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The Oscar Quest: A Viewer’s Guide — Best Supporting Actor

Here is my subset of The Oscar Quest: A Viewer’s Guide, specifically for Best Supporting Actor.

A reminder about the color code:

Films in RED are films that are essential. These are films you need to see, whether you like them or not. Though you’ll probably like most of them. A few of these may be part of a personal bias, but this is my list. Just think of the films in red as films you need to see if you want to be film literate (in the most basic sense). At least 70% of these are films that, if you haven’t seen them, you should be ashamed of yourself. These are the prerequisites you need to get into the class. (5-star films.)

Films in ORANGE are films that are my personal favorites (that aren’t already marked red). While not “essential” per say, these are films that I love dearly. They’re essential to me. They’re films that I will tell you that you need to see. I’d say that 80% of the time, these are going to be films that most people would enjoy. A few of them might be subjective to me, but on the whole, these are all very good films. I tried to limit the orange ones to only the best of the best, my absolute favorites. But either way, I love them, and you should definitely see at least 80% of them. (My 5-star films. At worst, most people’s 3-star films. Generally 4’s for everybody.)

Films in YELLOW are films I rate as “very good” films. Not too many people can deny that these films are good films, and whether or not they like them will come down to personal preference. The yellows are the most expansive category. They are by far the biggest bunch. Some of them are 5 stars, but just aren’t ones I love enough to make them orange. Most are solid 4s and come highly recommended. Some are weak 4s and high 3s and come recommended. The strength of the recommendation can be gauged by checking the articles. I’d say at least 60% of them are ones that most people would definitely enjoy, sight unseen. You may want to check a synopsis to be sure, but the rule of thumb is, you see yellow, it’s a good film. You should definitely check out a good portion of these. (4-star films. Maybe a 5 or a 3 here or there.)

Films in GREEN are films that are good films, but ones that probably won’t be for everybody. These probably cover the most ground in terms of my ratings. These will be anywhere from films I feel are solidly 4 stars, to films I don’t even like so much but understand and appreciate that they’re good films. I think the major commonality among the films is that they’re very divisive. They’re all good, but, some people might really like them, some people might not. You almost definitely want to check the synopses on these. Because some of these I love, and some of these I really don’t like, but I mark them green because I know they are good films on some level and don’t want to discount them entirely. These will be the hardest to gauge in terms of my opinion on them based solely on the color. I recommend you get more information on these. But generally most people would rate these at least a 3. (These are generally 3-4 star movies. Many 3s, many 4s, it depends.)

Films in BLUE are — well — the other films. These are films that I enjoyed, but didn’t really love all that much. They’re ones that are one step above the next level below this. Think of these as films that I enjoyed, but not more than a “meh, that was pretty good” kind of way. You’ll get a feel for it when you see which ones are marked blue. They’re ones that, while not totally for me, have their high points, and are not “bad” enough to be put in the final category. Do your homework on these. You may find ones you like here that I don’t like (it’s entirely possible), or you may find something that you like a lot more than I did. This is all based on my personal opinion. The first thing you should know before doing this is how my opinions match yours. NOTE: ALL WINNERS ARE AT LEAST BLUE. Having won, they carry at least that much of a coding. I may not feel so strongly about them, but they do earn that much. So, if you see a WINNER in blue, chances are I don’t like the film too much. (3 star films. Almost exclusively. <5% 4 stars and 2 stars combined here.)

Films NOT in any color (or, whatever the default color of this page is) are films that I don’t like. I won’t go so far as to say I hate them, since they are Oscar nominees, and that at least merits a certain amount of respect, but we’ll put it like this: these are ones I DO NOT recommend. Or, they’re films that just really weren’t for me. By elimination, there have to be a few of these on this list. So, the ones that are blank are ones that either I don’t like or are completely indifferent towards. And complete indifference means, they may be good, but I don’t care. I just didn’t care for it, whether because I think it’s a bad film, a boring film, or because it just really wasn’t for me. Read the articles if you want specifics. (3 stars or 2 star here. Nothing nominated for an Oscar gets a 1. They’re not completely inept. Mostly 2s, some 3s.)

(Note: Winners appear first and bolded. If a performance/directorial effort is italicized, I consider it to be one of the best. If an asterisk (*) appears after a film, it means it hasn’t been nominated before and is appearing for the first time (in the order of Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director). Also, the colors are uniform throughout. I’ve rated the films, not the performances.)

