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Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Movie & TV Dads

This Sunday is Father’s Day, the holiday where you show the paternal figure in your life how much you appreciate all he’s done for you with the gift of an ugly tie. While we contemplate the injustice of that, let’s take a look at some of our favorite movie and TV dads in today’s Roundtable.

Daniel Hirshleifer

He may not be the best TV dad, but Walter White of ‘Breaking Bad‘ fame remains one of the medium’s most interesting fathers. You know the story: High school chemistry teacher finds out he has terminal cancer, so he starts making meth in order to ensure that his family is financially secure when he’s gone. ‘Breaking Bad’ is, without a doubt, one of the best shows in the history of television, and a large part of that acclaim comes from the characterization of Walter White, and Bryan Cranston’s electric performance. After years of playing the bumbling dad in ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, his turn as Walter is nothing short of a revelation. And with the final season set to start up on August 11th, there’s no better time to start the show from the beginning. But first, let’s catch that fly that’s buzzing around.

Shannon Nutt

Movie Dad: There are obviously a lot of great candidates for this subject, so I’ll just go with the first one to pop into my head: Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) from ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘. Since George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s original idea for Indiana Jones was to do something as exciting and fun as the James Bond series, who better than to play Indy’s father than the original James Bond himself? But the character isn’t what we’d expect… he’s less of an adventurer and more of a scholar than his offspring, but he complements his son perfectly in what I consider to be the best film of the series.

TV Dad: He was far from perfect, both in his professional and personal lives, but that’s probably one of the reasons we loved ‘The Sopranos‘ dad Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) so much. What other father would take his daughter to tour a college campus only to get sidetracked when he spots a former associate who turned FBI informant? While his daughter is turning out fine, Tony’s only son is an underachiever who’s the mirror opposite of his tough-guy father. It’s hard to raise a family when you’re in the Family.

M. Enois Duarte

Who could possibly be a better dad than Clark Griswold, played with hilarious perfection by Chevy Chase in the ‘Vacation‘ movies? No other father in television or film tries as desperately to please his family and kids, and he does it with genuine devotion and pursuit of their happiness. The poor schmuck fails more often than succeeds, but the man never stops trying, even if his kids think him an embarrassment. All he wants is to make everyone happy and have a good time, to hear Rusty and Audrey thank him for the awesome fun and think him the coolest dad ever. Well, Clark, you’re cool in my book, and you’re my favorite movie dad.

Bryan Kluger

I have several here. Sorry, I went overboard. I couldn’t just choose one.

  1. Noah Levenstein (Eugene Levy) from ‘American Pie‘. This dad has gone beyond the call of duty for his son Jim’s antics, from those awkward but endearing talks about sex to bringing his son to a hospital to get rid of some glue from his member. Not many dads would be this cool, but Mr. Levenstein is always there no matter the cost and without getting angry.
  2. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) from ‘The Pursuit of Happyness‘. After his wife left him and his son struggling to make ends meet, Chris decides to bet everything he’s gotl on an internship at a financial firm. Homeless at times and not able to eat full meals for months, Chris did everything he could to take care of his son while he worked to achieve a good job and his dream. He always put his son first.
  3. Bob Ivanovich (Michael Keaton) from ‘My Life‘. What a tearjerker of a movie. Bob has deadly cancer, which will take his life in a matter of months. He won’t be around for his son to be born, but that doesn’t stop him from being in the boy’s life. Bob takes his home video camera to record life lessons, read bedtime stories, and teache his son how to shave, listen to cool music and drive. It’s a powerful movie.
  4. Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) from ‘Mr. Mom‘. Yes, Keaton has two entries on my list. Jack is let go from his job at the car factory while his wife accepts a job with an advertising firm. Their roles are reversed, so that his wife is the lead breadwinner and Jack plays the housewife to their three young kids. Jack soon finds that running a household is harder than he thinks, but takes to the new duties well with some very funny moments.
  5. Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) from ‘Kramer vs. Kramer‘. Ted is a hardworking man who provides for his family well. This causes him to be at work more than at home, but when his wife leaves him in the middle of the night with their young kid, he quickly has to play both mom and dad in his busy schedule. He does the best he can and becomes an amazing father.
  6. John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) from ‘John Q‘. John’s son collapses at a Little League game due to a bad heart and is sent to the ICU in need of a heart transplant. When John can’t pay the medical bills and his insurance company won’t pay for the procedure, John takes matters into his own hands and takes the hospital hostage. He’ll gladly lend his own heart for his son’s survival.
  7. Damon MacReady (Nicolas Cage) from ‘Kick-Ass‘. Damon may not be your typical father, but he has good reasons for it. He has trained his little girl to become a killing machine and assassin to take out the bad guys in their city. He looks after her every second of every day and is willing to sacrifice himself for his only daughter. Even when he’s set on fire, he still gives her advice. What a great dad.
  8. Homer Simpson from ‘The Simpsons‘. Homer may not be the perfect dad, as we’ve seen time and time again, but his heart is always in the right place and he’s always there for his family no matter the circumstances.

