Movie dads have been offering moviegoers words of wisdom for as long as there have been movies. It’s unfortunate then that, over the years, many of the more memorable film fathers haven’t exactly been the best fathers. This goes for the likes of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, Uncle Buck in Uncle Buck, and even Gru in the Despicable Me movies. Sure, all three earned our affection and the affection of their kiddies in the end, but their initial– let’s say–lack of investment in fatherhood keeps them from joining the upper echelon of cinema caretakers.
So in recognition of Father’s Day, we’d like to shine the spotlight on some of the more recent dads in movie memory. Each can teach us a valuable lesson about what it means to be a great parent. Without further ado, here are the best patriarchs of millennial motion picture:
7.) Mr. Incredible (aka Bob Parr), The Incredibles (2004)
Originally I was conflicted about adding Mr. Incredible to this list. Of course little kids should see their dads as superheroes and the symbolism of Mr. Incredible actually being a superhero sounded too good to pass up. However, like the aforementioned film fathers, Bob Parr begins the movie in a selfish state of mind. Feeling purposeless in a world that’s outlawed superheroism, he begins moonlighting as one for a mysterious client as a way to fill the void. It not until later that he learns his lesson and rediscovers new purpose as a father. When all was said and done, Mr. Incredible’s epiphany was so powerful I felt compelled to include him: it’s not what you do that makes you a superhero; instead, it’s who looks up to you while you do it.
6.) Noah Levenstein, American Pie (1999)
Noah Levenstein (aka “Jim’s Dad”) may not be the “coolest” dad on the block, but if your dad walked in on you in the midst of a compromising position atop your mother’s freshly baked apple pie, you’d want it to be him. Not only does Jim’s Dad approach these delicate situations from a place of understanding but he’s willing to take the blame for an embarrassing situation that otherwise would certainty have lead to a grounding (or at least a timeout). The best part is that he does so without ever losing his cool. Jim’s Dad is endlessly patient with Jim and patience drives great parenting.
5.) Jack Byrnes, Meet the Parents (2000)
Good parents make sure their child is taken care. Great parents make sure their child will continue to be taken care of long after they’re gone. Thus it’s only natural for a parent to be skeptical about anyone their kid will be spending the rest of their life with. If you chipped Meet the Parents down to its basic plot, that’s what you’d find: a parent wanting to be absolutely sure that Ben Stiller is capable of doing this for his daughter. This specific scenario just so happens to be every boyfriend’s worst nightmare. Jack Byrnes is an ex-C.I.A. counterintelligence agent with the training and technology necessary to examine and cross-examine his future son-in-law. Every parent wishes they could be this thorough.
4.) Marlin, Finding Nemo (2004)
R&B Artist Monica often sings about crossing the ocean for the person she loves. In Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Single Fish Father Marlin repeatedly puts his own life at risk literally doing just that in order to rescue his son Nemo from certain, shaky death. Not only does this sea-faring venture help teach kids that sometimes you have to break free from your comfort zone to achieve your goals, but the film doubles as a heartwarming metaphor for the responsibilities of parenthood and the importance of being there for your kids when they need it most.
3.) Bryan Mills, Taken (2008)
Taken is every parent’s worst nightmare: their child takes a trip out of country only to be abducted by men with bad intentions. Thankfully, Bryan Mills possesses a particular set of skills that can help him track down and save his daughter, even if it involves the slow, methodical murder of every person involved with her disappearance. Unfortunately, not every dad is a specially trained ex-C.I.A. operative with an underground intelligence network, but one can understand doing whatever necessary to ensure the safety of your kids.
2.) Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins (2005)
Much like the other parents on this list, Alfred Pennyworth is a dedicated father. Unlike the other parents on this list, however, there is no biological basis for the sense of love and duty he feels towards Master Bruce. If you haven’t somehow been made aware by any of the numerous interpretations of Batman over the years, Alfred is not Bruce’s blood relative. He’s the family butler who raised Bruce from childhood after the tragic murder of his parents. It’s a fictitious act of self-sacrifice that reflects the real world compassion of adoption. Instead of shipping Bruce off to an orphanage somewhere and spending the rest of his days in the sand sipping Malibu from a coconut, Alfred takes Bruce on as his own son and in the process teaches us that sometimes water is thicker than blood.
1.) Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
While Alfred’s compassion for his son very much plays out in realistic fashion, but Chris Gardner gets the top spot on our list for one big reason: the dude’s a real person and The Pursuit of Happyness is based on a true story. Nobody is swimming across the ocean or picking off a traffic ring, the man in simply striving to make a better life for himself and his son. It’s simple but that’s true fatherhood: balancing time with your child while simultaneously trying to provide their basic needs and hopefully raising a good human being. It’s a full-time job onto itself and requires compassion and commitment. That’s why this story is so amazing. Not only does Chris have to provide for his son, but he has to do so out on the streets while looking for a job. Chris Gardner is a true superhero and shows us in this film that you can overcome any obstacle for your children.
What do you all think of our list? What film fathers did we miss? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!