Ranked!: Best “Scene Stealing” Supporting Characters (Movie Edition)

Everyone has seen a movie and remarked in some way, shape, or form something like this: “Yo, did you see **Insert Movie Here**?  Good flick, **Insert Main Actor or Actress Name Here** was good, but dude!  **Insert Supporting Actor or Actress Name Here** was straight fire!” Now, while most of us don’t talk like 15 year olds, the sentiment remains the same.  Scene Stealers, yo.  That’s what we’re talking about today!

This was a tough list for me to compile, namely because there are many deserving actors and actresses who should be on such a list.  But remember 2 things…

  • I very much created this list off of the top of my head in roughly 15 minutes.  I’m SURE I forgot some killer performances, so please remind me of these roles in the comment section below.
  • I only chose from movies I had actually seen, therefore witnessing said masterful performance for myself.  If you think to yourself, “What a moron, he doesn’t have **insert performance here**!” there’s a very good chance I haven’t actually seen that movie, only heard secondhand of the brilliance displayed.  Or I’m just a moron.  Also I’m done using —> ** <— these things in this article.  You’re welcome.

Top 10 Scene Stealing Performances! (Movie Edition)

Honorable Mentions!

  • Val Kilmer: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
  • Nick Nolte: Warrior
  • Will Ferrell: Wedding Crashers
  • Melissa McCarthy: Bridesmaids
  • Halle Berry: Monster’s Ball
  • Tom Hardy: Lawless
  • Emma Stone: Everything that she’s ever been in where she wasn’t the main actress

10. William Hurt- “A History of Violence”

As Richie, the older brother to Viggo Mortensen’s reformed organized crime member Tom, the man only appears on film briefly at the climax of the film.  But, although I thoroughly enjoyed the 2005 crime thriller & the fantastic performances by Mortensen, Maria Bello and Ed Harris, I left the theater only thinking about William Hurt’s character.  Bringing the trials of organized crime to an almost relatable feeling, he brings the little dose of humor to a movie that…well, had absolutely no room for laugh out loud moments.  Hurt’s performance earned him an Oscar nod, and rightfully so.  Now, give me the prequel completely centered on Richie, please.

William Hurt’s Films

9. Cuba Gooding Jr.- “Jerry Maguire”

Gooding Jr. won a much deserved Oscar for his portrayal of Rod Tidwell, a cocky NFL wide receiver with a heart of gold in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire.  While the plot itself might center around Tom Cruise’s down on his luck sports agent that the movie is named for, Cuba has damn near every memorable scene in this movie that doesn’t include a 6 year old with a penchant for blurting out random facts.  His “show me the money” scene will go down in cinematic history, yet I enjoy his reaction at Jerry’s “Help Me Help You” monologue equally.

Cuba Gooding Jr. Movies

8. Viola Davis- “Doubt”

Viola Davis won a Supporting Actress Academy Award this year for the drama Fences.  Was it much deserved?  Absolutely.  But as far as I am concerned, it should have been her 3rd Oscar in 10 years.  Not only, should she have won the Best Actress award for her role as Aibileen in the Help, but Ms. Davis stole the show with her role as a worried mother trying to do what was best for her son, while flipping the entire movie on its head, in the drama Doubt, about the molestation of a young man at a parochial school in the 60’s.  In her short screen time, she informs the nun investigating the possible molestation of her son at the hands of the head priest of the church to, essentially, back off, as this priest – along with herself – might be the only 2 people to ever truly care for her son, and that the father is a source of inspiration for the boy.  In a movie loaded with “heavy hitters” such as Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman & Amy Adams, Davis is the one you walk away talking about.

Viola Davis Films

7. Laurence Fishburne- “Boyz in the Hood

Not only does Fishburne’s character possess one of the greatest onscreen monikers in cinema history, Furious Styles Jr., he goes for broke as a father trying to keep his son from being consumed by, and lost to, the crime ridden gang life of late 80’s South Central Los Angeles.  Fishburne is most notably known for his role as Morpheus in The Matrix, but the man has never been better than when pleading with his son to hand over the gun, because he refuses to lose his son to violence.  #moviefathergoals

Laurence Fishburne Movies

6. Christian Bale- “The Fighter

I suppose this one sort of speaks for itself?  Nowadays, it isn’t often that Bale plays “second fiddle” in a film to anyone, but his Academy Award winning performance as the big hearted, drug addicted brother, Dicky Ecklund, to Mark Wahlberg’s lead, boxer Mickey Ward.  Bale is often hailed for his transformations into the character he is portraying (The Machinist, anyone?  Yeesh!) but the Academy got it right with this one, awarding Bale’s performance in which he displays every spectrum of emotion and makes you root for someone who really has no business being rooted for.

Christian Bale Films

5. Mahershala Ali- “Moonlight

15 Minutes.  That’s all the screen time Mahershala  Ali gets in the Academy Award winning film Moonlight.  15 minutes, and he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  The funny thing?  He probably didn’t even need that much time to wrap up this award, as his portrayal as Juan, the motivational and inspirational crack dealer who takes protagonist Chiron under his proverbial wing, is both heartbreaking and uplifting.  The man is a certified acting force (don’t believe me?  Watch Luke Cage.) and it’s hard to look away when he’s on screen.  The most amazing part about this man’s talent, is I don’t think we have yet seen the peak of it.

