20th Century Fox

10 Best Dads In Cinema

Since 1910, Father’s Day has been a part of the United States culture and many other countries around the world. One might wonder how such a day was created and why. The answer: It was created to compliment Mother’s Day. Yep, it’s that simple.

Whether you’re a father yourself or have one to honor, Father’s Day is about saying thank you to those that have raised us up or have had an impact on our lives. If you’re a dad, it’s a day to sit back, relax and do something for you. If you’re a child with a parent that needs a little attention, be sure to give them some on this special day.

Although it’s important to emulate our father’s, we’ve all appreciated different dads on the big screen. Some great, some good and some that aren’t exactly going to be getting a card on their special day. Cinema is full of dad’s we all remember for their generous hearts, fearless ambition and downright dastardly acts.

In honor of Father’s Day, here are 10 of the best dads in cinema.

10. John Quincy Archibald – John Q

New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

There’s no denying the screen mastery Denzel Washington brings to every film he does. He’s a true genius  and any project with his name attached is sure to be a hit, regardless of what the plot might involve. From historical gangsters to corrupt cops to loving fathers, Denzel Washington is one of the best in the business.

In 2002, Washington starred in the film John Q as the title character John Quincy Archibald. The film is about a desperate father who’s fallen on hard times after his son collapses and is diagnosed with an enlarged heart requiring a transplant. Because Archibald has recently changed over from full-time to part-time at his job, it’s determined his insurance company won’t cover the surgery without a large down payment.

John Q is the story about a father willing to do anything for the survival of their child. Although taking an entire hospital hostage isn’t exactly the best way to get things done, it shows the love and limits of a father on the brink. What boundaries would a father cross for their dying child, even if it means taking their own life to save them?

9. Mufasa – The Lion King

Walt Disney Pictures / Buena Vista Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures / Buena Vista Pictures

Any child of the 1990s is familiar with this Disney classic as it’s one of the best coming of age stories ever told. The Lion King takes place in a kingdom of lions known as the Pride Lands where a number of other animals all live in harmony together under King Mufasa. The Lion King blends both biblical elements along with Shakespeare to tell a tragic tale about falling and redemption.

The story starts off with the birth of Mufasa’s son, Simba, an heir to the Pride Lands. The first half of the story is about a young, mischievous Simba and his need to learn the responsibilities of what it will some day mean to be king. When unexpected events occur and Mufasa is murdered by his brother Scar, Simba flees the Pride Lands after being blamed for his father’s death and goes into exile.

Simba eventually finds his way back  claim his rightful place as the king from his Uncle. This is made possible by the appearance of Simba’s father in the stars, telling him his death wasn’t his fault. Even in death, Mufasa has the ability to guide his son forward. He reminds Simba to remember the lessons he taught him and that he will always be with him even though he’s psychically no longer present.

8. Guido Orefice – Life Is Beautiful

Miramax Films
Miramax Films

The Holocaust is one of the blackest scars on humanity. Although few are still alive today to recount some of these events, many of the stories have lived on in journals, pictures and other forms of media. There have been a number of films dramatizing the events of the Holocaust but no other film takes that experience to another level like Life Is Beautiful.

Life is Beautiful stars Italian actor Roberto Benigni as Guido Orefice. The story follows a young Italian man and his son, Joshua, through the events of a Nazi concentration camp as he does everything in his power to hide the horrors of what’s really happening from his son. Guido tells Joshua that what they are going through is all just one big game they have to win by collecting “points”. Through the system, Guido explains that if Joshua cries or complains, he’ll lose points and the game will end.

Life is Beautiful attempts to take the dark events of the Holocaust and put a lighter, less somber spin on it. The love Guido has for his son is all that matters as he does everything in his power to get him through the concentration camp alive. It shows unbelievable resilience that even during the darkest times, a father’s strength can be the brightest light.

