It’s Father’s Day. Time to give your Dad some props… or a tie… or maybe a nice weed whacker. Whatever. Give your pop a hug and a kiss and tell him thanks for teaching you how to act on dates, and how to handle mom. Thanks for being fun. Since my own dad never quite cut the old proverbial mustard, I give you my favorite Dad’s of the BIG SCREEN!
- Darth Vader (Star Wars) – He might be flawed, but who isn’t. So he joined the Dark Side and then tried to kill just about everybody in the galaxy. So he wasn’t really “there for you” growing up. Big deal. That’s way better than my dad. And lest we forget that when push came to (literal) shove, Darth saved Luke’s life. He realized the error of his ways and sacrificed his life for his kids. And isn’t that what being a good parent is all about?
- Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) – Gregory Peck’s performance in this film was so badass that he has become inseparable from the literary character. He’s the dad. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He doesn’t just tell his kids to be good people, he shows them by his own actions and behavior towards others. He encouraged his kids to be individuals and gave them the freedom to become who they wanted to be. Giving a kid freedom to be themselves is perhaps the most important and maybe the hardest part of parenting.
- Royal Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums) – First, he is played by Gene Hackman. I have a few movie rules and one of them is: Gene Hackman can do no wrong. Test it! Even when the movie might suck, he is golden. Anyway Mr. Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum is one of my favorite performances of his. Sure, this is another flawed father, but at least he tried! In classic Wes Anderson fashion there is a communication breakdown between father and son (or son’s as the case may be here) but in the end dad comes through. I mean pretending to have cancer is pretty low, but I’d let it go for Gene Hackman.
- Ray Kinsella (Field of Dreams) – I wish my dad could make dead baseball players appear in what used to be our boring, old corn field. I wish my dad cared enough to take a crazy road trip with James Earl Jones and come home just in time to save our farm. When you watch Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams” you get the sense that he not only loves his daughter, but he would do anything for her. But, he also has hopes and dreams of his own and he isn’t willing to give those up just because he is a dad and a husband. As far as I am concerned, THAT is the best lesson a dad can teach you.
- Frank Calhoun (The Notebook) – I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I wish Sam Shepard was my dad in real life. I love him so much. He is just about the best dad ever to Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook”. For those of you who think this movie is all romantic and a “chick flick”, you are mistaken. Sure, it has those elements, but the majority of this movie is about pain and loss and understanding that you don’t always get what you want. Anyway, Frank Calhoun makes pancakes for dinner. He reads poetry aloud with his son. He sells his house so that his son can pursue his dream, and his girl. He is the best dad.
- Gil Buckman (Parenthood) – It’s hard to find a big screen dad who is better than Gil Buckman. It seems like Steve Martin spent the better part of the late 80’s and early 90’s playing cool dads. In “Parenthood” he plays a man who doesn’t want to turn into his own distant, workaholic father. He wants his kids to be happy and healthy and takes great steps to ensure that. He dumpster dives to find a lost retainer. He dresses up as a cowboy for his son’s birthday party. He knows whats up: Kids don’t need material things to be happy. They just need time with their folks.
- Clifford Worley (True Romance) – There is no doubt that Clifford Worley is a great dad. He might not be rich or powerful, but he loves his son. In an effort to buy his outlaw son a little lead time he gives what might be one of the best monologues ever. It is funny, courageous, and ultimately sad. He knows he is going to die either way, so why not go out… with a bang.
- Jack Walsh (Pretty in Pink) – Harry Dean Stanton is badass. This is a known fact. But when he plays Molly Ringwald’s dad in “Pretty in Pink” he is even more badass. And he does it wearing pajamas and a bathrobe through the whole film. He is a single dad just doing his best, trying to understand his weird high school daughter who has a pension for oversized clothes. Sure he is kind of pathetic in that he doesn’t want to get a job, and he can’t get over the fact that his wife left him, but that doesn’t mean he is a bad dad. He loves his daughter and even buys her an ugly pink dress to wear to Prom. Thanks, dad.
- Dill Penderghast (Easy A) – It’s nice to see a dad in movie who is hip to the ways kids talk these days. Dill doesn’t “over parent” and he doesn’t cower in the shadow of a control freak wife. Nope, Dill (played by the always marvelous Stanley Tucci) is a breath of fresh air in the world of movie daddies. He treats his children like actual people who are capable of their own thoughts. He seems rather amused by his kids and enjoys being with them, which is nice to see. Usually in High School movies you have a set of parents who are either absent or heavy-handed. Not here. Good job, Dill. Save me a seat for DVD night!
- Pete (Knocked Up) – No, not Seth Rogen. Paul Rudd. He plays the long-suffering Pete. Pete, who got married, had two cute little girls and then realized that his wife was overbearing, mean, and controlling. So, he feels like he needs time to himself and takes in the form of going to the movies alone, or playing Fantasy Sports crap with other sad husbands. I’ve always just felt really bad for dudes like this. I wouldn’t want to be with someone so bossy, but that’s just me. He is a goofy dork at his daughter’s birthday party, and he understands that kids love bubbles. He plays with his daughters and doesn’t yell. That’s half the battle right there.
HONORABLE MENTION: Armageddon, Lion King, and It’s a Wonderful Life