Donald Sutherland dead: the iconic actor was 88

One of the true legends of modern cinema history, Donald Sutherland, has died but leaves behind a rich cinematic legacy.

Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland, one of the greatest Canadian actors of his generation and a silver screen legend, has died. The actor, who famously starred in M*A*S*H*, Ordinary People, JFK, The Dirty Dozen, Klute, The Hunger Games, and so many more, was 88.

His son, Kiefer Sutherland, an iconic actor in his own right, broke the news on X:

According to Deadline, the actor died in Miami after a long illness. This is an especially heavy blow for a Canadian such as myself. Growing up, he was one of those aspirational figures. Rising from humble origins in St. John’s, New Brunswick, Sutherland made a name for himself in Europe before ever catching on in North America. He first made headway doing guest turns on British TV shows like The Avengers and The Saint before his breakout role in 1967’s The Dirty Dozen. Originally, he was only supposed to have a small role. Still, the director, Robert Aldrich, gave him one of the film’s most famous moments, where he impersonated a general when the actor who was supposed to do the bit gave him trouble. Within a few years, he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, thanks to M*A*S*H*, Klute, Don’t Look Now, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and so many others.

Indeed, it’s hard to do justice to his legacy in this obit, as the sheer volume of iconic roles he played is intimidating to list. One thing noteworthy is that he was widely considered the greatest living actor to have never even been nominated for an Oscar, which is hard to believe if you look at some of his work. Still, he received an honorary Oscar in 2017. For me, one that sticks out is Oliver Stone’s JFK, where Sutherland turns up as Mr.X and delivers an incredible monologue blowing the lid of the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. How he didn’t get a Best Supporting Actor nomination that year astounds me.

Sutherland’s versatility served him well over the years. He was as comfortable as a leading man in everything from action (The Eagle Has Landed) to thrillers (Eye of the Needle) and beyond. He also famously co-starred in National Lampoon’s Animal House as the teacher who introduces Delta House to marijuana, and in his later years, showed up in mentor roles in movies like A Time to Kill, The Italian Job, and many more. More recently, he became important to a whole new generation of moviegoers when he played the villain, Aldous Snow, in the Hunger Games series. Just recently, he co-starred on Taylor Sheridan’s Lawman: Bass Reeves, as a sympathetic Old West judge. On a more personal note, I met him at TIFF a few years ago, and I could tell him, as a Canadian, how much his work meant to me. I’m glad I approached him.

What’s your favorite Donald Sutherland role? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.