He started acting on the stage, but his TV work began in the UK in 1978. His big break was actually his first movie, Die Hard (1988) as the villain, Hans Gruber. He played the part with intelligence, but he still made you hate him. His talent was unmistakable, right from the start.
His next movie was January Man (1989) with Kevin Kline (b. 1947) and Susan Sarandon (b. 1946). In 1990 we see him as the villain in Quigley Down Under, once again being sadistic.
And yet another big movie in 1991, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where he is, you guessed it, the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. In 1995 he is in Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet (b. 1975), and the next year Michael Collins with Julia Roberts (b. 1967) and Liam Neeson (b 1952). Let's also mention Galaxy Guest in 1999 with Tim Allen (b. 1953) and Sigourney Weaver (b. 1949).
That is not a bad career for his first decade on the big screen. In many of those movies he is cast in a strong supporting role, and in others he is only a Bit Actor. He even had some starring roles in movies that were not as important.
But then in 2001, he is cast as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Life is good. That role will guarantee him wealth. Almost as much as Daniel Radcliffe (b. 1989) who was only 11 when he made his first big movie.
In addition to the eight Harry Potter films, Rickman is still involved with other projects.
- Love Actually (2003)
- Snow Cake (2006)
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I think Alan Rickman's name in the cast will almost ensure a good movie in the future. And who knows, maybe there will be flashbacks in Harry Potter sequels yet to be announced.