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Wednesday
Oct242018

Best Supporting Horror Performances?

BOO! Happy ongoing October. So last night we tossed out fav leading performance in horror movies list... and are now realizing it's just not complete without supporting performance. So herewith two more impromptu lists (mostly off the top of my head again) for discussion fun. 

10 Best Supporting Actresses in a Horror Film

  • Drew Barrymore - Scream
  • Claire Bloom - The Haunting
  • Toni Colette - The Sixth Sense
  • Sadie Frost - Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • Ruth Gordon - Rosemary's Baby
  • Elsa Lanchester - The Bride of Frankenstein
  • Piper Laurie - Carrie
  • Janet Leigh - Psycho
  • Brooke Smith - Silence of the Lambs
  • Billie Whitelaw - The Omen

If I could nominate Linda Blair and Mercedes McCambridge as a pair here for the same performance, it'd boot one of these ladies out. Just got back from Suspiria and was tempted to put Tilda Swinton on here but really that's more about deep love for Tilda whenever she happens to show up and her costumes in Suspiria are something else with their Martha Graham floor-length flow.

10 Best Supporting Actors in a Horror Film

  • Sidney Blackmer - Rosemary's Baby
  • Victor Buono - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • John Goodman -10 Cloverfield Lane (possibly a lead?)
  • Ian Holm - Alien
  • Ted Levine - The Silence of the Lambs
  • Bill Paxton - Near Dark
  • Dominic Rains - A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Kevin Spacey - Se7en
  • Max von Sydow - The Exorcist
  • Alex Wolff - Hereditary (possibly a lead?)

Which of these performances totally do it for you? Or who would you replace them with?

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Reader Comments (48)

Veronica Cartwright in Alien would be near the top of my list.

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

You know Max Von Sydow wasn't working at all in The Exorcist. Friedkin even considered to call Bergman to come to direct Max's scenes. According to Friedkin, Max is such a hard atheist that he couldn't believe his part, and his line-reading was flat, without conviction. Max only started to enter in the character when Friedkin told him about his idea of calling Bergman.

Now, changing subject. I know horror isn't your thing, but if you feel interested you really should try to go beyond English-language movies. I'd start with Japan, particularly with Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan, one of the most visually arresting movies ever made. Katsuo Nakamura could be in this list.

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Love the Drew Barrymore inclusion. That remains to be one of the best opening scenes in cinema.

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

Love the Sadie Frost shout-out!

I also think that Barrymore is great in Scream. I am also really fond of Courtney Cox in the first two Scream films as well.

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

Pretty sure my top ten here are all Ruth Gordon, but delighted to see Elsa Lanchester included. She was alway great.

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

Might have to give Drew Barrymore two spots - replace Claire Bloom's performance with Drew's iconic "They're here" role in "Poltergeist".

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

I would also include Veronica Cartwright and Jessica Tandy in The Birds. 1963 was such a dearth of nominees in supporting actress that year, there really is no excuse for them not to be considered.

also honorable mention to Vera Miles as the determined sister in Pyscho.


As for the men, Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein as Ygor deserves more talk in film circles.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

A little extra love for some vintage performances: the Lewton ladies, Jean Brooks and Elizabeth Russell in "The Seventh Victim", Julia Dean and Elizabeth Russell in "Curse of the Cat People". Plus Patricia Cutts in "The Tingler". The sublimely hysterical Una O'Connor would be my choice for "Bride of Frankenstein". I'm totally behind your shout-outs for Ruth Gordon and Janet Leigh. Gordon's Minnie Castavet would probably take the all-time crown for me. And the always welcome Ms Leigh was never better than in "Psycho". I, for one, think the movie falls apart once she exits. You included Robert Mitchum among your best leading actor choices for "The Night of the Hunter", so how about Lillian Gish and Evelyn Varden in the same film? Both perfection in their roles. And finally a few hearty cheers for Yvette Vickers, Allison Hayes' deliciously trampy nemesis in "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman".

