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01/04/2017 10:34 am ET Updated Jan 04, 2017

These 14 Men Are Vying For Best Supporting Actor At The 2017 Oscars

Mahershala Ali seems unstoppable.
Roadside Attractions/TWC/A24/Paramount

With 2017 underway, it’s high time we fête the previous year’s movies with a bushel of prestigious awards. In other words, Oscar season is realer than ever. With the Golden Globes helping to ring in the new year on Sunday, Jan. 8, we have a fairly clear portrait of how the Hollywood derby is shaking out.

Having surveyed the Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress contests back in 2016, it’s now time for a Best Supporting Actor overview.

This is a crazy category. Mahershala Ali (”Moonlight”) appears to be the definitive pacesetter, but the precursors have thrown some curveballs, namely with the Golden Globes nominating Aaron Taylor-Johnson (”Nocturnal Animals”) and Simon Helberg (”Florence Foster Jenkins”) out of nowhere. But keep in mind the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has no membership overlap with the Academy, and we can only afford them so much clout. With that in mind, here are the Best Supporting Actor contenders, ranked according to the probability of their nomination.

  • 14 Billy Crudup, "20th Century Women"
    Like Supporting Actress candidate Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup makes memorable appearances in "20th Century Women" an
    A24
    Like Supporting Actress candidate Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup makes memorable appearances in "20th Century Women" and "Jackie." He's trenchant in both, particularly the former, which casts him as an ex-hippie handyman renting a room in a Santa Barbara boarding house in 1979. Unfortunately, Crudup looks poised to be overlooked once more.
  • 13 Liam Neeson, "Silence"
    It turns out Liam Neeson isn't in much of "Silence." He plays the mentor that Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver's Jesuit priest
    Paramount
    It turns out Liam Neeson isn't in much of "Silence." He plays the mentor that Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver's Jesuit priests are trying to track down in 17th-century Japan. And Martin Scorsese's long, serene epic about religious persecution could be a tough sit for voters, even if Oscar forecasts indicated Neeson might score his first nod since "Schindler's List."
  • 12 Issey Ogata, "Silence"
    If Neeson doesn't leave much of an impression in "Silence," Issey Ogata surely does. The Japanese actor plays Inoue Masashige
    Paramount
    If Neeson doesn't leave much of an impression in "Silence," Issey Ogata surely does. The Japanese actor plays Inoue Masashige, an inquisitor who was responsible for violent Christian persecution in the 17th century. Ogata is crisp and collected as the movie's villain. Paramount has made sure he's remained a face of the promotions, including him alongside Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and director Martin Scorsese at screenings and other events. If enough voters take to "Silence," they're going to want to know who this guy is.
  • 11 Aaron Taylor-Johnson, "Nocturnal Animals"
    As an untamed West Texan ruffian, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a bundle of feral oddities. It's an interesting performance in a di
    Focus Features
    As an untamed West Texan ruffian, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a bundle of feral oddities. It's an interesting performance in a dismissible movie that seems too full of itself to generate Oscars. Alas, in a truly eyebrow-raising choice, the Golden Globes tossed Taylor-Johnson a nomination and the San Diego Critics Society selected him as its Supporting Actor pick.
  • 10 Simon Helberg, "Florence Foster Jenkins"
    Oh sure, "Big Bang Theory" star Simon Helberg is lovable as a jittery, closeted pianist in "Florence Foster Jenkins," bu
    Paramount
    Oh sure, "Big Bang Theory" star Simon Helberg is lovable as a jittery, closeted pianist in "Florence Foster Jenkins," but who knew the Golden Globes would throw him a bone? Although Helberg wasn't part of many prognostications before nominations arrived, not just anyone can act so terrified in Meryl Streep's presence. (Actually, anyone could. But Helberg does it well.)
  • 9 Kevin Costner, "Hidden Figures"
    Kevin Costner gets to be a good guy in "Hidden Figures" without succumbing to white-savior clichés. It's qui
    Fox
    Kevin Costner gets to be a good guy in "Hidden Figures" without succumbing to white-savior clichés. It's quite possible that we are underestimating the Oscar abilities of this crowd-pleasing gem about three women who helped NASA race the Soviet Union to space in the 1960s. If so, Costner -- a veteran actor whose "Dances with Wolves" won him Best Director -- could sneak in.
  • 8 Michael Shannon, "Nocturnal Animals"
    Michael Shannon collected Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for "99 Homes" last year, missing out on the
    Focus Features
