Top of the World : 15 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Winners

Oscar season is ending tonight as we are finally reaching the award ceremony! I don’t know if I’d be able to watch them (I hope yes), but regardless, it’s an occasion to go back on this blog since it’s been a long time. And now that I forgot to cancel my Grammarly subscription, I have to write not to lose all the money I involuntarily invested. Anyway…

The Oscars or Academy Awards are considered increasingly obsolete, and there’s a lot of space for change and improvement. However, I like to watch them for entertainment and to add films to my watchlist. I most often watch the Oscar nominees AFTER the ceremony. Still, this year, I have watched a big total of two of the Best Picture nominees (!), more precisely, The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022) and The Fablemans (Steven Spielberg, 2022). I watched the latter yesterday and absolutely loved it. That might be a very subjective statement, but it would make me very happy if it won something. Aside from the entertainment the Oscars provide, they remain a good excuse for me to make top lists on my blog as I did in the previous years and as I’m about to do now. I already gave my a top of my favourite Best Actress winners, my favourite Best Actors winners and my favourite Best Picture winner for each decade (because I couldn’t make a top list with the overall Best Picture winners all decades and all years considered). And, as you saw in this article’s title, this year, I’ve decided to explore my favourite Best Supporting Actor Winners. It’s a challenging task since there were a lot of good excellent performances through the years. Also, there are some films I’ve seen once and a long time ago, so I don’t necessarily remember the acting perfectly (unless it was genuinely impactful). So, I haven’t really considered those.

I think what’s interesting about that Oscar category is that you don’t necessarily have usual suspects. I feel this list could be very different from one person to another but would still have perfectly great choices. There are some winners you may have forgotten. As I was browsing through the list, even I had some reactions in the style of: “He won an Oscar for that??!” But in a good way. I mean, I was glad to know he did.

That being said, remember that I’m not the Academy, and this list is very subjective. It’s a compilation of personal favourites, so your favourites might not be part of it, but that’s life, and it’s cool to have different tastes. Also, there are only 15 winners on my list, so many are left out. I write that same speech on every top list, so you get it by now. And if you don’t, well, welcome to my blog. 😉

Without further ado, here we go!

15. Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)

Brad Pitt is one of those actors I used to think was just a pretty face and was very popular only for that (and his muscles). However, as I explored his filmography, I was, of course, proved wrong, especially with a film like Once Upon a Time.

14. Joe Pesci – Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

That might be one of the usual suspects regarding that list, but it’s hard not to include him. It’s an over-the-top performance, but that’s the nature of Henry Hill, and Joe Pesci did it like no other. The force of the overall casting in this film is that all the acting styles are very different. Therefore everybody shines in their own way. And I’m asking you: what moment do you think is the most iconic: Joe Pesci’s “You think I’m funny?” or Ray Liotta’s laugh? I’ll let you meditate on that.

13. Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

It’s been a while since I’ve seen that film. Still, I remember watching the Oscar ceremony in 2013 and hoping very strongly that Christoph Waltz would win the Oscar, and he did! So, I had to include it on my list..

12. Harold Russell – The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)

Non-professional actor Harold Russell made an impact with his performance. The fact that he was a real veteran playing a veteran with hi reality of having lost both hands in combat makes it, yes, very realistic. Still, the charm of his performance also comes in its clumsiness. What I mean by that is that he gives another layer of realism to his character by being a non-professional actor and making maybe a few missteps. We definitely feel connected to him.

11. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)

“Not quite my tempo”. One of the most iconic movie lines of the past decade. And it’s all about the delivery. How J.K. Simmons moves from that very controlled man to that instant burst of rage and interprets a character who bullies, manipulates, and kills dreams is not something everyone could have done with such brilliance. He’s scary, and that’s because he’s hella good.

10. Christoph Waltz – Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Hey, Christoph Waltz is back! And Quentin Tarantino as well. Weird because I’m hardly his number-one fan, but the three films on this list are my favourites. Maybe the acting has something to do with it! Anyway, Waltz won two Oscars from two Tarantino films, yes, but for two very different performances and types of characters. He steals the show in Inglorious Basterds and makes some scenes captivating. With that being said… “It’s a bingo!”

9. Thomas Mitchell – Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)

Thomas Mitchell, in the role of Doctor Boone, yes, provides comic relief, but we’re always amazed at how he goes from that drunk and unintentionally funny man to that doctor who realizes he has duties and must go back to serious business. With films like Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonOnly Angel Have Wings, and, of course, Stagecoach, it goes without saying that 1939 was a prolific year for Mr. Mitchell.

