Top 5 Supporting Actress Performances of 2015

Supporting Actress

Each year I set aside time to examine and spotlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and for the next few days I’ll be highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. Today the ladies get to go first and we will look at Supporting Actresses. This was a toughie. So many names came to mind and limiting it to five was no easy chore. But such is the nature of these things so here we go – the Best Supporting Actress Performances of 2015:

 #5 – Zoe Saldana (“Infinitely Polar Bear”)


Compared to Mark Ruffalo’s attention-getting lead, Zoe Saldana has a pretty thankless role. But in “Infinitely Polar Bear” it’s also a pivotal role that Saldana handles with such sincerity and emotional detail. She delivers an impressively earnest performance which revealed a skillful dramatic precision I never knew she had. For me this was a true eye-opening performance from 2015.

#4 –  Nina Kunzendorf (“Phoenix”)

“Phoenix” was one of the more haunting films of 2015. A key reason for its success lies with its trio of performances including that of Nina Kunzendorf. She gives a quiet yet powerful performance playing a woman scarred by her Holocaust experience and frustrated by the willingness of others to so quickly forgive. In a way she is the conscious of the film as well as the voice of reason. But Kunzendorf never lets us forget the pain her character is trying to suppress.

#3 – Elizabeth Banks (“Love & Mercy”)


There were a handful of biopics to come out in 2015. One of the better ones was Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy”, the story of Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson that was completely against the normal biopic formula. Elizabeth Banks plays a woman who has developed a relationship with Wilson and played an important part in getting his life on track. Banks is great and she gives us a clear outside perspective on Wilson’s troubling circumstances.

#2 – Joan Allen (“Room”)


Unquestionably one of my favorite supporting performances came from Joan Allen in the powerfully moving “Room”. Allen plays a mother juggling so many heavy emotions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say she has battled guilt and grief for seven years. Those feelings and emotions take an unexpected turn and are mixed with several others as the film goes along and Allen has no trouble conveying them to us in the most genuine way. It’s a fabulously complex performance.

#1 – Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation”)

Some may scoff at this pick being tops on my list because “Mission: Impossible” isn’t the normal Awards-type picture. Too bad. Rebecca Ferguson was one of the great surprises in 2015. She was a showstealer and gave us a mysterious female character every part equal to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Ferguson has a strong grasp on her role and plays it confidently and fearlessly. It’s such a great performance and it’s hard to imagine her career not getting a boost after such strong work.

So what did you think of the list? Please take time to share your thoughts and look out for the next category coming soon.

33 thoughts on “Top 5 Supporting Actress Performances of 2015

    • Wasn’t she great? I loved the character and I absolutely loved what Ferguson brought to it. I also love where the Mission Impossible franchise is right now.

  1. An inspired list buddy. I think of my list that I made, we only share Elizabeth Banks in common. Proof that this year indeed offered many great supporting female roles. Really want to see Phoenix, have heard next to nothing about it besides your review on it. I think you gave it close to a perfect score, right?

    • I sure did Tom. It was in my Top 10. A really unusual and preposterous concept. But the story is captivating. And fabulous performances of course. By the way it is on Netflix!

  2. WAHOO! Nice to see Rebecca Ferguson on here Keith, I have such a girl crush on her in MI5. I hope to see more of her in Hollywood, hopefully in leading roles. I really like Nina Kunzendorf in PHOENIX though I feel like her character wasn’t explained very well. Still need to see Infinitely Polar Bear and Love & Mercy but I like both of those actresses.

    • To be perfectly honest I would have liked to have seen more of Kunzendorf’s character. But there is such an overwhelming sadness to everything she does. Even when helping the main character. The performance really brings that out. I’m so glad you have seen that movie. More people need to.

    • That’s completely fair. Nina had a much smaller role but I thought it was incredibly rich. In every conversation you can sense the pain of this woman. And she is clearly bothered by the acceptance of things and the willingness of others to forgive. She is a very burdened woman and I think Nina sells it beautifully. As I admitted to someone else, I do wish she had more screen time though.

    • Wasn’t she great? It’s a small role but I found her to be a fascinating character. Really glad to hear that she stood out to someone else besides me.

    • WHAAAT??? You haven’t seen “Rogue Nation”? You really need to see it. It is a blockbuster installment that really puts that series in a great place, an obviously I think Ferguson is lights out! See it, see it, see it Brittani!

    • I agree. And notice how the movie doesn’t ruin her by forcing cliches and a dopey romance angle on us. Just a well written and a VERY well acted character IMO.

  3. Charlize Theron in Mad Max and Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina are main female characters, right? I would choose both of them if they’re not… Otherwise: Kate Winslet from Steve Jobs, Rose Byrne from Spy… I saw Birdman last year only, so Emma Stone, same goes for Keira Knightley and The Imitation Game and yeah, I agree, Rebecca Ferguson.

    • Several good choices. Personally I do think Charlize Theron is a lead performance. You know this category it was really difficult. I have said elsewhere that this was the year for women. So many fantastic female performances.

      • True. And I’ve been doing my Oscar nomination predictions and both of the supporting categories are the worst ones in a sense that I still have double amount of deserving contenders…

  4. Very interesting list. Love your number one. Interestingly, my number one is in another spy movie:

    1. Rose Byrne in Spy
    2. Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina
    3. Jennifer Jason Leigh in Anomalisa
    4. Rachel McAdams in Spotlight
    5. Tessa Thompson in Creed

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