As it’s Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would share with you my Top 10 Movie Dads. There are some very different characters on the list but they all share the same wish to do they best they can for their children in whichever way they can. But hey, isn’t that what we all want to do for our kids?
10. Bryan Mills, Taken
“If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
Bryan Mills is a retired CIA agent who receives a call from his daughter Kim, about to be kidnapped (sorry.. Taken) while travelling in Paris, and springs into action turning Europe upside down in his search for her. Maybe it would have been better if he had told her to hang up and scream out of her hotel window in the middle of one of Europe’s busiest cities, or call the French police, or room service, or anyone who was actually in a position to prevent it, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and also the film would have been a lot less entertaining. However Bryan uses all of his particular set of skills to track down and punish the people behind the kidnapping and save his daughter. He also demonstrates the perfect telephone voice for when prospective boyfriends call…
9. Vito Corleone, The Godfather
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Vito Corleone is in many respects the ultimate family man. He builds his empire and his family together, and knows that one cannot function without the other. However he wants something better for his youngest son Michael, and strives to keep him out of the family business. When he is incapacitated and Michael does become involved, he accepts that of all his children, Michael is the only one capable of carrying forward his legacy. Everything Vito does is for his family. There is nothing more important than that.
8. Jack Byrnes, Meet The Parents
“I will be watching you and if I find that you are trying to corrupt my first born child, I will bring you down, baby. I will bring you down to Chinatown.”
Jack Byrnes comes across as an overbearing, over-protective father who takes an instant dislike to his daughter Pam’s boyfriend Greg. All he wants is for his daughter to be happy but cannot see that happening with Greg, a male nurse who Jack believes to be a liar. To be fair to Jack, Greg doesn’t help himself in his desperate quest for Jack’s approval, by breaking his other daughter’s nose in a “friendly” game of volleyball, burning down a handmade altar and causing Jack’s cesspool to overflow, all in the days before a family wedding. Not to mention losing Jack’s precious cat and faking his reappearance. But Jack is human enough to realise that he has been harsh on Greg from the start, and gradually accepts Greg back in to his circle of trust. In the hands of any other actor, this character could have been a disaster, but De Niro makes him believable by playing it totally straight, which makes the film that much funnier.
7. Mufasa, The Lion King
“Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.”
King of the plains of Africa, Mufasa has the responsibility of not only raising his son but preparing him for his future role as Mufasa’s successor. Always on hand to dispense Jedi-like wisdom and advice (well, for about the first twenty minutes… spoiler alert), but also with a playful side that sees him rolling around in the dirt with his son. It’s a testament to the gravitas that James Earl Jones’s iconic voice brings to the role that his death has such an impact on not only the characters in the film but also the viewer.
6. Marlin, Finding Nemo
“I have to get out of here! I have to find my son! I have to tell him how old sea turtles are!”
Marlin loses his only son Nemo to fishermen and has to overcome all of his fears to cross the ocean and find him. This is a huge thing for Marlin owing to a predator attack at the start of the film which takes away his entire family, with the exception of Nemo, and leaves him afraid of pretty much everything. Although Nemo is the title character, this is Marlin’s film and he learns first of all that he doesn’t have to be afraid of everything, and finally that it’s OK to let your children experience things for themselves.
5. Noah Levenstein, American Pie
“We’ll just tell your mother that… we ate it all.”
Eugene Levy’s performance as Jim’s Dad in American Pie is one of the great scene-stealers of all time. His attempts to advise his son on matters of romance and sex are among the funniest scenes in the film, and the embarrassment Jim feels is clear in every scene they share. However, Noah (as he is named in later instalments in the series), like all good fathers, only has his son’s best interests at heart, agreeing to spare Jim further embarrassment by not letting his mother know what really happened to that pie.
4. Dr Jake Houseman, Dirty Dancing
“You looked wonderful out there.”
Let’s be clear: I’ve never been a fan of this film. However, having re-watched it specifically to see the relationship between Frances “Baby” Houseman and her father, he goes on as much of a “journey” as she does. Clearly they worship each other, but he appears initially to be struggling to accept the fact that she is growing from an awkward teenage girl to a beautiful young woman. He wants her to be happy, but on his terms and with a young man that he approves of. When she admits that she spent the night with Johnny Castle he shuts himself off and refuses to speak to her, and it is not until he sees her dancing on the stage that he can appreciate what she has blossomed into and that she can make her own choices in life. I’m still not a fan of the film though….
3. Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation
“I’m just trying to treat my family to a little fun.”
A trip across country to a theme park becomes less of a journey and more of an epic quest for the Griswold family, led by Clark on a mission to give his kids the best holiday ever. On the way pretty much everything that can go wrong does go wrong but through it all Clark remains positive and relentless in his determination to reach his destination. Even finding that the park is closed when they arrive will not stop him having fun… Chevy Chase gives his best and most memorable performance in this film and you can’t help but be carried along by his infectious energy as he fights against the odds to reach his goal.
2. Jonathan Kent, Superman
“One thing I do know, son, and that is you are here for a reason.”
Obviously Jor-El is Superman’s father, from whom he gets his super-genes and knowledge of the “28 known galaxies”, but Jonathan (and Martha) Kent raised him and imbued him with his moral values and sense of right and wrong. Without this upbringing he may not have gone on to fight for either truth, justice or the American way. In every retelling of the Superman legend, Jonathan Kent is a strong father who guides the young Clark Kent through his adolescence, and it is his death that sparks the need within Clark to begin the journey to discover who he really is and what he needs to do. Glenn Ford’s portrayal in the 1978 film is far and away my favourite and, with only minimal screen time, makes Jonathan a big influence on the rest of Clark’s life.
1. Professor Henry Jones Sr, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
“Oh yeah? Well who’s going to come to save you, Junior?”
All the other names on this list could probably have been in any order but Number 1 was always going to be Professor Henry Jones Sr. He and Indy are one of the great movie double acts (subject of another Top 10 maybe….?) who, despite all their differences and bickering, share a mutual love and respect. Henry’s idea of fatherhood is different to what Indy would have wanted, Henry’s Holy Grail obsession getting in the way of them spending time together when they were both younger, but if things had been different, would Indy have been as resilient and determined as he turned out to be? Henry and Indy’s archaeological careers have panned out very differently, with Jones Sr spending more time in the library than in the field as his son has, and seeing them bonding between motorbike chases and tank rescues is great, leading up to Henry finally calling his son by his chosen name and letting him know that actually, the Grail is not as important as he once thought. The casting of Sean Connery in this role was spot on, with Connery showing perfect comic timing and terrific chemistry with Harrison Ford. And how fitting it is that a character whose creation was partly inspired by James Bond should have the original James Bond as his father.
Happy Father’s Day