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20 Celebrities Who Guest Starred on 'Law & Order'

Elizabeth BanksThere's just something about the longtime NBC legal drama Law & Order. "People are just obsessed with it," says actress Rooney Mara, who appeared on the show -- something a slew of Hollywood stars have done. Many did it when they were Tinseltown newbies, landing guest spots that inevitably opened doors for future acting jobs. The show has featured so many A-listers, it has a reputation for being a stepping stone for top talent. No wonder it's one of the most-watched television series of our time. 

Just like the hit show continues to improve (it's going into its 17th season with "stripped from the headlines" themes!), so do these celebs. Take a look at 20 celebrities who have guest-starred on Law & Order. Talk about a total throwback!

Images via NBC; Justin Paludipan/Corbis

Images via NBC; Dara Kushner/Corbis

1Hayden Panettiere

Hayden had already been acting for years (since the age of 5!) when she appeared on Law & Order: SVU playing a little girl who might have been abused at home. The star of the hit TV series Nashville and Golden Globe nominee recently received her best role yet: mom to baby girl, Kaya.

Images via NBC; Photo Image Press/Splash News

2Amanda Seyfried

Seyfried plays bad really well! In the episode "Outcry," Seyfried was cast as a high school student who accuses military cadets of raping her, but her side of the story changes, and she becomes a suspect! Today, there's nothing suspect about Seyfried's film trajectory. Landing major roles in movies like Mean Girls and While We're Young, this young actress is on her way to the top.

Images via NBC; Xavier Collin/Splash News

3Claire Danes

Her famous distraught face dates back to the tender age of 13, when Danes played Tracy Brandt, a teenage murderer on the "Skin Deep" episode of Law & Order. Since then, her infamous look has landed her leading roles in television hits, such as My So-Called Life and Homeland

Images via NBC; David Acosta/Splash News

5Jennifer Garner

The chemistry with Benjamin Bratt in her Law & Order episode certainly seemed real, and ironically, the husband-cheating-on-his-wife-with-a-younger-girl theme is something that is rumored to be playing out in Garner's real life. In any case, one thing leads to another, and her gig on Law & Order led to the mega role on Alias that truly made her famous. Power!

Images via NBC; Justin Paludipan/Corbis

6Elizabeth Banks

Banks has come a long way since playing a porn star trying to pay for her daughter's medical bills on the show. As lead director and costar of Pitch Perfect 2, this Hollywood powerhouse is changing the female comedy landscape. She also stars in some pretty funny Realtor.com commercials, channeling the same character from the hit movie.

Images via NBC; PG/Splash News

7Julie Bowen

She's great at any mother role you throw her way. Bowen, the Modern Family star, had a role on SVU playing a mom whose foster son is accused of being a serial rapist. On her days off, the mom-of-three is known to go nanny-free, saying that spending time at home is one of her fave things to do.

Images via NBC; ©ACE/Corbis

8Julianna Margulies

George Clooney, Josh Charles, Chris Noth (a.k.a Mr. Big) -- Margulies is the queen of starring opposite hot dudes on television, and it all started on a Law & Order episode with Noth. The Good Wife star played a lieutenant who is suspected of protecting the killer of another female naval officer. 

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Images via NBC; Johns PKI/Splash News

9Sarah Hyland

She's super funny on ABC's Modern Family, but there's no denying Hyland has acting range, having guest-starred on two episodes of Law & Order: SVU as well as Law & Order and Law & Order: Trial By Jury.

Images via NBC; Debby WOng/Corbis

10Neil Patrick Harris

There's no role Harris can't play. From being a kid genius and doctor in Doogie Howser, M.D., to starring in How I Met Your Mother and hosting the Tonys and the Oscarsthere's nothing he can't do. But it's those creepy roles -- he played a shy serial killer on Law & Order and an obsessed ex-boyfriend in Gone Girl -- that really show off his acting chops.

Images via NBC; Splash News

11Zoe Saldana

Saldana went from making her screen debut in an episode of Law & Order to starring in Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time with a worldwide box-office gross of over $2.7 billion. NBD!

Images via NBC; Photo Image Press/Splash News

12Brittany Snow

Snow played Jamie Hoskins, who falsely accuses two of her classmates of rape, on Law & Order. Today, there is nothing false about Snow's success. She will join the Barden Bellas again in Pitch Perfect 3to be released in July of 2017. This summer’s sequel already has grossed $282 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing movie musical of all time. Major!

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Images via NBC; Xavier Collin/Splash News

13Bradley Cooper

Before becoming a leading man in Hollywood, Cooper played Jason Whitaker, a corrupt lawyer on Law & Order: SVU. Transforming into any character is just fine by him. He's played the funny guy in the Hangover series; a man with a bipolar disporder in Silver Linings Playbook; and he's now starring in The Elephant Man in London's West End. There is no role this blue-eyed hottie can't conquer.

Images via NBC; Image Press/Splash News

14Kate Mara

Growing up in Bedford, New York, not too far from the New York City streets where Law & Order is filmed, made it easy for Mara to commute to the set of her first ever television appearance. Since then, she's added some hefty experience to her resume: Playing the ambitious journalist on Netflix’s House of Cards, and next up she'll play the Invisible Woman in Marvel's Fantastic Four due out this August.

Images via NBC; Johns PKI/Splash News

15Emmy Rossum

Law & Order is a right of passage for many preteens, including Rossum. The native New Yorker was just 11 years old when she landed her first on-screen television appearance, and it was on this show! Today she is well-known for her roles in the films Mystic River, Phantom of the Opera, and the Showtime series Shameless.

Images via NBC; Press Line Photos/Corbis

16Ty Burrell

Everyone has a fave Phil Dunphy moment! Known for his role in the ABC comedy Modern Family, Burrell has made many a family laugh so much that it earned him an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild. Major props since his SVU debut!

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Images via NBC; Splash News

17Rooney Mara

While Mara admits that Law & Order is ridiculously popular, she described the subject -- where she played a former obese girl who beats up on fat people -- unrealistic. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star certainly has an opinion and an edge!

 

 

Images via NBC; Richie Buxo/Splash News

18Jessica Chastain

This ginger beauty has become a major player in Hollywood, but back in the day she played an assistant district attorney on the Law & Order spinoff, Trial By Jury. Although she had a late start in Hollywood, she's certainly making some noise playing strong characters, including her starring role in Zero Dark Thirty and the now-famous diversity speech she gave at the Critics' Choice Awards last year. Well done, Chastain!

Images via NBC; INFphoto.com/Corbis

19Matthew Morrison

Actor, singer, dancer -- this multi-talented star earned his big break in 2002 in the original Broadway production of Hairspray, but spots on Law & Order Criminal Intent, Guiding Light, and a recurring role on the soap opera As The World Turns, led to Glee. He stole America's heart as the nicest (and cutest!) high school teacher ever!

Images via NBC; ACE/INFphoto.com/Splash News

20Viola Davis

Davis loves taking on challenging roles, including those of a serial killer, which she played on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In keeping with that theme, Davis began starring as Annalise Keating in the television series, How To Get Away With Murder, in 2014 and she's done it convincingly well! She's won a Screen Actors' Guild Award and received both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

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