Face-Off: Hans Gruber vs. The Sheriff of Nottingham

It's hard to believe Alan Rickman is no longer with us. The man left behind a preponderance of iconic performances and by all accounts was one of the sweetest and most generous people you could ever hope to meet. While Rickman could play any number of characters, he gained the most renown for his portrayal of villains, or as Alan himself put it, "I don't play villains. I play very interesting people." Certainly most younger audiences will know Rickman primarily as Professor Severus Snape in all eight HARRY POTTER films, but to call Snape a villain would be incredibly reductive, as he reveals himself to be one of the most noble and sympathetic characters in the franchise. The real sink-your-teeth-in villains are the ones many of us grew up with, so this week it's DIE HARD's Hans Gruber vs. ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES' Sheriff of Nottingham!
A neatly trimmed beard, a sensible haircut, and a thousand dollar suit, Hans Gruber cuts a dashing figure but does not make for a particularly noteworthy villain in look alone.
A neatly trimmed beard, a mane of ebony locks, and dashing black medieval garb straight out of English folklore, this is the Halloween costume you were looking for.
Hans Gruber exemplifies Rickman's less-is-more style of acting. The man can strike fear in your heart by barely moving a muscle but can also crack in a moment of fury or become nervous hostage Bill Clay at the drop of a hat.
In contrast to Gruber, the Sheriff of Nottingham is one of Rickman's more unbridled performances. The villainous, understated elements of Rickman's oeuvre are still there, but we also get to see a heartless maniac going off the rails at the same time.
In addition to Hans Gruber going down as one of the best villains of all time, John McClane is the movie hero most movie heroes are trying to be (including many played by Bruce Willis). Yippie-ki-yay, motherf*cker.
I would love to know where PRINCE OF THIEVES would stand in film history if someone more apt had taken on the lead role. Because of Kevin Costner's American accent and generally weak acting, Nottingham barely feels equally matched.
"Due to the Nakatomi Corporation's legacy of greed around the globe, they are about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power. You will be witnesses."

"Who said we were terrorists?"

"Nice suit."

"I'm going to count to three, there won't be a four... Give me the code."

"I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. 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."

(reading) "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho."

"I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."

"When they land we blow up the roof; they spend a month sifting through rubble, and by the time they work out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent."
"Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That's it, then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings... and call off Christmas!"

"Locksley! I'll cut your heart out with a spoon"

("Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe or-")
"Because it's dull, you twit. It'll hurt more!"

"You. My room. 10:30 tonight. You. 10:45... and bring a friend."

"Who told you to cover up?"

"I had a very sad childhood, I'll tell you about it sometime. I never knew my parents; it's amazing I'm sane."

"If you fail, I will personally remove your lying tongue."

"Do you mind Locksley? We've just been married."

"Recognize this? It belonged to your father. Appropriate, don't you think, that I now use it to send you to meet him?"
What better for one of the most iconic villains in history than one of the best deaths? Outsmarted by John McClane, Gruber falls to his death from Nakatomi Plaza seconds before he can pull a gun on his nemesis.
Not too dissimilar from Gruber, Nottingham is felled by the hero's hidden weapon, but after a lovely, drooling, Shakespearean tumble, the Sheriff bites it unceremoniously.
Hans Gruber has gone down as one of the most memorable villains in film history. This is in part due him being a well-written character in a well-made film but is mostly the result of Alan Rickman taking a relatively run-of-the-mill villain role and knocking it out of the park.
While some of us grew up with PRINCE OF THIEVES, the film has not enjoyed much lasting success and has gone down mostly as the movie MEN IN TIGHTS was based on. While Rickman's performance stands out as one of the best parts of this one, the Sheriff isn't making many top ten lists.
Hans Gruber
Argh, this was a tough one. I love how manic the Sheriff of Nottingham is, and it says a lot how memorable his performance is in a somewhat forgotten movie, but Hans Gruber is f*cking Hans Gruber and one of the greatest movie villains of all time for a reason. Whatever your choice, there's no question we've lost an incredible presence. Alan Rickman, your work has left a permanent mark on the entertainment industry and will not be forgotten. Happy trails, Hans.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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