Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Supporting Actress

Every year, as we lead up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category; what the trends are, how the guilds and stuff help (or don’t), etc. I also do it as a precursor to my giant Oscar ballot. I get most of the heavy lifting out of the way here, so that way when I get to the article, I’m just kind of riffing on how I think it’ll turn out and talking myself into all the bad decisions. It’s like college. And this is the pregame.

How these articles work is — I give you all the previous winners and nominees of each of the categories, then tell you how accurate each of the respective guilds and precursors are in what they vote for versus what wins the Oscar, tell you how each of them voted this year, then give you this year’s category, along with a quick rundown of how we ended up with that category (what was a surprise, etc). After that, I rank each of this year’s nominees in terms of how I see them right now in terms of their likelihood to win. Which is nothing more than my perception (notice that underline, even though you won’t) of how the category seems at the moment based on everything I know and have seen. Which will give you a general sense of the favorites.

Today is Best Supporting Actress, the last of the awards I don’t need tho wait for a precursor to write up completely.

Year Best Supporting Actress Winners Other Nominees
1936 Gale Sondergaard, Anthony Adverse Beulah Bondi, The Gorgeous Hussy

Alice Brady, My Man Godfrey

Bonita Granville, These Three

Maria Ouspenskaya, Dodsworth

1937 Alice Brady, In Old Chicago Andrea Leeds, Stage Door

Anne Shirley, Stella Dallas

Claire Trevor, Dead End

Dame May Whitty, Night Must Fall

1938 Fay Bainter, Jezebel Beulah Bondi, Of Human Hearts

Billie Burke, Merrily We Live

Spring Byington, You Can’t Take It With You

Miliza Korjus, The Great Waltz

1939 Hattie McDaniel, Gone With the Wind Olivia de Havilland, Gone With the Wind

Geraldine Fitzgerald, Wuthering Heights

Edna May Oliver, Drums Along the Mohawk

Maria Ouspenskaya, Love Affair

1940 Jane Darwell, The Grapes of Wrath Judith Anderson, Rebecca

Ruth Hussey, The Philadelphia Story

Barbara O’Neil, All This, and Heaven Too

Marjorie Rambeau, Primrose Path

1941 Mary Astor, The Great Lie Sarah Allgood, How Green Was My Valley

Patricia Collinge, The Little Foxes

Teresa Wright, The Little Foxes

Margaret Wycherly, Sergeant York

1942 Teresa Wright, Mrs. Miniver Gladys Cooper, Now, Voyager

Susan Peters, Random Harvest

Agnes Moorehead, The Magnificent Ambersons

Dame May Whitty, Mrs. Miniver

1943 Katrina Paxinou, For Whom the Bell Tolls Gladys Cooper, The Song of Bernadette

Paulette Goddard, So Proudly We Hail!

Anne Revere, The Song of Bernadette

Lucille Watson, Watch on the Rhine

1944 Ethel Barrymore, None But the Lonely Heart Jennifer Jones, Since You Went Away

Angela Lansbury, Gaslight

Aline MacMahon, Dragon Seed

Agnes Moorehead, Mrs. Parkington

1945 Anne Revere, National Velvet Eve Arden, Mildred Pierce

Ann Blyth, Mildred Pierce

Angela Lansbury, The Picture of Dorian Grey

Joan Lorring, The Corn is Green

1946 Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge Ethel Barrymore, The Spiral Staircase

Lillian Gish, Duel in the Sun

Flora Robson, Saratoga Trunk

Gale Sondergaard, Anna and the King of Siam

1947 Celeste Holm, Gentleman’s Agreement Ethel Barrymore, The Paradine Case

Gloria Grahame, Crossfire

Marjoria Main, The Egg and I

Anne Revere, Gentleman’s Agreement

1948 Claire Trevor, Key Largo Barbara Bel Geddes, I Remember Mama

Ellen Corby, I Remember Mama

Agnes Moorehead, Johnny Belinda

Jean Simmons, Hamlet

1949 Mercedes McCambridge, All the King’s Men Ethel Barrymore, Pinky

Celeste Holm, Come to the Stable

Elsa Lanchester, Come to the Stable

Ethel Waters, Pinky

1950 Josephine Hull, Harvey Hope Emerson, Caged

Celeste Holm, All About Eve

Susan Olson, Sunset Boulevard

Thelma Ritter, All About Eve

1951 Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire Joan Blondell, The Blue Veil

