Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Supporting Actor

Here’s how this works: every day leading up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. The goal is to both familiarize everyone with the category itself (how it works, what its history is and how you go about figuring out what’s gonna win) while also making it easier to reference when I write my giant article with picks and everything. A lot of the leg work is already here. But really, the goal is to see if there’s anything to look for leading into Oscar night that could be a shortcut to me picking the category.

What we do is — I give you all the winners of the category throughout history, go over all the recent trends if there are any, discuss the precursors and whether or not they matter, and then we talk about this year’s category and how we got to it, and then just look at where we are and rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning (at the current moment in time. Of course, things can and will change going into the ceremony). It’s all pretty simple. I’ve done this every year. Everyone should know the drill.

Today is Best Supporting Actor. Or, as my mother called it about ten days ago, “Are they gonna give Brad Pitt a pity Oscar?”

Year Best Supporting Actor Winners Other Nominees
1936 Walter Brennan, Come and Get It Mischa Auer, My Man Godfrey

Stuart Erwin, Pigskin Parade

Basil Rathbone, Romeo and Juliet

Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn

1937 Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola Ralph Bellamy, The Awful Truth

Thomas Mitchell, The Hurricane

H.B. Warner, Lost Horizon

Roland Young, Topper

1938 Walter Brennan, Kentucky John Garfield, Four Daughters

Gene Lockhart, Algiers

Robert Morely, Marie Antoinette

Basil Rathbone, If I Were King

1939 Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach Brian Aherne, Juarez

Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste

Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1940 Walter Brennan, The Westerner Albert Basserman, Foreign Correspondent

William Gargan, They Knew What They Wanted

Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator

James Stephenson, The Letter

1941 Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley Walter Brennan, Sergeant York

Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones

James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

1942 Van Heflin, Johnny Eager William Bendix, Wake Island

Walter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Frank Morgan, Tortilla Flat

Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

1943 Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier Charles Bickford, The Song of Bernadette

J. Carrol Naish, Sahara

Claude Rains, Casablanca

Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls

1944 Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way Hume Cronyn, The Seventh Cross

Claude Rains, Mr. Skeffington

Clifton Webb, Laura

Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away

1945 James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Michael Chekhov, Spellbound

John Dall, The Corn is Green

Robert 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 Years

William Demarest, The Jolson Story

Claude Rains, Notorious

Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

1947 Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s Daughter

Thomas Gomez, Ride the Pink Horse

Robert Ryan, Crossfire

Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

1948 Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Charles Bickford, Johnny Belinda

José Ferrer, Joan of Arc

Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama

Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish

1949 Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High John Ireland, All the King’s Men

Arthur Kennedy, Champion

Ralph Richardson, The Heiress

James Whitmore, Battleground

1950 George Sanders, All About Eve Jeff Chandler, Broken Arrow

Edmund Gwenn, Mister 880

Sam Jaffe, The Asphalt Jungle

Erich von Stroheim, Sunset Boulevard

1951 Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire Leo Genn, Quo Vadis

Kevin McCarthy, Death of a Salesman

Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis

Gig Young, Come Fill the Gap

1952 Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata! Richard Burton, My Cousin Rachel

Arthur Hunnicutt, The Big Sky

Victor McLaglen, The Quiet Man

Jack Palance, Sudden Fear

1953 Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity Eddie Albert, Roman Holiday

Brandon de Wilde, Shane

Jack Palance, Shane

Robert Strauss, Stalag 17

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

Karl Malden, On the Waterfront

Rod Steiger, On the Waterfront

Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny

1955 Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts Arthur Kennedy, Trial

Joe Mantell, Marty

Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause

Arthur O’Connell, Picnic

1956 Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life Don Murray, Bus Stop

Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion

Mickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave

Robert Stack, Written on the Wind

1957 Red Buttons, Sayonara Vittorio de Sica, A Farewell to Arms

Sessue Hayakawa, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Arthur Kennedy, Peyton Place

