A Definitive Ranking of Every Notable Guest Star On 'Veronica Mars'

From Neptune High to Hearst College, Kristen Bell's spunky teen sleuth met the needy and the nefarious via a barrage of guest stars. We ranked them all.

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It's TV Anniversary Week at The Wire, and we're taking a special look at the inordinately prestigious crop of shows celebrating milestone anniversaries this fall. Today, we're looking at UPN's Veronica Mars, which premiered Sept. 22, 2004.

She may have been a marshmallow, but Veronica Mars made just as many enemies in three seasons as she did solving cases. From Neptune High to Hearst College, Kristen Bell's spunky teen sleuth met the needy and the nefarious via a barrage of guest stars — many of who found fame post-Mars — and in true The Wire style, we've ranked 'em all.

But first! A definition: Guest stars include recurring ones (hello, Ken Marino as Vinnie Van Lowe!), but eliminates anyone who got bumped up to become a regular on the show. They may have seemed like guest stars, but main cast members including Julie Gonzalo (season 3's Parker), Kyle Gallner (Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas), Michael Muhney (Sheriff Lamb) were disqualified.

As for methodology, we attributed grades for every guest star based on the following four criteria: character visibility, character memorability, impact in Veronica Mars lore, and post-Mars fame. The averages resulted in the following ranking, which we pared down to just 50 guest stars. (So yes, some are ranked higher because of star power, others made it because of their characters, while people like Amanda Noret —who played Madison Sinclair — just missed the cut.) Not happy with where your favorites landed? Just remember: Life's a bitch — at least until you die.

50. Jamie Chung

Character: Chung appeared for about 10 seconds as Jania (or as IMDb calls her, "Dancing Girl"), a partygoer Veronica encounters while investigating the rape crisis at Hearst. Jania's friend is passed out on the floor. That's about it for Chung's first acting gig post-Real World and pre-Sucker Punch, The Hangover Part III, and Once Upon a Time.
Episode: Season 3, Episode 9: "Spit and Eggs"

49. Dan Castellaneta

Character: The voice of Homer Simpson plays Dr. Kinny, a professor at Hearst who makes his class participate in a variation of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It doesn't go so well, and at the end of the episode, Logan wreaks havoc by bursting through his classroom stark naked. D'oh!
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 2: "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week"

48. Bonita Friedericy

Character: Friedericy spars with Veronica as Evelyn Bugby, a Neptune High Alumni Association member who visits the school to put together a display for a class reunion. Veronica's assigned to help her collect photos of the class of 1979, a small task compared to the ones Friedericy would assign Chuck on, well, Chuck, as the imposing Gen. Diane Beckman.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 7: "The Girl Next Door"

47. Rachelle Lefevre

Character: The future Twilight actress and Under the Dome dame first appeared on Veronica Mars as sympathetic sorority girl Marjorie, who gossips with Veronica and invites her in. She eventually becomes implicated in a marijuana scandal at the sorority, leaving Veronica feeling guilty for betraying her sisterly trust.
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 2: "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week"

46. Zachery Ty Bryan

Character: The former Home Improvement star played Caz, a basketball player and 09er at Neptune High who ends up in Veronica's crosshairs when his ex-girlfriend Sabrina recruits her to help track down her stalker. May or may not have inspired the upcoming CBS show.
Episodes: Season 1, Ep. 15: "Ruskie Business"; Season 1, Ep. 17: "Kanes and Abel's"

45. Monique Coleman

Character: Before heading to East High in High School Musical, Coleman played Gabrielle Pollard, a Neptune High student who befriended Yolanda, a kidnapped girl who used to be friends with Veronica and Lilly. Coleman delivers the guilt-tripping line of the episode, asking Veronica "Where were you?" when Yolanda began getting into trouble.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 13: "Lord of the Bling"

44. Kim Stolz

Character: The America's Next Top Model contestant (our favorite model from Cycle 5) landed a blink-and-you-miss-it part on the show as rental car agent Stacy, who has a domineering boss played by Joss Whedon (more on him later). She helps Veronica track a car.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 6: "Rat Saw God"

43. Kyla Pratt

Character: The actress formerly known as Penny Proud played Georgia, an office aide who gets scammed out of $6000. Wallace enlists Veronica to help her recover her money, and she's notable for being one of Veronica's earliest successful cases at Neptune High.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 4: "The Wrath of Con"