Mildred Dunnock, Death of a Salesman

Lee Grant, Detective Story

Thelma Ritter, The Mating Season

1952 Gloria Grahame, The Bad and the Beautiful Jean Hagan, Singin’ in the Rain

Collette Marchand, Moulin Rouge

Terry Moore, Come Back, Little Sheba

Thelma Ritter, With a Song in My Heart

1953 Donna Reed, From Here to Eternity Grace Kelly, Mogambo

Geraldine Page, Hondo

Marjorie Rambeau, Torch Song

Thelma Ritter, Pickup on South Street

1954 Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront Nina Foch, Executive Suite

Katy Jurado, Executive Suite

Jan Sterling, The High and the Mighty

Claire Trevor, The High and the Mighty

1955 Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden Betsy Blair, Marty

Peggy Lee, Pete Kelly’s Blues

Marisa Pavan, The Rose Tattoo

Natalie Wood, Rebel Without a Cause

1956 Dorothy Malone, Written on the Wind Midred Dunnock, Baby Doll

Eileen Heckart, The Bad Seed

Mercedes McCambridge, Giant

Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed

1957 Miyoshi Umeki, Sayonara Carolyn Jones, The Bachelor Party

Elsa Lanchester, Witness for the Prosecution

Hope Lange, Peyton Place

Diane Varsi, Peyton Place

1958 Wendy Hiller, Separate Tables Peggy Cass, Autie Mame

Martha Hyer, Some Came Running

Maureen Stapleton, Lonelyhearts

Cara Williams, The Defiant Ones

1959 Shelley Winters, The Diary of Anne Frank Hermione Baddeley, Room at the Top

Susan Kohner, Imitation of Life

Juanita Moore, Imitation of Life

Thelma Ritter, Pillow Talk

1960 Shirley Jones, Elmer Gantry Glynis Johns, The Sundowners

Shirley Knight, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

Janet Leigh, Psycho

Mary Ure, Sons and Lovers

1961 Rita Moreno, West Side Story Fay Bainter, The Children’s Hour

Judy Garland, Judgment at Nuremberg

Lotte Lenya, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Una Merkel, Summer and Smoke

1962 Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird

Shirley Knight, Sweet Bird of Youth

Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate

Thelma Ritter, Birdman of Alcatraz

1963 Margaret Rutherford, The V.I.P.s Diane Cilento, Tom Jones

Edith Evans, Tom Jones

Joyce Redman, Tom Jones

Lilia Skala, Lilies of the Field

1964 Lila Kedrova, Zorba the Greek Gladys Cooper, My Fair Lady

Edith Evans, The Chalk Garden

Grayson Hall, The Night of the Iguana

Agnes Moorehead, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

1965 Shelley Winters, A Patch of Blue Ruth Gordon, Inside Daisy Clover

Joyce Redman, Othello

Maggie Smith, Othello

Peggy Wood, The Sound of Music

1966 Sandy Dennis, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Wendy Hiller, A Man for All Seasons

Jocelyne LaGarde, Hawaii

Vivien Merchant, Alfie

Geraldine Page, You’re a Big Boy Now

1967 Estelle Parsons, Bonnie and Clyde Carol Channing, Thoroughly Modern Millie

Mildred Natwick, Barefoot in the Park

Beah Richards, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Katharine Ross, The Graduate

1968 Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Babby Lynn Carlin, Faces

Sondra Locke, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Kay Medford, Funny Girl

Estelle Parsons, Rachel, Rachel

1969 Goldie Hawn, Cactus Flower Cahterine Burns, Last Summer

Dyan Cannon, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Sylvia Miles, Midnight Cowboy

