Oscars 2014 Category Breakdown: Best Supporting Actor

This is a tradition for me. Every year, before the Oscars, I break down every single one of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with each category, how it works, what its history is, how it usually turns out, and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

How these work is — I go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have went, and how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win.

Today is Best Supporting Actor, the one category where I actually have emotional investment in this year.

Year Best Supporting Actor Winners Other Nominees
1936 Walter Brennan, Come and Get It Mischa Auer, My Man GodfreyStuart Erwin, Pigskin ParadeBasil Rathbone, Romeo and Juliet

Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn

1937 Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola Ralph Bellamy, The Awful TruthThomas Mitchell, The HurricaneH.B. Warner, Lost Horizon

Roland Young, Topper

1938 Walter Brennan, Kentucky John Garfield, Four DaughtersGene Lockhart, AlgiersRobert Morely, Marie Antoinette

Basil Rathbone, If I Were King

1939 Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach Brian Aherne, JuarezHarry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonBrian Donlevy, Beau Geste

Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1940 Walter Brennan, The Westerner Albert Basserman, Foreign CorrespondentWilliam Gargan, They Knew What They WantedJack Oakie, The Great Dictator

James Stephenson, The Letter

1941 Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley Walter Brennan, Sergeant YorkCharles Coburn, The Devil and Miss JonesJames Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

1942 Van Heflin, Johnny Eager William Bendix, Wake IslandWalter Huston, Yankee Doodle DandyFrank Morgan, Tortilla Flat

Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

1943 Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier Charles Bickford, The Song of BernadetteJ. Carrol Naish, SaharaClaude Rains, Casablanca

Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls

1944 Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way Hume Cronyn, The Seventh CrossClaude Rains, Mr. SkeffingtonClifton Webb, Laura

Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away

1945 James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Michael Chekhov, SpellboundJohn Dall, The Corn is GreenRobert Mitchum, The Story of G.I. Joe

J. Carrol Naish, A Medal for Benny

1946 Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives Charles Coburn, The Green YearsWilliam Demarest, The Jolson StoryClaude Rains, Notorious

Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

1947 Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s DaughterThomas Gomez, Ride the Pink HorseRobert Ryan, Crossfire

Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

1948 Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Charles Bickford, Johnny BelindaJosé Ferrer, Joan of ArcOskar Homolka, I Remember Mama

Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish

1949 Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High John Ireland, All the King’s MenArthur Kennedy, ChampionRalph Richardson, The Heiress

James Whitmore, Battleground

1950 George Sanders, All About Eve Jeff Chandler, Broken ArrowEdmund Gwenn, Mister 880Sam Jaffe, The Asphalt Jungle

Erich von Stroheim, Sunset Boulevard

1951 Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire Leo Genn, Quo VadisKevin McCarthy, Death of a SalesmanPeter Ustinov, Quo Vadis

Gig Young, Come Fill the Gap

1952 Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata! Richard Burton, My Cousin RachelArthur Hunnicutt, The Big SkyVictor McLaglen, The Quiet Man

Jack Palance, Sudden Fear

1953 Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity Eddie Albert, Roman HolidayBrandon de Wilde, ShaneJack Palance, Shane

Robert Strauss, Stalag 17

1954 Edmund O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa Lee J. Cobb, On the WaterfrontKarl Malden, On the WaterfrontRod Steiger, On the Waterfront

Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny

1955 Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts Arthur Kennedy, TrialJoe Mantell, MartySal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause

Arthur O’Connell, Picnic

1956 Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life Don Murray, Bus StopAnthony Perkins, Friendly PersuasionMickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave

Robert Stack, Written on the Wind

1957 Red Buttons, Sayonara Vittorio de Sica, A Farewell to ArmsSessue Hayakawa, The Bridge on the River KwaiArthur Kennedy, Peyton Place

Russ Tamblyn, Peyton Place

1958 Burl Ives, The Big Country Theodore Bikel, The Defiant OnesLee J. Cobb, The Brothers KaramozovArthur Kennedy, Some Came Running

Gig Young, Teacher’s Pet

1959 Hugh Griffith, Ben-Hur Arthur O’Connell, Anatomy of a MurderGeorge C. Scott, Anatomy of a MurderRobert Vaughn, The Young Philadelphians

Ed Wynn, The Diary of Anne Frank

1960 Peter Ustinov, Spartacus Peter Falk, Murder, Inc.Jack Kruschen, The ApartmentSal Mineo, Exodus

Chill Wills, The Alamo

1961 George Chakiris, West Side Story Montgomery Clift, Judgment at NurembergPeter Falk, Pocketful of MiraclesJackie Gleason, The Hustler

George C. Scott, The Hustler

1962 Ed Begley, Sweet Bird of Youth Victor Buono, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Telly Savalas, Birdman of AlcatrazOmar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia

Terence Stamp, Billy Budd

1963 Melvyn Douglas, Hud Nick Adams, Twilight of HorrorBobby Darin, Captain Newman, M.D.Hugh Griffith, Tom Jones

John Huston, The Cardinal

1964 Peter Ustinov, Topkapi John Gielgud, BecketStanley Holloway, My Fair LadyEdmond O’Brien, Seven Days in May

Lee Tracy, The Best Man

1965 Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns Ian Bannen, Flight of the PhoenixTom Courtenay, Doctor ZhivagoMichael Dunn, Ship of Fools

Frank Finlay, Othello

1966 Walter Matthau, The Fortune Cookie Mako, The Sand PebblesJames Mason, Georgy GirlGeorge Segal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Robert Shaw, A Man for All Seasons

1967 George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke John Cassavetes, The Dirty DozenGene Hackman, Bonnie and ClydeCecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde

1968 Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses Seymour Cassel, FacesDaniel Massey, Star!Jack Wild, Oliver!

Gene Wilder, The Producers

1969 Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Rupert Crosse, The ReiversElliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & AliceJack Nicholson, Easy Rider

Anthony Quayle, Anne of the Thousand Days

1970 John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter Richard S. Castellano, Lovers and Other StrangersChief Dan George, Little Big ManGene Hackman, I Never Sang for My Father

John Marley, Love Story

1971 Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show Jeff Bridges, The Last Picture ShowLeonard Frey, Fiddler on the RoofRichard Jaeckel, Sometimes a Great Notion

Roy Scheider, The French Connection

1972 Joel Grey, Cabaret Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak KidJames Caan, The GodfatherRobert Duvall, The Godfather

Al Pacino, The Godfather

1973 John Houseman, The Paper Chase Vincent Gardenia, Bang the Drum SlowlyJack Gilford, Save the TigerJason Miller, The Exorcist

Randy Quaid, The Last Detail

1974 Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II Fred Astaire, The Towering InfernoJeff Bridges, Thunderbolt and LightfootMichael V. Gazzo, The Godfather Part II

Lee Strasberg, The Godfather Part II

1975 George Burns, The Sunshine Boys Brad Dourif, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestBurgess Meredith, The Day of the LocustChris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon

Jack Warden, Shampoo

1976 Jason Robards, All the President’s Men Ned Beatty, NetworkBurgess Meredith, RockyLaurence Olivier, Marathon Man

Burt Young, Rocky

1977 Jason Robards, Julia Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Turning PointPeter Firth, EquusAlec Guinness, Star Wars

Maximilian Schell, Julia

1978 Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter Bruce Dern, Coming HomeRichard Farnsworth, Comes a HorsemanJohn Hurt, Midnight Express

Jack Warden, Heaven Can Wait

1979 Melvyn Douglas, Being There Robert Duvall, Apocalypse NowJustin Henry, Kramer vs. KramerFrederic Forrest, The Rose

Mickey Rooney, The Black Stallion

1980 Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People Judd Hirsch, Ordinary PeopleMichael O’Keefe, The Great SantiniJoe Pesci, Raging Bull

Jason Robards, Melvin and Howard

1981 John Gielgud, Arthur James Coco, Only When I LaughIan Holm, Chariots of FireJack Nicholson, Reds

Howard Rollincs, Ragtime

1982 Lou Gossett Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman Charles Durning, The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasJohn Lithgow, The World According to GarpJames Mason, The Verdict

Robert Preston, Victor Victoria

1983 Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment Charles Durning, To Be or Not to BeJohn Lithgow, Terms of EndearmentSam Shepard, The Right Stuff

Rip Torn, Cross Creek

1984 Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields Adolph Ceasar, A Soldier’s StoryJohn Malkovich, Places in the HeartPat Morita, The Karate Kid

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

1985 Don Ameche, Cocoon Klaus Maria Brandauer, Out of AfricaWilliam Hickey, Prizzi’s HonorRobert Loggia, Jagged Edge

Eric Roberts, Runaway Train

1986 Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters Tom Berenger, PlatoonWillem Dafoe, PlatoonDenholm Elliott, A Room with a View

Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers

1987 Sean Connery, The Untouchables Albert Brooks, Broadcast NewsMorgan Freeman, Street SmartVincent Gardenia, Moonstruck

Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom

1988 Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda Alec Guinness, Little DorritMartin Landau, Tucker: The Man and His Dream River Phoenix, Running on Empty

Dean Stockwell, Married to the Mob

1989 Denzel Washington, Glory Danny Aiello, Do the Right ThingDan Aykroyd, Driving Miss DaisyMarlon Brando, A Dry White Season

Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors

1990 Joe Pesci, Goodfellas Bruce Davidson, Longtime CompanionAndy Garcia, The Godfather Part IIIGraham Greene, Dances with Wolves

Al Pacino, Dick Tracy

1991 Jack Palance, City Slickers Tommy Lee Jones, JFKHarvey Keitel, BugsyBen Kingsley, Bugsy

Michael Lerner, Barton Fink

1992 Gene Hackman, Unforgiven Jaye Davidson, The Crying GameJack Nicholson, A Few Good MenAl Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross

