somehow swift yet infinitely measured. He was a consummate actor and genuinely mesmerizing human being and I miss him all the time! His excellent work work remains though and here are my top ten personal favourites performances:
10. Absolem The Blue Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass
Admittedly one of the only good things to come out of Burton’s startlingly misguided vision of Lewis Carroll’s books, but then Rickman could turn anything to spun gold. He’s the best choice for the role when you think about it and intones Absolem with a sleepy, stoned vernacular that’s hilarious and adorable. I’ll add that Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat was the only other addition I enjoyed from films, while Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter left me cringing and shaking my head. Can’t go wrong with an Alan-pillar though.
9. Harry in Richard Curtis’s Love Actually
A droll business CEO and family man who finds himself in a sticky situation with both his loving wife (Emma Thompson) and skanky secretary (Heike Makatcsh), it’s fascinating to see him explore a character who is and wants to be a decent husband and just seems to let himself get off the track before he even realizes what he’s doing, and is forced to reconcile the notion that he’s hurt his wife as well as betrayed his own nature. This is a great film (I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise) because there’s like twenty different stories about love, some that end happily and others that do not, because that’s life, actually. His does not and it’s a bittersweet entry in this goodie bag anthology treat.
8. Lieutenant General Frank Benson in Gavin Hood’s Eye In The Sky
This was his last role in cinema, and the final lines he gets are something really special. Benson is a high ranking British military general involved in high tech, extreme stakes drone warfare. When it comes down to whether or not to pull the trigger the final word is his, as is the guilt if there is civilian collateral damage. It’s a brilliant, complex morality play and he grounds it with gravity and resolute world weariness.
7. The Interrogator in Radha Bharadwaj’s Closet Land
This is a forgotten gem that explores the dynamic between a stern, terrifying interrogation officer (Alan) and a children’s author (Madeleine Stowe) accused of sedition in an unnamed fascist country. It’s a chamber piece featuring only these two characters for a full length feature and as such it’s intense and implosive. Rickman and Stowe make wonderful scene partners and are believable in their respective roles the whole time, turning this into one harrowing film.
6. Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest
This beloved and slightly cult SciFi spoof sees him play a key crew member aboard a fictional exploratory starship that soon becomes… not so fictional. His intrepid admiral spends a lot of time playing second fiddle to Tim Allen’s Captain Kirk archetype and through cunning and courage comes out on top later in the story, after some hysterical bouts of fussy neurosis over the course of his arc.
5. Steven Spurrier in Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock
Circa 1970’s, A slightly snooty UK wine connoisseur journeys across the pond to Napa valley and enters his treasured wines into a contest opposite an up an up and coming American vineyard owner (Bill Pullman). Rickman plays him as a skeptical curmudgeon who doesn’t believe in the merit of US wines compared to sacrosanct French history and is endearingly, adorably thrown off balance at the pleasant culture shock of it all.
4. The Metatron in Kevin Smith’s Dogma
Who better to play the voice of god than Alan, who had possibly the most distinct voice in Hollywood? Rickman embodies this cynical, stressed out angel perfectly in Smith’s royal rumble of a religious spoof, guiding the bewildered protagonist (Linda Fiorentino) through a series of madcap misadventures. Apparently Rickman agreed to do this under the condition that the script be left exactly the way he read it in the draft given to him by Smith. Good call, he makes pithy, attitude laced hilarity of the Metatron while still finding sympathetic notes.
3. The Sheriff Of Nottingham in Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
His performance here is so over the top that it basically eclipses the rest of the film around it. This was another one he took on grounds that he’d get to do his own thing with it and… he certainly does something. Whether casting malicious rapey eyes towards Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), cheerfully impaling his cousin (Michael Wincott) with a broadsword or ruling over the serfdom with maniacal rage, this guy is a fucking hoot the whole way through.
2. Hans Gruber in John McTiernan’s Die Hard
This is the one that put him on the map and basically paved the way for scene stealing arch terrorist roles that would be the bread and butter of many a character actor for decades to come. Hans is ice cool, cold blooded and mercurial, until he’s faced with Bruce Willis’s super cop John McClane anyways. He’s terrifying without being hammy and altogether believable as this German mastermind who meets his match.
1. Severus Snape in the Harry Potter legacy
No appearance is more iconic than his oily manifestation of J.K. Rowling’s venomous, highly secretive and ultimately very tragic wizard. Originally Tim Roth was in place to play this role but I’m glad fate put Alan in the wig and robes because he turned written words on the page into a timeless, compelling and very human archetype.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!