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Seven Great Dads from the Movies

Father’s Day is once more upon us. And if we pause from our busy schedules to acknowledge it, we think about the dads in our own lives.

My dad, for instance, wasn’t a flashy man. He wasn’t what you would consider classically learned or literary minded. He wasn’t one to stand up and preach his values either. My father was simply hard-working, solid, quiet and consistent. He risked his life as a young man in war (though he didn’t talk about it much). He worked in a labor-intensive profession his whole life. I never once heard him complain, even when the family bills piled high. And whenever I or my sister needed him—no matter the hour—he was there. That was how he quietly demonstrated his love.

We don’t often see examples of that good kind of American dad represented in today’s social media, TV and movies. These days, the fathers we see are usually silly goofballs, toxic tyrants or completely irrelevant. Of course, most fathers aren’t like those Hollywood versions in real life. But on the screen, that’s the norm. (And I believe that’s to our detriment.)

However, if you’re looking for good films wrapped around a praise-worthy papa of one sort or another, you can find them. Oh, yes. And I’ve got a few to suggest. So check out my list and consider watching one this Father’s Day with the dad of your choice.

He might quietly appreciate it.

George Banks, Father of the Bride (PG, 1991)

It’s tough to let go of the little girl you see when you look at your daughter, now all grown up. George Banks knows that all too well. Is any potential suitor worthy? Hardly. This remake starring Steve Martin sticks pretty closely to the 1950 original’s script. Only in this case, Martin’s George Banks hits our funny bone and plucks our heartstrings with equal skill. Here’s a humorous, loving dad who has a really hard time moving into that next stage of life—just like so many of us have. Bring tissues.

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer and widowed father, is one of those figures that a lot of people hold up at the top of their movie-dad lists. He’s a serious-minded parent who not only tries to help his kids deal wisely with a mysterious neighbor, but also teaches them about the evils of racial prejudice and vile hatred in the world at large. Fairness, justice and wisdom are this Depression-era dad’s go-to strengths. And actor Gregory Peck looks great in tortoise-shell glasses, too.

Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness (PG-13, 2006)

Actor Will Smith conveys the love, positivity and never-say-die attitude of real-world single dad Chris Gardner—a father who battled through joblessness, and eventually homelessness, in an effort to cling to his precious relationship with his young son. Their overcoming tale is powerful and emotional. Our Plugged In review did make note of “the film’s occasional use of realistic, street-level vulgarities,” something that parents of younger family member should be aware of. But the love we see in this father can’t be questioned.

Gru, Despicable Me (PG, 2010)

Ok, this bald, chubby dad may not be on the top of every father’s I-want-to-be-like-him list. But even though Gru is a complete supervillain, his love for three adopted little girls transforms him into a super dad. This is a fabulous salute to adoption and love. And family—in whatever form it appears—wins the day. No booing and hissing here. If Gru’s hardened bad daddy’s heart can be softened, just think what this pic will do for yours.

Marlin, Finding Nemo (G, 2003)

The Academy Award-winning film swims along with Marlin, a naturally apprehensive clownfish father whose son Nemo is unceremoniously snatched away by human divers. Just the sort of thing he’d been warning the boy about for, well, forever! Doesn’t anybody listen to their father these days!? But this dad’s determination to protect his boy knows no limits. Yes, Nemo may have been plunked down in some human’s fish tank miles and mile and miles away. But Marlin will find him and bring him home. Persistence, thy fishy name is Marlin!

Mufasa, The Lion King (G, 1994)

Want a Shakespearean-style story that illustrates a father’s willingness to sacrifice for his children unconditionally? This is it. Simba is easily swayed and ready to make foolish youthful choices, like many cubs do. And Mufasa must give up everything to keep the boy alive. Eventually Simba grows to reflects everything his dad once stood for. Fodder for a good dad ugly cry? Could be. Aside from a harrowing moment or two, this is a pic the whole family can smile and sniffle through. And doesn’t every dad dream of having a voice like James Earl Jones?

And while we’re on the topic of adoption, here’s just one more bonus flick I have totoss onto the list. This one is for the dad who really digs those old classics that nobody makes any more. (And haven’t for, oh, about a hundred years now.)

The Tramp, The Kid (1921)

This Charlie Chaplin-starring silent film is the first to feature Chaplin’s “Little Tramp.” And though the average father might balk at being called a tramp, he won’t mind being compared to this guy. The Tramp rescues a baby who’s abandoned by his mother and raises him as best he can—adapting to the kid’s needs just like any good father does. Dads may not always know the right words or make the perfect choices, but The Tramp shows us that they can adapt, while showing compassion, ingenuity and a whole lot of love. You’re a Champ, Dad! (No wait, that’s a different movie.)  

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

2 Responses

  1. -Here’s some great movies about the relationship between a father and his children, “Real Steel” with Hugh Jackman, and the finale to the X-men series: “Logan”.

    1. -“Logan” was a great movie that was very difficult and depressing to watch.