Mahershala Ali Guest starred in Alcatraz Series


4. Leonardo DiCaprio- “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Long before DiCaprio was the Hollywood equivalent of a “sure thing,” and before he captivated the hearts of millions in blockbusters like TitanicInception, & The Revenant, he wowed viewers as a mentally disabled teenager in the Johnny Depp led family drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?  The man may have won an Oscar for his role in the Revenant, and garnered world-wide acclaim for movie after movie, but this role is his tour de force.  Played with heart and conviction, full of emotion, Arnie is the heart and soul of this movie.  And with all due respect to Tommy Lee Jones and his talent on display in The Fugitive, the 1994 Best Supporting Oscar should’ve gone to this, at the time, young up and comer.  Think about it, Leo should’ve had his Oscar 20 years earlier!

Leonardo Dicaprio’s Films

3. Denzel Washington- “Glory

A young Denzel shines in this 1989 film based around the American Civil War, and more specifically the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was one of the countries first all-black battalions.  Filled with all-star performances by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes & Andre Braugher, it is Washington who commandeers every scene he is in, leading to his very first Academy Award win.  Denzel’s character, slave escapee Silas Trip, conveys every emotion a former slave essentially, and literally, fighting for his freedom could feel, as he turns in one of his greatest, one of the greatest performances of the 20th Century. One debating this opinion need only watch the scene where Trip, caught “deserting” the troops to try and find proper shoes to wear, is flogged for his “transgression.”  From the moment his shirt is discarded to show the scars across his back due to his life as a slave, to the moment a stoic Trip finally reacts with tears to the familiar pain he is again enduring, it is clear this character, this performance, will go down in history for its impact and its gravitas, and one of the first great performances from a man I consider the greatest living actor.

Denzel Washington’s Movies

2. Heath Ledger- “The Dark Knight”

When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, arguably…and by arguably, I mean, it can’t f—ing be argued with…Batman’s most iconic villain in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, fanboy outrage exploded all over the internet.  Then the movie came out, and not one of those fanboys has ever been heard from again, as they all dug holes so deep to hide in for their outrageously egregious comments, that they’re all currently living in the forests of China.  Ledger turned in one of the greatest single performances in cinema history, turning a character that was often portrayed as a bit of a caricature, into a truly terrifying anarchist of a “human” being.  Unfortunately, the world will never know just how bright this talented actor’s star could’ve shown, but in my very humble opinion, Ledger’s antagonist to “the Bat” will go down as the greatest comic book movie villain of all time, and I don’t care how many more comic book movies are released from here on out…

… there’s 207 of them being released by 2020?  S—. Well, I still stand by my point.

Heath Ledger: Hollywood’s Dark Star

1. Val Kilmer- “Tombstone

I truly believe Tombstone to be the greatest Western of all time. Masterful performances are turned in across the board by Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Dana Delaney and the late, great Bill Paxton.  But if anyone, and I mean anyone, ever tells you that the best part of this movie is NOT Val Kilmer’s pitch perfect portrayal of Wyatt Earp’s drunk & dying best friend Doc Holliday, immediately punch them in the mouth.  Or just loudly disagree.  Your choice.  But do something, because their very rightfully owned opinion is WRONG.  I’m probably as shocked as anyone that Val Kilmer is #1 on this list, or on any list for that matter, but Jesus, the man outright crushed it as Earp’s right hand man, mixing brilliant drunken phrases, pitch perfect reactions & unwavering loyalty with the quickest gun in the west.  If you haven’t seen this film, do yourself a favor and set aside the 2+ hours and get versed with one of the greatest characters to ever be put to film.  And then be prepared to do a ton of mouth-punching, because you will then feel as strongly about this opinion as I do.

Val Kilmer Films


What did you think of the list?  What performances were missed?  Please comment below with your own lists, and let us debate like ladies and gentlemen.

Check out other RANKED articles by Lou

Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time father, full time husband & full time superhero enthusiast.  Follow him on twitter @Sweetest_Lou

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6 thoughts on “Ranked!: Best “Scene Stealing” Supporting Characters (Movie Edition)”

  1. List is Great! I wouldnt have thought of a few of these. Lawrence Fishburn, William Hurt or Viola Davis(Damn that bitch can ACT!). But they are EXCELLENT performances. Doc as #1 makes Daddy VEEEEERY happy.

    Id prob throw Hardys Character in The Revenant in there(he is the best in EVERYTHING). Vince Vaughn in Swingers(for personal reasons). Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone stole the show in my opinion.

    Ill have to keep ya posted as they pop in my head. Well Done as always sir!!!

    1. Dude, I hope you know that my love for Tom Hardy knows no bounds. I genuinely kept thinking of his roles, and every time (other than Lawless) I said to myself “well, he’s kind of the main actor in that.” I was thinking specifically about “Warrior”. But man, I have NO idea why I didn’t think of the Revanent, as I spoke about it when writing the DiCaprio part. Great call. Now I’m just trying to figure out where I’d fit that in!
      Also, I’ve never seen Gone Baby Gone. Will get on that ASAP

  2. 6 and 8 are my favorite! I wouldn’t have thought of either of those, but definitely good calls. There are some movies on here I haven’t seen yet so thanks! IDK if you have seen 12 monkeys, but that is the first thing I thought of when I read the title of this post. Brad Pitt’s character Jeffrey Goines makes the movie for me.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words on the article. You are absolutely right about 12 Monkeys. Brad Pitt 100% steals the show in that movie, and it’s one of my all time favorite BP roles. The moment he pokes his head out of his sweater alone justifies that role making a list like this haha.

    1. I decided against it, as I deemed him a co-lead with Norton. Could my thinking be complete bullshit? Of course. But it made sense at the time (in my head).

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