Known as a strong character actor who delivers understated yet potent performances, Strathairn has appeared in many Sayles films, including Eight Men Out (1988), Passion Fish (1992) and Limbo (1999). Strathairn also claims Silkwood (1983) and L.A. Confidential (1997) among his notable movies.
In 2005, Strathairn received critical acclaim and numerous award nominations for his role as newsman Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. Strathairn's television credits include the HBO drama Temple Grandin, which brought him a 2010 Golden Globe nod and an Emmy win.