Memorable Screen Dads
In honour of Father’s Day tomorrow, and given I am unable to spend the day with my own dear Dad what with being halfway around the planet from him, I decided to round up the most memorable fathers in TV and film to mark the occasion. NB: memorable does not necessarily mean first-rate – these are the good, the bad, and the downright hilarious. (Please note there are some spoilers for TV shows below).
Jonathan Kent, Smallville (2001 – 2011)
This show was unashamedly cheesy, and that was part of its charm for those of us that watched and loved it. The whole father-son relationship between Clark and Jonathan though was just too much. As in, every scene involved some serious shoulder gripping on Jonathan’s side, eyes shining and voice wobbling on Clark’s side, and then a strengthening “You can do this, son” from Jonathan. I mean come oooonnnn.
Captain Crewe, A Little Princess (1995)
When compiling this list, my flatmate Helen passionately declared that it wouldn’t be complete without Sarah’s father from A Little Princess, and I was mortified I hadn’t thought of him myself. For anyone who was a child in the 90s, this film was one of those films you see and love and see again and still love, and you remember it fondly all these years later and watch it once more in your twenties and can hardly believe it, but you love it still. It is great, basically. The love between Sarah and her dad and the turmoil they both go through before finding each other again is the thing of bloody fairytales. The ultimate father-daughter tale, I weep every time she finally finds him and yells out “Papa!!” in the rain. Oh god, here I go again...
Dwight Hansen, This Boy’s Life (1993)
One of Robert De Niro’s nastiest characters, this is a heart wrenching tale about Leonardo DiCaprio’s boy of the title being seriously let down by his new step father, and that’s an understatement. With these two powerhouse performers on screen together, it’s a fantastic watch. Fun fact: After seeing the young actor’s incredible performance, the original Scorsese-favourite called up his oft-time director and told him he must check out this kid. DiCaprio has since collaborated with the director five times, with another project in the pipeline.
Daniel Hillard, Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
It’s not many who would go undercover and cross-dress as an elderly woman just for the love of their kids. Robin Williams’ Mrs Doubtfire is something else, and throughout all the side-splitting comedy, you never forget he’s doing it all because he’s a dad who just really loves his children.
Bill Compton, True Blood (2008 – 2014)
A slightly less conventional father-daughter relationship, Bill is a vampire who has to turn innocent Jessica against his will. What starts out as a very strained relationship full of guilt on his part and anger and grief on hers, turns into what I always considered the most loving and genuine relationship in the show. Both characters go through a heck of a lot - good and bad - but they are always there for each other and Bill puts Jess’s safety and happiness on the top of his priority list until the very end.
Manny Singer, Corrina Corrina (1994)
One of my absolute favourite childhood films, Corrina Corrina is a story about a father and daughter struggling to cope following the loss of Manny’s wife. It’s a heart-warming story about a man trying to do his best at the single father, working full-time thing, to a young girl who’s understandably pretty withdrawn after losing her mum. Enter Whoopi Goldberg as Corrina (A.K.A one of my fave screen characters of all time) to help mend the broken family. If you haven’t seen it, please do!
Sam Dawson, I Am Sam (2001)
Sean Penn’s Oscar-nominated performance as a mentally handicapped father fighting for custody of his 7 year-old daughter is one of his best – and with his resume, that’s saying something. His legal battle is tear-jerking at the best of times, but aided by a cut-throat lawyer in the form of Michelle Pfieffer, his love for his young daughter is just too damn strong to lose. Such a touching watch.
Marlin, Finding Nemo (2003)
This whole story is about a father’s search for his son which requires him to leave the safety of his home and cross a whole bloody ocean, risking his life time and time again to find him. There aren’t many stories about a father doing more for his child, and the embarrassing yet relatable dad moments are just golden – especially given we are talking about a clown fish.
Jim’s Dad, American Pie (1999)
Never has a more cringe-worthy father been portrayed on screen. Well, there is Jonathan Kent but this time it’s intentionally this squirm-inducing. Between the it’s-ok-to-masturbate-and-I’m-a-cool-dad-so-here-are-some-dirty-magazines moment and the pre-prom safe sex talk, this film actually makes you understand what it must feel like to be a teenage boy. All I can say is, I’m glad I never had to be one.
Cameron and Mitchell, Modern Family (2009 --)
The trials and tribulations of Modern’s Family’s gay dads are both hilarious and moving. One thing these two never make viewers question is how much they love their daughter. Having two dads instead of one just makes her all the more loved, and she’s always impeccably dressed too – bonus.
Mufasa, The Lion King (1994)
So this guy is a legendary father for a number of reasons. 1) he wakes up before the sun has even risen to entertain and educate his son, which is something I’m not entirely confident I would do; 2) he protects his son against hyenas – come on; 3) he instils seriously valid life-lessons in his son i.e. the circle of life; 4) he puts his life at risk and literally dies for his son (damn you straight to hell , Scar); 5) he appears in the form of a glowing cloud to remind Simba who he is and what he needs to do when he loses his courage. I mean come on... a better feline father there never was.
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (1989 --)
Despite being a lazy, ignorant, clumsy (his catchphrase “d’oh” has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2001, didja know?), Homer’s good qualities far outweigh his bad ones, and perhaps the best of them all is his love for his family. He has ridiculously sweet moments with all of his children, but probably the best of them all is the episode where Homer is given a cruel wall-hanging by Mr Burns at the job he hates which reads “Don’t forget you’re here forever.” After almost quitting his job, even though Marge has just had baby Maggie, in the final scene we see Homer leaving the office, before we see the wording on the wall partially covered with countless pictures of his beloved baby, so it now reads “DO IT FOR HER.” It’s probably the most touching moment from all 26 years of the show so far.
Denethor, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
One of the worst fathers from any film ever, Denethor makes you hate him with a fiery passion. He loves one son, Boromir, with all his heart – idolises him, even – and cares almost nothing at all for his youngest son, Faramir. So much so that he pretty much signs his death warrant by sending him into a losing battle, then feels a misguided sense of despair when he tells himself Faramir is dead and signs his death warrant YET AGAIN when he tries to burn him alive. Sheesh... what a bastard.
Tywin Lannister, Games of Thrones (2011 --)
Basically 'How Not to be a Father 101'. This guy definitely tops my list for the worst fathers of all time. He fathers his children like he is running a business. Ruthlessly marrying them off without giving a toss how miserable it will make them; blatantly blaming his son for ‘murdering’ his wife when he was born (yeah... ‘cause it’s the baby’s fault) and reminding him for his whole life that he hates him for it; making a mockery out of the love his son has for a woman; and finally putting his son on trial and sentencing him to death, this guy is a straight-up hateful son-of-a-bitch. In one of my only moments of deep gratitude to the show’s creators, he gets what’s he’s owed in the end.
Hal, Malcolm in the Middle (2000 – 2006)
I loved every character in this show, and actually got abs during the years it ran due to continuous laughter, but long-suffering patriarch Hal was undoubtedly my favourite. Despite being such a ridiculous character, there were so many moments of embarrassment on his sons’ parts that I could relate to, and so many moments of his as a person that I could too (think his obsession with bubble-wrap popping). Just look at that pose... what a killer.
Happy Fathers' Day to all the dads out there.