Top 40 Side Characters/Supporting Actors

by LiscaLisca | created - 24 Jun 2012 | updated - 28 Oct 2012 | Public

My top 40 best supporting actors for certain roles. A couple of them stole the show in more than one role they played as. They are not all in the order that I would like and there are just too many great ones for me to be able to get them all in the top 40, so I had to do without a few. It was too confusing to try and get the order right, so they are just here as I thought of them. It might help to just put them in alphabetical order because there is no order.

1. Jamie Bell

Actor | Billy Elliot

Described by top film critic Mark Kermode as an "unbelievably versatile" actor, Jamie Bell was born in 1986 in Billingham, England, UK, to Eileen (Matfin) and John Bell, a toolmaker. He comes from a family of dancers including his grandmother, mother, aunt, and sister. It was at his sister's dance ...

Jamie Bell is nearlt always a side character. He is a great actor and steals the show many times in the movies that he costars in. A few of the titles in which he works his magic are King Kong (Jimmy), The Eagle (Esca), Nicholas Nickleby (Smike), Jumper (Griffin), and, most recently, Man on a Ledge (Joey).

2. James McAvoy

Actor | Filth

McAvoy was born on 21 April 1979 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Elizabeth (née Johnstone), a nurse, and James McAvoy senior, a bus driver. He was raised on a housing estate in Drumchapel, Glasgow by his maternal grandparents (James, a butcher, and Mary), after his parents divorced when James was 11. He ...

James McAvoy has worked his way up to being a leading man, but when he is not being a leading man, he makes for a fascinating supporting character. Some his excellent side roles are Atonement as Robbie (though I don't care for the movie myself), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Mr. Tumnus), and Wimbledon (Carl).

3. Dan Duryea

Actor | Too Late for Tears

Dan Duryea was educated at Cornell University and worked in the advertising business before pursuing his career as an actor. Duryea made his Broadway debut in the play "Dead End." The critical acclaim he won for his performance as Leo Hubbard in the Broadway production of "The Little Foxes" led to ...

Dan Duryea is a classic actor. He is one of the greats, though never fully recognized as one. He does a supurb job in Winchester '73 as Waco, Lady on a Train as Arnold, and especially as Whitey Kincaid in Ride Clear of Diablo. Audie Murphy did an excellent job in Diablo as well, but Duryea stole the show by a landslide.

4. Harvey Lembeck

Actor | Stalag 17

Harvey Lembeck was an American actor of Jewish descent, primarily known for comedic roles. Early in his life, Lembeck had worked as a dancer, and radio announcer.

Lembeck was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1923, and attended New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn.. In 1939, the 16-year-old Lembeck ...

Harvey Lembeck takes over in Stalag 17 as Harry Shapiro alongside Robert Strauss, who plays Animal. There are so many great actors in Stalag 17, but Lembeck sticks out with his partner. Harvey does such a good job at his role of Shapiro that it is hard not to call him Harry or Shapiro when addressing him instead of his real name.

5. Robert Strauss

Actor | Stalag 17

Burly American character actor with a deep gravelly voice who was equally adept at comedy and drama. The son of a theatrical costume designer, Strauss worked as a salesman and also as a singing waiter and busboy before finding success in the stage version of "Detective Story" on Broadway. He ...

Robert Strauss, with Harvey Lembeck, wins the hearts of Stalag 17 movie watchers. He plays the hilarious Animal in this POW movie. He is such a goof that the audience can't help but love him and his friend. He takes the scene in a good way by giving the audience some comic relief in the tense POW film.

6. William Holden

Actor | Stalag 17

William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, to Mary Blanche (Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. He came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. In 1937, while studying ...

Holden is rarely a side anything, but when he is, he's sensational. He shines, in a playboy sort of way, as David in the famous Sabrina. He also was awesome, though less of a side charcter, in The Horse Soldiers as Maj. Henry Kendall.

7. Liev Schreiber

Actor | Spotlight

Liev (pronounced Lee-ev) Schreiber was born in San Francisco. His mother, Heather (Milgram), is a painter, and his father, Tell Schreiber (Tell Carroll Schreiber III), is a theatrical actor who had a small role in The Keeper (1976). His mother is from a working-class Jewish family from Poland and ...

