Oh, the Supporting Actress -- country of the comic relief, the villainess, the quirky-girl-with-the-great-personality. It is her grand, historic duty to prop up the neuroses of the Ingenue/Main Homme, or attempt to thwart his or her designs. The supporting actress can have anywhere between eight minutes' screen-time (as did Dame Judi Dench, in her award-winning portrayal of the Queen in 1998's Shakespeare and Love) to several hours' worth of helpful nods. She's weird. She's funny. She's much more like your friends than that fussy main character.
I've always respected the doofy backgrounder, but she often goes ignored by the limelight. So this Friday, let's celebrate the sidekick.
1. Janeane Garofalo, as Vickie in Reality Bites (1994)
Vickie gets our nod because she's funny, she's together, she starts dance parties, she's a little bit crazy, and...she has a whole big life of her own! Winona Ryder's Lelaina Pierce (the proto-Girl) can be a solipsistic bummer of a friend, but Vickie doesn't flinch easily. She goes about her business. We take it on faith that she's the heroine of her own life, as opposed to just a sounding board. It should also go without saying that I personally wish Janeane Garofalo was my best friend.
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2. Carol Burnett, as Ms. Hannigan in Annie (1982)
No one is endorsing alcoholism or child neglect. That said, Carol Burnett's portrayal of a lush nut-job in charge of an orphanage (of all things) is easily the best part of this splashy musical-movie starring a bunch of pre-pubescent girls. I would go to Bonus Iries with Ms. H, any day.
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3. Melissa McCarthy, as Megan in Bridesmaids (2011)
...she's strong, she's forward, she's sexual. She's a compulsive puppy thief and an airplane predator. She would climb you like a tree. This one easily goes without saying.
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4. Marisa Tomei, as Lisa in My Cousin Vinny (1992)
In fact, Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for her portrayal of the bawdy Brooklynite with a penchant for fashion and fixing cars. There's something about Ms. Mona Lisa Vito. Is it all those emphatic speeches? Is it the snide-but-loving way in which she keeps her goofus fiance in check? For my money? It's the catsuits, hands-down.
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5. Meryl Streep, as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2003)
While no one can say with a straight face that Ms. Meryl Streep suffers from a lack of recognition, let us all take a moment to consider what this movie would have looked like had she not played Dreamcrusher to Anne Hathaway's Starry-Eyed Ingenue. Think about it some more. Would you have seen it? Really?
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6. Parker Posey, as Darla in Dazed and Confused (1993)
Though she shares this place of honor with Matthew McConaughey (for his portrayal of Wooderson, the laconic Super Senior), Parker Posey's hellish upperclassmen in Dazed and Confused is the perfect Texas bully. She gets bonus credit for the ever-quotable, "WIPE THAT FACE OFF YOUR HEAD, BITCH." Yikes.
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7. Madeline Kahn, as Mrs. White in Clue (1985)
As the morbid, demure Mrs. White, Madeline Kahn...sigh. It's really best you see for yourself:
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Runners-up shout-outs: Terri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Grace Jones in Boomerang...dozens and dozens of others. Share your favorite sidekicks below!