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Aug 21 2018

Tues Top 10: Oscar's All Time Favorite Supporting Actors

by Nathaniel R

Tommy Lee Jones in JFKLet's discuss Oscar hiearchies,again.This one is ultra specific but we're doing it for balance sincewe did the supporting actresses last week.Who are Oscar's 10 favorite supporting actors of all time?We'll work the ranking like so: Supporting nominations count most,with wins acting like half a nomination to help determine rank.The tiebreaker is the spread of time of nominations which can denote either long term fandom on the Academy's part or shortlived enthusiasms.

In contrast to supporting actress where the leaders were clear and the nomination counts higher but among fewer people,very narrow statistics separated all of the runners up from the top ten.Though if you must know,the unlucky #11 was Tommy Lee Jones,who would have ranked 5th on the top ten had he won the Oscar forLincolnAS HE SHOULD HAVE.But we'll discuss Tommy and the 7 other working actors who almost made the list after the top ten under "who's next?".But for now a shout out to the departed.They left behind great performances and almost made this list:

  • Gig Young (1951,1958,1969*)
  • Martin Landau (1988,1989,1994*)
  • Charles Coburn (1941,1943*,1946)
  • Melvyn Douglas (1963*,1979*)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (2007,2008,2012)
  • Charles Bickford (1943,1947,1948)
  • Anthony Quinn (1952*,1956*)

okay on to the top ten list...

The Ten Most Oscar-Lauded Supporting Men
(for the purposes of this ultra niche list,leading acting stats are not included)

10 GENE HACKMAN (3 nominations,1 win,35 year span)
He's 88 years old and long-since retired.Sadly,no director has been able to coax him out of retirement.

09 JACK PALANCE (3 nominations,1 win,40 year span)
This giant of an actor (he was 6'4") died in 2006 after a long long career that took him from terrorizing Joan Crawford inSudden Fear(an absolute must-see!) through doing one armed pushups on the Oscar stage after winning the Oscar forCity Slickers.

08 JASON ROBARDS (3 nominations,2 wins,5 year span)
Oscar's infatuation was so deep that they gave him a second consecutive win for a movie he's barely in!(Juliain 1977).Robards died a year after famously playing a dying man in his last feature film,Paul Thomas Anderson'sMagnolia(1999).

07 CLAUDE RAINS (4 nominations,8 year span)
Oscar's favorite supporting actor of the 1940s.How Oscar never gave this witty British actor a statue (not even an Honorary!) is beyond our comprehension.So many worthy performances.Four nominations without a win feels stingy given his high quality filmography.

06 ARTHUR KENNEDY (4 nominations,9 year span)
Oscar's favorite supporting actor of the 1950s.Sadly he also never won.He was nominated once for Best Leading Actor,too,which means he's one of those rare thespians with 5 or more acting nominations never to win competitively.That group is very small and encompasses only 7 other stars: Amy Adams (5/0),Albert Finney (5/0),Glenn Close (6/0),Deborah Kerr (6/0),Thelma Ritter (6/0),Richard Burton (7/0),and Peter O'Toole (8/0).

05 PETER USTINOV (3 nominations,2 wins,14 year span)
Two of Ustinov's three nominations (SpartacusandQuo Vadis) are for epics set in Ancient Rome.His final nomination,which he won,was forTopkapi.

THREE interesting bits of trivia on Ustinov.

  1. Unrelated to this list he's also one of four Oscar-winning actors who were nominated for their writing talent as well (the others being Ruth Gordon,George Clooney,and Emma Thompson.The Tony awards recognized him for the same two talents with nominations for Best Play and Best Actor but he never won a Tony
  2. He had the exact same three acting nominations at the Golden Globes but the outcome was reversed,winning for Quo Vadis and losing for the two roles he won Oscars for.亚博主页
  3. He wasn't famous until 1951 but all during the 1940s he was Angela Lansbury's brother-in-law.

04 ROBERT DUVALL (4 nominations,42 year span)
He's 87 years old and still working.Two of his supporting nominations are for immortal classics (The GodfatherandApocalypse Now) and the other two for films that are or will be forgotten (A Civil ActionandThe Judge) so it's a hit and miss situation.He won his Oscar in the leading category though forTender Mercies.

