Our 7 Favorite Susan Sarandon Roles

Drew Dietsch
Movies
Movies

Today is actress Susan Sarandon‘s 70th birthday. This gorgeous, talented, and hard-working performer has been brightening film screens with her radiant presence for almost half a decade. If there’s anyone in showbiz that deserves to be celebrated, it’s Susan Sarandon. In honor of her birthday, we’re taking a look at some of our favorite on-screen roles of hers. You may not see the usual crop of films here, but that’s because we really wanted to express our personal picks. Sarandon’s immense filmography is worth diving into, so here are a few of our top choices.

Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, by Danielle Ryan

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the epitome of B-movie cheese. It’s a musical about a transvestite alien who creates a perfect man for his own lascivious means and corrupts two normal young people in the meantime. To make the concept work required utter commitment to how completely ridiculous this movie is. Susan Sarandon stars as Janet, a wide-eyed, innocent young woman who arrives at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion on the night of his creation’s birth. Along with her fiancé, Brad, Janet discovers her own budding sexuality due to Frank N. Furter. By the end of the film, she’s gone from virginal to sultry, and the transformation is a lot of fun to watch.

Sarandon’s singing voice is pretty good — she’s not perfect but she’s not pitchy either. Considering she had pneumonia while filming, that’s quite the feat. She has embraced the notoriety of the role, and frequently discusses it on her Twitter and in interviews. The only real problem is that she’s probably quite sick of having people yell “Dammit, Janet!” at her. A small price to pay for starring in one of the greatest cult films of all time.

Hattie in Pretty Baby, by Troy Anderson

susan sarandon as Hattie in pretty baby

Pretty Baby was quite the challenging role for Susan Sarandon. While the film was set up as a Brooke Shields vehicle by Louis Malle, Sarandon supported Shields in a way that older actors often drop. Sarandon plays the Storyville prostitute Hattie. While she has two children living with her at Madame Nell’s brothel, her aspirations to leave prostitution are flighty. These dreams only become concrete after her daughter Violet is being groomed to step in her life. The problem is that Violet is only 12 years old and the brothel’s Madame wants to auction off her virginity.

Will a new photographer friend visiting the brothel be Violet’s ticket out? What can Hattie do if she marries out of the brothel? Will a new husband be willing to take both of her kids? While Pretty Baby was meant to be about a sad time in Americana, many groups attacked it upon its 1978 release. Susan Sarandon and others bravely defended the film against outcries of child pornography. While the American cut wasn’t greatly censored, the film faced heavy edits around the world. Sarandon still defends the film to this day. If you haven’t seen it yet, the Paramount uncut DVD is still widely available.

Sarah Roberts in The Hunger, by Andrew Hawkins

The Hunger is a strange beast. Set in the dark subculture recesses of ’80s gothic Manhattan, Tony Scott’s surreal vampire horror story is as strange as it is sexy. Susan Sarandon leads the film alongside David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, and most fans of the actress who aren’t already familiar with The Hunger might be surprised to see her in such an extreme and erotic role.

The plot of the film mainly surrounds an eternal being played by French bombshell Catherine Deneuve as she seduces victims who become her servants. David Bowie is nearing the end of his extended life of servitude and has begun to deteriorate at an incredibly rapid rate. Susan Sarandon’s Dr. Sarah Roberts becomes involved when Bowie shows up at her clinic, and she quickly gets ensnared by the vampire’s need for another companion to serve her.

Susan Sarandon shows great range as an actress in The Hunger and her performance keeps the film grounded. This movie isn’t for everyone, but for fans of the cast and surreal horror it’s a bizarre movie worth checking out. There are some graphic scenes of blood and eroticism, and there are a ton of great cultural references of the time to include an excellent opening featuring goth-rock pioneers Bauhaus. The Hunger is a weird one fully deserving of attention and praise.

Mrs. March in Little Women, by Kitty Bates

susan sarandon in little women

Little Women is a classic book and a classic film. Susan Sarandon plays Mrs. March aka Marmee, the kind and gentle mother who governs the little women with grace and wisdom.

