Bad guys, mean girls, motherly women often win big at Oscars

The Academy frequently recognizes actors for portraying villainous characters or women who support and nurture others, based on the last 20 years of Oscar winners.

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Many actors have won Best Supporting Actor or Actress awards for portraying characters the audience loves to hate, whether it be Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight," Javier Bardem's menacing hitman role in "No Country for Old Men," or James Coburn's abusive father character in "Affliction."

Women, meanwhile, are often recognized for playing wife or mother roles to the men in their lives. Jennifer Connelly, for instance, won Best Supporting Actress for playing the long-suffering wife of schizophrenic man, in "A Beautiful Mind," while Patricia Arquette won the award last year for portraying the main character's mother in "Boyhood."

Below are some of the most frequent characteristics found in Oscar-winning roles since 1995, along with nominees from this year who show those same characteristics.

Bad guys (and girls)

Eleven men have won an Oscar for playing a "bad guy" in a movie over the last 20 years, while six women have been honoured in one of the actress categories for the same reason.

Among the more memorable Best Supporting Actor villains have been Heath Ledger's Joker ("The Dark Knight"), Christoph Waltz's Nazi officer Col. Hans Landa ("Inglourious Basterds") and Kevin Spacey's duplicitous criminal mastermind, Verbal Kint, in "The Usual Suspects."

Best Actor winners have included Denzel Washington, for playing a dirty cop in "Training Day," and Daniel Day Lewis, who portrayed a vicious oil baron in "There Will Be Blood."

In terms of Best Actress-winning villains, Kate Winslet won for portraying an illiterate Nazi war criminal in "The Reader," and Charlize Theron took home the award for her turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, in "Monster."

Mo'Nique was the most recent Best Supporting Actress winner for a villain role, as an abusive mother in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

This year's nominated roles do not include any obvious villains. Best Supporting Actress nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a smarmy criminal in "The Hateful Eight," while Mark Rylance portrays a suspected double agent for the Communists in "Bridge of Spies."

Support players

Women overwhelming win acting awards for portraying subservient characters, such as supportive wives, single moms and prostitutes. In the past 20 years, 16 women have won Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress awards for playing characters whose main role is to serve other characters.

Susan Sarandon ("Dead Man Walking") and Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient") won awards for playing nurses. Patricia Arquette, Melissa Leo, Sandra Bullock, Mo'Nique and Halle Berry all won for playing mothers, while Sandra Bullock's award-winning role in "The Blind Side" could also be seen as a semi-motherly portrayal. And Jennifer Connelly, Cate Blanchett and Reese Witherspoon picked up awards for taking care of mentally or emotionally troubled men, in "A Beautiful Mind," "The Aviator" and "Walk the Line," respectively.

Over that same time, eight men have won acting awards for playing supportive roles, though those roles are usually as teachers or trainers. That includes Christian Bale ("The Fighter"), Robin Williams ("Good Will Hunting") and J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash"). The only Best Actor winner for a parental, supportive role was Roberto Benigni, who played a father looking out for his son in a concentration camp during the Second World War, in "Life is Beautiful."

This year, five women and one man are nominated for playing subservient or supportive characters. Brie Larson plays a mother trying to protect her son in "Room"; Charlotte Rampling plays a woman helping her husband deal with health issues and the re-discovery of a lost lover's body, in "45 Years"; Kate Winslet portrays Steve Jobs' long-suffering, tireless aide in "Steve Jobs," and Alicia Vikander is a challenged but supportive wife for a man transitioning to being a woman in "The Danish Girl."

Stallone, the lone male, plays an aging Rocky Balboa who coaches Adonis Creed as a boxer in "Creed."


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