42. Lucas Grabeel

Character: Before he taught Corbin Bleu how to dance while playing baseball in High School Musical 2 (they dance with bats n' all), Grabeel played Neptune High baseball player Kelly Kuzzio, who gets his car robbed. Fun fact: Grabeel also appeared on Season 1, but was credited as "Wanna Score Boy." (Thanks, IMDb!)
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 14: "Versatile Toppings"

41. Kristin Cavallari

Character: Like Jamie Chung, Cavallari's first non-reality TV role took her to Neptune, where she played Kylie Marker, a lesbian cheerleader who uses blackmail to force her girlfriend to come out. Not cool, Kristin. That's some reality TV manipulativeness.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 14: "Versatile Toppings"

40. Paris Hilton

Character: Speaking of reality TV manipulativeness... Hilton's part on Mars practically mirrored her real life persona: The socialite popped up in the first season as Logan's cheating girlfriend of the week and snooty 09er (of course) who gets involved in credit card fraud. Naturally, Veronica has little patience for her.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 2: "Credit Where Credit's Due"

39. Anthony Anderson

Character: To be honest, Anderson's on this list mostly because he played a character named Percy "Bone" Hamilton whose daughter (the aforementioned Yolanda) refers to him as "the scariest man alive who's also launching a line of casual wear." Anthony Anderson, of all people?!
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 13: "Lord of the Bling"

38. Jane Lynch

Character: Mrs. Donaldson was far more flexible compared to Lynch's Sue Sylvester on Glee, but she also screwed up the student body presidential election at Neptune. Veronica visits her to ask about appealing the results, and eventually finds out Donaldson's student aide (Madison Sinclair, of course) changed the instructions to help Duncan.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 6: "Return of the Kane"

37. Jonathan Bennett

Character: Mean Girls' Aaron Samuels made an impression in the two episodes he appeared in as Casey Gant. Casey was a stereotypical 09er until he ended up joining a cult, and he later turned into a reliable friend/source for Veronica. Four for you, Casey!
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 9: "Drinking the Kool Aid"; Season 1, Ep. 21: "A Trip to the Dentist"

36. Armie Hammer

Character: Hammer played Hearst football player Kurt, who discovers his cherished playbook is missing and sends Veronica on another hunt to help recover it, or else he could lose his scholarship and get kicked off the team. Hammer's ranked here for his later star power and for being one of Veronica's more "classic" cases in season 3.
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 3: "Wichita Linebacker"

35. Sam Huntington

Character: Huntington's Luke Haldeman was a typical 09er — as in a rich brat who kept a dark secret. His? Dealing drugs with Troy Vandegraff. In the show, he played second fiddle to Vandegraff & Co. In the film, he played a part in the core four 09ers.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 5: "You Think You Know Somebody"; Season 1, Ep. 21: "A Trip to the Dentist"

34. Geoff Pierson

Character: Pierson's appeared on practically everything — 24, The West Wing, Dexter, to name a few — so it's no surprise he got a relatively meaty guest star role on Mars. Here, he played Meg Manning's father Stewart, who was more than he seemed. And by more, we mean he was an abusive father who wielded a baseball bat against Veronica and Duncan in his home.
Episodes: Season 2, Ep. 4: "Green Eyed Monster"; Season 2, Ep. 7: "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner"

33. Rider Strong

Character: Shawn, how could you?! Strong played Rafe, a "prison guard" during a version of the Stanford Prison Experiment carried out at Hearst. He loves the part, removing mattresses and books, and setting specific times for the "prisoners" to go to the bathroom.
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 2: "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week"

32. Dianna Agron

Character: Agron played a version of the character she usually plays: a popular rich girl with a twist. Here, she tries to frame Weevil by seducing him first. Which, of course, is Veronica's cue to step in and save her friend.
Episodes: Season 3, Ep. 5: "President Evil"; Season 3, Ep. 15: "Papa's Cabin"; Season 3, Ep. 19: "Weevils Wobble But They Don't Go Down"

31. Kevin Smith

Character: Smith showed up briefly as the last man to have seen the driver of the bus that crashes in the season 2 premiere and kills several of Veronica's classmates. As Duane the convenience store clerk, he chats with a TV reporter and drinks a giant slushie while talking to Veronica.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 2: "Driver Ed"

30. Laura Bell Bundy

Character: The future Broadway star visited Mars Investigations as Julie, a worried woman who wants Veronica to trace her fiancee. Veronica takes the case into her own hands against Keith's wishes, and discovers the parallels between Julie's relationship problems and her own.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 4: "Green-Eyed Monster"