7. Harry Stamper – Armageddon

Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures

How many men out there have had the experience of meeting a hard-nosed father who will do everything it takes to keep you away from their daughter? How many times have you heard about the shotgun collection or witnessed a dad cleaning a weapon when you come to take their daughter out on a date? It’s a common theme in film and a reality for many young lads in the real world.

Hopefully some of those dad’s never actually took a shot at you like Bruce Willis’ Harry Stamper did in Armageddon at Ben Affleck’s A.J. Frost. Although this is more of a minor scene to the science fiction disaster film, it does set up a relationship that will translate through the whole movie. Stamper and Frost are “roughneck” oil drillers who are called on by NASA to travel into space and destroy an asteroid that’s heading towards Earth.  Amidst the personal issues the two are dealing with, they have to save the world on top of it.

Although Harry’s protective personality for his daughter could border on the obsessive, he ultimately sacrifices himself to save A.J. so he can live on and take care of his daughter. Stamper represents the dad in many who only want their daughter to end up with the right guy. In the end, Harry confesses to A.J. he’s the son he never had and it’s his job to take care of his little girl now.

6. Vito Corleone – The Godfather

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The Godfather – The man behind the New York crime family who doesn’t take a day off even on his daughter’s wedding day! You want to do a favor and get someone into a film role but the studio head is being stubborn? No problem, we’ll put a horse head in his bed to get you what you want.

The Godfather is one of the most iconic movies of all time and so much of that has to do with Marlon Brando and his portrayal of Vito Corleone. Vito is by no means a good guy but he has his standards. When it comes to getting involved in the drug business, Vito wants nothing to do with it. When an assassination attempt fails to kill Vito, a full on mob war erupts eventually thrusting his son Michael to the head of the family.

Although Vito has been involved in crime and the mafia for most of his life, he wanted better for his children, particularly Michael who served in the US Military. Unfortunately as events unravel, Michael is left with no choice but to get his own hands dirty after the murder of his wife and the death of his father later in the movie. The Godfather represents how more times than not, the sins of the father can carry on to cast a shadow over the sons.

5. Pete – Knocked Up

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

For better or worse, Paul Rudd’s Pete from Knocked Up represents a 21st century dad. A man-child forced to take on the role of a father but is still too immature and selfish to grow up himself. Although Pete isn’t a bad father or husband, his job and strange hours make for a rocky relationship with his wife Debbie as she suspects he’s having an affair.

Although Knocked Up follows the story of Seth Rogen’s Ben Stone and Katherine Heigl’s Alison, it’s the marriage of Debbie and Pete that reflects on the decisions of the main characters and where they should go. In the film, Pete represents a guy men in their mid-to-late 20’s or 30s can identify through as time with the boys is cut shorter and shorter as responsibility for the family continues to grow.

Even though Pete comes across as a bit aloof and odd at times, his love for his family is never questioned. He loves Debbie but it’s clear things are at a bit of a crossroads after being married for so long and having children. Pete is a guy that desperately needs time for himself but is unable to realize those sacrifices need to be made in order to evolve into a family man.

4. Jor-El – Superman

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

The most famous father in comic book history is Jor-El, the father of Superman. Since the release of the original Superman in 1978, Marlon Brando still epitomizes this character with his white hair and influential dialogue that would find his son years later. Although Jor-El would die in the first act of the film, his legacy would live on to guide his son whenever it was needed.

Jor-El was the head scientist on the planet Krypton and was the first to warn the Ruling Council the planet would be destroyed. When the Council refused to listen to Jor-El, he took matters into his own hands by launching his infant son Kal-El, Superman, into space towards Earth. Almost immediately after doing this, Krypton is destroyed, killing everyone including Jor-El. Kal-El eventually reaches Earth and is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent who give him the name Clark.