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen

LOVE the Ian Holm and Goodman mentions

Ian’s performamce has aged terrifically. Goodman was fab; both shoulda been nominated at the veru y least.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

How could you leave off Betty Gabriel?!?! Oh, no no no no. No no no no no no!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Betty Gabriel's rather one-note and a little hammy. I wasn't as impressed as everyone else.

Also, Carl,

The girl in Poltergeist is Heather O'Rourke, not Drew.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTr

Zelda Rubenstein from all three original franchise Poltergeist movies.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

@Tom G.
Yes - except for Edith Evans in "Tom Jones" - the Academy came up with a pretty wan bunch of supporting actress nominees in '63. But it wasn't for lack of worthy candidates. They overlooked Wendy Hiller(Toys in the Attic), Capucine(The Pink Panther), Tuesday Weld(Soldiers in the Rain), Claire Trevor(The Stripper), all of whom - along with Dame Edith - I'd rank ahead of Tandy and Cartwright that year. I love "The Birds" -it's one of my two or three favorite Hitchcocks. But I think the picture's supporting actress MVP was Suzanne Pleshette.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Man, once again terrific terrific choices!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Oh yes! Drew Barrymore is fantastic in Scream!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Alex Wolff and John Goodman are definitely leads.

Happy to see the Sidney Blackmer inclusion! He’s terrific.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

I don’t know if she counts as supporting or lead but I always thought Fairuza Balk was something pretty special in The Craft.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChoog

All great mentions. I’d like to add Natalie Mendoza’s chilling performance in Neil Marshall’s The Descent, and of course the great Michael Fassbender’s David in Prometheus (haven’t seen Covenant).

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Shelley Winters in What's the Matter with Helen?

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Agnes Moorehead in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Veronica Cartwright in Alien,

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Miranda Richardson in Sleepy Hollow!! And Katie Dickie in The Witch.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

Cartwright in Alien, Bujold in Dead Ringers

Is it weird that I think Janet Leigh should be a lead?

Shelley Winters and GIsh in Night of the Hunter.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

No mention of Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock in the original The Omen? She's chilling.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Okay, I'm the kind of guy who wouldn't even count Scream here. Don't hate it, more that I think it's JUST comic enough to be a "comedy leaning" horror-comedy, not a "horror leaning" horror-comedy (like Evil Dead 2 or An American Werewolf in London), if that makes any sense.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Joel -- ??? shes on that list above.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'd say Goodman is definitely a lead in Cloverfield. As for Alex Wolff, I consider him a lead, but I am much more willing to buy the argument that he is supporting than I am others.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

Maybe the movie doesn't count, but some special mention should be made of Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (a horror performance in a non-horror film?)

Also, I second Tom G's shout out to Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein. He steals every scene he's in.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Drew Barrymore for SCREAM all the way! One of the best opening scenes to a movie in the history of film.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Peter: I think Janet Leigh should be a lead too. Her category placement is something I didn't question for a long time, but in recent years I've found myself leaning towards lead for her.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Here's my list

Supporting Actress:

Veronica Cartwright - Alien
Veronica Cartwright - Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('78)
Drew Barrymore - Scream
Ruth Gordon - Rosemary's Baby
Betty Gabriel - Get Out
Piper Laurie - Carrie
Amanda Wyss - A Nightmare on Elm Street ('84)
Claire Bloom - The Haunting ('63)
Heather O'Rourke - Poltergeist (one of the best child performances ever)
Stefania Casini - Suspiria ('77)

Supporting Actor:

Scatman Crothers - The Shining
Bradley Whitford - Get Out
Yaphet Kotto - Alien
Ian Holm - Alien
Ted Levine - The Silence of the Lambs
Ray Wise - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Hiroyuki Sanada - Ringu
Sidney Blackmer - Rosemary's Baby
Robert Shaw - Jaws
Martin Stephens - The Innocents

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Great lists!!!!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

Alex Wolff was the big surprise for me in Hereditary. He and Toni Collette deserve serious Oscar consideration.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Love the mentions of Collette, Laurie, and Smith, and of Blackmer, Spacey, and Wolff. And also nice call on Dominic Rains - he's very good and unlike some of the others seems under-appreciated.