29. Theo Rossi

Character: Before he hung out with SAMCRO on Sons of Anarchy, Rossi played Norris Clayton, a Neptune High student who had a reputation for being a thug, but showed a sweet side around Veronica, his crush. (Aww.) Sadly, he gets framed for a crime, and Veronica works to uncover the true culprit. Oh, and he teaches Veronica how to use throwing stars.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 18: "Weapons of Class Destruction"

28. Ari Graynor

Character: Graynor shows up as Jessie Doyle, the daughter of the bus driver who drove off the cliff. She's understandably distraught, having been hounded by the media and and the town's locals, because everyone seeks to brand her father as a suicidal man ignorant of the consequences. Veronica, having gone through a similar family name crucifixion after Lilly's death, helps her out.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 2: "Driver Ed"

27. Aaron Paul

Character: You love Aaron Paul. We love Aaron Paul. Veronica Mars didn't love Aaron Paul — not that much, anyway. The show featured the future Jesse Pinkman in several short scenes as Eddie "The Worm" Laroche, a shady guy who may or may not be involved with the "E-String Stranger," a guitar-string-using serial killer.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 11: "Silence of the Lamb"

26. Ed Begley Jr.

Character: As Hearst College Dean Cyrus O'Dell, Begley Jr. grappled with Veronica constantly. Not his fault, obviously — Veronica tends to frustrate people in positions of authority. (Just ask Van Clemmons.) The two traded memorable barbs, but eventually Veronica helped O'Dell out with his own case. Plus, his offing on the show set Veronica on a clear arc for the latter half of season 3.
Episodes: 6 in season 3

25. Ryan Eggold

Character: As the shy Charlie Stone, the future Blacklist actor played Logan's secret half-brother. Veronica and Logan initially track him down and attempt to establish a relationship, but when a fake Charlie (played by Matt Czuchry, but we'll get to him) shows up, Logan reveals the real Charlie's secret in public, ruining any chance of a happy half-family reunion.
Episodes: Season 3, Ep. 4: "Charlie Don't Surf"

24. Daran Norris

Character: Sure, Norris appeared in a whopping 17 episodes as Neptune's public defender Cliff McCormack, but left a smaller impression than some guest stars. McCormack was likable enough — he was a friend to the Mars family, after all — but he never got deeply involved in any cases, often delivering information for Veronica or helping her out as a trusty pseudo-sidekick. We have to hand it to him, though: His banter with Veronica was always top-notch.
Episodes: 17 through three seasons

23. Alona Tal

Character: We're placing Tal's Meg Manning in the middle of the pack for two reasons: 1) Tal has had a cleanly consistent post-Mars career, even if she hasn't found a breakout role and 2) we still feel terrible for Meg. As Duncan's girlfriend and a popular 09er, Meg was always nice to Veronica. Later, as Duncan's ex-girlfriend, she had to deal with a pregnancy and an abusive father. That's a lot for a high school student to handle — so much so that the writers ended up offing her. Poor Meg.
Episodes: 5 in season 1, 5 in season 2

22. Aaron Ashmore

Character: The twin brother of Iceman guest starred as Troy Vandegraff, one of Veronica's most memorable allies turned complicated enemies-she-can't-help-helping. Troy seemed like a sweet guy for Veronica to date, and you probably rooted for him (unlike Keith), before Veronica discovered he was a steroid smuggling dolt who already had a girlfriend. The show brought him back when Veronica visited Hearst.
Episodes: 5 in season 1

21. Lisa Rinna

Character: Is placing Lynn Echolls, Logan's mother, outside of the top 20 unfair? Maybe, but she did only appear for three episodes as the alcoholic Echolls matriarch who also took pills to dull the fact that her husband regularly beat her son. Her subsequent disappearance contributed more to the show — and to Logan's psyche — than her appearances ever did.
Episodes: Season 1, Ep. 6: "Return of the Kane"; Season 1, Ep. 10: "An Echolls Family Christmas"; Season 1, Ep. 12: "Clash of the Tritons"

20. Melissa Leo

Character: This one's driven by star power alone, though Leo's character was memorable for being one of Veronica's toughest one-off cases in the first season. See, the Oscar winner's character, Julia Smith, was a trans woman who regularly visited her son, who only remembered her as his father. Her case also encourages Veronica to attempt to track down her own mother — one of the first Find the Missing Family Member story lines the show would pursue.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 3: "Meet John Smith"

