Originally we’d planned to make this Father’s Day post a top 10 of movie dads. But what exactly makes a great movie dad? Is he the kind and caring parent who’s always there for his kids, whenever they need him? Is he the comedy dad, making us laugh with whatever dilemma or situation he finds himself in? Does he go above and beyond for his family, no matter the danger or consequence? It soon became clear that different qualities resonated differently with each of the team, and a top 10 that we could all agree on was going to be out of the question. Instead, we each decided to pick a selection of movie dads who have inspired us, entertained us, or touched our hearts. Check out our choices below and let us know your favourite movie dad in the comments.
My connection to the father/son relationship in About Time is entirely personal and very little to do with the film, despite it being an utterly wonderful film. I watched About Time a couple of months after losing my own father to a long illness. I hadn’t been aware of the family element to the film and had instead put it on hoping for a charming Rachel McAdams rom com. Watching the film for the first time is still burned in to my memory, lying alone in my flat sobbing as Tim says goodbye to his father. It has now been six years since my loss and I still think of the scene where Tim and Dad travel back to Tim as a young child and walk along the coast whenever I think of my Dad. There is nothing I would not give to have 5 minutes in the presence of him, and I would want it to be exactly like that. The best parent child relationships aren’t epic confessionals or long letters, they’re just two people comfortable in each other’s presence, and words aren’t needed. Richard Curtis perfected this with that short sequence.
Are there any roles J.K. Simmons isn’t amazing in? One of his standouts for me will always be Juno. Everyone in the film brings their A game, but Simmons (along with Allison Janney) steals every scene as the quiet but loving father. It’s clear he never anticipated his daughter having a teen pregnancy and whilst he doesn’t hide his disappointment, his main priority is ensuring his daughter is protected throughout. In lesser hands the role could have been judgemental or dismissive, but Simmons is able to bring the role to life. The standout scene is when Juno comes home to talk about love with him – can any two people truly stay in love. The father and daughter are able to have an open and honest discussion about the trials of love, yet keep it light and sweet. Supportive but un-intrusive dads are the best dads.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Unlike Juno’s father, Miles Morales’ father Jefferson Davis is very intrusive. But, throughout the film we see him start to take a step in a different direction and trust in his son’s abilities. There are wonderful fun moments like the ‘you have to say it back’ scene, but where Jefferson really shines is the hallway scene. Speaking through a door, with Miles unable to communicate or do anything but listen, Jefferson shares the heartfelt words he’s never said. ‘I see this spark in you. It’s amazing. Whatever you choose to do with it, you’ll be great.’ Miles not only feels and understands his father’s love and acceptance for the first time, but this speech is the reason he decides to become Spider-Man. Sometimes even superheroes need a little pep talk from their dad.
Dad – Bill Nighy – About Time
About Time is my favourite film of the 21st century, it is the only film that I re-watch repeatedly throughout the year and Bill Nighy is probably my favourite movie dad. Not only is he a great dad who retired at 50 to spend more time with his family, read books (my favourite thing) and play table tennis with his son, but he hands down the amazing gene of travelling back in time to his son Tim. Bill Nighy is just awesome anyway, in any role he plays, but playing the Dad in About Time he gives him this easy, laid back, humorous personality. Again, like the other dads I have chosen he has a great relationship with his children, there is a clear bond between them. He is supportive but gives them enough space to be individuals and live their own lives. He has a wonderful scene where he is best man at Tim’s wedding in which we see him give two great versions of a speech but the second saying how proud he is to be the father of his son. In Bill Nighys shoes this is heart-warming and seemingly effortless. I sure wouldn’t mind at all playing umpteen games of table tennis, watching movies outside and having tea on the beach every day. And I’d kill for his library.
Graham – Jude Law in The Holiday
The Holiday is one of my favourite films, I watch it every year at Christmas, and one of the reasons for that is Jude Law. Now I should start by saying I don’t really like Jude Law all that much, but there is something about the shirt and jeans, specs wearing widowed dad Graham that obviously appeals to me. What I like about Graham is that he so obviously loves his girls and wants the best for them, and he is willing to put himself second for that. He protects them by not introducing them to women he has seen in the past so they do not get hurt. But it is so touching to see his embarrassment at all he is and does for his girls when Cameron Diaz’ character turns up at his house. He has to be mother and father to his young daughters and is mildly embarrassed at having drinks spilt down his jeans and playing ‘Mr napkin head’, but it is completely endearing and his children are gorgeous. The fact that he has found another person he wants to be with that he wants his kids to know is powerful but he is a package deal and they come first. Plus who doesn’t want a tent in their room?
Dill – Stanley Tucci in Easy A
Stanley Tucci only has a small part in Easy A, and only turns up in a handful of scenes, but he makes his presence known and is something that stuck with me strongest after watching it. Dill is without a doubt a ‘cool’ dad. He is funny, quite clearly spends a lot of time with his children and treats them with respect and converses with them like a person not a child. He is obviously friends with his daughter not just a parent, someone she has a strong bond with. The thing that stuck with me the most though is how supportive Dill is, any dad would likely be concerned at such a dramatic and speedy change in his teenage daughter’s dress and personality, however he watches from afar, letting her experience life for herself and learning her own lessons. Only occasionally chiming in with words of wisdom that are offered not enforced. I think it would be great fun growing up in Dill’s household.
