Everyone has a dad but not everyone has a father. Anyone can bring a child into this world, but it takes a true man to be a father. Fathers aren’t always perfect either, which is what makes them so special. They have their flaws just like everyone else – but they try to overcome those flaws for the sake of their children.
Movie fathers, for the most part, are exactly the same way. I’m not talking about the Al Bundy or Peter Griffin buffoon father figures that get laughs by acting un-father-like. I’m talking about the forthright, honest, dependable and yes, sometimes flawed men that have inspired us onscreen to be better fathers in real life.
So while we at Screen Rant take today to spend it with our fathers (if they haven’t passed away), and/or with our children, for your reading pleasure we’ve decided to list our 15 Favorite Movie Fathers…
15. Darth Vader (David Prowse / James Earl Jones) – Star Wars Saga
Now before you go all “fanboy” on me for putting Luke’s father on the bottom of our list just wait to see who made the top 3 and then tell me if you would put Skywalker above them. Anakin falls easily into the category of “Flawed Father.” He loves the mother of his children but ultimately kills her, hunts down his daughter and takes her into captivity, and then unknowingly cuts off the hand of his son. Way to go dad! But in the end, this father recognizes the error of his ways, turns from the dark side and sacrifices his own life to protect his children. And that’s why this master of the dark side of the force is on this list at all.
14. Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery) – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Professor Jones is another one of those types of fathers that means well and although he loves his son (Indiana Jones), he ends up ignoring him. But what he lacks in emotional nurturing he makes up for in intellectual nurturing as is evident by Indiana following right along in his father’s footsteps. For all their differences of opinion and banging of heads, the son still loves his father and vice versa – and both will do whatever it takes to protect the other. The moral here is: You don’t have to always get along with your dad to love him.
13. Jor El (Marlon Brando) – Superman
I know when it comes to my own children that I would sacrifice anything to keep them safe, including giving up my own life to save theirs. That’s what every good father would do in the same situation. The best example of this is Superman’s father Jor El. He gave his life to protect his son from a dying planet before it exploded – but he didn’t stop there! Jor El thought ahead and provided a new family and place of solitude for his son so that he wouldn’t ever be alone. Jor El provided for his son in death as he did in life. Jor-El sets a fine example of a father’s love.
12. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) – National Lampoon’s Vacation
Just because a father jokes around and gives his kids a hard time occasionally doesn’t mean he loves them any less. Clark Griswold may be a bit on the clueless side but all he wants is to give his family the vacation they so richly deserve. Every father ultimately wants the same thing for their kids. Nothing is going to stand in his way either – not the desert nor flat tires or even an amusement park being shut down… He is going to give his family a good time come hell or high water! I may never pull a gun on a security officer just to ride a theme park rollercoaster but I’ve done plenty of things I wouldn’t normally do just to make my kids happy; besides, that old woman in the toy line last Christmas didn’t need a Tickle Me Elmo anyway…
11. Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) – The Incredibles
Many young children look up to their fathers as superheroes, but only in movies and comic books can those fathers actually BE superheroes. Such is the case with Bob Parr: He loses his way and becomes self-involved with being a superhero, something that makes him feel good – while he neglects his wife and kids, shutting them out of his own little world. Ultimately, Bob realizes that it’s not what you do that makes you a superhero but rather who looks up to you – in this case his kids. This is a lesson that every father can learn, your children would rather spend time with you then watch you try to save the world.
10. Damon MacReady / Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) – Kick-Ass
Damon MacReady is another one of those fathers that falls into the “Do Anything to Protect Your Children” category, but he takes it one step further. One really, really BIG step. He doesn’t just want his daughter to survive in the world; he wants her to excel in it. In his view, the world should be afraid and respect her, not the other way around. True, his techniques are a bit (a teeny, tiny bit) on the excessive side but the reasoning behind his actions still rings true. He evens shoots her in the chest with love. At the end of the day, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect his daughter, giving up his life. She in return picks up his mantle and continues his work. One sign that a father has done his job is for that child wanting to be just like him.
9. Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) – Mr. Mom
Most of the time the mother is the one who stays at home while the father heads off to work each day to bring home the bacon – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if a father decides to reverse the roles and stay home with his children, raising them and becoming close to them in the process, who are we to ridicule him for it? When Jack Butler decided to be the stay at home father while his wife went to work, he thought it would be an easy walk in the park. However, as he soon realized there is more to raising your kids during the day than just making a peanut butter sandwich and tossing around some juice boxes. In a way, Jack made a very selfless sacrifice because even in today’s politically correct world, men who stay at home are often poked fun at and thought to be less manly. I say good for him and others like him that have the courage it takes to be a Mr. Mom.
8. George Banks (Spencer Tracy / Steve Martin) – Father of the Bride
George Banks is the epitome of the stoic father. He’s solid, strong, the supporter of his family – and he defers to the wishes of his wife. He’s a father to a daughter who has just been engaged and has to suffer from everything that goes into the planning of a wedding. No matter what, he’s there for his daughter, ready to support her no matter what she decides. In the film he’s put through the wringer both emotionally and financially, but he’s always steady no matter what, and that puts him on our list.
7. Bryan Mills (Laim Neeson) – Taken
In Taken, Liam Neeson plays an estranged divorced father of a 17 year old girl. He’s a retired government agent who has missed much of his daughter’s childhood due to his job, and it’s also cost him as marriage. Having retired, he chooses to live in the same city as his daughter in an effort to make up for lost time. His ex-wife wants to let their daughter go to Europe and he grudgingly gives in against his better judgment. Of course once there, things go terribly awry with her and her friend being kidnapped to be sold into white slavery. What follows is the application of his “very special set of skills” in tracking down her kidnappers and finding her before she disappears forever. Rarely has there been such a single-minded demonstration on screen of a father going to any extreme to save the life of his daughter.
6. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) – It’s a Wonderful Life
In one of the most iconic roles in film history, Jimmy Stewart portrays George Baily – a man who has always had larger than life dreams and ambitions despite being raised in a small town. Time and again he chooses self-sacrifice for the well-being of his family, freinds and his town over his own desires. In the end this almost destroys him (at the hands of his one rival, the evil banker Mr. Potter), but it’s through this close call with destruction and the realization of what the world would be like had he never been born that he comes to realize the value of his life and what he has meant to his family and friends.
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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