One thing these lists and this discussion, and the preceding lists and discussion, is making me think about is - do people under-appreciate the actors in David Lynch movies (with a few obvious exceptions like Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive)? When I see people mention actors like Ray Wise and Sheryl Lee I think YES!!! But my mind doesn't automatically think of them. I'm wondering if that's more a they are part of a big ensemble thing, or more of a they are instruments of an auteur thing.

Anyway, thanks for posting these - it's an entertaining topic.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Betsy Palmer in FRIDAY THE 13TH

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

Tina Louise in The Stepford Wives.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKarl

I'm really surprised no one mentioned Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Betsy Palmer, Tina Louise (+ Paula Prentiss!) & Kirsten Dunst were all fab, I agree w/ all 3 of you above!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Scatman Crothers in The Shining deserves a honorable mention.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterReady

Love that Collette is the only person to show up twice. Deservedly so!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

Veronica Cartwright, Alien
Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense
Drew Barrymore, Scream
Courteney Cox, Scream 2
Parker Posey, Scream 3
Betty Gabriel, Get Out
Piper Laurie, Carrie
Marcia Gay Harden, The Mist
Jill Larson, The Taking of Deborah Logan
Marley Shelton, Grindhouse: Planet Terror

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan (the 1st)

Alex Wolff is incredible in Hereditary, but since his character is the first introduced, and really takes over perspective for the film's third act, while remaining pretty central throughout, I'd see him as definitely a lead, honestly more so than Toni Colette.

John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane is a matter of perspective - I can hear an argument for Lead, but in my eyes, antagonist roles are their own form of Supporting roles, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead's presence in every scene of the film (bar one) and active nature as a protagonist makes me see him as a Supporting Actor. Similar to Whiplash - basically a two hander, but one character is clearly the perspective character and is in almost every scene, while the other is meant to be an obstacle to that character.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDuncan Dykes

Everyone I think of has been mentioned. I would even mention Parker Posey in Scream 3, even though it's more comedic than anything else lol.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Kirsten Dunst In INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMrScreenAddict

S. ACTOR
Sidney Blackmer - Rosemary’s Baby
Vincent D’Onofrio - The Cell
Sid Haig - The Devil’s Rejects
Ian Holm - Alien
Ralph Ineson - The Witch
Marino Mase - Fists in the Pocket
Robert Mitchum - The Night of the Hunter
Telly Savales - Lisa and the Devil (possibly lead?)
Max von Sydow - The Exorcist
Kiefer Sutherland - The Lost Boys

S. ACTRESS
Fairuza Balk - The Craft
Drew Barrymore - Scream
Lisa Bonet - Angel Heart
Bette Davis - The Watcher in the Woods
Kirsten Dunst - Interview with the Vampire
Lillian Gish - The Night of the Hunter
Margot Kidder - Black Christmas
Piper Laurie - Carrie
Paula Prentiss - The Stepford Wives
Billie Whitelaw - The Omen

Foster/Hopkins/Levine not on my lists because I consider SotL more of a thriller, tbh. As much as its chilling.

October 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire and Linda Blair in The Exorcist should be locks in any top 10 female supporting performances in horror movies... in any child actors list, too, probably, maybe in the top 20 but not lower...

October 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

Jesus -- for me Linda Blair doesn't really do it without Mercedes McCambridge's voicework. But fused it's a sensational performance.

October 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

lin shaye in insidious needs more love. lily taylor in conjuring too. so is veronica cartwright in alien and invasion of the body snatchers. sadie frost looks good in those costumes. not much of a performance in there.

October 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbitemylip23

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Janet Leigh, Psycho
Piper Laurie, Carrie
Drew Barrymore, Scream
Linda Blair & Mercedes McCambridge, The Exorcist
Elsa Lanchester, The Bride of Frankenstein
Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense
Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby
Sadie Frost, Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Veronica Cartwright, Alien
Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear

SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Robert Shaw, Jaws
Kevin Spacey, Se7en
Lance Henriksen, Aliens
Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street
Brad Dourif, The Exorcist III
Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs
Max Von Sydow, The Exorcist
Gunnar Hansen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Edwin Neal, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire

April 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

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