My Favorite Female Supporting Performances of 2015

Every January, I make myself pick out specific performances I loved from the previous year. I spend so much time talking about movies, but I don’t actually give credit to specific performances. The only time I’ll talk about them is when I’m going over the Oscars. Which isn’t the same thing.

The great thing about lists like this is that it forces you to consider everything. You immediately start thinking of the performances that are nominated for the awards. But if you consider each and every movie you saw from the year (and I did. All 350 of them), and think about how you really felt about all the specific performances, you’re gonna be surprised which ones you actually liked best. (Especially if you can be honest about it and don’t think about what’s already out there, which few people are willing to be.)

Today I’ll be covering all the female supporting performances I loved. They’re in order, but they’re not really in any order. The numbers don’t matter. These are just the ones I enjoyed the most. We’re not talking about awards-worthy or whatever.

So here are my favorite female supporting performances of 2015:

1. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

She’s the MVP of the film. I know Fassbender has to carry it and does so wonderfully, but she’s the backbone of the film. She’s the engine that keeps it running, which is exactly what the character is to Jobs. She’s the right hand, who keeps everything going while he does all the showy stuff. She’s absolutely wonderful here, and I know it’s unlikely she’ll win the Oscar for this part, but I think she deserves it.

2. Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

It’s hard to think of the most memorable supporting parts of the year without immediately thinking of Ava. Vikander had a hell of a year, and this is probably her finest performance of the entire bunch. So when she wins her Oscar, it will be for all of her roles, including this one. So there’s some solace to be taken in that. But she’s the most captivating part of this film, and that’s by design. You need a performance like hers in order for the film to matter, and to work. And there’s no denying how spellbinding she is in it.

3. Joan Allen, Room

I was beating the drum for her to be nominated from the start. She’s wonderful here as the grandmother. She has a lot of great scenes that don’t get noticed because all the attention is on the leads. The moment where she cuts Tremblay’s hair is wonderful. Joan Allen is always good, and she really shines here. Watch the movie again and you’ll see it.

4. Julie Walters, Brooklyn

She’s the funniest part of the film. I didn’t even realize it was her until the credits. I thought they found some Irish actress who was perfectly cast. She’s wonderful as the woman who runs the boarding house. She immediately takes over all of her scenes and feels completely authentic all the way through. You almost wish she got more screen time, but it would ruin the perfectness of the character.

5. Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

I tried not to put her this high, but honestly… she’s great in this movie. Especially in the third act, when she becomes the focal point for a while. It’s a terrific performance, and I have to give credit where credit is due.

6. Katherine Waterston, Steve Jobs

In a movie with a lot of showy performances, Waterston is small but crucial. And she actually has enough screen time to really rate going here. This is two years in a row where she’s delivered knockout supporting turns.

7. Mya Taylor, Tangerine

The performances in this movie are just wonderful. Taylor is arguably the better of the two. She is so good. The scene where she sings at the bar is really great. Watch the movie. Trust me. There’s no way you can deny these performances.

8. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

I could see a bunch of different actresses doing that part as well as she did, but there’s no denying the part is memorable. And that’s half the battle for getting on this list.

9. Kiersey Clemons, Dope

This is one of those performances where, after seeing it, I said “Who is this?” She really stands out among the cast. It’s a real breakout role.

10. Rachel Weisz, Youth

In all the praise that’s been heaped upon this movie, none of it has been for her. And I thought she was wonderful here. The early scenes where she talks about her husband leaving her are wonderful. She’s usually great in everything, and hasn’t really been around enough to show it the last few years. But she was better than Jane Fonda was in this movie for me.

11. Bel Powley, A Royal Night Out

This was the first time I saw her and it actually made me go, “Who is that?” Because she’s really great. She has a presence. And you can tell that as you watch. She’s instantly the most interesting person on the screen.

12. Rose Byrne, Spy

Coming in second to Jason Statham for funniest person in Spy. She’s really hilarious in this. “What a stupid fucking toast.” She’s great. She’s really one of the most underrated actresses working because she can do anything.

13. Jane Fonda, Youth

It’s one scene, but she really nails that one scene. If that added on plane moment weren’t there, she’d have gone much higher. Since she almost came off as Beatrice Straight in Network.

14. Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

It’s a really solid piece of work. The entire cast is great, and she’s great along with them. Sure, I could see a lot of other actors doing her part, but she does a fantastic job with it, so who cares.

15. Imogene Wolodarsky, Infinitely Polar Bear

This little girl holds the film together. It’s a great and mature performance that balances out Mark Ruffalo’s. The reason he’s as good as he is in this is because she’s so good.

16. Jessica Chastain, Crimson Peak

Her first villain role, and she really digs into it wonderfully. It’s a shame more people didn’t see this, because the entire film is way better than people think it is.

17. Emma Thompson, The Legend of Barney Thompson

She’s so good I didn’t even realize it was Emma Thompson until after the movie.

18. Marion Cotillard, Macbeth

She’s great in everything, and does a terrific job with Lady Macbeth.

19. Sonoya Mizuno, Ex Machina

I mean, for the dancing scene alone…

20. Miley Cyrus, A Very Murray Christmas

Not technically a movie, which is why I put her at the bottom, but honestly, she was great. Simply being herself and singing puts her better than most for me this year. Just listen to her rendition of “Silent Night.”

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we’ll list my favorite directorial efforts.

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