Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o are strong shoo-ins for individual noms, and their work would not be possible without a flawless international cast that places the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch alongside “SNL” comic Tarem Killiam.
August: Osage County
Meryl Streep heads an impressive cast of Oscar winners (Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper) and beloved character actors (Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson) along with unexpected surprises like Benedict Cumberbatch (again!) and a perfectly sleazy Dermot Mulroney. Based on the hit play, it’s a true actor’s piece.
Much has been made of leading lady Cate Blanchett’s beautiful work, but she’s ably supported by a stellar cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale and a serious turn by Andrew Dice Clay.
Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are drawing buzz, while a solid group of adored actors (including Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare and Steve Zahn) never miss a step by their side.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers create great characters to blend seamlessly into their worlds, always full of interesting faces. Oscar Isaac shines in the lead, but John Goodman is also at his best as his blustery foil, while Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake also impress.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey ground this historical drama that gives many great actors a chance to shine, from David Oyelowo (as their revolutionary son) to a parade of Oscar winners, including Robin Williams, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda and Cuba Gooding Jr.
While the story may center on Mark Wahlberg’s Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the supporting actors represent some of the best young talent working today, from Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch to Taylor Kitsch.
Alexander Payne knows how to craft an ensemble — his “Sideways” thesps took this prize in 2005 — and the performances in his latest are as authentic and fascinating as ever. Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb feel like they fit right into the small town Payne portrays, right alongside actual locals and non-pros.
Out of the Furnace
This tale set in a dying steel town is earning raves for Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as close siblings. But kudos are also due to the rest of the cast, including Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker and Woody Harrelson, in a terrifying turn.
Despite its dark subject matter, this kidnapping thriller became a commercial and critical hit, thanks in large part to searing performances from Oscar winner Melissa Leo and nominees Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard.
Saving Mr. Banks
Two-time Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks shine as P.L. Travers and Walt Disney, but every role is filled with a fantastic performer, including vets Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and exciting new faces like Annie Rose Buckley as a young Travers.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese’s latest is full of the best and brightest, from Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead to Jonah Hill as his admiring protégé. And Matthew McConaughey could threepeat in this category thanks to “Mud” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”