Susanna York, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

1970 Helen Hayes, Airport Karen Black, Five Easy Pieces

Lee Grant, The Landlord

Sally Kellerman, MASH

Maureen Stapleton, Airport

1971 Cloris Leachman, The Last Picture Show Ann-Margret, Carnal Knowledge

Ellen Burstyn, The Last Picture Show

Barbara Harris, Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Margaret Leighton, The Go-Between

1972 Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid

Geraldine Page, Pete ‘n’ Tillie

Susan Tyrrell, Fat City

Shelley Winters, The Poseidon Adventure

1973 Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon Linda Blair, The Exorcist

Candy Clark, American Graffiti

Madeline Kahn, Paper Moon

Sylvia Sidney, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

1974 Ingrid Begman, Murder on the Orient Express Valentina Cortese, Day for Night

Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles

Diane Ladd, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Talia Shire, The Godfather Part II

1975 Lee Grant, Shampoo Ronee Blakley, Nashville

Sylvia Miles, Farewell, My Lovely

Lily Tomlin, Nashville

Brenda Vaccaro, Jacqueline Susann’s Once is Not Enough

1976 Beatrice Straight, Network Jane Alexander, All the President’s Men

Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver

Lee Grant, Voyage of the Damned

Piper Laurie, Carrie

1977 Vanessa Redgrave, Julia Leslie Browne, The Turning Point

Quinn Cummings, The Goodbye Girl

Melinda Dillon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Tuesday Weld, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

1978 Maggie Smith, California Suite Dyan Cannon, Heaven Can Wait

Penelope Milford, Coming Home

Maureen Stapleton, Interiors

Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter

1979 Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer Jane Alexander, Kramer vs. Kramer

Barbara Barrie, Breaking Away

Candice Bergen, Starting Over

Mariel Heminway, Manhattan

1980 Mary Steenburgen, Melvin and Howard Eileen Brennan, Private Benjamin

Eva Le Gallienne, Resurrection

Cathy Moriarty, Raging Bull

Diana Scarwid, Inside Moves

1981 Maureen Stapleton, Reds Melinda Dillon, Absence of Malice

Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond

Joan Hackett, The Last Laugh

Elizabeth McGovern, Ragtime

1982 Jessica Lange, Tootsie Glenn Close, The World According to Garp

Teri Garr, Tootsie

Kim Stanley, Frances

Lesley Ann Warren, Victor Victoria

1983 Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously Cher, Silkwood

Glenn Close, The Big Chill

Amy Irving, Yentl

Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek

1984 Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India Glenn Close, The Natural

Lindsay Crouse, Places in the Heart

Christine Lahti, Swing Shift

Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwich Village

1985 Anjelica Huston, Prizzi’s Honor Margaret Avery, The Color Purple

Amy Madigan, Twice in a Lifetime

Meg Tilly, Agnes of God

Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple

1986 Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters Tess Harper, Crimes of the Heart

Piper Laurie, Children of a Lesser God

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, The Color of Money

Maggie Smith, A Room with a Vier

1987 Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck Norma Aleandro, Gaby: A True Story

Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction

Anne Ramsey, Throw Momma from the Train

Ann Sothern, The Whales of August

1988 Geena Davis, The Accidental Tourist Joan Cusack, Working Girl

Frances McDormand, Mississippi Burning

Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Liaisons

Sigourney Weaver, Working Girl

1989 Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot Anjelica Huston, Enemies, a Love Story

Lena Olin, Enemies, a Love Story

Julia Roberts, Steel Magnolias

Dianne Wiest, Parenthood

1990 Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost Annette Bening, The Grifters