Russ Tamblyn, Peyton Place

1958 Burl Ives, The Big Country Theodore Bikel, The Defiant Ones

Lee J. Cobb, The Brothers Karamozov

Arthur Kennedy, Some Came Running

Gig Young, Teacher’s Pet

1959 Hugh Griffith, Ben-Hur Arthur O’Connell, Anatomy of a Murder

George C. Scott, Anatomy of a Murder

Robert Vaughn, The Young Philadelphians

Ed Wynn, The Diary of Anne Frank

1960 Peter Ustinov, Spartacus Peter Falk, Murder, Inc.

Jack Kruschen, The Apartment

Sal Mineo, Exodus

Chill Wills, The Alamo

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

1962 Ed Begley, Sweet Bird of Youth Victor Buono, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Telly Savalas, Birdman of Alcatraz

Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia

Terence Stamp, Billy Budd

1963 Melvyn Douglas, Hud Nick Adams, Twilight of Horror

Bobby Darin, Captain Newman, M.D.

Hugh Griffith, Tom Jones

John Huston, The Cardinal

1964 Peter Ustinov, Topkapi John Gielgud, Becket

Stanley Holloway, My Fair Lady

Edmond O’Brien, Seven Days in May

Lee Tracy, The Best Man

1965 Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns Ian Bannen, Flight of the Phoenix

Tom Courtenay, Doctor Zhivago

Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools

Frank Finlay, Othello

1966 Walter Matthau, The Fortune Cookie Mako, The Sand Pebbles

James Mason, Georgy Girl

George Segal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Robert Shaw, A Man for All Seasons

1967 George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke John Cassavetes, The Dirty Dozen

Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde

Cecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde

1968 Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses Seymour Cassel, Faces

Daniel Massey, Star!

Jack Wild, Oliver!

Gene Wilder, The Producers

1969 Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Rupert Crosse, The Reivers

Elliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider

Anthony Quayle, Anne of the Thousand Days

1970 John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter Richard S. Castellano, Lovers and Other Strangers

Chief Dan George, Little Big Man

Gene Hackman, I Never Sang for My Father

John Marley, Love Story

1971 Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show Jeff Bridges, The Last Picture Show

Leonard Frey, Fiddler on the Roof

Richard Jaeckel, Sometimes a Great Notion

Roy Scheider, The French Connection

1972 Joel Grey, Cabaret Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak Kid

James Caan, The Godfather

Robert Duvall, The Godfather

Al Pacino, The Godfather

1973 John Houseman, The Paper Chase Vincent Gardenia, Bang the Drum Slowly

Jack Gilford, Save the Tiger

Jason Miller, The Exorcist

Randy Quaid, The Last Detail

1974 Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II Fred Astaire, The Towering Inferno

Jeff Bridges, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Michael 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 Nest

Burgess Meredith, The Day of the Locust

Chris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon

Jack Warden, Shampoo

1976 Jason Robards, All the President’s Men Ned Beatty, Network

Burgess Meredith, Rocky

Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man

Burt Young, Rocky

1977 Jason Robards, Julia Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Turning Point

Peter Firth, Equus

Alec Guinness, Star Wars

Maximilian Schell, Julia

1978 Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter Bruce Dern, Coming Home

Richard Farnsworth, Comes a Horseman

John Hurt, Midnight Express

Jack Warden, Heaven Can Wait

1979 Melvyn Douglas, Being There Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now

Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer

Frederic Forrest, The Rose

Mickey Rooney, The Black Stallion

1980 Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People Judd Hirsch, Ordinary People

Michael O’Keefe, The Great Santini

Joe Pesci, Raging Bull

Jason Robards, Melvin and Howard

1981 John Gielgud, Arthur James Coco, Only When I Laugh

Ian Holm, Chariots of Fire

Jack Nicholson, Reds

Howard Rollincs, Ragtime

1982 Lou Gossett Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman Charles Durning, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

