Every year, millions of people tune in to watch award shows that reward the best movie actors. While we can imagine how wonderful it must feel to be one of the ladies or gentlemen to receive a trophy on that glamorous stage, the truth of the matter is that other factors often mean more to an actor’s career than merely winning trophies. Of course, trophies are an acknowledgment of one's craft, but they're not the only thing that matters.
Due to the fact that movie studios are a business above all else, the Hollywood system is set up with only one thing in mind: convincing the public to pay to see a film. For instance, most movies are sold to audiences based on who's acting in them, but sometimes a supporting actor will give a performance so good that they become the most memorable part of the film - whether or not they win an Oscar for it.
With that in mind, it is time to get some popcorn and look at this list of 20 supporting characters in movies that were so entertaining they stole the spotlight from the lead characters - and stayed in our minds long after the credits rolled.
20 Noah Levenstein From American Pie Had Us Chuckling
Released in 1999, American Pie became a surprise runaway hit and managed to at least temporarily turn all of its stars into overnight celebrities. The sole exception to that, Eugene Levy had already put together a legendary career for himself long before he first played Noah Levenstein. Despite that, he was so funny in his American Pie role that it quickly became his most famous one.
The ultimate on-screen example of a father who is trying his best to be cool, Noah instead managed to be so awkward that he left viewers laughing in the best way. However, his love for his son was so obvious that it seemed impossible to not smile whenever he appeared onscreen.
19 Emily Charlton Was Very Funny In The Devil Wears Prada
When you first start to watch The Devil Wears Prada there is one character who clearly stands out the most, Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly. However, if you ask us, by the time the movie comes to an end, Emily Charlton was the character we wanted to see more of. Portrayed by one of the best actors of her generation, Emily Blunt, when this character first appears on screen it seems like she is nothing more than your average movie meanie.
However, as the film progresses it becomes increasingly obvious that she acts the way she does due to the fiercely competitive world in which she works. A far more nuanced character than she initially seems, Charlton makes the most of every second she appears in the movie and we can’t get enough of her.
18 Drexl Spivey Was A One-Of-A-Kind Character In True Romance
Often the forgotten Tarantino classic, Quentin might not have directed True Romance but he wrote it and his fingerprints can be felt all over the film. For instance, the movie is full of characters who really make an impact on viewers, with Drexl Spivey being the most obvious example of that. Portrayed by the immensely talented actor Gary Oldman, Spivey is a bad guy who mistreats everyone in his life, including the movie’s female lead, Alabama.
Confronted by Alabama’s new husband while loud dance music plays in the background, Spivey seems relaxed as he delivers a threatening monologue that ratchets up the film’s tension to the extreme.
17 The Inventor From Edward Scissorhands Seemed Like Such A Lovely Person
One of the most intriguing romance films of all-time, Edward Scissorhands focuses on a unique person attempting to make his way in a world he doesn’t understand while falling for someone. A masterfully crafted movie with amazing visuals, an enchanting story and a stellar cast, Edward Scissorhands stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.
As much as we enjoy seeing those two on screen together in the film, however, we adore the short-lived relationship Edward has with the man who created him even more. Portrayed by Hollywood legend Vincent Price, The Inventor seems more like a loving father than a mad scientist, which makes his scenes in the film so heartwarming.
16 Private Vasquez Gave Aliens A Burst Of Adrenaline
One of the rare sequels that really managed to up the ante in a way that fans of the original film still enjoyed, the pulse-pounding action in Aliens kept viewers on the edge of their seats. The perfect character for a film like that, even in a group of soldiers Private Vasquez came across like she might have been the most dangerous of the bunch. Someone that seemed especially tough in comparison to Bill Paxton’s character Private Hudson, just from looking at her, Vasquez seems like the perfect person to have at your side in any hairy situation.
In fact, it surprised us that the actor who played Vasquez, Jenette Goldstein, failed to become an action star based on how awesome she was at playing the character.
15 Yondu Was So Entertaining In Guardians Of The Galaxy
One of the riskiest modern blockbusters, Guardians Of The Galaxy introduced viewers to a ragtag group of strange beings from across the cosmos but thankfully people loved them. On top of the difficult task of getting viewers to invest in the Guardians, the movie also featured Yondu, a space pirate with his own moral code. An alien being with blue skin and a red Mohawk, Yondu was instantly visually striking but it was his awesome arrow weapon and complicated relationship with Star Lord that really worked.
