When making a movie, casting is an important process. Finding the right person for the job can often make or break the film. Most people would agree that finding the right lead actor is the main focus here, and most of the time they would be right.
However, sometimes the supporting actor manages to take the limelight in the end. Have you ever been watching a movie where you found yourself more intrigued with the performance of the supporting actor? Hoping that side character will get more screen-time; surely, we all have at one time or another. Although this is rare, it might happen more often than you would expect.
So we decided to put together a list of 10 supporting actors who overshadowed the lead roles in a film. It’s not every day that these supporting actors are recognized for their outstanding performances, so let’s find out which famous stars made the list.
10. Jonah Hill – Money Ball
Based off real events, this film follows the story of both Billy Beane and Peter Brand, as they attempt to build a baseball team out of overlooked talent using a rather unconventional method involving sabermetrics. The movie stars both Brad Pitt as the lead and Jonah Hill as the supporting actor. Although both actors gave us great performances, Hill shocked audiences everywhere with his departure from the typical funny guy routine in this 2011 sports drama. Hill’s performance as Peter Brand was a striking example of what this actor is capable of. But let’s not forget to give Pitt some credit here, as he surely advised Hill along the way, teaching him what he’s learned about the art of acting over the years.
9. Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brothers blew everyone away with their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men. This 2007 western thriller ended up winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and of course, Best Supporting Actor. It’s no secret that the Coens have always had a knack for casting the right actors for their films, but we’re not sure if they even expected such a haunting performance from actor Javier Bardem. Even with his 1950s schoolgirl haircut, Bardem still managed to strike fear into the audience. His character’s calm yet deranged personality kept the tension high throughout the entire film. It was hard to picture Bardem as his regular smiley self after watching him carry around a cattle gun for two hours.
8. Harrison Ford – Star Wars
With the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there’s no excuse for not recognizing the name Han Solo. Even before the latest installment of Star Wars, Solo was one of cinemas most famous characters. With his brash personality, witty sense of humor and aptitude for the glory of battle this character was guaranteed to be loved by fans. Although much of this character’s success is due to the imagination of George Lucas, Harrison Ford was the perfect fit. Not only did he out act the lead Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker, but he pretty much out acted everybody else on set. Its impossible to picture anyone other than Ford play Han Solo, it’s almost as if he was born to play the part.
7. Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting
The late, great Robin Williams took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sean Maguire in this 1997 drama. Williams played the role of a therapist who is given the challenge of helping the rather stubborn Will Hunting played by Matt Damon. The film revolves around the relationship between the two actors, who both gave great performances. Now, when you think Williams you think comedy right? Most people do, but Williams gave a phenomenal heartfelt performance, which probably brought on more tears than laughter. Though there are times when Williams’ funny side breaks through, his character takes on more of a serious tone throughout the film.
6. J. K. Simmons – Whiplash
This independent drama film about an ambitious jazz student made quite the bang at the 2014 Academy Awards. The film tells the story of a young jazz student and his teacher; who has rather questionable teaching methods. J. K. Simmons plays the part of the ruthless yet passionate jazz teacher, whose performance is anything but tamed. From the beginning of the film to the end you will love, hate and applaud his character. Though some people won’t be able to see past the cruelty of his teaching methods in the film, this line from Simmons should sum it up: “I don’t think people understood what it was I was doing at Shaffer. I wasn’t there to conduct. Any f***ing moron can wave his arms and keep people in tempo. I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that is… an absolute necessity. Otherwise, we’re depriving the world of the next Louis Armstrong.” Simmons ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
5. Kathy Bates – Misery
Yes, we realize Kathy Bates was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in this movie, but the main character is played by James Caan and if Bates’ character was a man she would have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, so in turn we decided to credit her phenomenal yet haunting performance anyway. Bates truly grasped the character Stephen King invented for this trilling tale of a writer being held captive by an overly obsessive fan who is also a sociopath. Her performance was both haunting and unpredictable, as she switched between being the sweet motherly nurse and the fearful ankle-crushing abductor. After watching Misery it will be hard to see Bates in the same way, due to her shockingly convincing portrayal of Annie Wilkes.
4. Anthony Hopkins – Silence of the Lambs
Since we’re on the subject of horror and thriller movies, let’s not leave out another terrifying villain who stole the show – Hannibal Lecter. Yes, once again we know Anthony Hopkins won the Academy Award for Best Actor, but let’s be honest here; he was only in the movie for a total of 16 minutes. We’re not saying he doesn’t deserve an award for his remarkable performance, we’re just saying it should have been for Best Supporting Actor. Nevertheless, Hopkins performance is equally terrifying as it is brilliant, as he gives a flesh eating psychopath a sense of grace which leaves you perplexed. You feel both afraid and intrigued by the character, which is a pretty hard feat to pull off when you’re playing the role of a serial killer.
3. Joe Pesci – Goodfellas
Before we get to everybody’s favorite hotheaded gangster, let’s address a little something involving Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas. This movie was nominated for Best Picture along with Dances with Wolves, Awakenings, Ghost, and the embarrassing attempt of what could have been an amazing trilogy in The Godfather Part III. Goodfellas hands down right? Wrong. For some blasphemous reason, Dances with Wolves won. Now, as disappointing as this may be, at least Pesci went home with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His performance as Tommy DeVito is by far his most memorable role, and surely had fans smiling the entire time. He’s funny, he’s crazy and relatable to some degree; it’s impossible to picture any other actor playing this part. Ray Liotta also gave us a great performance, but when you think back to your favorite scenes from the movie (“What do you mean I’m funny?”) it’s most likely Pesci’s voice you hear, not Liotta’s.
2. Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds
Thanks to Quentin Tarantino, Waltz’s superb acting talent made it to the big screen. Before Inglourious Basterds, Waltz was more of a stage actor; he also played in a German television production titled Wenn man sich traut. However, when the genius mind of Tarantino witnessed his talents he quickly picked him up and made him the star we all know and love today. In Inglourious Basterds he plays the infamous SS-Standartenführer Hans Landa, otherwise known as “The Jew Hunter.” His portrayal of this character is truly exceptional; he manages to be cunning, calculated, egotistical, murderous, and funny all at the same time, and you still can’t help but love his character. Waltz deservingly went home with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that year.
1. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
You probably saw this one coming, but to be fair Ledger blew everybody away with his adaptation of the Joker. He may have delved into the role a little too deep for his own good, however the performance we got in return far surpassed everyone’s expectations. Ledger managed to reinvent the Joker, which was an ambitious decision without a doubt; however, it seemed to work out pretty damn well in the end. Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker took on a much darker approach compared to any of the other films before it. His Joker felt more sinister and calculated, he didn’t fall back on the giggly wide eyed grinning character everybody’s use to. There were countless memorable scenes with Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, and for the villain to steal the show away from not only the lead character, but from the iconic superhero the movies is based on just goes to show how great of a job he did. Unfortunately, we won’t ever get to see Ledger’s Joker return, but on a good note he ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.