(Anything flush right on the page is a film I’ve yet to see.)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners *

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior *

Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

2010Christian Bale, The Fighter

John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner, The Town *

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right

Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

2009Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Matt Damon, Invictus

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger *

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones *

2008Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight *

Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder *

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road *

2007Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford *

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War *

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild *

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

2006 Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond

Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls *

Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

2005George Clooney, Syriana *

Matt Dillon, Crash

Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man *

Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

William Hurt, A History of Violence *

2004Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Alan Alda, The Aviator

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

Jamie Foxx, Collateral *

Clive Owen, Closer *

2003 Tim Robbins, Mystic River

Alec Baldwin, The Cooler *

Benicio del Toro, 21 Grams

Djimon Hounsou, In America

Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai *

2002Chris Cooper, Adaptation.

Ed Harris, The Hours

Paul Newman, Road to Perdition *

John C. Reilly, Chicago

Christopher Walken, Catch Me if You Can *

2001Jim Broadbent, Iris

Ethan Hawke, Training Day

Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast *

Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Jon Voight, Ali

2000Benicio del Toro, Traffic

Jeff Bridges, The Contender

Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire *

Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich

Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

1999Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

Tom Cruise, Magnolia *

Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile

Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley *

Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense

1998James Coburn, Affliction

Robert Duvall, A Civil Action *

Ed Harris, The Truman Show *

Geoffrey Rush, Shakespeare in Love

Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan *

1997Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

Robert Forster, Jackie Brown *

Anthony Hopkins, Amistad *

Greg Kinnear, As Good as It Gets

Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights *

1996Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jerry Maguire

William H. Macy, Fargo

Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shine

Edward Norton, Primal Fear *

James Woods, Ghosts of Mississippi *

1995Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects *

James Cromwell, Babe

Ed Harris, Apollo 13

Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys *

Tim Roth, Rob Roy *

1994Martin Landau, Ed Wood *

Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction

Chazz Palminteri, Bullets Over Broadway *

Paul Scofield, Quiz Show

Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump

1993Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape *

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire *

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

1992Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game

Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross *

David Paymer, Mr. Saturday Night *

1991Jack Palance, City Slickers *

Tommy Lee Jones, JFK

Harvey Keitel, Bugsy

Ben Kingsley, Bugsy

Michael Lerner, Barton Fink *

1990Joe Pesci, Goodfellas

Bruce Davidson, Longtime Companion *

Andy Garcia, The Godfather Part III

Graham Greene, Dances with Wolves

Al Pacino, Dick Tracy *

1989 – Denzel Washington, Glory *

Danny Aiello, Do the Right Thing *

Dan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy

Marlon Brando, A Dry White Season *

Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors *

1988Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda *

Alec Guinness, Little Dorrit *

Martin Landau, Tucker: The Man and His Dream *

River Phoenix, Running on Empty *

Dean Stockwell, Married to the Mob *

1987Sean Connery, The Untouchables *

Albert Brooks, Broadcast News

Morgan Freeman, Street Smart *

Vincent Gardenia, Moonstruck

Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom *

1986Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters

Tom Berenger, Platoon

Willem Dafoe, Platoon

Denholm Elliott, A Room with a View

Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers *

1985Don Ameche, Cocoon *

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Out of Africa

William Hickey, Prizzi’s Honor

Robert Loggia, Jagged Edge *

Eric Roberts, Runaway Train

1984Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields

Adolph Caesar, A Soldier’s Story

John Malkovich, Places in the Heart

Pat Morita, The Karate Kid *

Ralph Richardson, Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes *

1983Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment

Charles Durning, To Be or Not to Be *

John Lithgow, Terms of Endearment

Sam Shepard, The Right Stuff

Rip Torn, Cross Creek *

1982Louis Gossett, Jr. An Officer and a Gentleman

Charles Durning, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas *

John Lithgow, The World According to Garp *

James Mason, The Verdict

Robert Preston, Victor Victoria

1981John Gielgud, Arthur

James Coco, Only When I Laugh

Ian Holm, Chariots of Fire

Jack Nicholson, Reds

Howard Rollincs, Ragtime *

1980Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People

Judd Hirsch, Ordinary People

Michael O’Keefe, The Great Santini

Joe Pesci, Raging Bull

Jason Robards, Melvin and Howard *

1979 Melvyn Douglas, Being There

Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now

Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer

Frederic Forrest, The Rose

Mickey Rooney, The Black Stallion *

1978 Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter

Bruce Dern, Coming Home

Richard Farnsworth, Comes a Horseman *

John Hurt, Midnight Express

Jack Warden, Heaven Can Wait

1977Jason Robards, Julia

Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Turning Point

Peter Firth, Equus

Alec Guinness, Star Wars

Maximilian Schell, Julia

1976Jason Robards, All the President’s Men

Ned Beatty, Network

Burgess Meredith, Rocky

Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man *

Burt Young, Rocky

1975George Burns, The Sunshine Boys

Brad Dourif, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Burgess Meredith, The Day of the Locust *

