Rickman Rescues: 9 Movies the Actor Elevated Just by Showing Up
We were devastated to learn of the recent death of English stage and screen star Alan Rickman. He elevates every single movie he’s in, just because he’s in it. Even (especially) movies that would otherwise be unredeemable. So below is a list of fair-to-middling films that Rickman heroically managed to energize every time he showed up on screen.
- •The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, “Marvin The Paranoid Android” (2005)While the excellent-on-paper cast of the 2005 film was largely squandered, Alan Rickman’s voice portrayal of Marvin is one of the movie’s few saving graces: Profoundly glum and existentially exasperated, Rickman adds a sly twist of sardonic contempt to Adams’ iconic creation.
- •Dogma, “Metatron” (1999)Kevin Smith’s Dogma is an unholy mess of a movie, as the writer-director grapples with Catholicism to the point of incomprehension. But, Smith wisely cast the Chasing Amy fan as Metatron, a seraphim who serves as the resolute voice of God (and what a voice!), while slyly dropping Karate Kid and Six Million Dollar Man references.
- •Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, “Sheriff Of Nottingham” (1991)While much of Kevin Costner’s screen time is leaden and self-important, Rickman’s sneering, scenery-chewing over-the-top villain is the only person having any fun on screen. Maybe Costner’s film still would have been a hit without Rickman, but it would have been a heck of a lot less enjoyable.
- •Alice In Wonderland, “Absolem The Caterpillar” (2010)The Tim Burton adaptation of Alice In Wonderland is one of the worst examples of late Tim Burton: assertively weird for weird’s sake, emphasizing odd visuals in favor of character or plot, and Johnny Depp relying on tics and twitches rather than acting. But while heavy on the CGI, it does have an impressive voice cast, and first among equals is Rickman as Absolem The Caterpillar.
- •The January Man, “Ed” (1989)Rickman’s perpetually dry wit is on display throughout the film as he delivers lines like, “The world is either great or wretched, isn’t it?” Although the overall affair is so tonally inconsistent as to leave most viewers frustrated by the time the credits roll, it does at least successfully leave them wondering, “Hey, who was the guy that played Ed?”
- •A Little Chaos, “Louis XIV” (2015)It feels like cheating to include a movie that Rickman himself directed, but A Little Chaos would have been worse if Rickman didn’t decide to cast himself. He and Kate Winslet have one scene together, as she encounters him in the garden, and it’s lovely to watch the two master actors work in tandem.
- •Rasputin: Dark Servant Of Destiny, “Rasputin” (1996)Rickman’s powerhouse performance as the titular Russian mystic has been lost to the passage of time and Harry Potter movies, which is why we could all use a reminder of the late actor’s first foray into the (cinematic) dark arts. As the “mad monk” and advisor to Tsar Nicholas II (Ian McKellen), Rickman is at once pitiable and formidable, beatific yet seductive.
- •An Awfully Big Adventure, “P.L. O’Hara” (1995)Thank God Rickman shows up to save the day about halfway through the movie, as a well-known stage actor who takes over as Hook in the group’s production of Peter Pan. Playing one of the only characters with any sense of morality, Rickman is swoon-worthy enough to steal the romantic thunder from Hugh Grant, who was the fledgling rom-com contender at the time.
- •CBGB, “Hilly Kristal” (2013)It would be disingenuous to suggest that even Rickman is capable of salvaging CBGB, a complete mess of a movie that wants to pay tribute to the burgeoning New York punk scene of the 1970s yet manages to fail to do so at every turn. Still, there’s something fascinating about seeing Rickman—who was arguably never more miscast at any point in his career—playing Hilly Kristal, founder of the titular punk club, while sporting ’70s hair and fashions while playing, of all things, an American.