19. Lucy Lawless

Character: Xena stopped by Neptune as FBI Agent Morris, tasked to help track down Duncan Kane. Sheriff Lamb tries to warn her and her partner about Veronica, but, as an ass-kicking federal agent, Morris brushes him off with a memorable zinger. "Sheriff, we have interrogated Al Qaeda members at Gitmo," she says in an admittedly questionable accent. "I think we can handle a teenage girl."
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 11: "Donut Run"

18. Jessica Chastain

Character: The current star of every movie you'll be watching for the rest of the year got one of her earliest gigs on Mars as Veronica's neighbor Sarah Williams. Sarah goes missing, prompting Veronica to point fingers at her boyfriend and eventually uncovering a messier case than she expected. She's also memorable for being one of Veronica's few friends in early season 1, and one whose story makes Veronica question why she does what she does in the first place.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 7: "The Girl Next Door"

17. Joss Whedon

Character: The director of all your favorite cult hits and killer of all your favorite characters popped up on Mars as Douglas, the mean rental car agent who lorded over Kim Stolz's Stacy. Put simply, he was quite the jerk (notice the framed picture of himself in the background), and Veronica figured she'd have better luck working with Stacy instead.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 18: "Rat Saw God"

16. Alia Shawkat

Character: Shawkat's character was memorable for being the first crucial rape case Veronica investigated at Hearst, even before she arrived as a student. As Stacy, the future Maeby was date-raped at a party, and her case would be the first in a string of rape cases Veronica would investigate over two seasons.
Episodes: Season 2, Ep. 16: "The Rapes of Graff" (Arrested Development fans: This also happened to be the episode in which Michael Cera guest starred. Fate!)

15. Steve Guttenberg

Character: Sure, Guttenberg's better known for his work pre-Mars, but the Police Academy star arrived in Neptune as one of Veronica's more menacing enemies (just check out the clip below): Woody Goodman, father of Gia and wealthy baseball team owner who appeared benevolent on the outside but twisted on the inside. Veronica discovered Goodman had sexually molested boys on Little League teams, placing her and Keith in danger.
Episodes: 8 in season 2

14. Matt Czuchry

Character: Czuchry sure gets typecast: His scheming Vanity Fair reporter character Norman on Mars shared qualities with early Cary on The Good Wife. After tapping the real Charlie Stone's phone, Norman posed as Charlie, earning Logan's trust and duping him for a scoop. (Granted, he didn't run the story, but ruined any chance of Logan building a relationship with the real Charlie.)
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 4: "Charlie Don't Surf"

13. Michael Cera

Character: Cera had a bit part in season 3 as peppy Hearst College orientation guide (and exposition dialogue deliverer) Dean, who partners with Veronica during an icebreaker because no one else would. (Aww.) He was memorable enough for producers to ask him back in the third season, but a scheduling conflict kept him from a repeat performance.
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 16: "The Rapes of Graff"

12. Alyson Hannigan

Character: Hannigan played Logan's attention-seeking sister Trina, who often covered up her tortured soul (distant parents, abusive boyfriends, etc.) with a smile and a witty barb aimed at Logan. Trina's lack of empathy for Lynn's disappearance (she used her possibly dead stepmother's credit card, after all) caused Logan to break down after he and Veronica attempt to track Lynn down.
Episodes: Season 1, Ep. 15: "Ruskie Business"; Season 1, Ep. 19: "Hot Dogs"; Season 2, Ep. 9: "My Mother, The Fiend"

11. Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Character: Jonathan Taylor Thomas certainly enjoyed his turn as the villainous Ben on Mars after all those years on Home Improvement. Ben was the definition of Neptune, as a corrupt ATF agent in the sheriff's department who tried to frame Norris Clayton for bomb threats at Neptune. Veronica and Logan's takedown of him and his plan — along with their subsequent makeout sesh — remains one of the most memorable cases handled by Mars Investigations.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 18: "Weapons of Class Destruction"

10. Adam Scott

Character: Scott's likability was used effectively during his stint on Mars. As Veronica's favorite teacher Chuck Rooks, he engaged his students better than anyone else at Neptune High. And by engaged, we mean he had an affair with a student, leading said student's best friend Carrie Bishop (Leighton Meester) to exact revenge. It's an episode in which Veronica's judgment gets clouded by her affection for Mr. Rooks, and has to reconcile his ugly secret with the personable history teacher she had admired.
Episode: Season 1, Ep. 14: "Mars vs. Mars"

