Ranking the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Winners of the 2020s

We’re barely into the decade yet, so there’s not a whole lot to talk about yet. Still, no sense waiting to start the conversation, right? I will keep adding Best Supporting Actress winners as the decade goes on and we’ll see how things shake out by the end.

A quick note on process: I will comment on whether or not a win was deserved, but that in and of itself cannot impact the ranking. And as time progresses and I revisit and rethink movies and performances, I reserve the right to make changes. These are fluid ranking for me, and since these are my lists I feel very comfortable with that.

Jamie Lee Curtis Everything Everywhere All At Once

3. Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

I have a feeling that history isn’t going to look favorably upon Jamie Lee Curtis’ win (mostly because a lot of people in this very moment aren’t looking at it kindly). This was perhaps bound to happen even if the actress who had seemed to have a lock on this category (until Curtis’ surprise SAG victory) had won: Angela Bassett for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

This is mostly because both women were running on a legacy campaign. Angela Bassett has spent the last thirty years churning out great performances with little recognition for it after she lost Best Actress to Holly Hunter in 1993. In the years since that loss, Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It has found new levels of appreciation that have caused some to question why Hunter was the runaway favorite that year (for the record, the answer is complicated because although The Piano was an Oscar favorite, there’s no denying that racial politics came into play at least to some degree). Unfortunately, Bassett’s second run at an Oscar ended the same way, although I suspect people won’t be turning to her performance in Wakanda Forever with the same amount of respect in thirty years.

Jamie Lee Curtis, on the other hand, had never had a shot at an Oscar before–despite a long and successful career in popular movies and despite a respectable pedigree (both of her parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, were Oscar nominees in their time). But the Best Supporting Actress race for 2022 came down to a question of which overlooked actress to reward at long last. How Curtis overtook Bassett is a difficult question–and one that is no less racially charged than Bassett’s previous loss.

It probably helped Curtis, however, that audiences and critics were more muted on Wakanda Forever than they were on the original Black Panther, and Bassett faced a steep uphill climb overcoming a genre bias against comic book movies. Curtis, meanwhile, starred in perhaps the most beloved and popular movie of the year. EEAAO was so popular it swept every major Oscar category it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. As such, you could certainly make a case that enthusiasm for her movie helped inspire people to vote for Curtis.

And while she’s coming in last in my ranking (so far), I don’t mean to be a hater. I’ve seen a lot of people deride Curtis’ performance as bland, but I think it’s so obvious that she’s having a blast making this movie that her joy becomes infectious as her frumpy villain moves about the screen. And her scene sitting outside the laundromat with Michelle Yeoh toward the end of the movie has a surprising amount of tenderness for me–a tenderness that wouldn’t exist without Curtis’ commitment to the role (and her chemistry with her costars).

Should have won in 2022: In my universe, Angela Bassett tied Holly Hunter for Best Actress in 1993 and Jamie Lee Curtis won a weak Best Actress race in 1994 for True Lies. With those wins in place (and no legacy question to answer), Kerry Condon is free to take the trophy for her stellar work in The Banshees of Inisherin. But out here in the real world, Angela Bassett is the actress I would have voted for.

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story (2021)

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (2021)

This was a really difficult call for me because I truly love the top two Supporting Actress performances of the 2020s (so far). Both feel worthy of the top spot to me. And while Ariana DeBose has the same star quality as her predecessor, Rita Moreno, I think this Anita suffers just a bit from the rest of 2021’s West Side Story being so great. As good as the original movie version is, Rita Moreno was always on another level. Ariana DeBose matches that, but Spielberg manages to bring the rest of the movie up to that same level–which means Anita doesn’t stand out as much. It’s no fault of DeBose’s, and it’s still a great performance. I’m splitting hairs, here.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that Youn’s deft work in Minari wins out. Her tender chemistry with the actor who plays her grandson gives the movie its emotional heft. Managing that without feeling overwrought gives Youn the edge over the spectacular DeBose.

But ask me again tomorrow and I may have changed my mind.

Should have won in 2021: DeBose deserved it, but pour one out for Kirsten Dunst, who did some excellent work in The Power of the Dog–and Aunjanue Ellis as well, who gave the best performance in King Richard (but maybe don’t tell that to Will Smith).

1. Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari (2020)

Like the Best Actress race for the same year, the Best Supporting Actress race felt wide open heading into the final stretch. Unlike the Best Actress race, though, there were signs at the end that people were beginning to zero in on Yuh-Jung Youn’s stellar performance in Minari. Still, there were a lot of Oscar pundits who saw it likely that Maria Bakalova could have won for her work in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm or Glenn Close could have gotten a win in acknowledgment for her career (nevermind that Hillbilly Elegy was a truly terrible movie). Thankfully, Youn’s momentum after her BAFTA speech turned out to be the real deal.

Playing a sassy grandmother can be a thankless part–indeed, it’s a trope that echoes throughout Hollywood history. And while actresses have won Oscars in this category for playing sassy old ladies before (Helen Hayes in Airport, Margaret Rutherford in The V.I.P.s, Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love, etc.), it is rarely done with the care and subtlety of Youn. As the Korean grandmother who moves to Arkansas to help her daughter, Youn forms the heart of Minari and gives it its emotional resonance. She also goes through a full character arc with precision.

Should have won in 2020: I never understood the weird fascination with Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and I certainly wasn’t on board with Hillbilly Elegy. To me, Youn’s biggest competition would have been someone who wasn’t even nominated: Candice Bergen in Let Them All Talk. I still would have gone with Youn, though.

Other Rankings for the 2020s

Best Picture

Best Actor  •  Best Actress

Best Supporting Actor  • Best Supporting Actress

Best Original Song


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