Best co-starring performances: Boardwalk Empire (HBO, 2010-present), Hugo (2011), Lincoln (2012)

Viewers of HBO's excellent Boardwalk Empire have no doubt been a little bummed this year. Probably because actor Michael Stuhlbarg has been busy co-starring in major motion pictures, his Boardwalk character, New York City racketeer/gangster Arnold Rothstein, hasn't been in many episodes so far. Meaning, Stuhlbarg's knack for quiet imposition and wide-eyed threats have been sorely missed.

If taking time off from Boardwalk Empire allows him to steal more scenes in movies like Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, though, then HBO viewers should have no problem getting over his absence in the long run. Going against the Rothstein type in both films, Stuhlbarg tapped into his vulnerable, everyman side for Scorsese and Spielberg, which is how he first caught the attention of Hollywood producers and directors in the first place.

In 2009's Oscar-nominated A Serious Man, written and directed by the esteemed Joel and Ethan Coen, Stuhlbarg inspired massive viewer empathy playing a beleaguered Jewish man who questions his faith after marital and financial woes. Dude really knows how to elicit compassion while playing a tortured soul—no wonder we care so much about that seemingly heartless Rothstein.