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The Oscar Quest Reconsidered: Ranking the Best Supporting Actors

I originally posted a version of this list in early 2012. Mostly because I like making lists. There was no real methodology to it. I looked back at it at some point in the past four months and saw it skewed heavily toward personal preference. The performances I liked the best went to the top, and the performances I thought were terrible winners went straight to the bottom.

Since the Oscar Quest, Version 2 that I’ve been doing, I noticed the point of it was more to reflect what my thoughts were now five years later from the completion/posting of all the original articles. I tried to stay away from redoing everything I did the first time, because a lot of it felt like it begat negativity on my part. I really don’t want to shit on things now so much as I’d want to openly discuss what is or isn’t a good choice historically.

Because that’s now where I’m at, I think redoing these lists is something I can get away with. If only to give myself a marker for where my head is at now.

I’m not putting any stock into these whatsoever. I don’t even really want to make these easily findable for people, though I guess I should, if only to track changes over the years. I was going to write up actual opinions for each one, justifying its position, but that’s a fool’s errand. That’s for people looking for extra clicks and people writing in the comments. I don’t want that. This is purely for me.

The first time I wrote this up, I specified that the rankings were not me attempting to make a list for everyone to follow. It was just my favorites. This time, I think what I ended up doing was trying to factor in everything into the decision. How iconic the performance/film is, how good of a choice it was in its year (extremely strong choices get slight bumps, and extremely weak choices get slight deductions), and also how I feel about them.

So here’s where my head is at now on all the Best Supporting Actor winners:

1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

3. Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

4. Joe Pesci, Goodfellas

5. Martin Landau, Ed Wood

6. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

7. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

8. Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley

9. George Chakiris, West Side Story

10. George Sanders, All About Eve

11. Joel Grey, Cabaret

12. Jason Robards, All the President’s Men

13. Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II

14. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

15. Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

16. Christian Bale, The Fighter

17. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

18. Walter Matthau, The Fortune Cookie

19. Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire

20. Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter

21. Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields

22. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

23. Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

24. Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

25. John Gielgud, Arthur

26. Melvyn Douglas, Hud

27. James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

28. Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda

29. Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

30. George Burns, The Sunshine Boys

31. Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show

32. Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

33. Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives

34. Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street

35. Sean Connery, The Untouchables

36. George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke

37. Benicio Del Toro, Traffic

38. Chris Cooper, Adaptation

39. Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People

40. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

41. Jim Broadbent, Iris

42. Louis Gossett Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman

43. Peter Ustinov, Topkapi

44. Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

45. Burl Ives, The Big Country

46. Melvyn Douglas, Being There

47. Peter Ustinov, Spartacus

48. George Clooney, Syriana

49. Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata!

50. Jason Robards, Julia

51. Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters

52. Denzel Washington, Glory

53. Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity

54. Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses

55. Tim Robbins, Mystic River

56. Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

57. Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High

58. Christopher Plummer, Beginners

59. Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

60. Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier

61. Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach

62. Red Buttons, Sayonara

63. Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts

64. Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

65. James Coburn, Affliction

66. Walter Brennan, The Westerner

67. Jack Palance, City Slickers

68. Hugh Griffith, Ben-Hur

69. Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment

70. Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life

71. John Houseman, The Paper Chase

72. John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter

73. Ed Begley, Sweet Bird of Youth

74. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

75. Edmond O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa

76. Walter Brennan, Come and Get It

77. Van Heflin, Johnny Eager

78. Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola

79. Don Ameche, Cocoon

80. Walter Brennan, Kentucky

80. Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns

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