Being a dad is a tough job. You never have the ingrained connection with him like mom from the moment you come into the world. Dads have to wear multiple hats. Mentor, teacher, and disciplinarian are requirements. While there are millions are momma’s boys, even more are daddy’s little girls exist. Good parents shape us and provide a hope filled future. These are my top 10 Movie Dads of all time.
10. George Banks (“Father of the Bride”):
Letting go of your kids when they become adults is incredibly hard when you are a good father. Not being able to shelter them from how crappy the real world can be is a nightmare. What’s worse is seeing your daughter return home after traveling for college for a man such as George Banks (Steve Martin) and finding out she’s engaged at 20. What!!! “Father of the Bride” satirizes the entire process and makes George’s hair grayer by the day. The price goes up with an eccentric wedding planner Franck (Martin Short) pleasing the women’s needs and at the same time draining Bank’s checking account. But this is the most important day in his little girl’s life. The event is hilarious and full of snafus, but walking his daughter down the aisle is worth every penny.
9. Ted Kramer (“Kramer vs. Kramer”):
Life and family relationships are often unfair. Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is a workaholic advertising executive who places his job over family time more often than not. His wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) suddenly leaves and the business crazed father suddenly has to be a parent full-time to his son. Initially the situation is not ideal. Ted simply does not know how to do the little things involved with raising a child. Yet they grow together and begin to find a good system when Joanna shows up wanting the kid back. The battle in court for where Billy will end up is vicious and brings out the worst in both parents. There is no right or wrong on who gets the boy as both truly love him. No matter the outcome, Ted Kramer learns just how much he loves and will fight for his kid while “Kramer vs. Kramer” ensues in the court room.
8. Jim’s Dad (“American Pie”):
There are young men who claim they were never caught touching themselves by their parents. There are also liars… Going through puberty is odd for everyone. Perhaps the most understanding and hilarious is Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy) in “American Pie”. The awkward old man seems like there’s no way he could understand what horny teenagers are thinking. Maybe our elders know more than what seems to be on the surface. Jim’s Dad is calm about his son screwing a literal pie, brings home some dirty porn mags, and supports his efforts to bang the hot foreign exchange student. At the same time papa always steers Jim in the right direction morally. Teens are going to do weird things with their jibbly-bits. Let’s just make sure they do it properly.
7. Jack Butler (“Mr. Mom”):
While the social environment continues to evolve, back in the 80’s it was still heavily perceived that the man was the bread-bringer of the family. “Mr. Mom” hilariously shows what the flip side of that would look like. Michael Keaton plays Jack, an engineer for an automobile factory. When he is laid off due to cut backs, his stay-at-home wife Caroline (Terri Garr) gets a well paying job with an advertising agency. The job calls for long hours, similar to Jack’s previous employment. The proverbial poppa must become momma in order to keep the family together. Yes, “Mr. Mom” in Jack hates it at first. But once he sees his wife’s success and gets to know his kids in a totally different way the man realizes the ones you love are most important.
6. Travis Henderson (“Paris, Texas”):
Screwing up as a parent is so often unfairly frowned upon. Poor decisions made by adults can also require us to go to the metaphorical principal’s office just like our kids. “Paris, Texas” is just that. Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis Henderson. Travis had a child with a much younger woman named Jane and they named him Hunter. When Jane leaves suddenly, the heartbreak pushes Travis to abandon his son with his brother and wife. Years later, Travis emerges out of the desert to retrieve his son and hunt for the lost wife/mother. Yes, abandoning a child is inexcusable. But what “Paris, Texas” shows is that it is possible to realize what is ultimately important in life. Sometimes it takes a while, but in Travis’s case he is able to see that before it’s too late. The relationship is fractured forever, but at minimum a father and son are able to attempt seeing one another on opposite ends of life’s journey.
5. Mufasa (“The Lion King”):
A young buck is tough to get a message through their heads. Simba knows he is destined to be king of the jungle one day. So how do you teach somebody with that initial level of entitlement from the start? The current “Lion King” Mufasa does his best with multiple metaphors and examples of how to be better than simply wearing the crown. Mufasa has himself a feisty young cub and he knows how to poke fun at and play with. At the same time when the little guy gets himself into trouble with hyenas Mufasa is always there to protect his boy. Even after his death, the proud father continues to guide his son towards becoming the man he is meant to be.
4. Ed Bloom (“Big Fish”):
Director Tim Burton is often known for more dark and twisted tales. Perhaps his most joyful and underrated film is “Big Fish”. A bitter son and writer played by Billy Crudup shows up to visit the father he always resented (Albert Finney). The supposedly crazed old man begins to tell the story of his life as though he were still telling fairy tales to his child. At first it comes off as ridiculous and the realist son rejects these tall tales that could not possibly be real. But as the story evolves, shown in flashback with Ewan McGregor playing a younger version of pops, it becomes clear that the simple factual accounts of life do not matter. Things like random experiences and people that one has touched are far more amazing to take in than a written deposition. “Big Fish” is the perfect example of the term ‘live your best life’.
3. President James Marshall (“Air Force One”):
By 1997, one would think that bad guys would have figured out that you do not screw around with Harrison Ford. Apparently villain Gary Oldman and his crew of Russian terrorists didn’t get the memo. Ford plays United States President James Marshall. A former war hero, Marshall and his family are returning home from Moscow after the U.S. military captured a top radical general. Several armed members sneak onto “Air Force One” in order to force the president to call for the release of this diabolical general from prison. Big mistake ‘hombre’! You put a gun in Harrison Ford’s daughter’s face, you are screwed buddy. In the words of the president; “GET OFF MY PLANE”!
2. Uxbal (“Biutiful”):
Another example of a truly kind-hearted human mixed up in awful circumstances, “Biutiful” begins and ends with a man learning from the father he never knew while struggling to raise his kids. His estranged wife is a schizophrenic mess and, in order to support his children, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a middle man for a human trafficking ring that exploits cheap labor to make clothing and other material products. He does nothing to harm black and Asian refuges, but he is also part of that system. And I almost forgot, Uxbal speaks to the dead as a side job. Needless to say life is much more complicated than your typical year. Then Uxbal finds out he is dying of cancer. Despite his transgressions, the man refuses to leave his children without the idea of a better future once he is gone. A future based on kindness instead of pain.
1. Carl Lee Hailey ( “A Time to Kill”):
While not a father myself, I cannot imagine the rage one would have with a daughter being brutally raped and beaten. I almost never condone violence but, if I were in Carl Lee Hailey’s shoes in “A Time to Kill”, I would have done the exact same thing. Samuel L. Jackson plays the black man on trial facing death row after murdering the men that nearly killed and permanently scarred his daughter for life because of the color of her skin. The fed up man shoots the two Mississippi a-holes that nearly killed the most important thing in his life right in the court house. Consequences may come in the future surrounded by a racist jury. Yet any person with actual human compassion would never blame Mr. Hailey’s actions. In the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson; “YES THEY DESERVED TO DIE, AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!”