10 Stellar Performances From Guest Stars on Law & Order: SVU

Updated on July 15, 2016

Law & Order: SVU is one of the best crime dramas that has ever appeared on television. Nominated for many awards (and winning roughly half of them) this show has seen its share of excellent guest performances. We can't list all of them, so here we look at the Top 10 guest star performances throughout the show's history.

10. John Stamos

As a "reproductive abuser" on the Season 12 episode "Bang," John Stamos delivers a compelling performance as Ken Turner, a man who deliberately gets women pregnant as evidence of his own virility. Without including any spoilers, let's just say that justice for Mr. Turner was swift and appropriate. John Stamos comes off perfectly as the arrogant manipulative narcissist in this role, earning him spot #10 in this list.

9. Matthew Modine

As Gordon Rickett in the Season 6 episode "Rage," Matthew Modine gives an almost shockingly fantastic performance, playing a suspected two-time child murderer who's already gotten away with it once. Mr. Rickett and Detective Stabler have history, and it is this dynamic which creates the tension in this episode. The episode opens with a narrative by Mr. Modine, harkening back to his perhaps most-famous role, in the movie Full Metal Jacket. The intensity Mr. Modine displays in this role makes one wonder why this man is not featured in more television shows; he really is an excellent actor and this has earned him spot #9 on this list.

8. Martha Plimpton

We all remember her from The Goonies, but if you missed Martha Plimpton's performance as Claire Rinato in the Season 3 episode "Denial," you really missed out. Playing a junkie and rape victim who is hiding a terrible secret, Ms. Plimpton is compelling, sympathetic, humorous, tragic and real all at the same time. Her chemistry with Ice T is almost palpable and though this episode features two other guest stars, Ms. Plimpton's performance absolutely steals the show. This has earned her the #8 spot on our list.

7. John Ritter

Remember fun-loving Jack from Three's Company? Well, as Dr. Richard Manning in the Season 3 episode "Monogamy," John Ritter bears no resemblance to Jack at all. Playing a cuckolded psychiatrist who must maintain control over every single thing in his life, Mr. Ritter is completely believable and delivers his performance flawlessly. Well-known as a comedian, this appearance showcases John Ritter's acting ability and has earned him the #7 spot on this list.

6. Robin Williams

Another funnyman who we don't often see in this type of role, Robin Williams plays Merritt Rook in the Season 9 episode "Authority" and he is phenomenal. As a man who lost his wife and child due to medical negligence and is now on a crusade against all types of authority, Mr. Williams takes this character to the next level, displaying an intensity and a rage that we might not think him capable of achieving. His performance is humorous, intense and even a little frightening at times. His voice talents were even showcased, showing them being used for a darker purpose rather than to make people laugh. For his wonderful performance in this episode of SVU, Robin Williams has earned the #6 spot on this list.

5. Martin Short

As a psychic medium hiding a very nasty secret in the Season 6 episode "Pure," Martin Short is absolutely excellent. His performance in the role of Sebastian Ballentine is everything it could be and much more. It's creepy, it's sleazy and yet so meek and unassuming that even though you know what's coming, you still can't believe it. This character has very distinct dual sides and Mr. Short plays both with ease. He is so believable at both that the change from one to the other is nothing less than shocking. For this, Martin Short earns the #5 spot on this list.

4. Fred Savage

Mostly we remember Fred Savage from The Wonder Years, but as Michael Gardner in the Season 4 episode "Futility," he is unforgettable. Playing an accused serial rapist-turned-murderer who insists he is innocent, this is easily one of the best performances of Mr. Savage's career. He portrays the Ted Bundy-inspired Gardner flawlessly, somehow managing to seem both boyish and intimidating at the same time. This episode has a surprise ending and it is worth every minute of airtime. For this stellar performance, Fred Savage sits in the #4 position on this list.

3. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges

Some people might not think a rapper can act, but Chris "Ludacris" Bridges proves them all wrong. In his role as accused mother-and-child murderer Darius Parker on the Season 7 finale "Screwed" and again in the Season 8 finale "Venom," Ludacris is so believable it's almost scary. His portrayal of Darius Parker's distress during the mother's big reveal on the witness stand is especially compelling and has earned Chris Bridges the #3 spot on this list.

2. Lou Diamond Phillips

As a serial pedophile and murderer in the Season 7 episode "Fault," Lou Diamond Phillips is outstanding. Just completely outstanding. You literally cannot take your eyes off of him as the terrifying Richard Ramirez-esque Victor Paul Gitano. He plays the sociopathic personality to a T here, and does not flinch even when delivering the character's most unseemly aspects. This episode is a must-watch. Because of this, Lou Diamond Phillips owns the #2 spot on this list.

1. Carol Burnett

As Birdie Sulloway in the Season 10 episode, "Ballerina," Carol Burnett tops this list at #1. As the wife of a murder suspect who is not at all what she appears to be, Ms. Burnett gives far and away the best guest star performance ever on this series, bar none. Even though the episode features a dual guest appearance by the indomitable Matthew Lillard, our favorite funnylady still outshines everybody by a country mile, proving that talent only refines itself with age. Her performance is riveting and even chilling in some places, making her the runaway winner and top of this list at #1.

Agree with us? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

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    • DizzyGypsy profile image

      The Dizzy Gypsy 

      2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      You should check out the SVU episode "hothouse." Awesome guest performance by Sarah Hyland from ABC's "Modern Family."

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