John Lithgow, The World According to Garp

James Mason, The Verdict

Robert Preston, Victor Victoria

1983 Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment Charles Durning, To Be or Not to Be

John Lithgow, Terms of Endearment

Sam Shepard, The Right Stuff

Rip Torn, Cross Creek

1984 Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields Adolph Ceasar, A Soldier’s Story

John Malkovich, Places in the Heart

Pat Morita, The Karate Kid

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

1985 Don Ameche, Cocoon Klaus Maria Brandauer, Out of Africa

William Hickey, Prizzi’s Honor

Robert Loggia, Jagged Edge

Eric Roberts, Runaway Train

1986 Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters Tom Berenger, Platoon

Willem Dafoe, Platoon

Denholm Elliott, A Room with a View

Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers

1987 Sean Connery, The Untouchables Albert Brooks, Broadcast News

Morgan Freeman, Street Smart

Vincent Gardenia, Moonstruck

Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom

1988 Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda Alec Guinness, Little Dorrit

Martin 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 Thing

Dan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy

Marlon Brando, A Dry White Season

Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors

1990 Joe Pesci, Goodfellas Bruce Davidson, Longtime Companion

Andy Garcia, The Godfather Part III

Graham Greene, Dances with Wolves

Al Pacino, Dick Tracy

1991 Jack Palance, City Slickers Tommy Lee Jones, JFK

Harvey Keitel, Bugsy

Ben Kingsley, Bugsy

Michael Lerner, Barton Fink

1992 Gene Hackman, Unforgiven Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game

Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross

David Paymer, Mr. Saturday Night

1993 Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

1994 Martin Landau, Ed Wood Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction

Chazz Palminteri, Bullets Over Broadway

Paul Scofield, Quiz Show

Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump

1995 Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects James Cromwell, Babe

Ed Harris, Apollo 13

Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys

Tim Roth, Rob Roy

1996 Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire William H. Macy, Fargo

Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shine

Edward Norton, Primal Fear

James Woods, Ghosts of Mississippi

1997 Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting Robert Forster, Jackie Brown

Anthony Hopkins, Amistad

Greg Kinnear, As Good as It Gets

Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights

1998 James Coburn, Affliction Robert Duvall, A Civil Action

Ed Harris, The Truman Show

Geoffrey Rush, Shakespeare in Love

Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan

1999 Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules Tom Cruise, Magnolia

Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile

Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense

2000 Benicio del Toro, Traffic Jeff Bridges, The Contender

Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire

Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich

Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

2001 Jim Broadbent Iris Ethan Hawke, Training Day

Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast

Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Jon Voight, Ali

2002 Chris Cooper, Adaptation. Ed Harris, The Hours

Paul Newman, Road to Perdition

John C. Reilly, Chicago

Christopher Walken, Catch Me if You Can

2003 Tim Robbins, Mystic River Alec Baldwin, The Cooler

Benicio del Toro, 21 Grams

Djimon Hounsou, In America

Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai

2004 Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby Alan Alda, The Aviator

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Clive Owen, Closer

2005 George Clooney, Syriana Matt Dillon, Crash

Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

William Hurt, A History of Violence

2006 Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond

Eddie 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 Ford

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

2008 Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

2009 Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Matt Damon, Invictus

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

2010 Christian Bale, The Fighter John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner, The Town

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right

Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

2011 Christopher Plummer, Beginners Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

2012 Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

2013 Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014 J.K. Simmons, Whiplash Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

2015 Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies


Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

2016 Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

2017 Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

2018 Mahershala Ali, Green Book Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

It’s an acting category, so you know the drill. We start with SAG then move outward.

