The Oscar Quest: Strongest Best Supporting Actor Categories

We move onto Best Supporting Actor.

The thing about Best Supporting Actor as a category — the majority of the wins have either been for veterans, or for performances. More so than any other award (maybe Best Actor), this is about performance. You see a lot of really memorable characters coming out of this category. It’s weird — most of the time, they get the men right, but not the women. But I guess that goes with the whole gender imbalance they have going on.

This one’s gonna be a lot of fun to round down. I can think of a lot of great categories from here off the top of my head.

So, let’s take a look at the strongest Best Supporting Actor categories:

10. 1987

  • Albert Brooks, Broadcast News
  • Sean Connery, The Untouchables
  • Morgan Freeman, Street Smart
  • Vincent Gardenia, Moonstruck
  • Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom

God, I love this category. Washington is great, Gardenia is hysterical, Brooks is solid, and then you have Freeman and Connery. How could anyone not put this in a top ten?

9. 1974

  • Fred Astaire, The Towering Inferno
  • Jeff Bridges, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
  • Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II
  • Michael Gazzo, The Godfather Part II
  • Lee Strasberg, The Godfather Part II

The three Godfather performances pretty much assured this was gonna go on. Because aside from them, you have Fred Astaire, who is obviously a legend, and Bridges giving a pretty fantastic performance. But, when you have those first three, how could this not make it on based on those alone?

8. 1994

  • Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction
  • Martin Landau, Ed Wood
  • Chazz Palminteri, Bullets over Broadway
  • Paul Scofield, Quiz Show
  • Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump

What a category. Three potential winners in Landau, Jackson and Sinise. Then you have Palminteri, who does a great job, and Scofield, who is a legend in a great movie. What can you say, here? Of course this deserves to be on.

7. 1967

  • John Cassavetes, The Dirty Dozen
  • Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde
  • Cecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
  • George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke
  • Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde

Just look at it. I don’t have to say anything here.

6. 1993

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
  • Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List
  • Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive
  • John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire
  • Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

The reason this isn’t higher I’ll explain when I get to #5. But — wow. All of these performances. Four potential winners here.

5. 1972

  • Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak Kid
  • James Caan, The Godfather
  • Robert Duvall, The Godfather
  • Joel Grey, Cabaret
  • Al Pacino, The Godfather

I feel like #6 is overall stronger than this one, but the three Godfather performances are so strong that they’re a tiebreaker.

4. 2007

  • Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
  • Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
  • Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Affleck is terrific, so is Wilkinson. Holbrook is a veteran in a great movie. Bardem’s performance speaks for itself and Hoffman — he steals that movie. 2007 was a great year.

3. 1953

  • Eddie Albert, Roman Holiday
  • Brandon de Wilde, Shane
  • Jack Palance, Shane
  • Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity
  • Robert Strauss, Stalag 17

I love this category so much. So, so much. It speaks for itself.

2. 1961

  • George Chakiris, West Side Story
  • Montgomery Clift, Judgment at Nuremberg
  • Peter Falk, Pocketful of Miracles
  • Jackie Gleason, The Hustler
  • George C. Scott, The Hustler

The reason I put this higher than 1953 is because — Bernardo is an iconic character — Gleason and Scott give great perfomrances, Clift does as well, and then Peter Falk is Peter Falk. I think the performances and the actors themselves put this higher than 1953. Which is saying something, since I love 1953.


  • Ned Beatty, Network
  • Burgess Meredith, Rocky
  • Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man
  • Jason Robards, All the President’s Men
  • Burt Young, Rocky

How do you not put this #1? All of these performances are iconic in some way. This was a no-brainer.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

11. 2008

  • Josh Brolin, Milk
  • Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
  • Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

This honestly almost made it on through Heath alone.

12. 1979

  • Melvyn Douglas, Being There
  • Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now
  • Frederic Forrest, The Rose
  • Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Mickey Rooney, The Black Stallion

Just because it’s the worst single decision of all time doesn’t mean the category isn’t strong. Duvall gives one of the most iconic performances ever. Douglas is great in a great movie. Henry is terrific. Forrest is good, and he was good in Apocalypse Now. Then Mickey Rooney is Mickey Rooney. Strong, strong category.

13. 1939

  • Brian Aherne, Juarez
  • Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste
  • Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach
  • Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mitchell, Rains and Carey — great. Aherne — quietly solid performance. (Quietly meaning, no one really goes back and sees it.) Just missed.

14. 1954

  • Lee J. Cobb, On the Waterfront
  • Karl Malden, On the Waterfront
  • Edmond O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa
  • Rod Steiger, On the Waterfront
  • Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny

Again — when a film is nominated three times, odds are its one of the strongest (or weakest, when the film is Tom Jones).

15. 2002

  • Chris Cooper, Adaptation
  • Ed Harris, The Hours
  • Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
  • John C. Reilly, Chicago
  • Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can

Just look at the names. What more needs to be said?


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