Best of 2016 – Supporting Actor


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 several days I’ll be highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. Today we look at Supporting Actors. It was incredibly hard to whittle down, but these are my five picks.

#5 – Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”)


Talk about an actor with an incredible knack for stealing scenes. Michael Shannon is often the most captivating character on the screen. You could say the real-life Shannon is a touch unhinged – a quality that feeds into many of his fascinating characters. It’s certainly true for “Nocturnal Animals”. He hits every batty, off-beat note and as he often does, he steals every scene he shares.

#4 – Tom Bennett (“Love & Friendship”)


I literally can’t think about Tom Bennett’s performance in Whit Stillman’s brilliant “Love & Friendship” without laughing. Bennett’s lovable goofball offers up the film’s broadest comedy, but he also gives us some of the funniest scenes of the year. His bits on English peas and “Church-Hill” are pure comedy gold. It’s a lighter role than others, but no less impressive.

#3 – Kevin Costner (“Hidden Figures”)


And to think until I saw it I had no idea Kevin Costner was in “Hidden Figures”. Costner has long been a favorite of mine, an actor as reliable as they come. Here he brings a steady and obvious assurance to his role. His performance resembles a classic form of acting, not showy, but one that allows his veteran acting chops to do the heavy lifting. He was a highlight in a film filled with great performances.

#2 – Hugo Weaving (“Hacksaw Ridge”)


I’ve been surprised at how few people have talked about Hugo Weaving’s piercing performance in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge”. The very few comments I’ve read have been mixed, but I feel Weaving is both brutal and devastating as a father dealing with a truckload of emotional baggage. It’s deeply moving and reveals a side of Weaving I wasn’t expecting.

#1 – Dev Patel (“Lion”)


Here is an actor I’ve always enjoyed but who is rarely (if ever) considered a “leading man”. In “Lion” his performance is hard to categorize. It is a supporting role, but he is very much the lead in the film’s second half. He’s also a significant reason the movie has such an emotional pull. Patel takes his character through inner turmoil and conflict while never hitting a false note. It’s a captivating performance, and it’s good to see him getting awards season attention.

So there are my favorite supporting actor turns of 2016. We will look at the leads in the next few days. What do you think of these picks? What would have made your list? Let me hear it in the comments section below.

40 thoughts on “Best of 2016 – Supporting Actor

    • I just couldn’t leave off Bennett. The more I narrowed this list down the more I realized how great he is in L&F. I’ll never think of peas the same way.

    • Woo Hoo! Great to hear more appreciation for these picks. Sadly only one will probably be nominated (outside chance for Shannon but I doubt it). There are several other good ones just barely off this list.

  1. A couple of surprises make the cut. One is a performance from that Love & Friendship that I never saw, didn’t think much of it when it came out but it’s been making the rounds on a lot of people’s year-end list. The other is not so much the actor but the category. I view Dev Patel”s performance as lead. Because if he’s a supporting role then the child actor who portrays him as a youngster must also be a supporter so then who is the lead? Lol. It’s an excellent choice either way. He was brilliant in Lion.

    Curious, is he campaigning for supporting actor? I haven’t been paying much attention to the official ballots.

    • And also, awesome call on Hugo Weaving as well. Way overlooked, by me as well. He didn’t make my list and he absolutely should have.

      • Wasn’t he great? Man, I found every scene he was in to be absolutely riveting. A lot of layers to that character as well. Weaving obviously had The Matrix and LotR, but outside of that has he done a heavy dramatic role like this before? I’m shooting a blank.

      • V for Vendetta would be the only other thing I could point to. But to you are so right, this was a chance to see a different side of an already chameleon-like actor. I always wonder what the guys gonna do next!

    • Patel is a toughie. I originally had him on my Lead Actor shortlist. But I try to stick with how the majority of the awards circuits are going. The vast majority have him in the supporting category. I think he will get an Oscar nomination in that category too. Not 100% sure about calling him a supporting actor either.

  2. I loved Michael and Dev’s performances. I haven’t seen the others.

    “Patel is a toughie. I originally had him on my Lead Actor shortlist. But I try to stick with how the majority of the awards circuits are going. The vast majority have him in the supporting category.”
    I guess that’s a fair way to filter the lists. And I get the logic the award voters are using. Dev only appears in the 2nd half, which still has some flashbacks to when he was a kid, which means that Sunny Pawar probably has more screentime. However, to me that means that they’re co-leads, instead of either of them being supporting.

    • You’re probably right. It’s really difficult looking at Patel as a supporting actor in Lion. As you said, I get the logic. But everything in the first half leads to Dev and the new journey he takes. I don’t know.

  3. So much yes for Michael Shannon! He and Ben Foster in Hell or High Water gave my favorite supporting performances. I really hope to see Lion soon. I love Dev Patel.

  4. So far I’ve only seen Bennett, but I ADORED HIM so I’m so happy he makes your lineup. Personally, my lineup looks like:

    5) Peter Mullan in Sunset Song
    4) Russell Crowe in Fathers and Daughters
    3) Tom Bennett in Love & Friendship
    2) Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar!
    1) Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man

    • Oh man, I hated leaving off Ehrenreich. He’s so, so good. As for Bennett, absolutely hysterical. It was one of those performances that had me constantly looking for the character to pop up again.

  5. Fine list, Keith! Especially love seeing Shannon and Weaving get mentions. I loved Shannon in Nocturnal Animals, particularly. I’ll always remember how he was able to steal a scene just by coughing. I would also include Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, and Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water!

  6. Again, I haven’t seen any of these yet, man. I’m waaaay behind on my recent films of late. Still, I’ve been really eager to catch Nocturnal Animals and Hacksaw Ridge. I might give Lion a good too but Hidden Figures and Lovr and Friendship haven’t really caught my eye.

  7. I really need to catch up on some 2016 releases, I actually haven’t caught any of the films you’ve mentioned above. Off the top of my head, I’d add Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin from Green Room as well as Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar! All such great performances that are likely going to be ignored by most awards organizations.

  8. Shannon is my current win, I don’t think I would even manage to finish this movie without his great performance. Costner was incredible it just pisses me off so few people are appreciating his work there – he plays the good guy that the movie of this kind needs – like Cranston in Argo or Ed Harris in Apollo 13 – the hero who kinda stands in the background, isn’t the main character but is a good, noble character who supports the protagonist. I love performances like this and these are usually so sweet and honest and he was just that

    • Thank you!!! So glad to hear someone else appreciated Costner’s work. I absolutely loved him. Very good character but not one that hogged the spotlight. Costner is so good and hasn’t missed a step.

  9. I’ve only seen Hidden Figures. I thought Costner was really good. This post does make me really curious to see Lion, though. I’ve considered Dev Patel to be likable, but nothing more than that. He just seems to lack substance as an actor, at least in the things in which I’ve seen him.

    • I think you’re right on Patel. Lion moves him out of that category and into a much more impressive leading man spot. I really hope this opens up some doors for him.

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