As Clark grows older, he realizes he has super powers and discovers a crystal he takes to the Arctic. Once arriving, the crystal morphs into the Fortress of Solitude where Clark receives a vision from his birth father Jor-El. From there, Clark learns who he is and where he comes from resulting in the birth of Superman. Much like Mufasa, Joe-El represents the guiding father who passes on their wisdom to their son for the greater good of society even though their physical presence is no longer here.

3. Maximus Decimus Meridius – Gladiator

Dreamworks Pictures
Dreamworks Pictures

Fans of the film Gladiator never get to see Maximus as a father but there’s no repudiating his entire quest is for his family. Gladiator is a historical drama that takes place during the 2nd century at the height of Roman power. Maximus is a Roman general with close ties to the aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Knowing death is close, Marcus Aurelius desires to give his power to Maximus upon his death in order to restore Rome back to a Republic.

When Marcus Aurelius tells his son Commodus of his decision to name Maximus regent of his power, Commodus kills his father and claims the title of Emperor for himself. As a result, Commodus has Maximus arrested and orders his execution while revealing his intentions to also murder Maximus’ family. Maximus eventually escapes his execution, although badly injured, and races back to his farm where he arrives too late to discover both his child and wife have been crucified.

Exhausted from his journey and injuries, Maximus is captured by a slave caravan and eventually ends up in Roman Africa as a gladiator. With his family murdered, Maximus doesn’t have the will to live but continuously finds it within that he is unwilling to let himself be killed. Because of this drive, he wins every gladiator battle he fights in. Maximus eventually vows revenge on Commodus for the murder of the Emperor along with his family and seeks to restore Rome back to the people.

2. Atticus Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

From one of the greatest books ever written to one of the greatest movies ever made, the inclusion of Atticus Finch on this list is an absolute must. A town lawyer from the impoverished town of Maycomb, Alabama, Atticus represents the eternal goodness we all see in our fathers as young children. Taking place in the 1930s, Atticus is a man who’s truly ahead of his time as a believer in treating everyone equally and standing up for what you believe is right.

Although much of the story centers on Atticus’ children, Scout and Jem, it’s really a tale about their father and the boundaries he must overcome as a man of the law and a father. Because many of their neighbors are poor, Atticus is forced to accept payment for doing legal work with food and other products because money is something most of the people have little of.

As events transpire and escalate over a case Atticus takes, in which he is to defend a black man, Atticus is forced to call into question his stoic belief in always telling the truth and doing the right thing. These beliefs are shaken when a vengeful citizen attacks his own children over the case Atticus took. In the end, Atticus keeps quiet about the truth of the events to protect his children while not  revealing the man who saved their lives. Regardless of the fact Atticus was a man of truth, his decisions echo how it’s sometimes best to keep quiet for the better good.

1. Homer Simpson – The Simpsons Movie

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Yes, this last entry might be considered a cheat, there’s no denying Homer Simpson has been a father figure many have watched for decades. Since debuting in December 1989, it took nearly 20-years to finally have the famous yellow skinned family make a big screen appearance. And when they finally did, it was well worth the wait.

Season after season we’ve seen Homer as the lazy beer drinking blue collar plant worker who comes across all but clueless when it comes to his family. Although Homer is nothing short of a goof, he does have moments of beautiful humanity, which is all but forgotten by the next episode where he appears to reset to his original Homer ways. When Chief Wiggum arrests Bart, Homer questions whether or not his arch nemesis neighbor Ned Flanders is in fact a better father than he is.

Homer makes this list because fans got to see him finally bond with his ever agitating son Bart after all of these years. After adopting a pet pig in the film that he loves and treats better than his own son, Homer has an epiphany by films end that he needs to make things right with Bart. Sure he saves the day in the end as well but the story is more about seeing these two finally team up to be the cultural heroes they are. The Simpson family has endured in our homes for a long time and finally seeing them get a big screen adaption with everyone’s favorite father figure is proof enough for Homer’s inclusion on this list at the poll position.

What do you think – Any other dad’s from cinema that should included on this list? Let us know your thoughts!

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