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Donald Sutherland Dies at 88: His 10 Most Memorable Roles

"One of the most important actors in the history of film," his son, Kiefer Sutherland, said.

Donald Sutherland, whose celebrated career in Hollywood began in the late '60s, died June 20 at the age of 88, his son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, announced in a post on X.

"With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away," Kiefer wrote. "I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film. Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived."

The assertion that Donald Sutherland was "never daunted by a role" is borne out by his impressive filmography, which includes heroes, villains, and everything in between. In honor of his contributions to film and TV, here's a look back at 10 of his most memorable roles.

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Vernon L. Pinkley, The Dirty Dozen (1967)

donald sutherland in the dirty dozen

Audiences first saw Sutherland as a member of the ensemble cast of The Dirty Dozen, which he starred in alongside Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and John Cassavetes, among others. Sutherland plays one of the titular "dirty dozen," 12 convicts recruited as commandos by the Allies during World War II.

Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce Jr., M*A*S*H (1970)

donald sutherland in mash
20th Century Fox

While fans of the TV series M*A*S*H know Alan Alda as Hawkeye, Sutherland originated the role of the wisecracking Army surgeon in the 1970 film. In addition to inspiring the long-running show, the Robert Altman film also helped launch Sutherland to stardom.

John Klute, Klute (1971)

donald sutherland in klute
Warner Bros.

In Alan J. Pakula's Klute, Sutherland plays the titular detective, who joins forces with call girl Bree Daniels, played by Jane Fonda. While Fonda's performance earned the most accolades—including an Academy Award—Sutherland was also widely praised for his work in the tense thriller.

John Baxter, Don't Look Now (1973)

donald sutherland in don't look now
British Lion Films

While now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made, Don't Look Now was highly controversial at the time, in large part thanks to a love scene between Sutherland and his co-star, Julie Christie. That aside, Sutherland's performance as a grieving father hurtling toward doom is one of his best.

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Matthew Bennell, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

donald sutherland in invasion of the body snatchers
United Artists

There are few final shots as memorable as the one in Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Sutherland plays an employee of the San Francisco Health Department who learns that aliens are turning humans into pod people—and while (spoiler alert) the character doesn't escape the invasion, Sutherland gets to leave his mark in the end.

Calvin Jarrett, Ordinary People (1980)

donald sutherland in ordinary people
Paramount Pictures

Despite all the praise heaped on him over the course of his decades-long career, Sutherland never received an Academy Award nomination. (He did get an honorary Oscar in 2017.) Nevertheless, his work in Best Picture winner Ordinary People—which earned Timothy Hutton an Oscar and got Mary Tyler Moore and Judd Hirsch noms—is worth celebrating.

Mr. X, JFK (1991)

donald sutherland in jfk
Warner Bros.

Oliver Stone's conspiracy-minded JFK has its fair share of fans and detractors. For those who love it, one of its selling points is a very lengthy monologue by Sutherland, playing a shadowy government figure known only as Mr. X (based on the real historical figure L. Fletcher Prouty).

Flanders "Flan" Kittredge, Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

donald sutherland in six degrees of separation

In Six Degrees of Separation, Fred Schepisi's adaptation of the John Guare play of the same name, Sutherland and Stockard Channing play high-society New Yorkers taken in by a con man, played by Will Smith. Critics praised all three performances in this funny but surprisingly weighty film.

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Lucien Wilbanks, A Time to Kill (1996)

donald sutherland in a time to kill
Warner Bros.

While they don't share any screentime, Donald Sutherland and son Kiefer are both in A Time to Kill, a Joel Schumacher adaptation of the John Grisham novel. The elder Sutherland is a scene-stealer as Lucien Wilbanks, a former civil rights lawyer who has fallen from grace—but who still offers Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) essential guidance.

President Coriolanus Snow, the Hunger Games series (2012-2015)

donald sutherland in the hunger games

To younger audiences, Sutherland may be best known for his towering role as fascist leader President Coriolanus Snow in the first four Hunger Games movies. Giving his all to playing the series' primary antagonist, Sutherland helped elevate the films into modern genre classics, appealing to both fans of Suzanne Collins' book series and newcomers.

Louis Peitzman
Louis Peitzman is the Editor-in-Chief of Best Life, currently overseeing content across all verticals. Read more
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