Some lead actresses are made better because of the women who support them. Other supporting roles stand out on their own, separate from whoever earns top billing. Either way, here are 10 supporting actresses who should have been nominated alongside the Oscar nominated leads for their films.
Nominated lead: Ingrid Bergman (lost to Jane Fonda, Coming Home)
Ingrid Bergman’s breathtaking turn in Autumn Sonata works so well much in part to Liv Ullmann’s devastating performance. And visa versa. To praise one is to praise the other.
Kelly McGillis – The Accused (1988)
Nominated lead: Jodie Foster (won)
McGillis is the welcome voice of reason for Foster’s vengeful rape victim in The Accused. It isn’t nearly as flashy a role as Foster’s, but an it’s essential one all the same.
Jennifer Connelly – Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Nominated lead: Ellen Burstyn (lost to Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich)
Burstyn and Connelly don’t share a single scene in Requiem for a Dream, but that’s no excuse for Connelly’s baffling exclusion in this category. Sure, the Academy made up for it next year, when they awarded Connelly for her work in A Beautiful Mind, but her role in Requiem is nothing short of gut wrenching.
Patricia Clarkson – Far From Heaven (2002)
Nominated lead: Julianne Moore (lost to Nicole Kidman, The Hours)
Clarkson’s eventual disdain for Moore’s actions in Far From Heaven made for some of the film’s most compelling moments. Clarkson was vital at propelling Moore’s guilt.
Christina Ricci – Monster (2003)
Nominated lead: Charlize Theron (won)
When I got the idea for this list, Christina Ricci’s role in Monster was the first performance I jotted down. Like Ullmann and Bergman in Autumn Sonata, to praise Theron’s startling work in Monster is to credit Ricci’s distressing portrayal of innocence lost.
Melissa Leo – 21 Grams (2003)
Nominated lead: Naomi Watts (lost to Charlize Theron, Monster)
Watts and Leo never meet in the fractured world of 21 Grams, but their actions affect each other’s characters irreversibly. I’m so taken with Leo’s desperation in this movie. She wants nothing more than her troubled husband to get his life back in order, when he most surely will not.
Emily Blunt – The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Nominated lead: Meryl Streep (lost to Helen Mirren, The Queen)
Meryl Streep was good as a spiteful fashion magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada, but she was far from the standout. That honor would go to Blunt’s turn as an impressively bitchy assistant. She’s all anyone could talk about when the credits rolled.
Rosemarie DeWitt – Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Nominated lead: Anne Hathaway (lost to Kate Winslet, The Reader)
Perhaps my favorite performance on this list, Rosemarie DeWitt was a quiet, angry revelation in Rachel Getting Married. As the neglected older sister to Anne Hathaway’s drug addict character, DeWitt more than deserved to have a seat as a nominee come Oscar night. Hell, in my opinion, she deserved to win.
Mila Kunis – Black Swan (2010)
Nominated lead: Natalie Portman (won)
As the devious swan who brings out the worst in Natalie Portman’s impossibly innocent Nina, Mila Kunis floored me in this film. I was aware that she could use her sexuality to her advantage, but I never knew it could be so deadly.
Isabelle Huppert – Amour (2012)
Nominated lead: Emmanuelle Riva (lost to Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook)
Most of Huppert’s scenes in Amour are with her on screen father, Jean-Louis Trintignant, but their verbal battles proved to be some of the most riveting moments in this ceaselessly riveting film.