Liev Schreiber killed in Kate & Leopold as Stuart! His emotion and his passion in the movie captivates the audience. He plays the part with such conviction that one would have trouble not believing it and him.

8. Breckin Meyer

Actor | Road Trip

Breckin Meyer was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Dorothy Ann (Vial), a travel agent, and Christopher William Meyer, a management consultant. His ancestry includes German, English, and Irish. He went to grade school with Drew Barrymore and attended Beverly Hills High School with Joshua John ...

Breckin Meyer was memorable and remarkable in Kate & Leopold, as Charlie, Herbie Fully Loaded (Ray Peyton Jr.), and Ghost of a Girlfriends Past as Paul.

9. Jack Lemmon

Actor | The Apartment

Jack Lemmon was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to Mildred Lankford Noel and John Uhler Lemmon, Jr., the president of a doughnut company. His ancestry included Irish (from his paternal grandmother) and English. Jack attended Ward Elementary near his Newton, MA home. At age 9 he was sent to Rivers ...

Lemmon is a favorite of many people, but generally as the lead man. He was astonishing in Mister Roberts, as Ens. Frank Thurlowe Pulver. He is the part. He is full of life, young, and also full of fear of the Captain, James Cagney.

10. William Powell

Actor | The Thin Man

William Powell was on the New York stage by 1912, but it would be ten years before his film career would begin. In 1924 he went to Paramount Pictures, where he was employed for the next seven years. During that time, he played in a number of interesting films, but stardom was elusive. He did ...

William Powell is most known for his title rolein The Thin Man. He is also known for is very small, yet very big part, in Mister Roberts ('Doc'). It is easy to remember his portrayal of J. D. Hanley in How to Marry a Millionaire, as well.

11. Augustus Prew

Actor | Kick-Ass 2

Augustus Prew was born on September 17, 1987 as Augustus Art Prew. He is an actor, known for Kick-Ass 2 (2013), About a Boy (2002) and Charlie St. Cloud (2010). He has been married to Jeffery Self since January 14, 2018.

Augustus Prew is an unforgettable character in his own right in Charlie St. Cloud (Alistair) and The Secret of Moonacre (Robin).

12. Don Knotts

Actor | The Andy Griffith Show

Don Knotts, the legendary television character actor, was born Jesse Donald Knotts on July 21, 1924 in Morgantown, West Virginia, to William Jesse Knotts and the former Elsie L. Moore. He was the youngest of four sons in a family that had been in America since the 17th century.

His first stint as an...

Don Knotts is stunning as the Denver Kid in Hot Lead and Cold Feet. He also shone in his well-loved role of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and as Coach Venner in the disney movie Gus.

13. Darren McGavin

Actor | A Christmas Story

A remarkably seasoned actor of stage, screen and television, Darren McGavin has notched in excess of 200 performances; however, he is most fondly remembered by cult TV fans as heroic newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak in the classic but short-lived horror TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974). ...

Darren McGavin has never been extremely well known, though he has played in many parts. He did played an excellent and believable shyster in his role as Mayor Ragsdale in the hilarious Hot Lead and Cold Feet starring Jim Dale. he also did an grand job as Mike Damon in The Delicate Delinquent.

14. Casey Affleck

Actor | Manchester by the Sea

An accomplished and striking performer, Academy Award® winner Casey Affleck has established himself as a powerful leading man with performances in multiple projects.

Caleb Casey McGuire Affleck-Boldt was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts. His mother, Chris Anne (née Boldt), is a school teacher, and ...

Casey Affleck is remembered for better, more established roles, but he did a profound job in Drowing Mona as Bobby. In fact, he was the only thing worth watching in the whole film.

15. Anthony Perkins

Actor | Psycho

Anthony Perkins was born April 4, 1932 in New York City to Janet Esselstyn (Rane) and Osgood Perkins, an actor of both stage and film. His paternal great-grandfather was noted engraver Andrew Varick Stout Anthony.

Perkins attended the Brooks School, the Browne & Nichols School, Columbia University ...

Anthony Perkins was positively stunning as Josh in Friendly Persuasion. Perkins played an the son of Gary Cooper, a quaker that was trying to have a life and home and keep safe during the civil war, while keeping as far away from the war as possible, though they were in the heart of it.

