Top 5 Unsung Supporting Actors

Written by Jesse Gelinas May 30, 2012

The tale of the Supporting Actor is a sad one. While they may steal the scene and steal our hearts, too often they fall by the wayside, their legacy eventually lost to the pages of history. The Hero gets his thrilling conclusion, and the Heroine gets her peaceful denouement, but the Villain, the Best Friend, the Mentor, they are left to fight over who gets the “special mention for his solid performance” in the first reviews before being outshined by the Leading Man’s glory. They are forced to be the scaffolding upon which our A-listers stand so high. Here is a rundown of the top 5 under-appreciated supporting male roles in film:

NOTE: For our purposes, actors who previously won, or went on to win Oscars have been excluded.

5. Walter Sobchak (John Goodman, “The Big Lebowski”)

Walter is the only one who gives a $*#% about the rules. He is the gatekeeper to the World of Pain. He doesn’t know how exactly, but it probably has something to do with Vietnam. Is he wrong? Is he? No; he’s just an a**hole! He can also get you a toe by 3:00 pm WITH nail polish. Goodman’s finest comedic role by far is an absolute joy to watch. His delivery is perfect in every sense, and nobody plays unnecessarily enraged like he does.

Shining Moment:

4.  Fredo Corleone (John Cazale, “The Godfather 1 & 2”)

John Cazale made exactly five feature films before his early death from lung cancer. All five films were Best Picture nominees (three won). His only official recognition for his work is a Golden Globe nomination, and not even for his best role. Fredo Corleone is a character remembered best for the iconic line delivered TO him. I’ll let his performance speak for itself.

Shining Moment:

3.  Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer, “Tombstone”)

This has to go down as one of the all time greats. Kilmer’s Holliday is the heart and soul of the film and hence is given all the best lines, as well as the least ridiculous mustache. It’s tempting to compare his performance to Dennis Quaid’s in “Wyatt Earp” which came out the same year, but the truth is Kilmer is in a whole different league with this role. He’d a badass with a gun. He’s a badass at the poker table. He even manages to be a badass while the doctor tells him he’s got months to live if he gives up fighting and gambling now. Yeah right!

Shining Moment:

2.  Blacky (Lazar Ristovski, “Underground”)

Okay, this one may seem a bit out of left field, but Kusturica’s 1995 Yugoslavia picture is a masterpiece (that’s why it won the Palm d’Or, his second), and a lot of that is thanks to the man written above. His Blacky is the lovable, adulterous, alcoholic warlord/father we all relate to. From his entrance into a war he didn’t want, to his imprisonment in an underground bunker, to his inevitable rise to power, we love Blacky because he reminds us what is important in life: setting up elaborate murder plots for those who insult your suit. All brave men look like this.

Shining Moment:

1.  Stansfield (Gary Oldman, “Leon”)

The calm before the storm.

How has this man not won an Oscar yet? Oldman is one of those actors who disappears so completely into a role that I truly believe it’s why he doesn’t get more recognition; that people forget it’s him giving that powerhouse performance on the screen. In “Leon” Oldman’s Stansfield is the unbalanced, off-putting, but never un-medicated DEA agent. His presence is undeniable and he plays the role to a tee, stealing each and every scene he is in. His over the top freak outs only enhance his quiet subtleties in other scenes and make him a truly terrifying villain.

Shining Moment:




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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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