When it comes to outstanding performances, Law & Order: SVU has never gone wanting. But after 21 seasons and more than 450 episodes, it’s probably a bit difficult to remember every famous face and future superstar who paid the series a visit.
Law & Order: SVU Top 10 Guest Stars
Below are 10 of our all-time favorite celebrity guest spots… will our list match your own? Let us know in the comments section below.
10) Sarah Paulson
Paulson is probably best known for her frequent collaboration with uber-producer Ryan Murphy, but her first screen credit is an episode of Law & Order. Paulson made a return trip to the franchise via one of SVU’s Season 11 offerings. In “Shadow,” she portrayed Anne Gillette, a duplicitous character whose claims of being a madman’s quarry belied the fact that she was a cold-blooded family annihilator.
9) Jennifer Love Hewitt
Hewitt’s character, Vicki Sayers, spent the majority of Season 12’s “Behave” trying to convince the SVU detectives that she had just suffered her fourth rape at the hands of a man who had been stalking and attacking her for 15 years. Vindication – and closure – was achieved by the episode’s final fade to black.
8) Milo Ventimiglia
Thirteen years before his assumption of the role of Jack Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us, Ventimiglia guest-starred on SVU as Lee Healy, a supposed victim of his stepfather’s sexual advances. However, by the episode’s end, it was revealed that Lee’s testimony had been manufactured and that he had actually been involved in an incestuous relationship with his cousin.
7) Hayden Panettiere
Panettiere has the distinction of being one of the few actors to make two separate guest appearances on SVU. In her first, she was the neglected daughter of famous musicians. In her second, Panettiere reversed course and portrayed a manipulative character involved in the murder of a high-school-aged prostitute.
6) Robin Williams
Williams portrayed anti-authoritarian and murder suspect Merritt Rook in SVU’s milestone 200th installment. Rook ultimately got away with his laundry list of crimes – which included abducting Olivia Benson – but his actions served to strengthen the bond shared between Olivia and her partner, Elliot Stabler.
5) Carol Burnett
This very funny lady offered up a chilling performance as Birdie Sulloway, a black widow with a penchant for choosing criminal types she deemed unworthy of sustained existence.
4) Angela Lansbury & 3) Bradley Cooper
“Night” and “Day,” an epic two-part crossover event that connected SVU with fellow series Law & Order: Trial By Jury left viewers spoiled for choice with its guest stars. Chief among them stood Angela Lansbury – famous for her 12-year run as Murder, She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher – as well as Bradley Cooper.
She played an imperious matriarch out to silence the women leveeing sexual assault charges against her son (played by Alfred Molina). He starred as the disreputable lawyer for a cash-rich family.
2) Martin Short
Comedian Martin Short played against type when he agreed to take on the personage of self-aggrandizing psychic Sebastian Ballentine, who raped and murdered a young woman and then used his knowledge of the crime to bait, rankle, and tease the SVU squad.
1) Marcia Gay Harden
Harden’s turn as Dana Andrews, the southern-fried FBI agent who seemed to bring Elliot Stabler nothing but bad luck, proved so popular that she became a recurring character. Unfortunately, one of those subsequent returns unearthed the fact that she had murdered a love rival and since then she’s been an inmate in one of New York’s many prisons.
Law & Order: SVU is tentatively scheduled to return to NBC’s Thursday night lineup on November 12, 2020. Check your local listings for airtimes.