03 JEFF BRIDGES (4 nominations,45 year span)
Jeff Bridges was that rare male actor that Oscar liked a lot while they were still very young.He received his first two nominations when he was 22 and 25 years of age.Though he graduated to leading roles quickly,he maintained an actor's actor cred and kept right on showing up for supporting roles,too,all throughout his career.He's 68 years old and still in demand for roles of all sizes.I could see him winning a supporting Oscar in the future to go with his leading trophy,couldn't you?

02 JACK NICHOLSON (4 nominations,1 win,across a 23 year span)
For many years Nicholson and Meryl Streep were in tight competition for Oscar's favorite actor ever (barring Katharine Hepburn),but then Nicholson slowed down and Meryl Streep caught her secondandthirdandfourth career wind and she's long since outdistanced him.That said he reigns on the all time best actor chart and she reigns on the all time best actress chart and then they both show up at #2 of the supporting charts too because they're greedy like that!Nicholson is 81 years old and will supposedly come out of retirement for the American remake ofToni Erdmann(a leading role) but we'll see.

01 WALTER BRENNAN (4 nominations,3 wins,across a 6 year span)
The very first winner of the Best Supporting Actor category...and also the third winner and also the fifth winner.He was just hogging the category in its first six years!Though he was a prolific actor and kept right on acting in features through his death in 1974,perhaps Oscar felt they'd over-rewarded him at the beginning as he was never nominated again after 1941'sSergeant York,the only time he lost an Oscar race.

Who will join the list next?That's a good question and actually tough to predict.Here are the 8 living actors that were closest to making this list.Because the statistics are all so close,one more nomination would immediately vault most of them into the upper echelons of that top ten just listed.They are in descending order of how close they came to making the list

  • Tommy Lee Jones(3 noms,1 win,22 year span) -One more nomination would vault him to 2nd place of all time!
  • Christopher Plummer(3 noms,1 win,9 year span) -One more nomination and he'd rank 3rd of all time for supporting men but he's 88 years old and already holds the record for oldest acting nominee AND oldest acting winner of all time!He's in the history books no matter what.
  • Willem Dafoe(3 noms,31 year span) -One more nominations and he'd rank around would most of the other men below...
  • Al Pacino(3 noms,21 year span) -  One more nomination and he'd rank 3rd due to an extraordinary span of years.He hasn't been nominated in 26 years now.Next up are the ensembles of Martin Scorsese'sThe Irishmanand Quentin Tarantino'sOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood.
  • Michael Caine(2 noms,2 wins,14 year span).Next up a retired criminals heist movieThe King of Thieveswith other beloved older thespians like Tom Courtenay,Michael Gambon,and Jim Broadbent.
  • Ed Harris(3 noms,8 year span)  For a good decade he looked like 'next most likely to Oscar' but it never came to pass.He's up for an Emmy currently forWestworld
  • Mark Ruffalo(3 noms,6 year span) -If he ever escapes superhero movies,he feels likely to return.
  • Christoph Waltz(2 noms,2 wins,4 year span) -A flash in the pan or will Oscar love him yet again?

Do you think any of those 8 men will move into the top ten or are their Oscar runs (in supporting at least) over?Working actors with 2 nominations that could conceivably move up into the top ten if the next 10-15 years are very fruitful with supporting parts include but are not limited to:Christian Bale,Michael Shannon,Edward Norton,Jonah Hill,andWoody Harrelson.

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Reader Comments (43)

Very interesting reading!I could definitely see DaFoe,Bridges,and Harris getting future nods.We shall see...

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

On Ed Harris: next nomination is a win.But I thought the same would happen to Dafoe and Rockwell won.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Robert Duvall was excellent in A Civil Action and arguably should have won the Oscar that year.Hope that performance isn't forgotten.

It's still crazy to me that Christoph Waltz won a second Oscar,but that category was bizarre-o.I wonder if a non-winning actor would have pulled off an upset had they made it,a la Adrien Brody.

Claude Raines should have at the very least won for Notorious.Love that movie and performance.

Also I forgot how good looking Jeff Bridges was back in the day.Day-yum.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Nobody mentioned in this entire post elicits any excitement from me.Given all of the actors cited,I don't think I could care less regarding how this list changes any time in the near future barring some pretty radical nominations in the immediate years to come.