The role of Marmee is a hard one as she is never angry but consistently loving toward her four children throughout all the escapades they get themselves into. She cares for her children as well as many more poor unfortunate children, like Laurie, their next door neighbor. Marmee is a complex character and one that needs to be portrayed perfectly.

Susan Sarandon is brilliant as Marmee, and on her 70th birthday, I hope that all fans of Little Women will be wishing her a happy birthday and thanking her for the way she brought together an absolutely classic film.

Jennifer in Robot & Frank, by Travis Newton

Robot & Frank is thoughtful, low-key science fiction at its best. I suspect Ray Bradbury would’ve approved of this one. Set in the near future, the story finds the aging Frank (Frank Langella) living alone. Frank is an accomplished thief — a cat burglar — but is now in retirement. And though his lockpicking skills are still sharp, his mind is not. His children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) are worried and buy him an assistive robot to help him with his daily tasks.

Sarandon, as radiant as ever, plays Frank’s love interest, Jennifer. As the town librarian, she’s finding her job ever more irrelevant in the age of robots. Their romance is sweet and furtive, but Jennifer likes to keep her distance. Frank does his best to hide his life of crime from her, but she’s got secrets of her own. Sarandon plays the character with such delicate charm. This is Sarandon in top form here, layering warm vulnerability on top of guarded, distant sadness.

Multiple Roles in Cloud Atlas, by Drew Dietsch

susan sarandon in cloud atlas

The Wachowskis’ adaptation of David Mitchell’s sprawling novel is, at the very least, ambitious. The decision to have the actors play multiple roles throughout the different storylines helps sell the grander ideas of interconnectivity present in the book.

Among their impressive repertoire of thespians is the legendary Susan Sarandon. Sarandon doesn’t tackle quite as many roles as other actors in the cast, but she still leaves a hell of an impression. Most notable is her role as the Abbess, a religious figure who passes on a spectral prophecy.

Most actors that reach Sarandon’s age often play things safe, but not her. She delves into this strange world and gives it her all. Her other appearances are fairly minor, but it’s the Abbess that stands out as a delightfully weird and exciting addition to Sarandon’s ever-growing list of roles.

Marnie in The Meddler, by Troy Anderson

The Meddler is Lorene Scararia’s follow-up to Seeking A Friend For The End of the World. In the film, Sarandon plays a widowed mother named Marnie who follows her daughter to Los Angeles. She desperately wants a new life after her husband died and wants to latch on to her kid’s change of scenery. Her husband’s death left her set for life. Now, Marnie is a woman with everything but who has nothing. While her daughter (Rose Byrne) struggles to get past her, Marnie often finds a way to try and capture some of that youth. When her daughter pushes her away, Marnie starts doing good around her new community.

She gives rides to work for an Apple Store employee, she offers to pay for her daughter’s friend’s wedding, and she sits and talks to a lonely deaf woman. While her daughter fights her interference, Marnie diverts that attention to everyone around her, until a retired cop (J.K. Simmons) strikes her fancy. He’s a weirdo that plays Dolly Parton for his pet chickens, but he’s a weirdo that wants to meddle with her. The film was undersold by Sony but managed to find a sizeable audience just like the other similarly themed Sony release

The film was undersold by Sony but managed to find a sizeable audience just like the other similarly themed Sony release, Hello, My Name is Doris. Both films were hits, which proves that actresses like Sarandon still have box office pull.

Don’t be one of those people that didn’t discover Seeking a Friend for the End of the World until HBO. Get on the bandwagon just a smidge late for The Meddler. This is stunning work that’s female positive and gives older actresses a chance to shine. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the director is up for Captain Marvel. See this film and help get Sarandon into the Marvel Cinematic Universe now!

What’s your favorite Susan Sarandon role? Tweet @getfandom and join us in wishing a happy birthday to such a wonderful artist!

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.
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