Mandy Patinkin (2005-2007)
Veteran actor Mandy Patinkin was front and center as Senior Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon for Criminal Minds’ first two seasons. Patinkin made a sudden exit from the show early in its third season in 2007, which he explained to New York magazine years later: “[The show] was very destructive to my soul and my personality,” he said after lambasting the series’ regular use of violent crimes. At the time, Gideon’s departure was explained by him quitting the FBI after a bad case, but a 10th season episode revealed the character had been killed off-screen.
Jennifer Love Hewitt (2014-2015)
The Ghost Whisperer and The Client List star joined the Criminal Minds cast for its 10th season in 2014, playing Agent Kate Callahan. Her tenure ended up lasting only one year, however, when Hewitt became pregnant with her second child and decided to take time off from acting.
Bellamy Young (2011-2013)
Before she was causing trouble for Olivia Pope on Scandal, Bellamy Young recurred in Criminal Minds’ seventh and eighth seasons as Beth Clemmons, Hotch’s (Thomas Gibson) first serious girlfriend after the tragic death of his wife (Meredith Monroe). Because of Young’s commitments in Shondaland, Beth was quietly written off the show in later seasons.
Jane Lynch (2006-2008)
Jane Lynch may have become a household name by playing the vile-mouthed, track-suit-clad cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, but the Emmy winner has plenty of dramatic guest roles under her belt. In Criminal Minds, Lynch played Diana Reid, mother to Agent Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), struggling with schizophrenia and often causing problems in her son’s professional and personal lives. She appeared in several episodes of the series’ first four seasons.
Jeanne Tripplehorn (2012-2014)
Big Love star Jeanne Tripplehorn joined the procedural drama for its eighth and ninth seasons, playing Dr. Alex Blake, a linguistics expert. Blake joined the team after the departure of Agent Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster), only to leave two years later when a particularly troubling case hit too close to home.
Jayne Atkinson (2007-2014)
Before playing U.S. Secretary of State Catherine Durant on House of Cards, the 24 alum spent several seasons recurring on Criminal Minds as BAU Section Chief Erin Strauss. Sometimes butting heads with, but ultimately championing, the team of sleuths, Strauss was a valuable asset to the BAU. She ultimately met her tragic demise in season 8, falling victim to infamous serial killer, the Replicator (Mark Hamill).
Mark Hamill (2013)
Star Wars legend Mark Hamill turned to the dark side for his guest role as John Curtis, a.k.a. the serial killer The Replicator, who went after the BAU throughout season 8, eventually killing Jayne Atkinson’s Chief Strauss.
Nicholas Brendon (2007-2014)
After Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Kitchen Confidential, Nicholas Brendon had a recurring role on Criminal Minds as Kevin Lynch, a nerdy FBI analyst and an amazing boyfriend to Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness).
James Van Der Beek (2007)
Dawson himself took on quite the intense role during season 2: Tobias Hankel, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder. While Tobias was a good guy, one of his alternate personalities, Raphael, was one seriously bad dude.
Meredith Monroe (2005-2013)
The Dawson’s Creek alum had a recurring role on Criminal Minds as Haley, the wife of Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). His demanding job was ultimately the downfall of their relationship and a common theme in the early seasons of the show. In season 5, well after their divorce, Haley is killed at the hands of C. Thomas Howell’s The Reaper. Like Howell, Monroe appeared in a hallucination scene later in the series.
Elle Fanning (2006-2007)
Fanning was just 8 years old when she appeared in a guest role in season 2’s “The Boogeyman,” where her character Tracy was picked up by serial killer Jeffrey Charles (Cameron Monaghan). But being a Fanning also means you’re a bit of a badass and little Elle’s Tracy kicked her kidnapper and ran away before later being rescued. She made a second appearance in the season finale when serial killer Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine) went after people who’d already been saved once by the BAU. Thankfully, she made it out alive once again.
Jason Alexander (2008)
Sporting quite the wig, the Seinfeld star turned up for one episode in season 4. His character, a narcissistic serial killer posing as a professor, turned himself in and then challenged the BAU team to find his five victims before they die. Alexander directed a different episode later in season 4 as well.
Rachel Nichols (2010-2011)
Nichols, who played Gaila in 2009’s Star Trek, had a recurring role on the show as FBI cadet Ashley Seaver, the daughter of serial killer Charles Beauchamp caught by Hotchner and Rossi when she was 18. Her personal experience makes her useful to the team and she eventually becomes an FBI agent herself.
Esai Morales (2013-2015)
The NYPD Blue star has a small recurring role as Section Chief Mateo Cruz, who takes over for Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) after her death. His character was most recently referenced in a season 10 episode.
Lola Glaudini (2005-2006)
Viewers may recognize Glaudini from HBO’s The Sopranos but the actress was also a principal cast member on Minds for the first two seasons. She played Supervisory Special Agent Elle Greenaway who was shot in the season 1 finale and later resigned in season 2 after shooting a suspect.
D.B. Sweeney (2009)
The Cutting Edge star D.B. Sweeney got a break from hearing “toe pick!” several times a day when he turned up for a three-episode stint on Criminal Minds as U.S. Marshal Sam Kassmeyer, who is assigned to protect Hotch’s wife and son while the BAU tracks down serial killer George Foyet, a.k.a. The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell). Unfortunately, things go sideways for Sam, and in the show’s 100th episode, The Reaper shoots, beats, and ultimately kills him.
C. Thomas Howell
Best known for his string of ’80s hits including The Outsiders, Howell went dark as George Foyet, also known as serial killer The Reaper. After attacking Hotch in the season 4 ender and season 5 premiere, The Reaper eventually meets his demise at the hand of Hotch’s, well, hands when the pair engage in a brutal fist fight in the show’s 100th episode. Howell returned for a hallucination scene in season 9.
Amber Stevens West (2014-2015)
Greek actress Amber Stevens West turned up for a trio of episodes in seasons 10 and 11 after discovering she was David Rossi’s (Joe Mantegna) long lost daughter Joy.