Having said that,if Denzel gets tired of trying for a second Best Actor trophy,I could see his being nominated (and winning) for one of those grand patriarch roles,which would make him 3 and 2.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Dafoe,Bridges,and Ruffalo seem the most likely to show up again.I just saw Coburn's winning movie.It's arguably a lead role since he drives almost all the action/plot.Also,he's terrific.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Ed Harris so deserves an Oscar.I'd love to see him return (and thought it might happen with mother!until I saw the film).Ruffalo and Dafoe will be back.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

"Nicholson is 81 years old and will supposedly come out of retirement for the American remake of Toni Erdmann (a leading role) but we'll see."

According to this article that I read Jack Nicholson is no longer going to starring the remake of Toni Erdmann.The project continues with Kristen Wiig and Lisa Cholodenko as director.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

Nicholson is so good in Reds.I haven't seen John Gielgud in Arthur,but Nicholson is even better there than in Terms of Endearment,for which he won.

I love Henry Fonda's win but all four nominated actors for Reds make a strong case to win in 1981.

Also worth noting that Nicholson came extremely close to another nomination for The Departed.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

So,some fun reasoning behind Walter Brennan's Oscar love.

Back when the Supporting categories were introduced,the Academy allowed extras to vote for the Oscars.亚博主页Brennan was a long-time extra so he garnered a lot of votes from that specific body.

Following his third victory in three nominations,the Academy no longer allowed extras to vote.He was nominated again the next year,but finally did not win.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Sidenote: Irene Dunne also lost her 5 nominations,all for Best Actress.

Also,fun fact regarding Brennan,taken from Wikipedia:

He was the first actor to win three Academy Awards and remains the only person to have won Best Supporting Actor three times.However,he remained somewhat embarrassed as to how he won the awards;in the early years of the Academy Awards,extras were given the right to vote.Brennan was popular with the Union of Film Extras,and since their numbers were overwhelming,he won every time he was nominated.His third win led to the disenfranchisement of the union from Oscar voting.Following this change,Brennan lost his fourth Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1941 for Sergeant York (the award went to Donald Crisp for How Green Was My Valley).

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Charles Bickford was the top good-luck charm of all time for Best Actresses.Every time he was nominated,his leading co-star won Best Actress.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Having said that,if Denzel gets tired of trying for a second Best Actor trophy,I could see his being nominated (and winning) for one of those grand patriarch roles,which would make him 3 and 2.

He'll die like a G remaining in Best Actor for the rest of his film career.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

@Joe.Walter Brennan was popular with the extras because he started his career as one.He was "one of them".

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Ruffalo will join the list next.I'd love to see Ed Norton get more of the kind of work that would put him in the mix,but I'm not confident that will happen.And yeah,I could totally see Bridges getting another nomination - and maybe a win.

It seems incredibly bizarre that Claude Rains never got an Oscar,even an honorary one.Was he suddenly unpopular in Hollywood after the 1940s?

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I always mix up the two Arthurs - Kennedy and O'Connell - both Best Supporting Actor mainstays.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

Claude Rains is phenomenal.I really wish the Academy had acknowledged him with an Honorary.

While Supporting Actor is my least favorite of the major categories (I see you,1977),I also acknowledge that it's the perfect portal to discover films I might not have otherwise considered,or to see some again with my attention fixed on the SA performance (like Stephenson in The Letter or Buono in Baby Jane).

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I co-sign the love for Claude Rains,who really should have won an Oscar.So distinctive and so very good at shades of good and evil.
This is rarely my favourite category,and the 2nd win by Waltz was ridiculous.
But the win by Christopher Plummer for Beginners was won of the best wins in recent years.

Mark Ruffalo is the most likely person to win in the near future.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Anyone see Mark Rylance coming back for no 2 and 3.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I can't believe Christoph Waltz has TWO oscars.亚博主页It really boggles the mind.Is he the worst performer to have more than one?I think I even like Hilary Swank more than him,which says a lot!

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Fascinating reading!!I know this is an actress-lead or supporting-loving crowd but there are so many great actors on this list it's nice to see them in the spotlight for a while.