16. Adrian Zmed

Actor | Bachelor Party

Adrian Zmed was born on March 14, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Adrian George Zmed. He is an actor, known for Bachelor Party (1984), Grease 2 (1982) and T.J. Hooker (1982). He has been married to Lyssa Lynne since October 5, 2012. He was previously married to Barbara Fitzner and Susan Wood.

Adrian Zmed was a hit in Grease 2 as the new and, I believe improved, Johnny Nogerelli. The movie was given a poor rating and is a bit silly, but it has good points and a half-good soundtrack. The highlight of the movie, other than Maxwell Caulfield as the lead character, was definitely Adrian Zmed's portrayal of Johnny. he was goofy, fun, and had a good set of pipes.

17. Max Thieriot

Actor | The Pacifier

Max Thieriot was born in 1988 in Los Altos Hills, California, and has two siblings. He was raised in Occidental, CA, and graduated from Sonoma Country Day School in 2002 and El Molino High School in 2006. He started acting when he took an improvisation class and modeled for GAP. He was also in two ...

Max Theriot was memorable in The Pacifier (Seth) and in Jumper (Young David). He is amazing in both roles and very believable. His portrayal of Seth in The Pacifier is extremely well done.

18. Keira Knightley

Actress | Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Keira Christina Knightley was born March 26, 1985 in the South West Greater London suburb of Richmond. She is the daughter of actor Will Knightley and actress turned playwright Sharman Macdonald. An older brother, Caleb Knightley, was born in 1979. Her father is English, while her Scottish-born ...

Keira Knightley earns her place in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Elizabeth Swan and in Atonement as Cecilia. She always performs with excellence and passion, but sheshines in these two as side characters, where she is normally a lead.

19. Elizabeth Taylor

Actress | Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was considered one of the last, if not the last, major star to have come out of the old Hollywood studio system. She was known internationally for her beauty, especially for her violet eyes, with which she captured audiences early on in her youth and kept the world hooked ...

Elizabeth Taylor was perfect as Amy in Little Women. She played the character as though she was her and made Amy's oddities realistic and humorous.

20. Roddy McDowall

Actor | Fright Night

Roddy McDowall was born in Herne Hill, London, England, to Winifriede Lucinda (Corcoran), an Irish-born aspiring actress, and Thomas Andrew McDowall, a merchant seaman. Roddy was enrolled in elocution courses at age five and by ten had appeared in his first film, Murder in the Family (1938), ...

Roddy McDowall is a supurb and diverse actor, but he is absolutely perfect in That Darn Cat (Gregory Benson). He was the perfect snoot and never fell out of character. Maybe he had his nose in the air most of the time, but he was marvelous. He was hilarious and stole the audience, along with costar Tom Lowell who also did a supurb job as Canoe.

21. Tom Lowell

Actor | Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Tom Lowell was born on January 17, 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA as Lowell White Thomas. He is an actor, known for Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), The Twilight Zone (1959) and That Darn Cat! (1965). He is married to Sharon Jean Reimer. He was previously married to Beverly ...

Tom Lowell does a great job in everything that he does, but he is perfect as Canoe in That Darn Cat, which was filled with a great cast of supporting actors. He made Canoe the perfect image of the typical sloppy, young, teenage surfer with a ping jealousy and protectiveness toward his girlfriend.

22. Dorothy Provine

Actress | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Flashy, leggy, bouffant blonde Dorothy Provine was a solid screen representation of the Kennedyesque era when life seemed so full of fun, so innocent and so optimistic. This sparkling beauty also gave TV audiences a double dose blast to the past via her popular co-starring roles on late 50s/early ...

Dorothy Provine was funny, witty, and a great match for an older sister like she played in That Darn Cat (Ingrid) as Hayley Mills older sister.

23. William Demarest

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

A stocky, serious-looking character, Carl William Demarest started off in vaudeville in 1905 along with two older brothers. At one time he also performed in a stage act with his wife Estelle Collette (billed as 'Demarest and Collette') and then moved on to Broadway. He entered movies in 1926 and ...

William Demarest is a memorable kind of guy to begin with, but he is especially so in That Darn Cat (Mr. MacDougall), Escape From Fort Bravo (Campbell), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Carl), Sullivan's Travels (Mr. Jones), and Pardon My Sarong (Det. Kendall).

