Alan Rickman Was A Shakespearean Genre Icon

A veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Alan Rickman was an esteemed actor long before his breakthrough movie performance in 1988’s Die Hard. A few years earlier, he earned a Tony nomination for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, cementing his reputation as a stage giant and suggesting a movie career filled with respectable prestige pictures. While Rickman did some of his best work in awards bait like Truly Madly Deeply, Sense and Sensibility, and Michael Collins, he left an equally powerful impression in the world of genre cinema.

Rickman’s stage peers might have looked down their noses at some of his more commercial choices, but the actor took genuine pride in all his films—and he made no secret of the challenges involved. “It’s a great pleasure to me to work on film now as well as on the stage,” he said. “But it is no soft option. It isn’t easier. It’s in many ways more difficult, and it’s a different kind of a challenge. You have to think a lot quicker and be a lot more immediate.”

Here are the six genre roles where he most memorably rose to the challenge:

Hans Gruber


The 41-year-old Rickman was offered his iconic Die Hard role just two days after arriving in Los Angeles. The result? One of the most appealingly despicable villains in recent movie history.

Sheriff George of Nottingham


Rickman so thoroughly upstaged Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that the actor is rumoured to have asked director Kevin Reynolds to cut some of his best moments.



Armed with wings and no shortage of caustic wisecracks, Rickman left a more lasting impression than Dogma co-stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris Rock.

Alexander Dane


In Galaxy Quest, Rickman struck comic gold making light of his own lofty acting background. He plays Alexander Dane, the star of a Trek-ish sci-fi series, who also happens to be a serious Shakespearean actor.

Severus Snape


In the Harry Potter series, Professor Snape taught kids many valuable lessons, including the value of Alan Rickman’s acting talents.

Judge Turpin


While Rickman was a lovable thespian, he was always at his best playing villains. Fortunately, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street gave him another memorable showcase for that talent.

“A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world,” Rickman once said.

He might not have changed the world, but he definitely made a difference.