The Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor has been very competitive over the last decade, with the award going to some of the strongest film performances in modern history. But with the decade almost over, who do you regard as the best supporting actor of the 2010s? (For a refresher of all the past winners, click through our extensive Best Supporting Actor photo gallery above.)
One theme present throughout the Supporting Actor winners is overdue factor. Actors like Christian Bale, J.K. Simmons and Mark Rylance all prevailed after years of impressive work but no Oscar recognition. The ultimate definition of overdue was Christopher Plummer, who finally took home an Oscar after being in Hollywood since the 1950s. Other winners included Jared Leto and Mahershala Ali, who, like Plummer, each won for sympathetic performances in LGBT-themed films. Finally, on the other side of the fence there’s Christoph Waltz, who earned his second Oscar in four years, in another Quentin Tarantino film.
So who do you consider the greatest Best Supporting Actor winner of the 2010s? Take a look back at each of their performances, and then be sure to vote in our poll below.
Christian Bale — “The Fighter” (2010)
In “The Fighter” Bale went full method acting to play Dicky Eklund, a boxer-turned-trainer with a drug addiction. He lost several pounds for the role and learned Dicky’s Boston accent and all of his unique mannerisms, transforming himself completely in the process. Bale has since earned two additional Oscar nominations, for 2013’s “American Hustle” and 2015’s “The Big Short.”
Christopher Plummer — “Beginners” (2011)
At the age of 82, Plummer became the oldest actor to win a competitive Oscar in history, finally getting his due after almost six decades in showbiz. His performance in “Beginners” is one of his most poignant creations, playing an elderly man who comes out as gay to his son and finds new vigor for life. Plummer swept the precursors despite being the only nomination for “Beginners” at the major award shows, an impressive feat.
Christoph Waltz — “Django Unchained” (2012)
With his win for “Django Unchained,” Waltz became part of an elite club of actors to win two Oscars, and even more amazing, he did so just three years after winning for “Inglourious Basterds” (2009). While King Schultz in “Django” has an eccentric personality similar to “Basterds’” Hans Landa, he crafts a more sympathetic character here, and his charisma sparkles off the screen. Waltz defeated four other previous Oscar winners in 2012.
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013)
Leto is another actor who completely transformed himself for a role, playing HIV-afflicted transgender woman Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Beyond the impressive physical aspect, though, Leto’s performance is tender, thoughtful and quietly defiant, rather than hammy or campy. Leto swept most of the Supporting Actor precursors alongside co-star and leading man Matthew McConaughey.
J.K. Simmons — “Whiplash” (2014)
Simmons found the most iconic role of his career with Terence Fletcher, a jazz instructor with brutal tendencies in “Whiplash.” Simmons is magnetic as he pushes Andrew (Miles Teller) and the rest of his students to new heights, demanding perfection or else righteous anger. The veteran actor completely dominated award season, not only with the major precursors but most of the critics groups.
Mark Rylance — “Bridge of Spies” (2015)
Rylance’s win for “Bridge of Spies” was a bit of a surprise to some, defeating presumptive favorite Sylvester Stallone in “Creed,” but it is hard to argue with the Academy’s decision. His performance may be understated, but he imbues his character, Rudolf Abel, with a lived-in warmth in a chilly film. Rylance prevailed with BAFTA being his only major precursor win, which makes his Oscar victory all the more surprising.
Mahershala Ali — “Moonlight” (2016)
Our most recent Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor is Ali, who, like Rylance, delivers a naturalistic performance in “Moonlight.” As drug dealer Juan, mentor and father figure to young Chiron, Ali is patient and visibly empathetic. He is in only the first third of “Moonlight” but he creates such a significant figure of ideal masculinity to Chiron that his presence looms over the rest of the film.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.