31 of the Best Film & TV Ensembles of 2019

Article Image
Photo Source: Netflix/STX Films/Lionsgate/Columbia Pictures

The Screen Actors Guild Awards for film casts and television ensembles are more than just the equivalents of the Oscars’ and Emmys’ top prizes; they’re unique accolades awarded exclusively by actors—voting members of SAG-AFTRA from all over the country—exclusively to actors. More specifically, the honors go to casts whose chemistry proves that on-screen performances can be more than the sum of their parts. 

Below are the projects from the 2019 calendar year that most impressed those of us who know and appreciate superb ensemble acting, as presented by Backstage to this year’s SAG Award nominating committees. Follow the link attached to each film to learn why their casts exemplify the art of collective, cohesive performance. And to keep up with voting guides to the SAG Awards, Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, and more, click here

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “Avengers: Endgame”: In addition to being one of the highest pinnacles of mainstream movie history—making $1 billion in five days, becoming the highest grossing film of all time—“Avengers: Endgame” may also have set the record for Hollywood’s biggest acting ensemble ever...
  • “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”: Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not so much about children’s TV host Fred Rogers as it is about the ethos Rogers instilled in his audience...
  • “Downton Abbey”: How does the long-running British television drama “Downton Abbey” transfer to the big screen? Well, it gets bigger...
  • “Ford v Ferrari”: This is what you get when you combine the powers of one of today’s most acclaimed and decorated character actors with one of the most beloved everymen of the big screen...
  • “Harriet”: It has taken far too long to give Harriet Tubman—escaped slave, abolitionist, suffragette, and all-around American legend—the Hollywood treatment...
  • “Hustlers”: Any words you’d use to describe “Hustlers” are a giveaway that you’ll be entertained: a buddy crime dramedy; an early 2000s period piece complete with flashy costumes; a sticking-it-to-the-man revenge story with a big comeuppance...
  • “The Irishman”: Robert De Niro has joked that thanks to the de-aging technology used in “The Irishman,” he could continue to have a viable acting career for the next 20 years. After watching him here, you’re going to hope he does, too...
  • “Jojo Rabbit”: Actor-writer-director Taika Waititi, along with his cast of accomplished names and one young acting newcomer, somehow finds levity in one of the darkest periods in human history...
  • “Just Mercy”: “This is about all of us,” reads the tagline for the upcoming feature film “Just Mercy.” The movie’s saga is as universal—and as stirring—as that quote suggests...
  • “Knives Out”: What happens when a superhero, an international spy, a Netflix teen star, and multiple members of Hollywood royalty walk onto a movie set? According to filmmaker Rian Johnson: “Knives Out”...
  • “Marriage Story”: The title of Noah Baumbach’s new film is an accurate description, if a slightly misleading one. “Marriage Story” indeed tells the story of a marriage: a joyful, messy, intense, imperfect one, but ultimately, and most importantly, one that has concluded...
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: As the casting news for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film, began to trickle out in early 2018, headlines became a who’s-who of Hollywood’s past, present, and future...
  • “Parasite”: Does Bong Joon-ho make films, or would they be better described as audacious forays into the writer-director’s imagination, surgically removed from his brain and implanted into the big screen? Such are the questions that come to mind with his latest cinematic mindfuck...
  • “Us”: The announcement of a family of doppelgängers in the Wilsons’ driveway, interrupting what had been a mostly uneventful Santa Cruz vacation, confirms for the audience that something is very much amiss...
  • “Waves”: From its very first sequence, there’s a kinetic energy fueling Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves”...

READ: Longshots and Late Arrivals: Don’t Underestimate These 8 Films This Awards Season

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • “Barry”: Often referred to as a dark comedy, Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s HBO series seems to make that descriptor literal in its second season’s finale....
  • “Black-ish”: For a family sitcom on a traditional network, ABC’s “Black-ish” manages to cover an impressive amount of ground...
  • “Fleabag”: Humble actors often palm off the credit for a great performance to great writing. But in the case of “Fleabag,” it really is hard to discern where more talent lies...
  • “GLOW”: A group of leotard-clad women play-acting inside a wrestling ring isn’t exactly a conventional setup for an inspired feminist series, but it’s exactly that unexpected juxtaposition that continues to make Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s “GLOW” such a treat...
  • “The Good Place”: The core cast of Michael Schur’s comedy established themselves as one of the strongest—and most infectiously charming—ensembles the small screen has ever seen from the day their characters died...
  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: Few series on television today are as delightful and, well, marvelous as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”...
  • “Veep”: There’s a kind of catharsis in watching horrible people say horrible things to each other....

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • “The Crown”: The actors on the much-anticipated third season of Netflix’s “The Crown” had a tricky job...
  • “Euphoria”: Though it may be a tough pill to swallow for those of us who were born before the new millennium, the kids of Generation Z are officially old enough to partake in the same sex, drugs, and alcohol-induced debauchery of the generations that came before it...
  • “Game of Thrones”: Winter is over and the Iron Throne is no more after HBO’s fantasy hit “Game of Thrones” ended with its eighth season this spring...
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale”: When we look back on the eventual legacy of this streamer, a footnote on every page will be its inextricable mirroring of this era’s war on human rights...
  • “Killing Eve”: “Cerebral” and “unique” are words that get tossed around a lot when talking about crime dramas. BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” however, is one unlike any you’ve ever seen...
  • “Pose”: The FX drama from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals is cast by Alexa L. Fogel—from the top of the call sheet down to the unnamed extras—to near perfection...
  • “Stranger Things”: You know it’s going to be a good summer when there’s a new season of “Stranger Things” to binge...
  • “Succession”: The acidic dramedy about a family-run media empire is brutally funny and eminently watchable...
  • “This Is Us”: This year’s fourth season kicked off with a whole cadre of new characters in an episode aptly titled “Strangers,” and the newcomers, along with the original ensemble, put forth performances worthy of another win...

Be sure to check in with Backstage’s awards coverage for more as the season unfolds!

Author Headshot
Jack Smart
Jack Smart is the awards editor at Backstage, where he covers all things Emmy, SAG, Oscar, and Tony Awards. He also produces and hosts Backstage’s awards podcast “In the Envelope” and has interviewed some of the biggest stars of stage and screen.
See full bio and articles here!