Severus Snape, Harry Potter
Rickman played the enigmatic Severus Snape in the eight-film Harry Potter series over, and the success of those films would suggest that most of the general public know him best as the sneering, ashen-faced tutor. Rickman enjoyed playing Snape immensely, and referred to him as a ”gift of a character”. The morally complex Snape allowed Rickman – and his own fame for being the bad guy – toyed with audiences’ expectations as his confrontations with the boy wizard became more frequent.
Jamie, Truly Madly, Deeply
Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply, made in 1990, was a story of grief that Rickman’s portrayal as the recently deceased boyfriend of Nina (Juliet Stevenson) lent sensitivity and comedy to. Returning as a ghost, Jamie and Nina reconcile, only for Jamie to become inexplicably difficult. He’s an increasingly disruptive presence in Nina’s home, and as their relationship breaks down Rickman engineers not just the chaos but also an intimacy that hints at an ulterior motive.
Hans Gruber, Die Hard
In a pre-Harry Potter world, Rickman’s Teutonic turn as Hans Gruber, the villain from Die Hard, was the role that caught the public’s imagination. Facing off against Bruce Willis’ John McLean, Rickman’s cool disdain for the hero and the hostages in the Nakatomi plaza makes the film the best in the series, whose subsequent entries suggested Die Hard’s success was as much about Rickman as it was about its leading man. Oh, and he had a fair share of the best lines: “I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative,” he tells the hostages. “Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way... so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”
Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility
When Rickman isn’t a villain, he often plays the role of a lover – his haunted role as an emotionally stunted philandering husband in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually is a fine example. But as Captain Brandon in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, Brandon worked beside Emma Thompson to similarly magnetic effect (she starred as his wife in Love Actually, and wrote the adaption for Sense and Sensibility). Playing the noble Colonel Brandon, an older suitor to Kate Winslet’s Marianne, he gives a performance that is by turns restrained, dignified and occasionally heartbreaking.
Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham is perhaps one of the actor’s most extravagant turns, and the truculent, eye-rolling tone he carries throughout the movie is so plain that he sounds as much like a frustrated middle manager as he does a medieval villain. In one scene, he tells Robin of Loxley that he intends to carve his heart out with a spoon – in another, he then explains, in a huffing, impatient tone, the point of the threat (“Because it’s dull, you twit – it’ll hurt more.”). He’s the best thing about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and he walks about the place, dressed like Alice Cooper on the last day of the tour, as if he knows it.