There are two kinds dads in movies – really good ones, and really bad ones. Here’s our pick of each.
Last Sunday, the TV and film industry awards season came to its traditional climax with the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles. There were some fine and worthy winners, but it’s fair to say it has not been a vintage year for screen dads. There were plenty of them, it’s just that their depictions of fatherhood weren’t particularly memorable.
So to add a little balance to the occasion, here’s the DaddiLife run down of the best and worst on-screen dads of all time. Feel free to add your own favourites to the list in the comments below.
Worst screen dads
1. Darth Vader
OK, so he comes good in the end. But it takes a hell of long time – and repeated attempts to murder his children and all their friends – to work out that fatherhood should really come before galactic domination. His nadir as a role model for fatherhood probably comes in the Empire Strikes Back, when he slices off his son’s hand with a lightsaber just because Luke refuses to sign up for the family business (Evil Incorporated).
2. The Shining
All work and no play….makes dad a homicidal maniac! The moral of this classic chiller is that on no account should you ever get stuck in a snow-bound mountain hotel with your old pop, especially if your old pop is an aspiring novelist with writer’s block. Jack Nicholson’s murderously bad dad is one of the scariest depictions ever of a man who should never have become a dad.
3. Force Majeure
If you haven’t seen this French Alps set family drama, it’s worth searching out for its masterly portrayal of a dad who makes the wrong call. And what a wrong call it is. In short, Tomas sees an avalanche coming his way and legs it in the other direction. Good decision, right? Not when you leave your wife and children behind. The tumbling snow and ice turn out to be harmless, but Tomas’ instinctive reaction to danger blows a huge hole in his plans for a happy family life.
4. American Beauty
Without plumbing the depths of selfish and murderous awfulness so far explored in this list, what’s the worst thing a dad could do? Trying to seduce his daughter’s best friend must come pretty high on the charge sheet. But that’s what Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham does in American Beauty, and not even his last minute change of heart can save him in the bad dad stakes.
Danny Devito’s used-car salesman Harry Wormwood is just a useless,overbearing, uncaring and frankly idiot dad, a (slightly) exaggerated version of the kind of father figure that is still all too common away from the silver screen. As he tells clever, funny daughter Matilda: “I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong; and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Best screen dads
1. Mrs Doubtfire
For every Darth Vader there is, thankfully, a Mrs Doubtfire. Robin Williams dons the dowdiest of drag to become ageing nanny to his children after splitting from their mother. This is hands-on fathering at its best – except as a woman.
Chief Brody’s kids love the beach. Giant man eating shark Jaws loves kids. Chief Brody takes to the high seas, risking his life for the sake of all the children of his small American seaside community, which makes him a truly great dad. If a stupid one. “Don’t swim in the sea, kids” would have been the easier option.
Unlike every other movie dad ever, Mac Maguff reacts to news of his teenage daughter’s pregnancy with restraint, compassion and a sense of perspective. He supports her throughout. He is the sort of rock we all hope we’d be if we were ever thrown into the same situation. But probably wouldn’t be.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life
OK, so James Stewart’s George is thinking of ending it all, which isn’t a great dad move. But even then he’s only doing it because he really believes his kids will be better off without him. George learns to find happiness in the positive impact he makes on the people around him, especially his adoring, adorable children.
5. Homer Simpson
Homer Simpson is a workshy bum, a beer-swilling incompetent who regularly uses physical violence on his son. OR, Homer Simpson is the dad who worked two jobs to buy his daughter a pony, gives up his dream vocation to earn more for his family, and even declines a keg of beer to get his kids dental care (a really big sacrifice for Homer). Worst dad in the world, or best? We’ll let you decide.