24. Frank Gorshin

Actor | Twelve Monkeys

Frank John Gorshin Jr. was born on April 5, 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father, Frank John Sr., was a railroad worker and his mother, Frances, was a seamstress. While in high school, Frank worked as an usher at the Sheridan Square Theatre and began doing impressions of some of his screen ...

Frank Gorshin was unbelievably great as Iggy in That Darn Cat. He was a little rough around the edges, unintelligent, yet clever, a little sinister and psychotic, and totally believably.

25. Richard Deacon

Actor | The Birds

Richard Deacon was the bald, bespectacled character actor most famous for playing television producer Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) from 1961 to 1966. In the first season of that show he also continued to appear on the series he was already appearing on, Leave It to Beaver (1957), ...

The greatly loved Mel Cooley from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Oh, I'm sorry. I mean, Richard Deacon, the amazing supporting actor. He always seemed to be a supporting actor, I guess he didn't have the face for a lead part. He always did his best though, at least that's what i assume it was since I don't think anyone could have played Mel better than Deacon. He was Mel and he was also the drive in manager in That Darn Cat. There was no doubt that he was the manager for the audience.

26. Marjorie Main

Actress | The Egg and I

Her father was a minister, and when she joined a local stock company as a youngster she changed her name to avoid embarrassing her family. She worked in vaudeville and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her film debut was in A House Divided (1931). She repeated her stage role in Dead End (1937) as Baby ...

Marjorie Main always took charge with her strong attitude and thick country accent. She was most of her characters. Two wonderful performances she did were in Meet Me in St. Louis (Katie-Maid) and Johnny Come Lately ('Gashouse' Mary).

27. Peter McEnery

Actor | The Moon-Spinners

Peter McEnery was born on February 21, 1940 in Walsall, England. He is an actor, known for The Moon-Spinners (1964), The Cat and the Canary (1978) and The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966). He has been married to Julia St John since 1997. He was previously married to Julie Peasgood.

Peter McEnery won the audience and earned his place in The Moonspinners as Mark Camford. He was a strong and dependable character who was easy to love.

28. Janet Leigh

Actress | Psycho

Janet Leigh was the only child of a couple who often moved from town to town. Living in apartments, Janet was a bright child who skipped several grades and finished high school when she was 15. A lonely child, she would spend much of her time at movie theaters. She was a student, studying music and...

Janet Leigh was a well-known actress, but she did play some parts that were smaller, less significant parts. She did an excellent job in Psycho (Marion), though she was pretty important, she was far from being the main character. She also did well in The Black Shield of Falworth (Lady Anne), Houdini (Bess), My Sister Eileen, as the title character, though not the lead, and Little Women (Meg).

29. Elsa Lanchester

Actress | Witness for the Prosecution

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the ...

Elsa Lanchester was a great actress who costarred in Mary Poppins (Katie Nanna) and That Darn Cat (Mrs. MacDougall), which were both memorable parts for her, among others.

30. Basil Rathbone

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, ...

Basil Rathbone was an extremely talented actor in every right and he nearly always played a side role because he was nearly always the 'bad guy'. He was in more films than I care to put down as the supporting actor that stole the show, or, shall we say, would have stolen it had he not died before he could each time. He did not always die, but it did seem to be a trademark he had. To name a few of his memorable supporting parts, there is, We're No Angels (Andre Trochard, one of his best/the best performances of all time), The Court Jester (Sir Ravenhurst), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), Casanova's Big Night (Lucio/Narrator), and The Mark of Zorro (Capt. Esteban Pasquale).

31. Peter Lawford

Actor | The Longest Day

Born in London, England and son of a British World War I hero, Lawford had spent most of his childhood in Paris, France and began his acting career at a very young age. His parents were not married when their son was born. As a result of the scandal, The Lawfords fled to America.

As a young child, ...

Peter Lawford was an amazing actor, lead or not. He was impressive as Laurie in Little Women. No one could have, nor has, captured that character better.

32. Natalie Portman

Actress | Black Swan

Natalie Portman is the first person born in the 1980s to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress (for Black Swan (2010)).

Natalie was born Natalie Hershlag on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel. She is the only child of Avner Hershlag, a Israeli-born doctor, and Shelley Stevens, an American-born...

natalie Portman has been in many movies. She has a strong career and is a beautiful and talented actress. She was stunning as Grace in Brothers and as Padme in the Star Wars Episodes 1-3.

