Is John Goodman the Greatest Supporting Actor of All Time?

January 5, 2017 5:00 am
Is John Goodman the Greatest Supporting Actor Ever?
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak in 1998's 'The Big Lebowski' (© Gramercy Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Is John Goodman the Greatest Supporting Actor Ever?
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak in 1998’s ‘The Big Lebowski’ (© Gramercy Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)


Over the years, audiences have come to know actor John Goodman by many different names. He’s been Howard (10 Cloverfield Lane), Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski), John Chambers (Argo), Al Zimmer (The Artist), and Delbert McClintock (Arachnophobia), among others. In a sense, he’s the acting version of the rug in Lebowski: He ties the room (and a cast) together.

But that’s no longer just the subjective opinion of a movie fan.

In this age of data, it shouldn’t be a surprise that someone’s come up with evidence that Goodman is the greatest supporting actor of all time. FiveThirtyEight recently analyzed the Rotten Tomatoes scores of Goodman’s entire catalog, coupled with his place in the billing of each movie. And the proof is in the pudding: all of the movies in which Goodman was featured in a supporting (or lower) role have great ratings. Besides Lebowski, which scored an 81 percent among critics; there’s another Coen Brothers’ film, Barton Fink (91 percent); The Emperor’s New Groove (85 percent) an animated feature; lesser-known The Jack Bull (80 percent); and Oscar-nominated Inside Llewyn Davis (94 percent).

Is it Goodman’s weight that keeps him off the top of the marquee? Or is he so associated as a character actor that studios shy away from him as a leading man? We guess it doesn’t really matter. Because at the end of the day, us movie viewers are a hell of a lot better off with John Goodman’s name following the bigger stars.

And so are those other actors.

For actual PowerPoint-esque charts/tables of the evidence, check out FiveThirtyEight‘s original piece here.

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