Supporting Actors That Steal The Limelight

We’ve all witnessed the charisma, nerve, and talent that pours from actors as they take on supporting roles. While we each likely have a go-to example that comes to mind, this Reddit post showcases a strong list of supporting actors, both new and old, that have outshone their leads. Tom Hardy in The Revenant, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in The Help, Christian Bale in The Fighter, Liv Tyler in Armageddon (fight me), and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, are just a few.

Of course this doesn’t mean the lead actor's performance was bad, but rather speaks to just how powerful the supporting actor's narrative and performance was. This year's awards nominees are a resplendent menagerie of talent that just can’t help but shine through.

Below, I cast a light on my favorite supporting actors this year, regardless of whether or not they're nominated.

My Favorite Supporting Actor/Actress Nominees from the Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Oscars.

The BAFTAS: Kosar Ali for Rocks; Ashley Madekwe for County Lines

Kosar Ali is a rising star who plays the hard on the outside, soft on the inside, street smart Sumaya, in my top movie of 2020: Rocks. It’s the story of a young woman who comes back from high school one day, only to find she's been abandoned by her mum and left with just a note and $20 to look after her baby brother.

Ashley Madekwe, star of ABC’s dramatic drama Revenge, goes back to her British roots in County Lines. She plays a struggling mother amidst a drug trafficking gang that's taken advantage of her vulnerable son. The son (and the lead of the story) is played by Harris Dickinson from the movie Beach Rats, the Coney Island coming of age drama. Madekwe shines the brightest in this movie, and shows she has more range than Mariah Carey as she steps into a decidedly different role than Revenge.

The Globes: Youn Yuh-Jung for Minari, Leslie Odom Jr. for One Night in Miami, Dominique Fishback for Judas and the Black Messiah

Minari just gave me everything I want in a movie—food, love, and family drama. Youn Yuh-Jung adds so much wry beauty with her supporting role in the film. "You crying again? Because of anchovies?" was my absolute favorite line in the movie, always performed with such disquiet passion.

Leslie Odom Jr. began as a broadway baby in Hamilton, but fully adults his way into One Night in Miami playing the sultry Sam Cooke. He's sensational, and really shines through even amongst so many other heavyweight stars.

Playwright Dominique Fishback plays the defiant and dynamic Deborah Johnson in Judas and the Black Messiah, and shows that supporting actresses can be the beating heart of any story. Her presence on screen was so dynamic, that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.

The Oscars: Paul Raci for Sound of Metal, Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah, Olivia Colman for The Father

If I ever meet Lakeith Stanfield, I think I'll just bust out in applause for him for his incredible retrospective of films. Lakeith is the real star of Judas and the Black Messiah, in my opinion. He needed therapy to remedy the trauma that came from playing this role, and you can see why in his visceral performance.

Olivia Colman should probably just camp out at all the awards shows for any of her roles, from supporting to lead. Her role as a fictional daughter to Anthony Hopkins in the heartbreaking film, The Father, gives the legend a run for his money.

Paul Raci, a real-life war veteran, is in my top three favorite supporting actors this year. He stole the show in Sound of Metal, even with the mega talent of Riz Ahmed on screen. His breakout role as a deaf mentor to Riz Ahmed is filled with such backbone, he truly is the skeleton that keeps this movie alive.

From lead to supporting—but it’s not a downgrade

Some may say it's a step down from Best Lead Actress to Best Supporting Actress, but Jodie Foster, her dog, and her wife’s smiles screamed the opposite when she won for Best Supporting Actress at the Globes this year for her role in The Mauritanian. Foster, who first won a supporting nomination for her 1977 role in Taxi Driver, was also the queen of nominations for her lead role in The Silence of The Lambs. She moves up and down the role scale, like a talented yo-yo.

Glenn Close was nominated this year for her wonderful, chain-smoking depiction of a matriarch in Hillbilly Elegy. It's a stark contrast from her lead role in 2019's The Wife, which won her all the Lead Actress awards that year. I have to say it, Glenn Close blows all the others out of the water in this movie, with a cigarette and a smile on her face.

Bill Murray is nominated for his lovable-yet-terrible role as a father in On the Rocks, and he emerges as the real talent of film. Murray knows how to be a supporting actor like a pro. His supporting role to Francis McDormand in Olive Kitteridge didn’t outshine her, but was stunning nevertheless.

Lastly, forever the supporting actor, Jared Leto, who's a previous nominee for Best Supporting Actor for Dallas Buyers Club is back again. This time he's playing a serial killer in Little Things, and serves as the epicenter of the movie. Could Jared get a nomination for a lead role one day, or is he happy to play it cool in a supporting seat? He seems to manage to get all the attention anyway.

My favorite supporting actors who aren't nominated (aka those who were snubbed IMHO)

Sope Dirisu, the star of AMC’s Gangs of London is up for a BAFTA Rising Star Award, but weirdly, not for his amazing role in His House. Whilst his co-star, Wunmi Mosaku, is up for Leading Actress, deservedly so. Both Mosaku and Dirisu are joint stars in this surreal, yet poignant movie.

Similar to Dirisu, One Night in Miami star Kingsley Ben-Adir has been nominated for a BAFTA Rising Star Award, but weirdly has been overlooked for a Supporting Actor nomination. I may be fired for saying this, but I think he actually went deeper into his role playing Malcolm X than Denzel Washington did.

Stanley Tucci was rumored to be a contender for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes for his role in Supernova with Colin Firth. It was then rumored that Firth and Tucci would both be nominated, each for Best Leading Actor, for their twinning talent as a couple hoping love will conquer dementia. However this didn’t happen, and I’m still going to anger management for it. My only remedy is reliving all of Stanley Tucci's many roles vicariously through SativaDiva1997 on TikTok.

If you’ve seen Showgirls, you know that being in the background can cause murder. However, the supporting actors I’ve mentioned above, metaphorically murder the leads with their show-stealing performances—in a good way!

Who is your favorite supporting actor of all time? Who often steals the limelight, but never gets the lead? We want to know your favorite supporting roles of all time!

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