His wide breadth of work is worth much deeper scrutiny in order to explore all his skills but, in honor of his tragic passing, we’ve compiled a chronological list of some of our favorite roles he embodied, and a little bit about what he did to make each character special.
Die Hard (1988) — Hans Gruber
Rickman almost turned down his now-iconic role as the terrorist/uber-villian Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard movie. He eventually decided to take the role due to what he considered to be a progressive script. As his first true Hollywood film, his experience as a seasoned stage actor also impacted the plot of the film; the memorable scenes in which he pretends to be a hostage to Bruce Willis’ character were only written when producers discovered he could do an extremely convincing American accent.
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) — Jamie
A major stepping stone in his dramatic career, Rickman’s second major film role featured the British actor playing the ghost of a much-beloved boyfriend and cellist to the lead character. His portrayal of a dead lover was so passionate it landed him a BAFTA nomination for best actor, and propelled him to even greater dramatic roles throughout the rest of the decade.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) — Sheriff George of Nottingham
“Locksley! I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon,” famously declares an angry Rickman as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the extremely popular version of Robin Hood helmed by Kevin Costner. A follow up to his role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the actor was able to stretch out even more into the deliciously despicable for this film. And due to the film’s historical setting, the role allowed him to showcase his stage chops, too. For his effort as an evil ruler, he was awarded a BAFTA award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Sense and Sensibility (1995) — Colonel Brandon
A film cast with a group of budding all-stars that included Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, and Hugh Grant, director Ang Lee’s period-set Jane Austen film relied heavily on Rickman’s range. Portraying a passionate older suitor who falls in love with main character Marianne at first sight, Thompson (who also scripted the film), said she was impressed that Rickman could, “Express the extraordinary sweetness of his nature,” despite having played, “Machiavellian types so effectively,” in many of his other film roles.
Dogma (1999) — Metatron
A surprising change of pace for the actor came with his work in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, not simply because many didn’t think of him as a comedic actor, but also because of his on-screen company. Rickman’s perfectly deadpan acting as Metatron, the voice of God, was one of the funniest and most ironic elements of the film, and it was so good it also impacted the work of his fellow actors. When Smith told Jason Mewes (Jay of Jay and Silent Bob), that he would have to take his acting to another level, Mewes famously memorized the entire script, because he, “Didn’t want to piss off that Rickman dude.”