15 Donald Sutherland Movies to Stream: ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘M*A*S*H’ and More

15 Donald Sutherland Movies to Stream: ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘M*A*S*H’ and More
15 Donald Sutherland Movies to Stream: ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘M*A*S*H’ and More

A lithe and seductively charming actor who worked consistently for more than six decades in Hollywood, often as a leading man, Donald Sutherland died on Thursday at 88. As a thinking man’s sex symbol whose versatility made him equally persuasive in irreverent comedies and heart-rending dramas, Sutherland worked with major directors across multiple eras, including Robert Altman, Federico Fellini and Clint Eastwood and looked comfortable in both modern dress and period garb. His unusual height — he was 6-foot-4 — and sonorous voice gave Sutherland an authoritative gait, but he was given more toward gentle-giant sensitivity than masculine swagger. Narrowing his great performances down to 15 films is no easy task — there’s at least another 15 where these came from — but this selection of streamable titles is a testament to his immense talent and range.


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Kicking off a decade in which counterculture rebellion would seep into American studio movies — and a decade in which, not unrelatedly, Sutherland would become a big star — Robert Altman’s irreverent comedy about a medical unit during the Korean War doubled as a stealth commentary on the then-ongoing quagmire in Vietnam. Sutherland and Elliott Gould embody the film’s coarse iconoclasm and soul as two skilled combat surgeons who fill the downtime between harrowing emergencies with pranks, sarcastic quips and a fair bit of womanizing, often at the expense of the head nurse (Sally Kellerman). A hit in theaters, “M*A*S*H” was a popular long-running TV comedy, but the film remains significantly pricklier.

The central joke of Paul Mazursky’s clever riff on Fellini’s “8 ½” is that “Alex in Wonderland” was only the second film Mazursky had directed, following “Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice,” and thus he had not nearly the mileage Fellini had accumulated when his onscreen alter ego suffers a nervous breakdown after eight films and major international success. Here, Sutherland has the comic humility to play Mazursky’s hyper-neurotic surrogate, who is rendered nearly catatonic in his panic over his future in Hollywood and whether he should shift to a more commercial direction. It’s an unusual role for Sutherland, whose gravitas makes him more naturally assured, but he’s counterbalanced nicely by Ellen Burstyn as his wife, who manages his ego while exerting a subtle influence over his decision-making.


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Even though he plays the title character in Alan Pakula’s nerve-jangling psychological thriller, Sutherland gives a notably understated performance as a small-town detective who journeys to New York to investigate a friend’s disappearance. Though his presence is imposing, even vaguely threatening, Sutherland yields the floor to Jane Fonda’s Oscar-winning turn as a call girl who had the missing man for a client. “Klute” offers more than a few shady customers as suspects, whipping up the creepy ambience Pakula would build around political thrillers like “The Parallax View” and “All the President’s Men,” but Fonda’s tough-minded character works to dispel many of the assumptions around sex work and her damsel-in-distress type.

Nicolas Roeg’s groundbreaking experiment in psychological horror begins with a father who loses his child in a drowning accident, experiencing a grief so profound that it seems to break the film into shards. Sutherland plays that father with intense emotion that curdles into fear and dread as he and his wife (Julie Christie) leave their home in the British countryside for Venice, where he works on restoring an old cathedral. Between their numbing sadness and a city that hums with psychic menace, “Don’t Look Now,” based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, builds toward a shocking, gruesome climax in which the past and the present are suggestively folded together.


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Though set in the glamorous world of pre-World War II Hollywood, “The Day of the Locust” evokes the miseries of living on its fringes, focusing on the artisans who populate a rundown apartment building called the San Bernardino Arms. Even within these humble environs, where the residents include a vaudevillian, a dwarf and a would-be child star, Sutherland stands out as Homer Simpson (yes, that’s his name), an accountant whose friendship with an aspiring starlet (Karen Black) edges into creepy obsession. William Atherton, who would become known for playing pompous villains in hits like “Ghostbusters” and “Die Hard,” is a relative Everyman at the film’s center, but John Schlesinger’s rich historical drama moves inexorably toward a nightmarish finale.

After establishing himself as a leading man in Hollywood, Sutherland appeared deep down the cast list of this rambunctious frat-house comedy, but his few scenes make an impression. As an English professor droning on about “Paradise Lost,” Sutherland surprises his apathetic students by sharing their boredom with John Milton, though not enough to absolve them from learning the material anyway. (“I’m not joking,” he deadpans. “This is my job.”) Later, he introduces marijuana to three inexperienced students, gently leading them through a puff-and-pass session that leaves one of them pondering the nature of the universe. He does his best not to betray his annoyance.


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The shot of a possessed Sutherland pointing and shrieking is one of the defining images of his career — and certainly the most meme-able — but “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” takes its time getting there, casting him as a San Francisco health inspector who slowly becomes convinced of a conspiracy sweeping the city. In this potent remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 sci-fi horror classic, the laid-back Bay Area vibes turn insidious when some humans start to get replaced by alien duplicates who look like them but behave differently. Alongside a woman (Brooke Adams) who believes her husband isn’t the same man, Sutherland’s inspector scrambles to stop the phenomenon from spreading, but their story is too crazy to be believed.

