Timothy Hutton was born in Malibu, California. His father was actor Jim Hutton; his mother, Maryline Adams (née Poole), was a teacher. His parents divorced when Hutton was three years old, and his mother took him and his older sister, Heidi (born in 1959), with her to Boston, and then her hometown Harwinton, Connecticut. The family returned to California when Hutton was 12.
"A lot of people think that because my father was an actor, I come from this big show-business background", Timothy told Bruce Cook of American Film magazine in 1981. "But that's not how I grew up at all. My mother took us to Cambridge because she wanted to get her M.A. She wound up teaching in Connecticut, but the way she saw it, after a while, if we all stayed there, my sister and I would just wind up as the proprietors of the local drugstore or something, so that was why she took us to Berkeley – to get us into the world, I guess. Now she's given up teaching and she's into printing miniature books".
In 1976 when he was 15, Timothy sought out his father and moved in with him in Los Angeles. At Fairfax High School, while playing Nathan Detroit in a school production of Guys and Dolls, he realized he wanted to become an actor. With encouragement from both of his parents, he carefully built himself a career in television.
On June 2, 1979, Jim Hutton died in Los Angeles from liver cancer, two days after his 45th birthday. In 1981, Timothy dedicated his Academy Award, which he had won for his role in the movie Ordinary People, to his father.
Timothy Hutton co-stars with Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander in Julie Taymor's upcoming feature film, "The Glorias: A Life On The Road", based on feminist icon Gloria Steinem's best-selling memoir. In 2018, Hutton appeared in the critically acclaimed horror-thriller "The Haunting of Hill House", as well as "Jack Ryan". Prior to that, he starred in the award-winning anthology series "American Crime", for which he received an Emmy Award nomination, as well as the cable series "Leverage". Hutton started his career winning an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his performance in Robert Redford's "Ordinary People". His film credits also include "Beautiful Boy", "All the Money in the World", "The Ghost Writer", "Serious Moonlight", "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", "Lymelife", "The Good Shepherd", "Off the Black", "Kinsey", "Secret Window", "Sunshine State", "The General's Daughter", "Beautiful Girls", "French Kiss", "Q&A", "Made in Heaven", "The Falcon & The Snowman", "Iceman", "Daniel" and "Taps". His television credits include "A Long Way Home", for which he received a Golden Globe nomination; "Mr. & Mrs. Loving", which he also developed and produced; "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within"; "WW3" and "Nero Wolfe", for which he served as an executive producer, director and music supervisor, in addition to his leading role. Working behind the camera, Hutton has directed a number of music videos, including "Drive", by the Cars; "Not Enough Love", by Don Henley; and the Neil Young concert film, "Freedom". He also directed an episode of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories", titled "Grandpa’s Ghost", which was adapted from a story he wrote. His feature film directorial debut, "Digging to China", starring Kevin Bacon, Mary Stuart Masterson and Evan Rachel Wood, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. In theater, as a member of New York's Circle Repertory Co., he originated the lead role in the Broadway Production of Craig Lucas' "Prelude to a Kiss" and starred in "Babylon Gardens". He also appeared in the Los Angeles stage production of "The Oldest Living Graduate", a role he later reprised for a live network broadcast. Additionally, Hutton directed Nicole Burdette's "Busted" for the New York-based theater company Naked Angels.
He has been married twice. His first marriage (1986–1990) was to actress Debra Winger; they have a son, Noah, born in 1987. He dated Uma Thurman during the time they filmed Beautiful Girls and Angelina Jolie during her separation from Jonny Lee Miller. In 2000, he married illustrator Aurore Giscard d'Estaing, niece of former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Their son Milo was born in Paris in 2001. In July 2009, US Weekly reported that Hutton and his second wife, Giscard d'Estaing, had separated.
He became a Freemason at Herder Lodge No. 698 in New York City in 2005.