Chris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon

Jack Warden, Shampoo *

1974 Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II

Fred Astaire, The Towering Inferno

Jeff Bridges, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot *

Michael V. Gazzo, The Godfather Part II

Lee Strasberg, The Godfather Part II

1973John Houseman, The Paper Chase *

Vincent Gardenia, Bang the Drum Slowly *

Jack Gilford, Save the Tiger

Jason Miller, The Exorcist

Randy Quaid, The Last Detail

1972 Joel Grey, Cabaret

Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak Kid *

James Caan, The Godfather

Robert Duvall, The Godfather

Al Pacino, The Godfather

1971Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show

Jeff Bridges, The Last Picture Show

Leonard Frey, Fiddler on the Roof

Richard Jaeckel, Sometimes a Great Notion *

Roy Scheider, The French Connection

1970John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter

Richard S. Castellano, Lovers and Other Strangers *

Dan George, Little Big Man *

Gene Hackman, I Never Sang for My Father

John Marley, Love Story

1969Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Rupert Crosse, The Reivers *

Elliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice *

Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider *

Anthony Quayle, Anne of the Thousand Days

1968Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses

Seymour Cassel, Faces *

Daniel Massey, Star! *

Jack Wild, Oliver!

Gene Wilder, The Producers *

1967George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke

John Cassavetes, The Dirty Dozen *

Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde

Cecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde

1966Walther Matthau, The Fortune Cookie *

Mako, The Sand Pebbles

James Mason, Georgy Girl

George Segal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Robert Shaw, A Man for All Seasons

1965Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns

Ian Bannen, Flight of the Phoenix *

Tom Courtenay, Doctor Zhivago

Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools

Frank Finlay, Othello

1964 Peter Ustinov, Topkapi *

John Gielgud, Becket

Stanley Holloway, My Fair Lady

Edmond O’Brien, Seven Days in May *

Lee Tracy, The Best Man *

1963 Melvyn Douglas, Hud

Nick Adams, Twilight of Horror *

Bobby Darin, Captain Newman, M.D. *

Hugh Griffith, Tom Jones

John Huston, The Cardinal *

1962Ed Begely, Sweet Bird of Youth

Victor Buono, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Telly Savalas, Birdman of Alcatraz

Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia

Terence Stamp, Billy Budd *

1961George Chakiris, West Side Story

Montgomery Clift, Judgment at Nuremberg

Peter Falk, Pocketful of Miracles *

Jackie Gleason, The Hustler

George C. Scott, The Hustler

1960Peter Ustinov, Spartacus *

Peter Falk, Murder, Inc. *

Jack Kruschen, The Apartment

Sal Mineo, Exodus *

Chill Wills, The Alamo

1959Hugh Griffith, Ben-Hur

Arthur O’Connell, Anatomy of a Murder

George C. Scott, Anatomy of a Murder

Robert Vaughn, The Young Philadelphians *

Ed Wynn, The Diary of Anne Frank

1958Burl Ives, The Big Country *

Theodore Bikel, The Defiant Ones

Lee J. Cobb, The Brothers Karamozov *

Arthur Kennedy, Some Came Running

Gig Young, Teacher’s Pet *

1957 Red Buttons, Sayonara

Vittorio de Sica, A Farewell to Arms *

Sessue Hayakawa, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Arthur Kennedy, Peyton Place

Russ Tamblyn, Peyton Place

1956Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life

Don Murray, Bus Stop *

Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion

Mickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave *

Robert Stack, Written on the Wind *

1955Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts

Arthur Kennedy, Trial *

Joe Mantell, Marty

Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause *

Arthur O’Connell, Picnic

1954Edmond O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa *

Lee J. Cobb, On the Waterfront

Karl Malden, On the Waterfront

Rod Steiger, On the Waterfront

Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny

1953Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity

Eddie Albert, Roman Holiday

Brandon de Wilde, Shane

Jack Palance, Shane

Robert Strauss, Stalag 17

1952 Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata!

Richard Burton, My Cousin Rachel *

Arthur Hunnicutt, The Big Sky *

Victor McLaglen, The Quiet Man

Jack Palance, Sudden Fear

1951 Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire

Leo Genn, Quo Vadis

Kevin McCarthy, Death of a Salesman

Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis

Gig Young, Come Fill the Gap *

1950George Sanders, All About Eve

Jeff Chandler, Broken Arrow *

Edmund Gwenn, Mister 880 *

Sam Jaffe, The Asphalt Jungle *

Erich von Stroheim, Sunset Boulevard

1949Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High

John Ireland, All the King’s Men

Arthur Kennedy, Champion

Ralph Richardson, The Heiress

James Whitmore, Battleground

1948Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Charles Bickford, Johnny Belinda