Brian Hoss

There are a lot of great choices for favorite dad from various shows and movies, but I have to go with Martin Crane (John Mahoney) from ‘Frasier‘. Not only did he offer a counterbalance for the high level of refinement of the two younger Cranes, but his mix of ex-cop street smarts and cantankerous love for his chair and Ballantine beer helped him be a TV dad for the ages. He was also perfect in a very similar role in the 1996 Ed Burns film, ‘She’s the One‘, where his turn as Mr. Fitzpatrick practically steals the show.

Josh Zyber

No list of best movie dads could possibly be complete without mentioning Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘, as played by the great Gregory Peck. He’s a kind and loving, but strong and above all moral father, who teaches his children by example and lives by the ideals he fosters in them, no matter the personal consequences. He’s the type of paternal figure I wish that I’d had, and the kind of father I’d like to be.

Tell us about your favorite movie and TV dads in the Comments.

19 comments

  1. William Henley

    Favorite tv dads:
    Danny from Full House
    Charles from Little House on the Prairie
    “Not the Mama” from dinosaurs
    The dad from Lost In Space.
    Sarek from Star Trek

    Movies:
    Kyle Reece – terminator
    Nathan – parenthood
    Wayne – honey I shrunk the kids
    Scott Freeman – flight of the navigator
    Gepetto – Pinocchio
    Louis – as father / lover to Claudia in interview with the vampire (we could write an entire sociology book on their relationship)

    I’ll post others later as I think of them

  2. Timcharger

    What about the movie about a father and son on a journey together?

    The Road.

    From my memory (I watched it once, and it’s too good to watch again; I’m weird) Viggo Mortensen finds a Coke can after years of apocalyse, and he gives the can to his son. After his son is done, Viggo just sips the residue on the lip of the can.

    —–

    Speaking of finding something rare after an apocalyse, Zombieland’s Twinkie search comes to mind. Woody Harrelson wasn’t a bad father there either.

  3. Wurms

    The Devil in Constantine – he saved Earth from being ruled by his demonic son and he healed John Constantine. Dude is a hero.

    • William Henley

      LOL, yes, that is true, but does that make him a good Dad, or a self-serving asshole?

      Of course, this makes me want to add God the Father to movies such as The Bible: In The Beginning, The Bible, Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings, Passion of the Christ, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc. I guess then you could also add Joseph as best Step Father in a couple of the above-mentioned movies.

  4. Timcharger

    “He’s the type of paternal figure I wish that I’d had, and the kind of father I’d like to be.”

    Josh, are you sharing some good news? Are some
    congratulations in order?

    This time next year, you might be celebrating
    your 1st Father’s Day?

    Are we going to hear about some new remodeling
    in your house for not home theater, but a baby
    room?

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Tim, the big personal revelation was actually in the first half of that sentence, wherein I use this blog as therapy to work through my Daddy Issues. :)

      • Timcharger

        I did catch the 1st half, but that’s the past and I wanted to focus
        on the future. Forward looking. The children are our future,
        teach them well… the greatest love of all…

        • Timcharger

          Julian, nooo, you didn’t.

          Equating Josh and “great artist”??? If you think
          Josh had a big head before, Josh is walking around
          like he’s a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving
          parade now.

          If Julian wins the caption contest, I’m calling
          that a fix.

          Josh, does flattery get anywhere with you? By
          the way, I noticed you lost a few pounds. Been
          working out?

          • I can never win the caption contest, for I don’t live in the United States :) That said, as an amateur film critic, I highly value Josh’s artistic merits in the field of film criticism. Just the truth, not hollow flattery.

  5. Jonstamos

    -Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) of Friday Night Lights
    -Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) of Parenthood

  6. EM

    Really? Did no one choose Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (original trilogy, anyway)? Not that I’d want him as my father (though he can be a useful ace in the hole against a megalomaniacal lightning-wielder), but he’s certainly a lot of fun to watch as he both defies and embraces his inner parent.

    • Timcharger

      Anakin?! Best dad???
      Let’s see what words have been used to describe Ani:
      Whiny
      Emotionally unstable
      Easily mislead
      Easily manipulated
      Unloyal friend
      Wife-beater (choking wife is a no-no)
      Absent father (though was mislead; see Easily Mislead)
      Child abuser (cuts off son’s hand counts to me)
      Tortures daughter (not only with embarassment of walking through the mall with a silly mask and full-body black cape, but literally tortues daughter with floating black ball of syringes.)

      Father of the year? No.

        • Yeah, I didn’t really understand this roundtable. Favorite dad does sort of sound like they want it to be a good father, but it quickly turned into “favorite character that has procreated”

        • Timcharger

          Fair point about the “favorite vs best” part.

          Okay, then Anakin is a favorite dad of mine to
          wish upon an enemy.

          You can tell that I’m having fun with the image of
          a teenage Leia being tortured with embarassment
          walking around the shopping mall with Daddy Vader,
          and covering her face so that her school friends
          don’t see her. “Dad, why do you have to wear
          that cape all the time? We’re going to the
          mall, not the opera!”

  7. John Mahoney is also the funniest character in ‘Atlantis – The Lost Empire’ — not as a father figure, but still as a guardian of soms sort.