SAG is 16/25 all time in this category, though one of the nine misses is Benicio Del Toro winning SAG lead and winning the Oscar for Supporting. But otherwise, here are the other eight:

  • Idris Elba won SAG in 2015 and wasn’t nominated for the Oscar, which went to Mark Rylance
  • Tommy Lee Jones won SAG in 2012 and lost the Oscar to Christoph Waltz (who wasn’t nominated at SAG)
  • Eddie Murphy won SAG in 2006 and lost the Oscar to Alan Arkin
  • Paul Giamatti won SAG in 2005 and lost the Oscar to George Clooney
  • Christopher Walken won SAG in 2002 and lost the Oscar to Chris Cooper
  • Ian McKellen won SAG in 2001 and lost the Oscar to Jim Broadbent
  • Robert Duvall won SAG in 1998 and lost the Oscar to James Coburn
  • Ed Harris won SAG in 1995 and lost the Oscar to Kevin Spacey

They’ve only missed twice in the past decade, and in both cases, either the Oscar winner wasn’t nominated at SAG or the SAG winner wasn’t nominated for the Oscar. So for all intents and purposes, as long as the nominee is there, they haven’t missed since 2006. That’s pretty great. BAFTA, meanwhile, had both of those recent two right and also had Alan Arkin in 2006. So really, between those two, you’re pretty set.

Though it’s not gonna matter much this year, isn’t it?

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This category was locked all the way through the race. There were no alternatives here. This category hit every precursor, save SAG, which, because it’s a popularity contest, nominated Jamie Foxx for a movie no one saw instead of Anthony Hopkins. Otherwise, it’s all the same and no surprises were to be had and we knew how this was going all the way through. And we’ve known who was gonna win it all the way through, too.


5. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes — Pretty simple: it’s the film the least amount of people have seen, and unless it’s gonna be a clear veteran win (and this entire category, for the most part, is veterans, even though two of them we don’t quite consider to be veterans yet), you never vote for the nominee like this. It’s clear he’s fifth in the category and the nomination is the reward. But hey, it’s his first one since 1997, so that’s cool.

4. Al Pacino, The Irishman — The double nominations from the film are gonna cancel each other out, if they get votes at all. This is one where, even though everyone nominated him all the way through, no one really thought his performance was that amazing. He’d have been the fifth choice if not for Hopkins. And he still might get the least amount of votes. People love him, but the nomination is the reward. He’s for sure no more than a fourth choice here.

3. Joe Pesci, The Irishman — Anyone who’s seen this movie will tell you that Joe Pesci steals the movie out from everyone else in it and gives a sublime performance. And that will get him votes in this category. However, he hates giving interviews, refuses to campaign, and when he won his first Oscar, his speech was essentially the words “thank you” and nothing else. Unless they’re all in on this performance, you can’t consider him a winner. So that’s why he’s third. Vote split, refusing to campaign, clear winner.

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — It’s Tom. Everybody loves Tom. And he’s playing Mr. Rogers. He’ll get votes. And he’s charming on the trail. So he’ll definitely get votes, and I think the fact that he’s not stuck with another nominee from the same film and the fact that Joe Pesci won’t talk to anybody will get him enough votes to be second in the category. If people voted on pure performance… well, some people still might consider him over Pesci. So that’s another reason. It doesn’t really matter, since we know how this is going, but I think smart money is on him as second choice just because the Academy is not 100% about just the work. There’s shoulder rubbing and voting for friends. So that’s why he’s second choice to me.

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — It’s Brad’s year. He’s won the Globe, he’s won BFCA and he’s won SAG. He’s gonna have to lose BAFTA in a BIG way to even consider anyone else here. And I just don’t see that happening. He’s the favorite and he’s gonna win his Oscar. And that’ll be Quentin’s third Supporting Actor winner in eleven years.

– – – – – – – – – –


One response

  1. Brad is the only one of the five nominees who has yet to win an acting Oscar (he won Best Picture for co-producing “12 Years a Slave”).

    January 25, 2020 at 2:11 am

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