Cinema is littered with amazing fathers doing some of the greatest parenting set to film. From putting together a seminal tooling-up montage to commandeering a public bathroom to make sure their son can sleep, we give you the Top 10 Movie Dads.
WARNING: Might be a spoiler or two in there.
It was damn near impossible to force the full list of great movie Dads into just 10. But we got there. We felt bad about those left sitting on the bench so here are some honourable mentions.
Movie Dad: Maximus, Gladiator (2000). Russell Crowe.
While technically not the greatest movie Dad due to the fact he let his entire family die at the hands of Commodus’ soldiers, his dad-vengeance was on such an epic scale that he didn’t stop until he was face to face with the Emperor himself.
He also delivered one of the greatest showdown lines to this nemesis, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North… And I will have my vengeance. In this life or the next”
Movie Dad: Wayne Szalinski. Honey I Shrunk The Kids (1989). Rick Moranis.
Adorable fun movie Dad with an unwavering commitment to find his tiny kids and save them from lawnmowers and the apparently common suburban backyard scorpion. He only gets knocked out of the Top 10 because of his irresponsibility with his murder ray. Could have easily covered the attic walls with the viscera of his children because he doesn’t lock doors.
Movie Dad: Lincoln Hawk. Over The Top (1987). Sylvester Stallone
I challenge anyone to find me a better move about a truck driver trying to reconnect with his upper class, military schooled son by driving across the country to enter a professional arm-wrestling competition to win another truck. Go On. I’ll wait… It can’t be done! Doesn’t crack the top 10 because it took ten years and a dying wife for him to interact with his boy. Watch for the moment Stallone really wanted to up his movie Dad-image so he dons the suspenders and tie.
Movie Dad: Cameron Poe. Con Air (1997). Nicolas Cage
A combination of protecting his unborn baby from drunken rednecks smashing bottles on chain link fences and rubbish legal advice sees him in prison for the first eight years of his daughters life. When he gets out with the greatest mullet in cinema history, all he wants to do is get a stuffed bunny to his daughter (but don’t take it out of the box). Could have gotten off the plane early, but his sense of duty means he needs to stay on and save his friend. The prioritisation of Baby-O over Casey plays against him in getting on this list.
Now for the real action…
Movie Dad 10: Gil Buckman. Parenthood (1989). Steve Martin
One of the first films to show a Dad raising a kid with learning disabilities and the stresses coming from that. It also shows the inevitability of a toddler using his head to hit everything and how quick parents stop caring and let it happen. This movie Dad is so great that he steps in when a stripper rocks up to his 8 year olds birthday and casually talks about murdering his fellow cowboys “I blew a hole in him this big”
Movie Dad 9: Jim’s Dad. American Pie (1999). Eugene Levy
Rises to each moment in the most awkward Dad way. Doesn’t miss an opportunity to have a man-to-man chat with his son giving him the most uncomfortable words of advice. He’s the movie Dad that desperately wants to be his son’s friend and won’t give up until he’s doing shots with him and bangs Stifler’s Mom. It’s a character arc to be proud of.
Movie Dad 8: Daniel Hillard. Doubtfire (1993). Robin Williams
He was never a bad Dad, only a sub-par husband. So devoted to seeing his kids that he went full cross dress before it became as socially acceptable as it is now. A rare gem that still holds up without a lot of current cultural cringes… except for when Sally Field hangs up on Robin Williams when he’s pretending to be a trans person “I don’t work with the men because I used to be one”.
Movie Dad 7: John Quincy Archibald. John Q. (2002). Denzel Washington
He is prepared to literally tear the heart out of his own chest to save his son. Tried all the right channels, raised all the money needed in the corrupt American medical system to get his boy’s operation. When all the red tape shot him down, he decided to sort it out himself. Cut To; Emergency Room, Denzel with gun screaming demands to Robert Duvall.
Movie Dad 6: John Matrix. Commando (1985). Arnold Schwarzenegger
The man single-handedly took on a militarised coup in Central America to rescue his daughter. He’s a true modern movie Dad; he knows how to balance being an emotional, deer feeding, father with the taking off of a soldiers face with a well thrown saw blade. I can only imagine the fear of Jenny Matrix’s first boyfriend.
Movie Dad 5: Bryan Mills. Taken (2008). Liam Neeson
Politely gave those human traffickers a chance to walk away. When they hung up that phone on him, Paris was stormed with an Irish anger the world had never seen. His special set of skills was really just being a super protective Dad. He also doesn’t like U2 and that gets him more credits in this list.
Movie Dad 4: Chris Gardner. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). Will Smith
Working for free and a being sole parent seems like a step too far to believe. But it’s a completely true story and this Father hits all the emotional notes. I wanted to be that kind of bad-ass movie Dad from the moment I saw him. I promised myself I would work that hard for the rest of my life… that lasted until my first coffee the next day.
Movie Dad 3: Atticus Finch. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Gregory Peck.
Arguably cinema’s archetypal movie Dad. Almost frustratingly logical and fair. He stands up for his principles at the risk of ostracising his entire family from the community, but the lesson he is providing to his children trumps it all. Watching this as a 15 year old in English class is pretty much a waste of time, but watch it again as a Dad and you’ll want to be as confident and forthright as Atticus prowling in court and absolutely wearing the shit out of a three-piece suit.
Movie Dad 2: Mufasa. Lion King (1994). James Earl Jones
The greatest voice to ever Dad. Rich African timbre that makes you feel you are capable of anything. Even when he turns up later as the Hamlet-esque ghost, rather than being any sort of terrifying presence, he’s still super comforting and providing ‘dadvice’ to his wayward son. He also throws himself into a pack of stampeding Wildebeest to save his child and has a mane that makes him look like peak Bon Jovi.
Movie Dad 1: Clark W. Griswold. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983). Chevy Chase
You can extend this across all the Vacation series but the original epitome of a family man was born in this film. He is the all rounded 80s Dad who is living his American dream. A frightening devotion to creating perfect family memories by driving across the USA and Hell be damned if anything stands in the way or is tied to the car. It also allowed us to see that while your family sleeps you can flirt with Billy Joel’s wife.