Lorraine Bracco, Goodfellas

Diane Ladd, Wild at Heart

Mary McDonnell, Dances with Wolves

1991 Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose

Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear

Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides

Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes

1992 Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives

Joan Plowright, Enchanted April

Vanessa Redgrave, Howards End

Miranda Richardson, Damage

1993 Anna Paquin, The Piano Holly Hunter, The Firm

Rosie Perez, Fearless

Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence

Emma Thompson, In the Name of the Father

1994 Dianne Wiest, Bullets over Broadway Rosemary Harris, Tom & Viv

Helen Mirren, The Madness of King George

Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction

Jennifer Tilly, Bullets over Broadway

1995 Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite Joan Allen, Nixon

Kathleen Quinlan, Apollo 13

Mare Winningham, Georgia

Kate Winslet, Sense an Sensibility

1996 Juliette Binoche, The English Patient Joan Allen, The Crucible

Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces

Barbara Hershey, Portrait of a Lady

Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets & Lies

1997 Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential Joan Cusack, In & Out

Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting

Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights

Gloria Stuart, Titanic

1998 Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love Kathy Bates, Primary Colors

Brenda Blethyn, Little Voice

Rachel Griffiths, Hilary and Jackie

Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsterds

1999 Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense

Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich

Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown

Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry

2000 Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock Judi Dench, Chocolat

Kate Hudson, Almost Famous

Frances McDormand, Almost Famous

Julie Walters, Billy Elliot

2001 Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind Helen Mirren, Gosford Park

Maggie Smith, Gosford Park

Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom

Kate Winslet, Iris

2002 Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago Kathy Bates, About Schmidt

Queen Latifah, Chicago

Julianne Moore, The Hours

Meryl Streep, Adaptation

2003 Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog

Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River

Holly Huntet, Thirteen

2004 Cate Blanchett, The Aviator Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

2005 Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener Amy Adams, Junebug

Catherine Keener, Capote

Frances McDormand, North Country

Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

2006 Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls Adriana Barraza, Babel

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

2007 Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There

Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Saoirse Ronan, Atonement

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

2008 Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona Amy Adams, Doubt

Viola Davis, Doubt

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

2009 Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire Penelope Cruz, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

2010 Melissa Leo, The Fighter Amy Adams, The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Jackie Weaver, Animal Kingdom

2011 Octavia Spencer, The Help Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

2012 Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

2013 Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

2014 Patricia Arquette, Boyhood Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

2015 Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl


Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

2016 Viola Davis, Fences Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spancer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

As is the case with all acting categories, SAG is the precursor you listen to. They’re pretty solid for Supporting Actress. Not as great as the lead categories, but still good.

They’re 16/23 all-time, with two of the seven misses coming in cases of category differences. In 2001, Jennifer Connelly was nominated for SAG Best Actress, and at the Oscars went Supporting, which made her a big fish in a little pond and an easy winner. The other one was 2008, where Kate Winslet won SAG Supporting Actress for The Reader, for which she ended up winning Best Actress at the Oscars.

The other five cases we should discuss. Those are:

  • 1995, they had Kate Winslet while Mira Sorvino won the Oscar.
  • 1996, they had Lauren Bacall, while Juliette Binoche won the Oscar.
  • 1998, they had Kathy Bates, while Judi Dench won the Oscar.
  • 2000, they had Judi Dench, while Marcia Gay Harden won the Oscar.
  • 2007, they had Ruby Dee, while Tilda Swinton won the Oscar.

They haven’t been wrong since 2008, the Kate Winslet year. But if you want to count that as partial credit, they haven’t been wrong since 2007. And the majority of their misses came 2000 or earlier. So yeah… pretty good.

If you look at BAFTA in the seven years SAG differed from the Oscar:

  • 1995, they also had Kate Winslet
  • 1996, they had Juliette Binoche
  • 1998, they had Judi Dench
  • 2000, they had Julie Walters
  • 2001, they had Jennifer Connelly
  • 2007, they had Tilda Swinton
  • 2008, they had Penelope Cruz

So the two category swaps they got right. Connelly was in the Oscar category and won both, and Winslet won lead Actress and Penelope Cruz won Supporting. And of the seven total categories, that’s five right. They missed Kate Winslet in 1995 and Julie Walters in 2000. And the 2000 one is one of the biggest acting Oscar ‘out of nowhere’ upsets of all time. So that’s pretty fucking good.