The fact that Claude Rains never won while Walter Brennan has three is just nuts.Brennan's third win in The Westerner is probably the most worthy of the awards,the one for Kentucky (his second) is unbelievably awful,but there was always a better choice in all the years he won.Rains was almost always flawlessly great every time out of the gate.

All these men were fine performers and especially in the cases of Arthur Kennedy and Charles Bickford deserving of wider acclaim and rediscovery.

I join with most everyone else in thinking that it will be Mark Ruffalo who is the one most likely to join the list.The Academy seems to love him right now and he is a strong actor getting work in prestige projects.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Chris: Yeah,no,Swank IS worse than Waltz,but not by much.Neither exactly justified a second win,but I doubt Waltz would have pulled it off in a year where someone was a non-winner.Seriously,I still think the result of 2012 Supporting Actor happening should have had the Academy institute make it an iron clad rule,and not just an implicit ideal,reacting to it instantly: No Ballot Can Be Composed Entirely Of Prior Winners.That at least makes more sense than the Popular Achievement thing and I can see people entirely being on board with that.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

The great Barbara Harris has died.Rest in peace.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Yeah,I'm still pissed Tommy Lee Jones lost for Lincoln too...

Didn't realize Bridges would be so high,but what a career.And honestly,my all time favorite role from him might be in Hell or High Water.Ali was one of the best Supporting Actor winners ever in my book (and yes,I've seen them all) but in another year,Bridges would have been a great winner.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I'd already completely forgotten that Duvall was nominated for The Judge.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

This was an interesting list to read because I agree with many that of the four acting races I rate it lowest.I think it's because of the entire history of the academy it's produced my least favorite winners.I also usually find the academy nominees each year disappointing compared to picks they could've made.The fact that aside from Brennan the top four consists of leading actor Oscar winners (Nicholson has a supporting win but two lead wins.) For me that says a lot how easier it is for leading actors to get nominated in supporting.I mean aside from Streep,Smith,and Page the supporting list consists of actresses entirely associated with being supporting actors.

I have no idea who will join this list in the near future but it would be great to see some more diverse entries other than the older white men.Rains nominations in their lineups were all worthy of the win (44 aside) and the fact he went unnoticed doesn't sit right with me.I have no idea who else will join this list because most of the choices mentioned below can easily get leading noms as well as supporting.

P.S.I look forward to the leading lists if they are done even though they should be less surprising.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Two thoughts:

Also worth noting that Nicholson came extremely close to another nomination for The Departed.

He did indeed.And I would say also close in 1989 with "Batman"(Golden Globe/BAFTA nods).

Also,one of my favorite categories of all time is Best Supporting Actor 1993.Tommy Lee Jones won and I think he's the least noteworthy of the lot:

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

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

Bale and Shannon will definitely be back.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Charles Bickford should have gotten another nom for Days of Wine and Roses.

Nicholson is so good in Something's Gotta Give.He could have been No.6 or 7.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Be careful what I wish for...When I saw Inglourious Basterds I said "Wow,Christoph Waltz is so good he deserves 2 Oscars!"亚博主页Then he goes and wins it for a film he's not only not the best supporting actor in the film itself - that would be Leonardo DiCaprio - he's not even the second best supporting actor in the film - that would be Samuel L.Jackson.Philip Seymour Hoffman was my choice that year.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

I always found so interesting that Wahlberg got in instead of Nicholson for "The Departed"(but I love surprising noms like that!).

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Thanks for this excellent list.

I've always liked the Supporting Actor category quite a lot!Might be my early experience of the three nominated supporting actors in The Godfather and the further three in The Godfather Part II.OK,so Pacino in Part I would have been better in the leading category,but even then,it would have opened up a chance for more supporting actors from The Godfather to be nominated in support - Richard Castellano,most strongly,but also perhaps Sterling Hayden,Richard Conte or John Marley,who nails his brief role as Jack Woltz,the studio head.

I agree that it's crazy that Claude Rains didn't win.I really need to see Charles Coburn's performance in The More the Merrier because I have heard great things about it.Rains in Casablanca is is Rains in Notorious...

Arthur Kennedy isn't just Oscar's favourite supporting actor of the 1950s,he's mine.I'd have given him a win for Peyton Place,but I just got the DVD of Trial (for which he won the Golden Globe but lost the Oscar to Jack Lemmon),so maybe I'll hand him a second win in that!

