Mike’s Favorite Male Supporting Performances of the Decade (50-41)

I make ‘favorite performance’ lists every year, and I get that these lists, more than the rest, are the most subjective one can make. Because it’s really about what you see in each performance and what you respond to; There’s no objective way to truly rate a performance as better than another. With whole films, it feels easier to make that distinction. So with these lists, I’m just gonna focus on some performances from the decade that I really, really enjoyed, and the goal here is just to shout them out and maybe get some people to watch the films if they hadn’t or reevaluate each of the performances the next time they watch the films.

These are my favorite male supporting performances of the decade:

50. Andy Serkis, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It’s funny. I watched the entire ‘Rings’ trilogy and never quite understood people’s outcries for Andy Serkis to get an award for doing the mo-cap work on Gollum. I don’t know why it was, and still don’t. Even in Planet of the Apes, I still didn’t see it. But then here, watching this movie and seeing him return as Gollum for one glorious sequence… I understood it. There’s something about Serkis’ performance here that just really blew me away. You get the full range of Gollum in the sequence, and yet somehow you can also track where he is at this moment in time versus where he is when the previous trilogy started. There’s more life there, and you get a much stronger sense of the bipolar nature, which makes sense, since after this, he loses the ring and one can only imagine sharp deterioration after that. I really am impressed by what Serkis accomplishes in such little screen time (especially given my complete ambivalence to most of the film before this point).

49. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

We know how funny he is as a writer and director, but having himself play Adolf Hitler is just dream casting. Because it’s the perfect way to not take the character seriously and drive home the tone of the film, which is that it’s not really Hitler who is this kid’s imaginary friend, even though it is. And he’s absolutely wonderful in the part. At first he’s really goofy and the perfect kind of friend you’d want as a kid without many, constantly cheering him on and picking him up when he’s down. But then slowly over the course of the film, he starts to morph into the really fucking evil dude we know Hitler as, which coincides with Jojo starting to realize that maybe being a Nazi isn’t exactly the right way to be. I love when he makes that turn, and starts shouting and ranting at Jojo in those moments, because even as a viewer you’re sort of taken aback like, “I thought he was cute and fu… oh, right, it’s Hitler.” It’s a great piece of work and, kind of by design is one of the most memorable characters of the decade. So it was kinda hard to screw this one up.

48. Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf of Wall Street

He’s barely in two scenes of the film but leaves such an impression that it takes about an hour and the entire Jonah Hill performance to make us forget him. Everything he does at this lunch scene is just perfect, down to that chest beating and chanting, which is apparently something he does as part of his own warm-up routine for doing scenes. This is real peak McConaissance stuff.

47. Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

He’s the clear showy supporting part in the film, kind of like Anthony Hopkins was in Amistad. It’s the same kind of performance — he gets the big scenes and gets to stand out as a great performance. What makes the character great is that he’s the leading voice on abolitionism, the most progressive, radical of the bunch, and even though they’re doing something he believes in, he actually has to curb his beliefs just so they can pass the amendment, because while it doesn’t go as far as he’d like it to go, it still is a major step forward that he’s been fighting for. And he gets those great moments arguing in the senate, along with that wonderful scene at the end, when you realize why he is the way he is, which, like a lot of Spielberg moments, is kind of obvious when you go back and think about it… but it also works.

46. Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild

He’s so good here. He’d never acted before this and really just bursts off the screen as Hushpuppy’s dying father. It’s one of those performances where, it’s not like there’s really an arc there, but it’s the way the character jumps off the screen and is just brimming with life that makes the impression. Him and Quvenzhané Wallis are what make this movie shine.

45. Alden Ehrenreich, Hail, Caesar!

His performance is the one that stands out most from this entire film. His scene with Ralph Fiennes is the best in the film, but he’s also got a bunch of other hilarious moments on his own. He plays the dumb, unassuming cowboy actor perfectly, and it’s great watching him be put into situations he just should not be in, while simultaneously taking it upon himself to go save the missing studio star. The moment pictured above, where he’s waiting for the Carmen Miranda character and gets bored and just starts doing rope tricks, is a perfect representation of how great this performance is, that he gets some of the biggest laughs in the film without uttering a sound.

44. James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly

Gandolfini had a hell of a year this year. All I kept saying at the time was how he was doing the best work of his career and how no one was noticing. And then he died… and still no one noticed. But truly, this period is the best work he’s ever done. Here especially — he plays a hitman Pitt brings in to help him on the central job in the film, and all he does is show up, eat, fuck hookers, complain and do nothing. And it’s amazing. Truly an incredible piece of work. I could watch him and Pitt sitting around that hotel for two hours.

43. Patrick Stewart, Logan

It’s partially because we’ve spent 17 years with him as Professor X, but also it’s because they finally gave him something real to do with the role. He gets to play him at 90, mid dementia, having fits that cause energy surges that paralyze anyone nearby, and being cared for by Wolverine, for whom he’s always been a father figure. It’s truly like someone caring for a dying parent. And it’s great to see Stewart play that part, while also getting some moments to realize, “This might be the one thing Logan needs in his life, that he’s needed all along,” and trying to move him in that direction (of helping Laura). There are some really sweet moments, and it’s a really touching way for us to say goodbye to this character.

42. Woody Harrelson, The Edge of Seventeen

Best high school teacher ever. This is like the Stanley Tucci performance in Easy A — it’s the right amount of charm and sarcasm but in a way that’s legitimately charming and funny. You know it’s gonna be a great performance from the opening scene, when Hailee Steinfeld bursts into the office and says she’s gonna kill herself, and his response is, “I’ve got my own suicide note right here,” and proceeds to read a fake suicide note about how she’s constantly putting her problems onto him during his only free time during the day. And it only gets better from there. He’s that teacher that seems to not give a shit and openly talks about, “I hope I get fired so I don’t have to teach anymore,” but is secretly a great guy and loves what he does and imparts wisdom in other ways. It’s really nice, especially at the end when you get a sense of his home life. Truly, this is one of the best uses of Woody Harrelson I’ve ever seen.

41. Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give

People really underestimated this movie because it’s based on a YA novel, but man, is there some powerful stuff in it. A lot of that centers around Hornsby, as the father of the main character. He’s a former gang member who went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and is now trying to teach his kids the proper way to live. And he’s got some really intense moments, like the first scene, where he teaches his young kids what to do when the police pull them over, and later in the film, after he’s harassed by the police for no good reason and uses it as a teachable moment for his family. I really liked what he did here a lot and think more people ought to put eyeballs on this performance.

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