33. Dean Martin

Soundtrack | Rio Bravo

If there had to be an image for cool, the man to fit it would be Dean Martin.

Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, to Angela (Barra) and Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti, a barber. His father was an Italian immigrant, and his mother was of Italian descent. He spoke only Italian until ...

Dean Martin is probably best known for his voice and his role alongside Jerry Lewis as the bully of the two. He was also a great character actor, though. He was marvellous as

34. Horst Buchholz

Actor | La vita è bella

On the cast list of The Magnificent Seven (1960), you will find several names that doubtless you know well: Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, and Yul Brynner. But there is one name that you will have difficulty pronouncing, let alone identifying as an actor you have seen before. That man is Horst ...

Horst was never an actor that became very famous, but he was exceptional as Chico in The Magnificent Seven. He made the boy a significant piece of the movie and of the seven.

35. Robert Vaughn

Actor | The Magnificent Seven

Robert Francis Vaughn was born on November 22, 1932 at Charity Hospital in New York City, the son of show business parents, Marcella Frances (Gaudel) and Gerald Walter Vaughn. His father was a radio actor and his mother starred on stage. Robert came to the public's attention first with his ...

Robert Vaughn cannot be left out of this list after his performance in The Magninficent Seven as Lee. He was the perfect tough exterior and fearful interior type to play Lee, the gunslinger that had lost his nerve.

36. Charles Bronson

Actor | C'era una volta il West

The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky), ...

It goes without saying that Bronson can be great. He has proven this many times. Some examples of this are in his performances in The Magnificent Seven (Bernardo O'Reilly) and in The Great Escape (Danny 'Tunnel King').

37. Eli Wallach

Actor | Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo

One of Hollywood's finest character / "Method" actors, Eli Wallach was in demand for over 60 years (first film/TV role was 1949) on stage and screen, and has worked alongside the world's biggest stars, including Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Peter O'Toole,...

Eli Wallach is always good for a performance that exceeds most of his costars. To name a few of his triumphs, there is The Magnificent Seven (Calvero), The Moon-Spinners (Stratos), The Holiday (Arthur), and How to Steal a Million (Davis).

38. James Coburn

Actor | The Great Escape

Lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin that put everyone at ease, James Coburn studied acting at UCLA, and then moved to New York to study under noted acting coach Stella Adler. After being noticed in several stage productions, Coburn appeared in a handful of minor westerns ...

Coburn was great in The Magnificent Seven (Britt), The Great Escape (Sedgwick 'The Manufacturer') and also in Charade (Tex).

39. Jason Robards

Actor | All the President's Men

Powerful and highly respected American actor Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Hope Maxine (Glanville) and stage and film star Jason Robards Sr. He had Swedish, English, Welsh, German, and Irish ancestry. Robards was raised mostly in Los Angeles. A star athlete at ...

Jason Robards was most memorable as Cheyenne from Once Upon a Time in the West and as Heidi's Grandfather in Heidi.

40. Robert Downey Jr.

Actor | Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. has evolved into one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. With an amazing list of credits to his name, he has managed to stay new and fresh even after over four decades in the business.

Downey was born April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York, the son of writer, director and ...

RDJ is an AMAZING actor. He is in many well-known titles, most recently The Avengers and the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes series. He does such an excellent job in these performances that he becomes the character. People have trouble distinguishing Tony Stark from RDJ. He is Iron Man/Tony Stark. One other personal favorite I have of his is Heart and Souls , in which, he acts as several different characters and changes his mannerisms to fit each one.

41. Johnny Depp

Actor | Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Johnny Depp is perhaps one of the most versatile actors of his day and age in Hollywood.

He was born John Christopher Depp II in Owensboro, Kentucky, on June 9, 1963, to Betty Sue (Wells), who worked as a waitress, and John Christopher Depp, a civil engineer.

Depp was raised in Florida. He dropped ...

I realized that Johnny Depp was missing from this list. I don't know how I could have forgotten him, so there are now 41 actors in this list of 40 actors. :) Johnny Depp is another actor who creates his role/character and becomes them, like RDJ. He has done this with Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and many other characters he has played. I have no doubt that if he continues to act, he will do the same with the rest of his characters.

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