9. Paul Rudd

Character: Of course Paul Rudd is memorable. The actor played Desmond Fellows, a washed up singer of a popular '90s band called My Pretty Pony, who arrives at Hearst to perform a benefit concert. His backup vocal tapes go missing, so Piz (Chris Lowell) recruits Veronica for help, despite Fellows' sleazebag ways.
Episode: Season 3, Ep. 17: "Debasement Tapes"

8. Jessy Schram

Character: Schram's Hannah is high on this ranking not because of star power (though her Bonnie Whiteside on Mad Men is fabulous), but because Hannah was a notable season 2 guest star who changed the course of Veronica and Logan's relationship. But she wasn't just the catalyst for this epic scene — she also stood her own as a character, and was memorable for Logan's betrayal of their relationship, so much so that fans put together elaborate videos dedicated to them (see below).
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 13: "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough"; Season 2, Ep. 14: "Versatile Toppings"; Season 2, Ep. 15: "The Quick and the Wed"; Season 2, Ep. 16: "The Rapes of Graff"

7. Charisma Carpenter

Character: Kendall Casablancas is a toss up, to be honest — you either loved her conniving ways, or you hated her for destroying the lives of Dick, Beaver, and Logan. We love her. She never tried to cover up the fact that she was a gold-digging trophy wife to Dick and Beaver's real estate magnate father, and she was never all that into hiding her affair with Logan. Best of all, she made a hell of a morally gray villain and banter partner for Veronica.
Episodes: 10 in season 2, 1 in season 3

6. Leighton Meester

Character: Why is Meester ranked higher than, say, Paul Rudd and Adam Scott, you ask? Because Carrie Bishop was integral to Veronica's character — and was arguably the most memorable guest 09er with the fewest appearances. As the gossip queen of Neptune High years before Gossip Girl changed the course of her career, Meester relished torturing Veronica for being different from the 09ers, though she later developed a shaky alliance with Veronica during the Chuck Rooks case and helped Veronica figure out who raped her at Shelly Pomroy's party.
Episodes: Season 1, Ep. 14: "Mars vs. Mars"; Season 1, Ep. 21: "A Trip to the Dentist"

5. Ken Marino

Character: Vinnie Van Lowe was hilariously frustrating. There's nothing Vinnie wouldn't do to get the best deal out of his client (including dropping them, a move he dubbed "The Vinnie Classic") and to mess with Mars Investigations. Then again, he did help Duncan escape and has rescued Veronica from sticky situations. And Ken Marino? Perfect casting for the guy, as evidenced by the clip below.
Episodes: 10 through three seasons

4. Harry Hamlin

Character: Hamlin played Aaron Echolls, Logan's father and the stealth Big Bad of season 1 who would return again and again as a thorn in Veronica's side. Aaron, an action film star, often appeared in public as a typical Hollywood actor and loving father. In private, he was abusive and — spoiler alert except why you would be reading this if you've never watched Veronica Mars is a mystery — Lilly Kane's murderer, making him the man who indirectly changed Veronica into a gumshoe.
Episodes: 12 episodes through seasons 1 and 2

3. Krysten Ritter

Character: Gia Goodman was one of kind — she could confuse chlamydia for a flower, psychoanalyze Logan during party chit chat, and partake in the coverup of a murder that would haunt her post-Neptune. Nothing says 09er like Krysten Ritter's character; Ritter herself, meanwhile, has also shot to success following her turn on Mars, most notably as the titular B in Apartment 23.
Episodes: 8 through seasons 2 and 3

2. Max Greenfield

Character: Before he became the womanizing Schmidt on New Girl, Greenfield played the honorable, lovable, and adorable Sheriff's Deputy Leo D'Amato, who both dates Veronica and helps her track down the necessary documents for her "hobby." He left enough of an impression for fans in season 1 that he ended up returning for a total of 11 episodes throughout the series (and a welcome appearance in the film), charming Veronica as the Nice Guy before Piz ever showed up. (And don't get us wrong, we love Piz. Leo just holds a special place in our hearts.)
Episodes: 11 through three seasons

1. Amanda Seyfried

Character: Seyfried aced all categories as Veronica's best friend Lilly Kane, whose murder set the series in motion. She only appeared in flashbacks, home videos, and dream sequences — some sweet, some sad, some terrifying — but she always left an impression, both on Veronica's character and on audiences. Lilly's murder, though resolved by the end of the first season, left deep scars on every major character in the first two seasons — so much so that by season 3, when Lilly didn't appear, fans felt eerily abandoned.
Episodes: 11 through seasons 1 and 2

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.