In fact, they made such a great pair that the film’s sequel focused heavily on their bond and with it they left viewers in tears.
14 Marla Hooch Had Us In Stitches During A League Of Their Own
For the most part, in order for a character to stand out in an ensemble film, they need to be loud and proud enough to get noticed. That's where our favourite A League of Their Own character, Marla Hooch, comes in. Interestingly, she spends most of the movie saying next to nothing.
Creating a lot of fun from the moment she first appears on the screen, her interactions with Jon Lovitz’s baseball scout character had us in stitches. However, it was when she went out with her teammates and gave an OTT singing performance on stage in a bar while professing her love for Nelson that we knew she was the best.
13 Sergeant Al Powell Was Incredibly Likable In Die Hard
Widely considered to be a classic movie, many people believe Die Hard to be a pretty much perfect action thriller. Focused on John McClane, an everyday cop who finds himself battling a group of international criminals, the movie managed to feature huge action set pieces while also feeling entirely real. Almost completely alone in the situation, McClane’s main lifeline is Sergeant Al Powell, a beat cop who gives him emotional support when they speak to one another over CB radio.
Known for his kindness, Powell’s discussions with McClane helped make Die Hard the success it was because they gave the film an emotional undercurrent in which viewers could invest.
12 Domino Was Tough In Deadpool 2
When it came to the first Deadpool movie, there were several enjoyable characters but it really was all about its star: Ryan Reynolds. While that was great, we were interested to learn that in the sequel he was going to share the spotlight with Cable, a tough soldier from the future. However, we never expected both of those two to be overshadowed by Domino in a lot of scenes!
A mutant with the ability to manipulate luck, things just work out for Domino and it was awesome to see how that was visualized in the film. On top of that, actress Zazie Beetz infused all of her dialogue with so much confidence and charisma that she lit up the screen whenever she appeared.
11 McLovin From Superbad Had Moviegoers Rolling In The Aisles
Even though this film turned Jonah Hill into an international superstar, most people think of another character first when Superbad is brought up. One of the most talked about movies in the world when it first came out, even though Fogell was a supporting character played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, his alter ego McLovin was the most popular part of the movie.
Dressed like he lived in the '70s, Fogell already looked remarkable enough, but when he showed off his fake driver’s license and his pals reacted to the name written on it, McLovin, filmgoers laughed hysterically. Far from a one-hit wonder, McLovin is also great during his crazy ride-along with a pair of unusual cops which helped make filmgoers love him even more.
10 Gloria Cleary Seemed Completely Unhinged In Wedding Crashers
Judging from the Wedding Crashers trailers that were released for the film, it certainly seemed like the movie was going to be all about its two lead male characters. However, Isla Fisher was so convincing and hilarious as Gloria Cleary that she ended up stealing the spotlight for herself.
Involved with Vince Vaughn’s character in the movie, Gloria was such a fantastic character because of Isla Fisher’s fearless and passionate performance. The expressions on her face alone made her our favourite part of Wedding Crashers. Just by looking at her funny expressions, we wanted to laugh.
9 Everyone Was Keen To See Spider-Man In Captain America: Civil War
Always destined to be a very big deal, Captain America: Civil War revolved around two groups of MCU superheroes winding up on opposites sides of a conflict and eventually battling one another. With that in mind, it may have seemed illogical to debut not one but two major Marvel superheroes in the film but that is exactly what happened with awesome results. The first of the two was Black Panther. Seeing him on the big screen for the first time was simply amazing, mainly because producers did such a fantastic job of bringing him to life.
Despite that, however, Spider-Man’s MCU debut was even more noteworthy because he is such a popular character. More importantly, for years it seemed impossible that he would share the screen with the Avengers!
8 Ellie Fredricksen Brought Millions Of Up Fans To Tears
Proof positive of just powerful Pixar movies can be, nobody expected to shed tears during Up’s opening moments but that happened all over the world. Being able to induce this reaction by introducing audiences to a lovable pair of kids who would go on to fall in love and spend their lives together, a silent montage showed viewers their lovely life together.