José Ferrer, Joan of Arc

Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama

Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish *

1947Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street

Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s Daughter

Thomas Gomez, Ride the Pink Horse *

Robert Ryan, Crossfire

Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death *

1946Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives

Charles Coburn, The Green Years *

William Demarest, The Jolson Story

Claude Rains, Notorious *

Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

1945 James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn *

Michael Chekhov, Spellbound

John Dall, The Corn is Green *

Robert Mitchum, The Story of G.I. Joe *

J. Carrol Naish, A Medal for Benny *

1944 Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

Hume Cronyn, The Seventh Cross *

Claude Rains, Mr. Skeffington

Clifton Webb, Laura *

Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away

1943Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier

Charles Bickford, The Song of Bernadette

J. Carrol Naish, Sahara *

Claude Rains, Casablanca

Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls

1942 Van Heflin, Johnny Eager *

William Bendix, Wake Island

Walter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Frank Morgan, Tortilla Flat *

Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

1941Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley

Walter Brennan, Sergeant York

Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones *

James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

1940Walter Brennan, The Westerner *

Albert Basserman, Foreign Correspondent

William Gargan, They Knew What They Wanted *

Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator

James Stephenson, The Letter

1939Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach

Brian Aherne, Juarez *

Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste *

Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1938 Walter Brennan, Kentucky *

John Garfield, Four Daughters

Gene Lockhart, Algiers

Robert Morely, Marie Antoinette

Basil Rathbone, If I Were King *

1937Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola

Ralph Bellamy, The Awful Truth

Thomas Mitchell, The Hurricane *

H.B. Warner, Lost Horizon

Roland Young, Topper *

1936Walter Brennan, Come and Get It *

Mischa Auer, My Man Godfrey

Stuart Erwin, Pigskin Parade *

Basil Rathbone, Romeo and Juliet

Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn *

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2 responses

  1. R. Le Clair

    Wow, fucking impressive man. I’m currently attempting to work my through an Oscar Quest of my own, I’d like to watch all of the nominated performances, and I’ve been using your posts as a guide of sorts. I enjoy your style of writing as well, it always makes for a very entertaining read. How long did it take you to watch virtually every film nominated in a major category? Was this something you committed to daily in order to accomplish the goal? Any tips you have for me to achieve this? Thanks :)

    December 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    • Thanks. I’m worried that you enjoy my writing style based solely on the Oscar articles. That’s terrifying. I think back about those and just picture them as me yelling, “Fuck this movie!” or, “Go see this movie!” It was a while ago. I didn’t get to the point of full objectivity, where I can appreciate everything and it’s not about what I liked better. I’m probably due to update them at some point.

      Essentially, the way I did it (and I think I wrote this up), once I decided it was everything (because it was originally just Best Picture winners, and then winners and nominees, and then my completist nature took over), I wrote everything up into a giant Word document. I had every category written out, and then I totaled up every time a movie was nominated. So, something like American Hustle — Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress. That’s 6. And I went down the list from most to least. That optimized watching at the beginning. Because, in that scenario, I’m taking off one nominee in six categories right there.

      So I did that for a while, until I got to the point where it was mostly 3s, 2s and 1s. By that point, I was starting the blog. And at that point, I just did it based on what I could find. On a good month, I was averaging around 100+ movies. The whole thing took something like 14 months. I started end of May, 2010, and I officially called it finished end of July 2011. And at that point, I had something like 30 movies left. Which I chipped away at as I could. And now I’m down to 5. Which eventually I’ll find a way to get to the places where the prints are.

      I’d say I committed to it daily, but it’s not like I treated it as something that required effort or work. To me, if you have to sit down and dedicate time to something, it’s a chore. This WAS what I was doing. I was watching movies. I’d have watched movies anyway. The list just kept me focused. It’s not like I didn’t stop and watch other stuff as well. And to be fair, I also had all the time in the world to do this. I took the year off after graduating college, had a job that required a total of about two and a half hours a week, and was mostly at home, watching movies for twelve hours a day. That’s how I was able to do it.

      I can’t give tips, because I can’t even begin to think of anyone else’s work ethic other than my own. I’m one of those people who will set a goal for myself just for myself, knowing I don’t have to meet it whatsoever, and will somehow manage to meet that goal in a third of the time I gave myself. It just happens. The key to it is to know how you work. Don’t force it. And just enjoy it. If you start watching a movie, and you’re not all in and aren’t paying attention, don’t do it. There’s no time limit on this. It’s just movies. There’s good stuff there.

      Oh, and my other advice — don’t form allegiances. Don’t become prejudiced against a movie just because you like another one more. Treat a movie as a movie, and not as part of the category. Just enjoy the movies. Don’t critique a performance based on another performance in the same category.

      December 11, 2014 at 9:02 pm

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