Though many of his best-selling novels, like “Jurassic Park” and “Disclosure,” were adapted to the screen, Michael Crichton took a crack at directing his own material with “The Great Train Robbery” and proved himself up to the task. In this crackerjack Victorian-era heist picture, photographed in a luscious gold that reflects the bounty, Sean Connery and Sutherland play a master thief and safecracker who team up for the seemingly impossible job of robbing a moving train. Crichton details the physical challenges of accessing the gold on board to suspenseful effect, but the spirit of “The Great Train Robbery” is light and entertaining, cued off Connery and Sutherland’s sly chemistry and banter in the lead roles.


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In Robert Redford’s best-picture-winning directorial debut, Sutherland revisits the theme of parental grief that suffused “Don’t Look Now,” but through a much more direct, unadorned lens, emphasizing the long-term problems of a family trying to overcome a loss that’s too immense to bear. Set in an upper-middle-class enclave in suburban Chicago, “Ordinary People” settles on parents (Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore) who have lost their eldest teenage son in a boating accident and are struggling with their youngest (Timothy Hutton), who was institutionalized for four months following a suicide attempt. Sutherland excels as a decent, compassionate father who’s nonetheless searching for answers as the people he loves are gripped by bitterness and survivor’s guilt.


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Oliver Stone’s epic conspiracy thriller is the star-laden nucleus of any “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, but even in this loaded cast, Sutherland’s turn as Mr. X, a high-level government official with expansive insight into John F. Kennedy’s assassination, stands out. As a New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), starts to piece together an investigation that defies the single-shooter conclusions of the Warren Commission report, Mr. X meets with him on the National Mall and delivers a monologue that touches on all the major institutional powers in the United States and the Deep State rationale for killing J.F.K. Even the most hardened skeptics of Stone’s speculative history might find themselves sitting up in their chairs.


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In the early 1980s, a con man pretending to be the son of the actor Sidney Poitier persuaded a New York couple to allow him to spend the night in their apartment. The couple later told the story of what happened to a friend, the playwright John Guare, who turned it into “Six Degrees of Separation,” a thorny drama about the authentic connection that emerges from deceit. The film doesn’t hide its theatrical roots and why should it? It’s an incredible play and in the adaptation directed by Fred Schepisi, Sutherland is ideally cast alongside Stockard Channing as Fifth Avenue empty-nesters who prove uniquely vulnerable to a charismatic stranger (Will Smith) with a compelling story. He may be a hustler, but his effect on their lives proves surprisingly seismic.


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The long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine was the subject of two biopics in as many years — the first was simply called “Prefontaine” — but Robert Towne’s “Without Limits” was the most persuasive, thanks in no small part to Sutherland’s touching performance as the legendary coach Bill Bowerman. Much like Towne’s previous track movie, “Personal Best,” there’s an emphasis on the intense intimacy and psychological stress of training for elite competition, though as the undersized Prefontaine, Billy Crudup carries himself with joyful self-assurance. His record-breaking ascendence under Bowerman’s guidance in the early ’70s, followed by his 1975 death in a car accident at 24, inspires Towne to memorialize him as the James Dean of his sport.


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His character’s not going to get a statue for it, but Sutherland’s geriatric astronaut in Clint Eastwood’s irresistible science-fiction comedy stands to be surely be the first denture-wearer in outer space. As one of four long-retired Air Force test pilots who missed their shot to join NASA 40 years earlier — Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner play the others — Sutherland enters a rigorous training program with his friends, who are sent to prevent an archaic Soviet communications satellite from crashing to Earth. Their expertise on the satellite’s outdated electronics system is considered essential enough to justify the folly of relying on old men who are decades past their physical primes. The cast makes the prospect very silly, but not laughable.


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So much of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” and this lovely adaptation pivots on four of the Bennet sisters and the suitors their mother (Brenda Blethyn) considers proper marriage material, particularly the relationship between the headstrong Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and the taciturn Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). Yet every minute Sutherland gets onscreen as Mr. Bennet is full of feeling, as he gracefully manages the chaos whipped up by the courtship process before proudly and tearfully offering his consent. Sutherland looks so utterly at ease in the role that his show of love for Elizabeth at a crucial moment pierces the heart unexpectedly.


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As Coriolanus Snow, the sinister president of Panem in “The Hunger Games” and its sequels, Sutherland carries the laconic bearing of a despot whose power is totally secure — at least, for the moment. When the 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) takes her younger sister’s place in the 74th Hunger Games — a televised free-for-all where two children from each of the country’s 12 districts fight to the death — Snow finally meets his match. As Katniss’s success in the arena turns her into a revolutionary figurehead, cracks starts to develop in Snow’s confident façade and Sutherland starts flashing an anger that betrays a growing insecurity. Their rivalry carries over into all four adaptations of Suzanne Collins’s popular YA series.

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