The Best Supporting Actress Oscar winners of the 1980s include both well-known leading ladies and beloved veteran actresses. The decade saw stars like Jessica Lange, Geena Davis and Anjelica Huston earn their Oscars, joining Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest, Linda Hunt, Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker, who have all had solid careers since their wins. The decade also has two winning actresses that have since died, Maureen Stapleton and Peggy Ashcroft, though their performances will not be forgotten.
Who is your favorite Best Supporting Actress winner of the 1980s? Look back on each and vote in our poll below.
Mary Steenburgen, “Melvin and Howard” (1980) — The decade started off with Steenburgen winning her Oscar for “Melvin and Howard,” about Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat), who claimed to be the heir of Howard Hughes‘ fortune. Steenburgen plays Lynda, Melvin’s wife who takes up stripping and is frustrated by Melvin’s behavior. This remains Steenburgen’s only win and nomination at the Oscars.
Maureen Stapleton, “Reds” (1981) — Stapleton earned her Oscar by playing anarchist icon Emma Goldman in “Reds,” who meets journalist Jack Reed (Warren Beatty) in Greenwich Village. This was Stapleton’s fourth nomination and only win, with previous Best Supporting Actress nominations for “Lonelyhearts” (1958), “Airport” (1970) and “Interiors” (1978).
Jessica Lange, “Tootsie” (1982) — Lange’s Oscar-winning role in “Tootsie” helped launch her decades-long career. In the film she plays Julie Nichols, a down-on-her-luck soap opera star who develops an intimate connection with Dustin Hoffman‘s crossdressing Michael/Dorothy. Lange would win an Oscar in Best Actress for “Blue Sky” (1994) and she has been nominated for four other films, including “Frances” (also 1982), “Country” (1984), “Sweet Dreams” (1985) and “Music Box” (1989).
Linda Hunt, “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1983) — Hunt became the first actor to win an Oscar for playing a member of the opposite sex, with “The Year of Living Dangerously.” The actress plays Billy Kwan, a Chinese-Australian dwarf with political connections who helps journalist Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson). This remains Hunt’s only nomination and win at the Oscars.
Peggy Ashcroft, “A Passage to India” (1984) — Ashcroft, whose career dates back to the ’30s, finally got the attention of Oscar thanks to “A Passage to India.” In the film she plays Mrs. Moore, who joins her son’s fiancée on a trip to India and is shocked by the strained relations between the British and Indians. She is the oldest Best Supporting Actress winner in Academy Awards history, at 77. This was Ashcroft’s one and only nomination at the Oscars.
Anjelica Huston, “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985) — Huston took home her Oscar for “Prizzi’s Honor” in which she plays Maerose, exiled daughter of a crime family who has feelings for one of their hitmen. Huston would receive two subsequent Oscar nominations, for “Enemies: A Love Story” (1989) and “The Grifters” (1990).
Dianne Wiest, “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) — Wiest won the first of two Oscars for “Hannah and Her Sisters.” The actress plays Holly, a former drug addict hopping from job to job and borrowing money from her sister. Wiest’s second Oscar was for another Woody Allen movie, “Bullets over Broadway” (1994), and she earned another nomination for “Parenthood” (1989). She also won an Emmy in 2008 for playing therapist Gina in “In Treatment.”
Olympia Dukakis, “Moonstruck” (1987) — Dukakis managed to steal the show from an icon like Cher in the romcom “Moonstruck.” Dukakis plays Rose Castorini, a weary New York Italian American grappling with her cheating husband and longing to know why men chase women. This was Dukakis’ only Oscar nomination and win.
Geena Davis, “The Accidental Tourist” (1988) — Davis earned her Oscar for “The Accidental Tourist” where she plays Muriel, a spunky dog trainer who falls in love with a depressed travel writer. Davis earned a nomination in Best Actress three years later for “Thelma & Louise” (1991).
Brenda Fricker, “My Left Foot” (1989) — The ’80s closed out with Fricker winning for “My Left Foot.” Fricker plays Bridget Fagan Brown, the tough, religious mother of Christy Brown (Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis), a man with cerebral palsy. “My Left Foot” was Fricker’s only Oscar nomination and win.