And then BFCA, in those same seven years:

  • 1995, they had Mira Sorvino
  • 1996, they had Joan Allen
  • 1998, Joan Allen and Kathy Bates tied
  • 2000, they had Frances McDormand
  • 2001, they had Jennifer Connelly
  • 2007, they had Amy Ryan
  • 2008, they had Kate Winslet

So, one category swap right, the other one the same as SAG. Outside of those two, the only one they got right was Mira Sorvino in 1995.

This year, so far everyone’s agreed. And unless BAFTA goes another way (and even then, really), we can call this one pretty well from what we have.

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

This was a very open category all throughout the race. Janney and Metcalf were the two locked choices from the start. Early on we thought Holly Hunter was the third lock, but that went away pretty fast. Spencer became that third for-sure lock, just because the film was gonna get nominated a bunch and we knew they liked her. So if you called her the third choice, you were left with two spots and like three or four contenders: Holly Hunter, Mary J. Blige, Hong Chau, Lesley Manville… and I think that’s it. I’m not thinking of anyone else who felt like they could have really contended. Which is why this category was so difficult for me to gauge. Because SAG and the other categories all had both Blige and Chau in them, and I couldn’t fathom that both would be the fifth choice. And I didn’t think Manville had a play in her because she had no precursors except BAFTA, which was to be expected. So, if I assumed Holly Hunter to be on, then all I had to choose from for the last spot was either Blige or Chau. Truly had no idea what was gonna happen. So in the end, we got this category, where, based on the precursors, the only moderate surprise was Manville. But even then, the surprise was that Holly Hunter was left off.

And then, once we had the final category, it was pretty much a duel between Janney and Metcalf. Which, to this point, Janney has won, with SAG, BFCA and Globes wins. The final test now is BAFTA on Sunday. If she wins that, then we’re pretty much locked. If someone else wins, then maybe the door is open. But even so, the rankings for this one are pretty easy.


5. Lesley Manville — The surprise nominee, the only support she really had going in was BAFTA. Unless she wins that, I can’t see her getting the votes to make a play for it. Have to consider her the fifth choice because everyone else has a more compelling argument to get votes than she does.

4. Octavia Spencer — She’s in the presumptive Best Picture favorite, has an Oscar already, and is generally liked by the actors. So that’ll get her some votes, but I don’t think people really loved the performance past the nominations stage. The Oscars are filled with people who are strong contenders until they’re nominated, and then absolutely no one would take them over some other nominee. She fits the bill of the fourth nominee, and the only reason I didn’t make her the third nominee on the pure strength of her film is because I just don’t feel like she’s got a win in her for this one.

3. Mary J. Blige — This is the only one I couldn’t tell you anything about. And since I know the other two don’t feel like contenders, I’m putting her third. Because at least then, if something happens and she wins, I can’t say I was shocked, because at least I felt like it could maybe happen. The film has support out there. And with a limited number of nominations, this is where they could maybe try to make their presence felt. I don’t know. I just know Manville won’t win and Spencer shouldn’t really get that far even if people sweep vote Shape of Water. Which makes Blige my de facto number three. No precursor wins to speak of, but maybe there’s a play there. I don’t know.

2. Laurie Metcalf — She won a load of critics awards and is one of the most acclaimed performances of the year. Unfortunately, she has no precursor wins, and unless she can pull a BAFTA win out of nowhere, she’s gonna be no more than a second choice. And even if she wins BAFTA, she’ll still be the second choice, only with a stronger play to take down Janney.

1. Allison Janney — She has three of the four precursors. If she wins BAFTA, she should be able to take it home. Whereas Metcalf is the solid, nuanced performance, she’s the flashy, scene-stealing one. And boy, do they love one of those. Plus she’s an actress they love, who’s been turning in great performances for years (American Beauty immediately comes to mind for me, even though most people would say Juno, in terms of her films). Hands down, she’s the favorite in this category. If she loses BAFTA, then we can talk about maybe reconfiguring. But right now, she’s #1.

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One response

  1. Pingback: The B+ Oscar Ballot: Guide to the 90th Academy Awards – Site Title

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