I support Christoph Waltz's two wins.His Hans Landsa is undeniable,and his Dr.King Schultz is as good,but perhaps less obviously spectacular.He's also arguably a lead in Django Unchained.The 2012 category was a bit of a shame,filled as it was all with previous winners,but I also feel that he most deserving also-ran that year was yet another previous winner,Javier Bardem,who probably just missed for Skyfall (having been nomianted for the Critics Choice,SAG and BAFTA awards).Samuel L.Jackson in Django Unchained would have been a good nominee too.

One of my favourite years is 1976 - the five nominees are all excellent,and I'd have found it hard to pick a winner from among them,but I also feel that others in the same films would have been equally worth nominees - Robert Duvall in Network,Carl Weathers in Rocky,Roy Scheider or William Devane in Marathon Man and Hal Holbrook in All the President's Men.And that's not forgetting Zero Mostel,so beautiful and tragic in The Front.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Jonah Hill.I loved how he played it small in MONEYBALL and left Brad Pitt to do all the heavy lifting,and in WOLF OF WALL STREET,was the perfect rotund comedy foil to DiCaprio.Hoping he gets nominated next year for the Joaquin Phoenix film he's in.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

Rains was great in"The Invisible Man"and all he used was his amazing voice.

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Most egregiously ignored male supporting performances through the years: every one a gem - not a nomination among them

Vincent Price "The Song of Bernadette"(1943)
Leon Ames "Meet Me in St.Louis"(1944)
Robert Preston "The Macomber Affair"(1947)
Glenn Anders "The Lady from Shanghai"(1948)
Louis Calhern "The Asphalt Jungle"(1950)
Michael MacLiammoir "Othello"(1952)
Niall MacGinnis "Night of the Demon"(1957)
Joseph Calleia "Touch of Evil"(1958)
Albert Dekker "Middle of the Night"(1959)
John Gielgud "The Loved One"(1965)
Zero Mostel "The Front"(1976)
Christopher Walken "Roseland"(1977)
Rutger Hauer "Blade Runner"(1982)
Dylan Baker "Happiness"(1999)
Elias Koteas "The Thin Red Line"(1999)
Dennis Quaid "Far from Heaven"(2002)
Philip Bosco "The Savages"(2007)
Nicholas Hoult "Mad Max: Fury Road"(2015)

August 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I hope Woody Harrelson's third nomination (in supporting) is coming soon.By far I am surprised by him the most.Not that he's not award-caliber type but from playing not-so-bright Woody Boyd role for so long in Cheers,I had thought it would be very hard for him to have a successful film career after that.But look at all the performances that got him nominated for an Oscar,who would have thought?

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJack for Streep

/3rtful depends on how much stage he does between lead roles.He would definitely take a juicy supporting patriarch role in an all black cast film.Or if a directorial opportunity is too good and he's inappropriate for the lead.Will still die a G though.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterLeshawn

Volvagia: The Academy gets it so wrong frequently,and there's factors such as politics,connections,past acclaim and subjectivity to consider,so all I ask is that a winning performance isolated from competition be great.Swank gets a pass on that both times.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Michael Shannon - 2 noms
Christian Bale - 2 noms 1 win 1 nom in lead

Then hoping for a new career wind:
Ralph Fiennes - 1 nom
Woody Harrelson - 2 noms

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I'll chime in here with more Claude Rains love.He was terrific in everything.I remember seeing an old clip of Bette Davis on some 60's or 70s talk show citing Rains as her favorite leading man.If Bette liked you,you had to have been good.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Jeff Bridges seems to shine in supporting roles.His recent turn in Hell or High Water was brilliant and definitely was worthy of a win.I agree that we will see Jeff in the supporting winners circle in the next few years.

August 22,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark

That 76 lineup is perfection.I've been saying for years Duvall was snubbed.But who do you take out?Sigh.

August 24,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy


He'll campaign lead for his film cameos.

August 24,2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Mark Ruffalo's "if he ever escapes superhero movies"line seems ridiculous considering two of his nominations came while he was making superhero movies.One of them the same year as Avengers 2.

November 14,2018 | Unregistered CommenterBD (the real one)

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