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Top 10 Best Law & Order: SVU Cameos

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
Every celebrity has their day in court. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Law and Order SVU Cameos. For this list, we’re looking at the most memorable “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” celebrity cameos. The guest star’s status will be taken into consideration, but the actual performance will be given priority.

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Every celebrity has their day in court. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Law and Order SVU Cameos.

For this list, we’re looking at the most memorable “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” celebrity cameos. The guest star’s status will be taken into consideration, but the actual performance will be given priority.

#10: Whoopi Goldberg
"Institutional Fail"

Even two decades after the show's inception, "SVU" has continued to attract some of Hollywood's biggest names. In its seventeenth season, this included Whoopi Goldberg, who portrayed overwhelmed Department of Child Services supervisor Janette Grayson. Dragged into the middle of an investigation when a malnourished girl is found locked in a dog cage, Goldberg’s morally corrupt character is both believable and provocative, shedding light on the overwhelming number of cases handled by a single social worker. Her emotional performance injected weight and credibility into the overall story.

#9: Hilary Duff

Six years after "Lizzie McGuire," former Disney star Hilary Duff landed on the wrong side of the law. In a departure for the actress, she guest-starred as a missing baby's negligent, self-absorbed single mother. An immature alcoholic ill-prepared to take care of another human being, Ashlee Walker was the perfect character to showcase the actress’ rarely seen range and versatility. Providing a compelling performance in an unusually dark role, Duff definitely made the most of the opportunity, standing out as one of the more memorable and unexpected celebrity cameo in the series.

#8: Hayden Panettiere
“Abuse” & “Hooked”

Hollywood only has so many talented celebrities, so occasionally “SVU” doubles up. Separated by a couple of years and predating her starring role in superhero drama “Heroes”, Hayden Panettiere scored two completely unrelated guest appearances on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Only eleven at the time of her first appearance, Hayden is barely recognizable as the neglected, endearing daughter of famous musicians. In season six, the teenager dropped a provocative, polar opposite performance, as a manipulative, sexually adventurous student with a dark and shocking secret.

#7: Jeremy Irons
“Mask” & “Totem”

Whether cast as a power-hungry lion, a “Die Hard” villain, or a sex addict turned psychiatrist, this iconic actor always steals the show. Landing a recurring part as Dr. Cap Jackson, Jeremy Irons is introduced as, potentially, a former rapist, but ends up assisting Detective Stabler and Benson as an FBI consultant. Not too shabby for a two episode arc. Nailing his role as a morally-ambiguous, guilt-ridden doctor grappling with a muddy past and conflict of interest, Irons shows why he’s a decorated stage and screen actor with an impressive collection of Academy, Emmy, Tony, and Golden Globe awards,

#6: John Stamos

Best known for his role as hair-obsessed Jesse Katsopolis in ABC’s wholesome sitcom “Full House”, John Stamos might seem like a counterintuitive choice for a cameo in a crime drama. But as charming con artist Ken Turner, Stamos is perfectly cast and an absolute blast. Depicting a ‘reproductive abuser’, a term that sadly was not invented by “SVU,” Turner pokes holes in condoms to improve the odds of scoring a pregnancy and has successfully fathered over 20 children. Where are Danny Tanner’s life lessons when you need them?

#5: Martin Short

If the Special Victims Unit is put on the case, the time for jokes has truly passed. So what could “Saturday Night Live” alumni and successful comedian Martin Short possibly offer the show? In “SVU” episode “Pure”, he was given the chance to explore new territory, and boy did he. As a fake psychic with a history of sexual assault who pretends to lend the detectives a helping hand, Short is shockingly convincing and definitely creepy. Despite the character's repulsive background, the actor’s typical goofy charm remained surprisingly intact, which only made his performance all the more unsettling.

#4: Jennifer Love Hewitt

Airing mere months after “Ghost Whisperer” went off the air, “SVU” granted a quick return to the small screen for the accomplished actress. Guest starring in season twelve episode “Behave”, Jennifer Love Hewitt was put through the ringer as a victim who’s suffered multiple assaults by the same man over 15 years. Understandably terrified and reluctant to speak to the police, Hewitt provides a raw and heart-wrenching performance that brings her traumatized character Vicki Sayers to life - raising the bar for guest stars on the show.

#3: Carol Burnett

Hailed as television royalty, the star of “The Carol Burnett Show” broke new ground as the first woman to host a variety show. In the grand scheme of things, a “Law & Order” guest appearance is merely a footnote in Carol Burnett's storied legacy, but the actress doesn’t seem to know the meaning of forgettable. In “Ballerina”, she plays a woman on a mission - a mission to murder her husbands. Dominating the episode with a nuanced and ultimately chilling performance, she steals the show as a serial killer with a disturbingly close relationship with her nephew.

#2: Cynthia Nixon

Despite a starring role for six seasons on HBO, Cynthia Nixon pulled off her most multifaceted performance on NBC’s crime drama. The “Sex and the City” actress starred on “SVU” as a potentially unstable parent suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Jumping back and forth between five different personalities, Nixon was clearly having a lot of fun portraying such an unpredictable suspect, and the season nine episode benefited greatly from the celebrity's presence. Closing with a memorable twist and just an all-around awesome hour of television, Nixon even earned a Primetime Emmy for ‘Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.’

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Marcia Gay Harden
“Secrets Exhumed”

Elizabeth Banks

Eric McCormack

#1: Robin Williams

Even after making the leap to the big time, the late, great Robin Williams was not above returning to his roots on the small screen. As the comedian's only performance during 2008, Williams stuck it to the man as an anti-authoritarian engineer who becomes a nationwide sensation after successfully defending himself in court. Sensibly opting against casting the impossible-to-hate actor as a simple, one-dimensional villain, Williams' character manages to be sympathetic and fascinating even as he weaves his web, and the accomplished actor’s magnetic charm helps sell some of the episode's wilder moments.

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