The Top 5 Performances of 2013 – Supporting Actress

A light painting of the year 2013 written against a black background

I love this time of year. It’s when we look back at the movie year that was. In addition to my Top Films of 2013 list I like to break down the four major acting categories and list my five favorite performances of the year for each. And we start today with the ladies. I’m looking at the five phenomenal performances by actresses in a supporting role that really blew me away. There were many this year but these are the ones that top my list:

#5 – Elizabeth Debicki – “The Great Gatsby”

A GatsbyTalk about a movie that drew a mixed reaction! Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” was a fever dream built around some great source material and some good performances. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the performance from Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki. She played Jordan Baker, a beautiful yet mysterious woman whose playfulness is only trumped by her conceit. Much like the Nick character, I was fascinated with Debicki’s portrayal of Jordan. Unfortunately the script shortchanges the character a bit and Debicki isn’t given enough screen time. Personally I found her performance to be magnetic.

#4 – Allison Janney – “The Way, Way Back”


It’s funny, this is a performance that I liked a great deal after first seeing it but probably not enough to include it on a prestigious list like this. Yet over time Allison Janney’s work in “The Way, Way Back” has stuck with me. It’s definitely the wackiest performance on my list but it really is brilliant work. Janney plays a kooky, hard-drinking woman who will never win ‘Mother of the Year’. She has a number of funny lines but she never falls into a caricature. In fact there is a warmth to her despite her self-destructive malfunction and we see that because of Janney’s performance. It’s a role that could have went terribly wrong but Janney doesn’t allow that to happen.

#3 – Emily Watson – “The Book Thief”

_MG_9531March 11, 2013.cr2

I am a huge fan of “The Book Thief” and a big reason for that lies in the performances. From top to bottom the film’s cast is exceptional. Emily Watson plays a strict foster mother who at times comes across as detestable. But surprisingly the character has more depth than we first think and Watson’s shining performance brings her complexities to the surface. It’s not a showy or flashy performance that will naturally draw awards, but I believe she is a big part of one of the film’s key emotional threads. It’s great work from a wonderful actress who rarely gets her due.

#2 – Vera Farmiga – “The Conjuring”


This may be a small cheat. It could be argued that Farmiga is the lead in James Wan’s surprisingly good horror film “The Conjuring”. I think she could be considered either way so for my benefit I’m putting her here. Farmiga is a wonderful actress and this performance is no exception. There is an natural feel to her work in the film that mainly flows from the 100% commitment she gives to the material. As with many good characters, there is a complexity that draws our interest but it’s sometimes the performance that sparks that. Such was the case here. Farmiga had me from her first scene and I was connected all the way through.

#1 – Lupita Nyong’o – “12 Years a Slave”

A 12 years

I realize that this may be the obvious or popular pick but that doesn’t bother me. It’s also the right pick for me. I thought the performance from Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o was one of the most piercing things I saw in 2013. It’s a performance that comes across as raw and gushing with emotional power. But that is exactly what the character needed. It’s impossible not to be drawn to her and there are a number of her scenes that will stick in the back of your mind well after the movie is done. I fully expect Nyong’o to get an Oscar nomination and it would be well deserved. In fact, I say give her the statue. It was certainly my favorite supporting actress work of the year.

Thanks for reading. The supporting actors are next. What did you think of this list? Please take time to share your thoughts or your picks in the comments section below.

31 thoughts on “The Top 5 Performances of 2013 – Supporting Actress

  1. I have a (mostly) different list, but all of the actors you name are very good. This year was so amazing from an actor’s perspective. So many award-worthy performances that it’s hard to object to pretty much any selection for lists like these. 🙂

      • I didn’t make one last year (because I wasn’t blogging yet), but I can imagine. This year has more brilliant performances, more brilliant movies, more all around awesome filmmaking than last.

        Honestly, I think it possible only one 2012 movie (Silver Linings Playbook) would have received an A grade from me (of the 90 some flicks I saw).

        (That isn’t to say I don’t think there were some awesome films last year. Just that I think everything was flawed, not great.)

      • I thought last year was decent. Not as strong for sure.

        Funny you mentioned “Silver Linings”. I was one of the few who saw it as flawed. Good movie but not my favorite for sure.

  2. Good choices Keith, James makes a good point. 2013 was a great year from a performance standpoint. Lupita Nyong’o I think is a safe lock for the win, and like you, I think it is well deserved. She was the most heartbreaking character of my movie-watching year.

    Very hard to compile these particular lists, I applaud you on all great choices!

  3. It certainly look like nyong’o has a fantastic shout for the award. Just seen the film last night and the whole cast were superb. Great to see Allison Janney get some love, though. That was the most fun from any actress this year.

    • I had high hope for Nyong’o but after last night’s Golden Globes I’m not so sure. She really is great and she offers two of the film’s most heartbreaking scenes.

  4. Awesome picks!! As you know, I was pulling for Nyong’O to win last night. Glad to see Elizabeth Debicki and Emily Watson here, both are grossly overlooked but both were excellent in their supporting roles. Curious to see what Debicki does next, seems like everyone was fawning over the other Aussie newcomer Margot Robbie this year that they forgot about Debicki!

    As for Janey, I can’t wait to see The Way, Way Back. I was planning to see it on Sat night but we got home too late from dinner w/ friends. Hopefully we’ll catch it this weekend.

    • Thanks Ruth! Always appreciate your comments. I think a lot of people just forgot about Debicki. Or it may be that she got lost in the debate over the film itself. As I mentioned, I found her to be magnetic.

      I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on “The Way Way Back”. I’m hoping you’ll be writing up a review for it. (Hint, Hint) 🙂

      • It’s too bad as I definitely remember her from Gatsby. I guess Robbie’s role was far more uhm, revealing, and naturally those sorts of roles are what people remember most.

        Ahah, I hope I’ll get around to it Keith. I still have to write a bunch of films I saw on press screenings the past 2 months. Still finalizing my 12 Years a Slave one 😉

  5. Awesome to see Vera here, he is in my leading actress category. I’m not a big fan of Lupita’s work but I’m rooting for her to get an Oscar, anyone but Lawrence.

    • I loved Farmiga. It’s a performance that will never get any kind of awards respect but I thought she was fabulous. I pretty much to loved Nyong’o. She really did blow me away.

  6. Lupita Nyong’o was incredible in 12 Years A Slave and would be my number one pick as well. I also love Amy Adams in her and Cary Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis (though the latter has a small role). Nice list.

    • I’m with you. Nyong’o was spectacular. I liked Mulligan but I really felt her character was shortchanged. She is so harsh and brash but right when we get hints of another side to her and more depth she vanishes. But that’s no fault of Mulligan’s.

    • Hey thanks a lot. I appreciate you reading and commenting. I’m with you, it’s such a great movie and it completely caught me off guard. Smart, funny, and features some great performances.

  7. Pingback: Movie Review – Conjuring 2, The

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