David Paymer, Mr. Saturday Night

1993 Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert GrapeRalph Fiennes, Schindler’s ListJohn Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

1994 Martin Landau, Ed Wood Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp FictionChazz Palminteri, Bullets Over BroadwayPaul Scofield, Quiz Show

Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump

1995 Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects James Cromwell, BabeEd Harris, Apollo 13Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys

Tim Roth, Rob Roy

1996 Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire William H. Macy, FargoArmin Mueller-Stahl, ShineEdward Norton, Primal Fear

James Woods, Ghosts of Mississippi

1997 Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting Robert Forster, Jackie BrownAnthony Hopkins, AmistadGreg Kinnear, As Good as It Gets

Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights

1998 James Coburn, Affliction Robert Duvall, A Civil ActionEd Harris, The Truman ShowGeoffrey Rush, Shakespeare in Love

Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan

1999 Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules Tom Cruise, MagnoliaMichael Clarke Duncan, The Green MileJude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense

2000 Benicio del Toro, Traffic Jeff Bridges, The ContenderWillem Dafoe, Shadow of the VampireAlbert Finney, Erin Brockovich

Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

2001 Jim Broadbent Iris Ethan Hawke, Training DayBen Kingsley, Sexy BeastIan McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Jon Voight, Ali

2002 Chris Cooper, Adaptation. Ed Harris, The HoursPaul Newman, Road to PerditionJohn C. Reilly, Chicago

Christopher Walken, Catch Me if You Can

2003 Tim Robbins, Mystic River Alec Baldwin, The CoolerBenicio del Toro, 21 GramsDjimon Hounsou, In America

Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai

2004 Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby Alan Alda, The AviatorThomas Haden Church, SidewaysJamie Foxx, Collateral

Clive Owen, Closer

2005 George Clooney, Syriana Matt Dillon, CrashPaul Giamatti, Cinderella ManJake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

William Hurt, A History of Violence 

2006 Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine Jackie Earle Haley, Little ChildrenDjimon Hounsou, Blood DiamondEddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

2007 Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordPhilip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s WarHal Holbrook, Into the Wild

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

2008 Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight Josh Brolin, MilkRobert Downey, Jr., Tropic ThunderPhilip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

2009 Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Matt Damon, InvictusWoody Harrelson, The MessengerChristopher Plummer, The Last Station

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

2010 Christian Bale, The Fighter John Hawkes, Winter’s BoneJeremy Renner, The TownMark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right

Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

2011 Christopher Plummer, Beginners Kenneth Branagh, My Week with MarilynJonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

2012 Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained Alan Arkin, ArgoRobert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

2013 Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Barkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsBradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

This category stayed the same the entire way through. I thought Josh Brolin could sneak on, but ultimately the film was too weird and the veteran vote was too strong. Oh well.

This category was also locked from the start as well. Which is good, since this is the only one I’d be unhappy about if it went any other way.


5. Robert Duvall — No chance. His movie had the least attention, the lowest amount of acclaim… he’s only here because he’s Robert Duvall. No one expects him to win, and he only got on because of the veteran vote. Easy #5.

4. Ethan Hawke — He’s nice, and they like him, but he won’t get the votes. Arquette is the one with all the momentum. He’s just along for the ride. At this point, I can’t see him cracking the top three even. And even if you do, he won’t crack the top two, so he’s not gonna seriously contend, and that’s all we need out of this article. Is to establish that.

3. Mark Ruffalo — He’s loved, and he delivers a great performance, and the film has eyeballs on it. He’s the most likable thing about the movie, which is moody and depressing and features generally unlikable people. (Generally.) However, the performance isn’t a powerhouse that demands attention. So he’ll get a few votes, but not enough to be able to take this away from the other two.

2. Edward Norton — You watch Birdman, and a few things jump out at you. The direction, of course. Michael Keaton, of course. And then you go, “Damn, Edward Norton was terrific.” Norton is usually one of those guys who, when you watch him, he’s always good, but he always feels like Edward Norton. This time, I felt he actually delivered a performance that’s actually worthy of an Oscar. And it seems people agree. If there weren’t a far and away frontrunner in the category, he’d seriously be a contender for a win here, and that would be an interesting discussion to have. But right now, at best, he’s fighting for #2, and doesn’t have enough steam to take down #1.

1. J.K. Simmons — It’s always been Simmons. The performance is spot on for this award, the acclaim is there, and he’s swept all the precursors. He’s gonna win. And he should win. I know that’s irrelevant to the proceedings, but there’s such love for this movie, and he’s respected as an actor, which helps… I can’t see anyone coming up to beat him. This should be his all the way. And since we’re only ranking, of course he’s #1. Someone’s gotta beat him at this point.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is Best Actress, the most locked of all the categories.


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