8. Ben Johnson – The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

I know The Last Picture Show is considered a masterpiece, but I’m one of those rare people who had difficulty getting into it (however, I loved all the other Bogdanovich films I’ve seen so far). Still, an aspect I truly loved about it was Ben Johnson’s performances. I wished his screen time lasted longer. I remember watching the film and thinking: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had won the Oscar for that.” I had little hope that he was even nominated (because we rarely discuss his performance). And what a surprise when I learned he was nominated and won!

7. Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)

Once again, this is a film I would have liked to appreciate more than I did. It’s not good to have too high expectations. Weird confession: I didn’t really like the music. ._. Anyway, I’ll stop being negative and will move on to the good sides of it. And the main one is Robin Williams’s performance. Everybody likes Robin Williams because he’s Robin Williams, and I was expecting to enjoy the performance for that. However, it turns out that he stands out, and it’s a Robin Williams like you haven’t seen before. Too bad he never won Best Actor, but at least we have that well-deserved victory.

6. George Sanders – All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)

That’s the actor I had no idea won. And I don’t know why because it totally makes sense. Here, George Sanders is being George Sanders, and for the part of Addison Dewitt, there couldn’t have been another solution. All About Eve is a film truffled with excellent performances. Even Marilyn Monroe has her 15 seconds of glory. Addison Dewitt is one of those villains we almost root for as he’s interpreted with such perfection.

5. Peter Ustinov – Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)

I feel this is one of those Oscar wins people tend to forget. Maybe that’s because Ustinov was part of a very high-class casting (Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis). The last time I watched the film (and it was on the big screen), I realized how much he steals the show. His acting game remains very calculated (in a good way). It contrasts with the more theatrical style of other performers in that film. I dare you to watch the film again when you have three hours of free time and pay close attention to him.

4. Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988)

Like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, that is another over-the-top performance that works perfectly for its respective character. Kevin Kline is an actor we forget about, but I love discovering his films. I loved A Fish Called Wanda when I saw it, and he was a big part of that enjoyment. I’m just glad that, although he’s underrated, he got well-deserved recognition at some point in his career. (Note to self: talking about a Charles Chrichton film reminds me that I should really go back to that Ealing comedies blog series…).

3. George Kennedy – Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)

Ah… Is it possible not to like this performance? Before being Joe Patroni or Ed Hocken, George Kennedy made his proofs with memorable 60s films and an unforgettable performance in Cool Hand Luke as prisoner Clarence Slidell. His acting is effortless and authentic, but what makes it stand out is his chemistry with Paul Newman.

2. Frank Sinatra – From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Frank Sinatra film I ever watch. Because he won the Oscar, I was curious to see what he was capable of as an actor. To me, he was primarily a singer, and I wasn’t expecting much of him as an actor. I turned out to be completely wrong. And Frank Sinatra wasn’t only deserving of an Oscar for the role of Private Angelo Maggio but for many other performances. The Man with the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955) and The Manchurian Candidate  (John Frankenheimer, 1962) also come to mind. Interestingly, 1953 is one of my favourite years in terms of Best Acting wins. Yes, there was Frank Sinatra, but also Audrey Hepburn for Roman Holidays (William Wyler, 1953), William Holden for Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953) and Donna Reed for From Here to Eternity as well—all excellent performances. 












1. Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)

We’ve finally reached the big winner of this list, no other than the inimitable Grandpa Hoover! Little Miss Sunshine is my third favourite film of all time for many reasons, and Alan Arkin’s performance is one of them. He gives so much iconicity to the film, to his lines. !SPOILER!– Even when his character is dead, he steals the show! –!END OF SPOILER! “Every night, it’s the chicken!” Grandpa Hoover has enough of eating chicken every night, and Alan Arkin, with his unique delivery, makes it feel real. And that’s one of the many examples of why I love his performance so much. Despite starting a career in the 60s, Alan Arkin is one of those actors who got more recognition later in life. Little Miss Sunshine probably played a good role in that. 


And that’s that! Ok, this list could change as I have yet to see all of the performances nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It could even change after tonight, as we still don’t know who will win!

Don’t hesitate to share your personal favourites with me. It would be a pleasure to discover them.

Until then, see you!