5. John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) – John Q
There can be multiple perspectives to ethical issues. A man doesn’t need to be flawless to be a perfect father, but the commitment to family is an unwavering responsibility. John Archibald’s son meant the world to him, and when he collapsed during a Little League baseball game, John did not have the insurance to cover a forthcoming heart transplant. Some men would give up, but not John Q. After constant rejection from arrogant executives, John held the hospital hostage. But his good-natured personality turned the event into more Dog Day Afternoon than The Dark Knight. The media fell in love with his determination and so did his hostages. Soon enough, doctors saw the honor in performing pro-bono surgery. As the only donor in sight, John gave his own heart (and life) to save his son. If that doesn’t get you on this list, nothing will.
4. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) – To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck’s performance in the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel is so flawless that his image has become inseparable from the classic literary character. As a man who takes the moral high ground even when it leaves him largely outnumbered, Atticus was a role model to his children and bestowed lessons of equality, courage, and empathy during the most critical points in their development. More importantly, he was able to do it while still encouraging their individuality and giving them the freedom to make up their own minds. As a result he remains an endearing and admirable figure to audiences and readers alike.
3. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) – Pursuit of Happyness
Chris Gardner didn’t have much and he wasn’t especially successful, but he replaced materialism with extraordinary moral standards. His son was his life and he was completely dedicated to passing on those morals to the boy. Unfortunately, his life became one big embarrassment. Instead of giving up, he became a beacon of determination. He used all of his strength to make the most of his life and establish a worthy career. But that career was not for personal gain – Gardner simply wanted the best life for himself and his son. There is one scene in particular that exudes all of that paternal love. Good luck not crying when he desperately uses his foot to protect his son in a public restroom that had become an impromptu overnight shelter.
2. Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) – Life is Beautiful
Guido Orefice is one of the rare movie fathers that was genuinely good from start to finish. Even through the atrocities of the Holocaust, he found a way to keep a smile on his young boy’s face. In an effort to preserve the innocence of his son, while also protecting him, Guido turned the Holocaust into a game. As impossible as it sounds, he turned every trash can into a hiding place and the Nazis into nothing more than fake villains. As far as his son knew, the entire concentration camp was created just for him. There is so much devastation throughout the film, yet Guido’s persistence and dedication to family surpassed his own selfish desire to survive. Even when a pair of Nazis hauls him out of the living quarters to beat him mercilessly, he convinces his child it is all part of the game. One could argue this enormous lie is unethical – that the child will figure it out soon enough. Well, those naysayers have never met Guido Orefice. No matter the cost, he was committed to psychologically and physically protecting his son during one of the most horrifying events in human history.
1. Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) – The Sound of Music
Widowed, retired Austrian naval officer, and father of seven children, Captain Von Trapp seems like a cold disciplinarian of a father, but his love for his children runs very deep. During WWII he walks a tightrope of diplomacy with the Germans. He falls in love with the governess he hired (Julie Andrews) to look after his children, and when they return from their honeymoon they find that Austria has been annexed by the Nazis. They want him to serve in the German navy, but while he has been trying to get along, he is vehemently opposed to Nazi ideals. He forms a plan to escape with his entire family and plans to leave everything behind despite the fact he is a wealthy Baron.
His son Max has committed the family to perform at the Salzburg Music Festival, and Von Trapp sees this as a last minute opportunity to escape. The escape from Vienna (with him trying to get eight people out in addition to himself) is suspenseful and obviously dangerous. His bravery and willingness to sacrifice everything he owns, his stature, and to risk death in order to keep from serving the Nazis puts him at the top of our Best Movie Fathers list.
For a personal touch, here is a pic of some of our contributors with their dads.
So there you have our choices for the best 15 fathers in film along with our reasoning for each. Who are some of your favorite father figures from cinema and why?
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