My dad hasn’t been on the scene since I was 11, and hasn’t exactly been a great role model in my life either. As a father to two daughters, I’ve always been determined to be the kind of dad that I didn’t have, so I guess when it comes to movie dads I’m drawn to the ones who aren’t exactly perfect, but will do anything for their children. Some of my choices maybe aren’t as serious, or as deep and meaningful as the rest of the team (you can always count on me to make light of a subject!), but there’s something about all of them that echoes the values I strive for.
Clark Griswold (National Lampoon) just wants the best for his family. He wants his children to experience life to the full, to have fun and to understand and appreciate the importance of family. Things don’t always go to plan for Clark, but despite everything, his heart is always in the right place and he means well. Christmas Vacation is a movie that gets a repeat viewing in our household pretty much every year in the run up to Christmas and you can always rely on my family to tell me when Clark reminds them of me. Every January, I will hurriedly pack away the Christmas decorations, carelessly bundling up all of the fairy lights while I think about how far away next Christmas is and how I’ll just sort them out when I come to unpack them again. Come the following December though, I’ll be unpacking the decorations and cursing January Lee for being such a complete idiot, while having a meltdown when they won’t unravel. The list of examples and similarities goes on, and my issues with inanimate objects over the years is legendary. My point is, everything that Clark does, he’s thinking of his family and their happiness. If I can follow that example as a father, despite the occasional mishap along the way, then I’ll be happy.
When it comes to Marlin the Clownfish (Finding Dory) you’re looking at the ultimate dad as far as I’m concerned. My daughter was very young when we first watched Finding Nemo and, as I mentioned on our recent Pixar Top 10 post, it became a firm favourite. The thought of losing your child like Marlin loses Nemo is every parents nightmare and made Finding Nemo compelling viewing as a fairly new father. Seeing the lengths Marlin goes to in order to find Nemo and bring him home, is truly inspiring – and thankfully, very entertaining at the same time! Marlin has already suffered the unimaginable by losing Nemo’s mother and he leaves the safety of his home, venturing into the unknown to try and find his son. Covering vast distances, surviving great danger, never letting anything stop him from reaching his son at all costs, he is truly a great dad.
Cameron Poe (Con Air) may be a paroled murderer (although to be fair, he was only trying to protect his pregnant wife), but just look at what the guy goes through in order to get home and meet his daughter for the very first time. Not only does the plane he’s traveling on get hijacked by a bunch of murderers, rapists and general low-life criminal scrum, but he then does everything he possibly can to try and thwart the hijackers plans. And he still manages to safely deliver the toy rabbit to his daughter that he’d been carrying with him all along. Although, it wasn’t exactly fit for use by the time he delivered it…
Mr. Perlman – Michael Stuhlbarg in Call Me by Your Name (2017) The father of seventeen-year-old, Elio Perlman is very much a supporting character in Call Me by Your Name (which is set over one summer in Italy in the 1980s), but the impact he has in such a short amount of screen time is utterly astonishing. His wise, warm-hearted, and genial presence is felt throughout the film, and his relaxed, liberal approach to parenting is admirable; himself a professor or archaeology, he actively encourages his son to freely pursue his intellectual passion for the arts, music and literature. But the biggest impact he has on Elio comes towards the end of the film, in a monologue following the departure back to the USA of his most recent graduate research assistant, Oliver, who had spent the summer at their Italian villa and developed a close romantic bond with Elio. Mr Perlman consoles his heartbroken son by not only by acknowledging the relationship, but revealing that he approves wholeheartedly and even admits that he envies what they had. In what is essentially a coming-out scene in reverse (Elio only speaks three words in the entire scene: “ Does mom know? ”), Mr Perlman encourages his son to embrace and nurture his feelings, both good and bad, because doing so is far preferable to not feeling anything at all. It’s not a scene you forget in a hurry, that’s for sure.
‘Cooper’ – Matthew McConoughey in Interstellar (2014) An unconventional choice… Single parent, engineer and former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper is enlisted into the crew of the Endurance spacecraft. They have been tasked with travelling through a wormhole near Saturn in order to find potentially habitable worlds, as Earth in the year 2067 is facing the imminent extinction of crops and plant life which will mean a deadly reduction of breathable oxygen. Cooper arguably makes the biggest sacrifice of all, reluctantly leaving behind his fifteen-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter, but in a desperate attempt to secure a better future for both them and the future of mankind. Unfortunately, due to the extreme gravitational time dilation caused by his proximity to a black hole, decades of time elapse back on Earth whilst he is away. In the film’s most distressing scene, Cooper watches the first 23 years of video message transmissions received from his children – the missed memories, graduations, girlfriends, grandchildren, and seeing them slowly lose all hope for his return. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say that Cooper’s sacrifice is not at all in vain. And despite the distance, his mission is much closer to home than he could ever have anticipated!
Daniel Hillard – Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Freelance voice actor Daniel Hillard is madly devoted to his three children, but is considered unreliable in the eyes of his workaholic wife, Miranda. He finds himself going through a messy divorce where he must dramatically transform his lifestyle (i.e. to find and secure a steady job and a suitable residence of his own) in order to be granted joint custody of his children. But Daniel will also do anything – literally anything – to see his children in the meantime (even if they cannot technically see him ) and opts to also live a double life as the elderly female Scottish housekeeper and nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire, with the help of his make-up artist brother. Watching Daniel’s determination to prove and improve himself, whilst juggling jobs, identities, and potentially risking everything just to spend time with them, is nothing short of inspiring. Revisit Robin Williams’ impassioned speech in the courtroom scene towards the end of the film if you need convincing any further!