Top 5 Supporting Actor Performances of 2015

Supporting Actor

It’s time to continue my look back at the best performances of 2015. Today we look to the men specifically actors in a supporting role. This category was stacked with deserving performances and I found it to be the toughest to narrow down. It’s filled with an amazing assortment of diverse work and a few nice surprises. No need to waste time. Here are what I believe to be the five best performances by actors in supporting roles.

#5 – Liev Schreiber (“Spotlight”)


There are so many fine performances from Spotlight’s fabulous ensemble cast. But the one that has remained with me for several reasons comes from Liev Schreiber. Perhaps a part of it is due to the surprise element. I’ve liked Schreiber in the past but this caught me off guard. But it’s more than that. He hits every note perfectly and crafts a character with more layers than you may originally think. It’s a quiet performance truly focused on serving the character and the greater story. I loved it.

#4 – Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”)


Since his big breakthrough in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” Tom Hardy’s star has only gotten brighter. 2015 was a huge year for him with “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “Legend”, and the film which earned him a spot on this list – “The Revenant”. Talk about a fierce and intense performance! Hardy has the tough and rugged part down to an art and he melds perfectly into Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dark, bleak, and blood-soaked frontier world. Hardy is a powerhouse and here he shows it.

#3 – Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”)

I say this every single time I talk about Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” – what a wonderful surprise! To go hand-in-hand with that is the supporting performance from Sylvester Stallone. Again, what a wonderful surprise. Sly shows a level of dramatic acting that we haven’t often seen from him. A lot of it is due to the richer, stronger material which allows him to take his Rocky Balboa into entirely new places. Stallone is so naturally in-tune with his character and he projects a true comfort and confidence into the material he is given. This could and should grab Sly an Oscar nomination and I wouldn’t be upset if he won.

#2 – Benicio Del Toro (“Sicario”)


I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep Benicio Del Toro out of my top spot. In fact, if you asked me again next week he could be my #1 supporting actor performance. He’s that good. Del Toro lurks in the background of Denis Villeneuve’s border thriller looking both menacing and cryptic. This is a gritty role that requires Del Toro to keep a lot of information veiled. He maneuvers through the material remaining unreadable and thoroughly captivating. Del Toro has always been a solid actor, but this is some of the best work of his career.

#1 – Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”)


The first impression Idris Elba’s performance in “Beasts of No Nation” leaves is a powerful one. But it was during a second viewing that I realized just how phenomenal he is. It’s not an easy role. It is the flashiest role in the film. After all he is a snake oil salesman feeding on the fears and untrained anger of children. He has to be bigger than life to truly be persuasive. That’s how his child army sees him. But we see the brutality and sadism behind the charisma. And later Elba brilliantly goes a bit deeper in defining his vile, morally corrupt character. It’s such a rich performance and another that features more layers than you may originally think. Also the details in Elba’s work truly stand out. In such a crowded field it’s still the performance that sticks with me the most.

We are now halfway through. Next time we will look at the Lead Actress category. So what did you think of today’s list. Please take time to share your thoughts, approvals, or disapprovals below.

42 thoughts on “Top 5 Supporting Actor Performances of 2015

    • Why thank you Cindy! I appreciate that. This one was frustrating. I couldn’t narrow down that fifth spot. I really wanted to slip in Richard Jenkins for Bone Tomahawk!

  1. I love that you gave Schreiber a shout out too. I like these performances you picked. Paul Dano and Michael Shannon are still high on my list though, Sadly I’m afraid they might not make it in the Oscar race.

    • I am so glad you mentioned those two. Both were the final cuts (along with Richard Jenkins in Bone Tomahawk). Shannon is always good. Such an underappreciated actor. He is going to get a little mention in my 2015 wrap-up.

      Dano is a very interesting case. For me he is an incredibly frustrating actor. I haven’t always liked him. But he was excellent in Love & Mercy. I really struggled though. I didn’t know if he was a lead actor or supporting actor. I mean he gets just as much screen time as John Cusack. That’s a tough one to categorize. What do you think?

  2. Ive only seen Sicario and Creed from this list, bro, but on both accounts I completely agree. I didn’t like Sicario overall. I was very disappointed in the film but Del Toro was great. As for Stallone in Creed, he was a pleasure to watch. A solid performance from him and it’s looking likely that an Oscar nom (at least) could be heading his way.

    • Oh man, you didn’t like Sicario? Just recently re-watched it and felt it held up very well a second time around. Did you do a review for it that I missed? I would like to go back and read it if you have.