    Michael Shannon collected Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for "99 Homes" last year, missing out on the Oscars. This time around, "Nocturnal Animals" co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson took his Globes spot, and SAG didn't recognize the movie's performers at all. But let's not forget that such oversights didn't prevent Shannon from earning his first Oscar nomination, for 2008's "Revolutionary Road." He's a beloved journeyman who stole scenes in several of 2016's films, most notably this arty melodrama by Tom Ford.
  • 7 Stephen Henderson, "Fences"
    It's hard to pick one standout among the supporting cast in "Fences," but Stephen Henderson gets the edge by virtue of his lo
    Paramount
    It's hard to pick one standout among the supporting cast in "Fences," but Stephen Henderson gets the edge by virtue of his long career. (If anyone can outdo him, it's Mykelti Williamson.) Henderson holds his own opposite powerhouse Denzel Washington. He's had experience: The actor earned a Tony nomination when he and Washington played these parts on Broadway in 2010.
  • 6 Ben Foster, "Hell or High Water"
    Ben Foster gives a reliably kooky performance as an ex-con on the lam after committing a Texas bank robbery in hopes of savin
    CBS Films
    Ben Foster gives a reliably kooky performance as an ex-con on the lam after committing a Texas bank robbery in hopes of saving his family's ranch. Voters may feel they've done "Hell or High Water" justice by nominating Jeff Bridges, but don't discount Foster: His Critics' Choice and Independent Spirit nods are a solid boost.
  • 5 Hugh Grant, "Florence Foster Jenkins"
    Despite four Golden Globe nominations, including one for "Florence Foster Jenkins," Hugh Grant has yet to hit the Oscars' sho
    Paramount
    Despite four Golden Globe nominations, including one for "Florence Foster Jenkins," Hugh Grant has yet to hit the Oscars' shortlist. Having also landed a SAG nomination for his role as the titular opera wannabe's husband, that could change. He gives the movie a lot of its sweet heart. Voters may be surprised by Grant's delicate touch -- it feels like a departure from the smooth-talking ladies' men he typically plays.
  • 4 Dev Patel, "Lion"
    Dev Patel is <i>this</i> close to committing category fraud. His character is the centerpiece of "Lion," but Patel doesn't en
    The Weinstein Co
    Dev Patel is this close to committing category fraud. His character is the centerpiece of "Lion," but Patel doesn't enter the film for almost an hour. (Eight-year-old charmer Sunny Pawar plays little Dev in the first act.) The Garth Davis-directed weeper was one of the Toronto Film Festival's surprise hits, and Patel carries its weight adeptly -- enough for the Globes and SAG Awards to take notice. Awards mastermind Harvey Weinstein is leveraging the movie's campaign, which means Patel has mingled with voters at screenings and parties, often flanked by his young co-star. Just think how effective it was for Brie Larson to turn up everywhere with Jacob Tremblay last year.
  • 3 Lucas Hedges, "Manchester by the Sea"
    Roadside Attractions has more or less sat back and watched this movie's Oscar odds magnify since its <a href="http://www.huff
    Roadside Attractions
    Roadside Attractions has more or less sat back and watched this movie's Oscar odds magnify since its Sundance premiere last January. When the "Manchester by the Sea" trailer debuted in August, it singled out the film's three main performers with fawning quotes from reviews. One of those was relative newcomer Lucas Hedges; the others were Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, who are both locks in their categories. From that point forward, Hedges seemed like a sure thing. The 20-year-old actor, who appeared in "Moonrise Kingdom" and NBC's "The Slap," gives a lived-in depth to a Boston-area teenager processing his father's death. With a SAG nomination and the box-office success that "Manchester" continues to enjoy, Hedges is poised for the warmest of Hollywood welcomes.
  • 2 Jeff Bridges, "Hell or High Water"
    Out of nowhere, the neo-Western "Hell or High Water" became 2016's <a href="http://www.indiewire.com/2016/12/the-20-highest-g
    CBS Films
    Out of nowhere, the neo-Western "Hell or High Water" became 2016's highest-grossing indie. The movie's Oscar buzz started as a what-if, but it's cleaned up remarkably in precursor nominations, particularly when it comes to Jeff Bridges' turn as a grizzled Texas ranger hunting down a pair of bank robbers. It's a fairy typical Bridges performance, but "Hell or High Water" is surprisingly layered in its depiction of white men feeling disenfranchised.
  • 1 Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"
    A24&nbsp;is campaigning for four gentlemen in this category: Mahershala Ali, Andr&eacute; Holland, Trevante Rhodes and Ashton
    A24
    A24 is campaigning for four gentlemen in this category: Mahershala Ali, André Holland, Trevante Rhodes and Ashton Sanders. But it's all about Ali, who also dominated 2016 with Netflix's "Luke Cage" and a charming part in "Hidden Figures." All three roles are wildly different, which adds to Ali's appeal. With everything coming up "Moonlight," he is the category's clear front-runner as a sympathetic drug dealer who defies clichés. Ali has accrued all the requisite precursors, including nearly every Supporting Actor prize from the critics groups.
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