Thoughts on Alan Rickman

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The first film in which I recall seeing Alan Rickman was his big-screen debut in Die Hard, as the instantly iconic criminal mastermind Hans Gruber. The second was Truly, Madly, Deeply, a bittersweet love story in which he played a moody—and perpetually chilly—ghost. (Our mutual affinity for the film was one of the early signs that my wife and I were meant to be together. Anyone in the market for a Rickman-related cry need look no farther than the video above.)

The two roles set the template for much of the film career that followed, as Rickman displayed a remarkable aptitude both for sneering villainy (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Harry Potter films) and for deep melancholy, whether quiet (Sense and Sensibility) or otherwise (Dogma, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). He was a unique talent and, by all accounts, a unique human being. To say that he will be missed is the grossest of understatements.

David has more on Rickman’s remarkable life and career here, and Megan looks at his roles as a romantic lead here.