      • I considered a review and couldn’t really be bothered. I might still do one but I’ll watch it again to see if my opinion changes. I was a bit underwhelmed. I kept expecting something to happen and it didn’t. To be fair, my expectations were huge beforehand. Villenueve’s Enemy was one of my favourite films last year.

      • Performances were good too. Blunt more than held her own with Brolin and Del Toro – two guys I really like. Everything was in place for it to be great but I found myself quite bored. 😦

    • I finally watched Sicario last week and have been trying to make my mind up about how I felt about it. You kind of voiced what I was probably scared to admit: I was disappointed. I liked it, but my expectations weren’t met. Like you, Enemy was one of my favourite films of 2014, if not the favourite, so I was so excited for this. You’ve spurred me on to get going on a review now that I’m a bit clearer on how I feel about it!

      • Aah! Glad to hear I’m not alone on Sicario. It wasn’t a bad film but it just didn’t deliver what I was expecting. And I think your right, I think there’s more people out there that are little scared to admit it. It’s one of those films that got so praised that it leaves some viewers feeling like they never understood it or missed something. I understood it fine. It was just boring. 😉

      • The funny thing is, my first thought after Enemy was “I have no idea what that was about…and I LOVE it!” Clearly, Sicario was lacking in giant spiders.

  3. I LOVE LOVE that you included Liev Schreiber here Keith!! I really think his character is VERY memorable despite the brief appearance in the film. LOVE Sly as well as you already know, and so bummed that Hardy wasn’t recognized at GG last weekend.

    • We definitely agree on Liev. I think he is such a wonderful surprise. I’ve always liked him but here he really stuck with me. And Sly…well, you know! 🙂

  4. Woof, what a tough category. You’ve outdone yourself though, this list is one that looks extremely similar to mine. Kudos to you for sitting through Beasts of No Nation a second time, by the way. As important as it was, I am not sure if I have the stomach to do it again . . .

    • Beasts is a real toughie. I mainly wanted to watch it again to verify my thoughts on Elba’s performance. He is insanely good and he really sticks with you. A charismatic deceiver and a vile one at that. Absolutely love that performance. But just think of others that could’ve easily fit in this category. Richard Jenkins for Bone Tomahawk. Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, Harrison Ford for Star Wars. Sooooo many!

      • Truly there are. I didn’t even notice you had excluded Mr. Rylance from your list! For shame! 😉

        My top 5 looked like this:

        1) Rylance
        2) Emory Cohen
        3) Benecio Del Toro
        4) Mark Ruffalo
        5) Jeff Daniels

      • I know, I know. I really liked Rylance. He was a highlight for me. But for whatever reason that performance hasn’t stuck with me the same way the others have. Not a knock though. I thought he was great.

        The ooooonly one you mention that I wasn’t really crazy about was Daniels. I really had a hard time buying into him. (Don’t stone me!!!)

      • No I totally hear you. It was weird for me, I almost had the exact opposite experience re: Rylance. Initially he didn’t impress me all that much, he was very quiet and it was obviously designed to be that way. But later, I kept being reminded of how much of a match he was up against Hanks. Maybe it was more his character that i liked than the performance, but either way. 😉

        As for Daniels, I understand that too. I’m not sure if for you it was a matter of his recognizability but that was the one thing that kept me at a slight distance. It was very much Jeff Daniels. But man, that guy is a good dramatic actor. Comparing that to Harry Dunne is insane

      • Soooo true! From that role to Harry Dunne is a chasm no man can cross!

        Rylance wowed me with his quietness. And his expressive face spoke volumes.

  5. Well there’s three here I haven’t seen as the films haven’t been released here yet (though Creed and The Revenant are out this weekend). Elba and del Toro would probably make my list, and I’d maybe throw James Ransone in for Tangerine, Michael Shannon for 99 Homes and Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies. I’m looking forward to seeing Stallone, Schreiber and Hardy!

    • We’ve talked about this before and I know I’m beating a dead horse, but its ridiculous that you’re just now getting Creed. The system is so messed up. It was a huge surprise. Just post a review of The Revenant. DiCaprio and Hardy are phenomenal.

      Glad we agree on Elba and Del Toro. Both performances left huge impressions on me.

  6. Great list, well argued. Sorry to say I’ve only had the chance to see one of these performances, Del Toro, but hoping to make up for it as soon as possible. A performance that really stood out to me was Emory Cohen in Brooklyn. I realise his role was a lot “fluffier” than the ones listed here, so likely won’t get any nods, but I thought he was utterly compelling. I read a review somewhere, can’t remember where now, that compared him in that performance to a young Marlon Brando which I thought was pretty spot on.

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