From there, the movie took a turn when Ellie Fredricksen, the precocious young girl seen at the start of the film, sadly passed away. Amazingly enough, even though we barely saw Ellie onscreen, Up did such an effective job of getting us to love her that we continued to feel her presence cast light over the rest of the film.
7 Blake’s Glengarry Glen Ross Speech Became Legendary
If you prefer blockbuster movies with huge set pieces and non-stop action, then there is a very good chance that Glengarry Glen Ross may not be for you. However, the film boasts an enthralling story that is told by a simply amazing cast including the likes of Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin. Towards the beginning of the movie, Alec Baldwin’s character Blake gives an incredible speech.
Arguably the ultimate cinema salesman character, during his unrelenting seven-minute lecture, Blake puts a group of people’s jobs on the line and proves he only cares about money. If that weren’t enough, during his single scene Blake made an entire concept famous: ABC, Always Be Closing.
6 Bill Murray Had An Epic Zombieland Cameo
If most people sat down and put together a list of the most legendary comedic actors of all-time, there is no doubt that Bill Murray would come to mind very quickly. Beloved for his roles in a long list of classic movies, any film that he is a part of instantly gains a certain amount of credibility.
Most people who saw Zombieland without having it spoiled for them were surprised when he had an unadvertised cameo in it. Appearing in the film as a version of himself who dons makeup so the infected don’t see him as a potential meal, everything else about Murray’s portrayal and his character’s fate was hilarious.
5 Mrs. Miller From Doubt Was So Impressive She Nicked A Scene From Meryl Streep
The second character on this list that shadowed actress Meryl Streep, Doubt also starred Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman but Viola Davis’s performance as Mrs. Miller was miles ahead of them. Only seen during a single scene in the movie, Mrs. Miller is told that her child might be in a dangerous situation and her reaction is bound to take most viewers by surprise the first time they see it.
Clearly worried about her son’s present and future, Davis’s performance as Mrs. Miller manages to reveal her sorrow, inner strength and restraint all at the same time. If that isn’t a performance for the ages, we don’t know what is.
4 Quicksilver Ran Away With X-Men: Days Of Future Past
One of the first Marvel movie franchises, right from the start the X-Men films seemed to have loads of potential. After all, there are literally hundreds of X-Men-related characters and storylines that filmmakers can use as inspiration. However, in terms of the movie characters' mutant abilities, the series reached its zenith when Quicksilver was introduced in X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
A mutant speedster who can run superhumanly fast, seeing him practically fly around a room and cause havoc was incredibly fun, especially once the aftermath was revealed. On top of that, the film did a marvelous job of portraying the mischievous personality that someone with that kind of ability might have.
3 Penny Lane From Almost Famous Was Enchanting
Almost Famous tells the story of a teenager who is intrigued by the rock and roll lifestyle of his heroes. However, it doesn’t shy away from showing the often superficial way in which superstars can treat one another and that is epitomized by the main character’s dislike of how Penny Lane is treated in the movie.
Said to be the ultimate Band-Aid, a more positive version of the typical groupie, throughout the film she exhibits a level of grace and charisma that is hard to find even among the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Played to perfection by Kate Hudson, it's not surprising this role won her a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.
2 Arthur Leigh Allen Brought Real Menace
An actor who has typically found himself in lovable roles, usually when John Carroll Lynch appears onscreen there is something about him that radiates kindness. On the other end of the spectrum, during his scene as the suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, he comes across as someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
Seemingly a fairly run-of-the-mill dude when he first starts being questioned by detectives, at a certain point he drops all facades and his face seems to instantly darken. Able to seem truly menacing while denying any wrongdoing, Allen makes such a strong impression that he casts a shadow over the entire film.
1 Rufus’s Love Actually Scene Was Satisfying And Frustrating
An ensemble film with a monster cast, Love Actually included appearances from huge stars like Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and Laura Linney, among others. However, all of those huge stars were shadowed by Rowan Atkinson’s captivating performance as a jewelry salesperson. Asked to package a gift for one of the film’s main characters, the character of Rufus (played by Atkinson) proceeds to take a long time to elaborately wrap an otherwise simple present.
A scene that is frustrating because viewers know that Rickman’s character is in a hurry, there's also something so satisfying about Rufus’s wrapping that his scene is incredibly enjoyable to watch.