There are many ways to celebrate Father’s Day. You can enjoy a nice dinner together, buy him a gift card that you picked up at the local mall, sign him up for a Masterclass pass. Or, you can do what you were probably going to do anyway and watch a movie.
Hollywood has done its part in giving us all sorts of dads. From a Sicilian immigrant who built a Mafia empire to a professor of Medieval literature obsessed with the search for the Holy Grail, there are a ton of movie dads. This Father’s Day, we at The Cultured has put together a list of films that features some of the best dads of the silver screen for you to watch with your own.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Finding Nemo illustrates that parenting is about making mistakes and letting your children make their own way in the world – just as long as they don’t wind up in a dentist’s waiting room fish tank.
Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a flawed but incredibly caring clown fish, whose tricky relationship with his son leads him across the oceans in this stirring movie. With a great balance between humour and drama in its storytelling, Finding Nemo is a touching tale that reassures you that even though things may look bleak, it will all turn out well in the end. With its ravishing underwater fantasia, stellar efforts of a well-chosen cast, as well as a powerful story depicting the essence of fatherhood, Finding Nemo is a beautifully crafted Pixar masterpiece.
While Logan is a captivating Hollywood piece of R-rated entertainment, the film’s true strength lies in its central message on the importance and necessity of fatherhood. In Logan, Logan’s tough persona is put to challenge by his loyalty for Charles Xavier (Patrick Steward) as well as his need to protect his daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen). He reluctantly accepts his duty, as Laura is an experiment like what he once was, who knows almost nothing about the world aside from killing.
Throughout the X-Men films, Logan’s greatest weakness has always been attachment. Befitting considering that he has witnessed the death of the ones he loved (multiple times considering the muddled timeline of the Fox Marvel universe). Yet in Logan, we find him fighting for his family in a fatherly way. In the character’s final cinematic chapter, we see Logan embracing his biggest fear, and it becomes his greatest source of strength.
The Godfather (1972)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The 1972 gangster epic tells the story of powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don’s youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino) reluctantly joins the mafia, he becomes more involved and is drawn deeper into an endless cycle of violence and betrayal.
The Godfather succeeds in its breath-taking cinematography, a suspenseful script, as well as delivering some of cinema’s most intricate characters. At its core, The Godfather is a story about fathers and sons, a tale about the importance of family and what it truly means. Despite the many hardships that Vito and Michael faced, there’s nothing else that matters more to them than family.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
“I am your father”. The line that stunned moviegoers all around the world in The Empire Strikes Back, so shouldn’t that movie have more reasons to be on the list than Return of the Jedi? The Empire Strikes Back may have revealed the identity of Darth Vader, but it was Return of the Jedi that made him a more interesting and intricate character.
In Return of the Jedi, Vader’s conflict is on full display. Unwilling to let his son perish at the hands of the Emperor, Vader ultimately sacrifices his own life to save his son. Vader died rediscovering the joy of fatherhood, and it was his sacrifice and love that restored the galaxy to peace and order, marking the true return of the Jedi. Not only does the sacrifice and redemption of Darth Vader mark the climax of the original trilogy, it’s also one of the most memorable and satisfying moments in film history.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Following the success of the first Terminator movie, James Cameron returns to the directing chair for Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Like Aliens, Judgement Day is an enthralling blockbuster that transcends the first movie with groundbreaking visual effects, impressive direction, as well as endearing moments between characters that ultimately makes the movie a timeless classic.
In Judgement Day, an underlying theme that can be found is that mentorship doesn’t always have to run from senior to junior. Despite being an action heavy film, Judgement Day spends a huge chunk of its runtime with the Terminator learning from the boy he guards. Through incredible direction, Cameron develops the dynamics of T-800 and John Connor into a father-son relationship almost unexpectedly yet emotionally fulfilling.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness tells the true story of a struggling single father Chris Gardner (Will Smith), who tries his best to provide for his child despite working an unpaid internship and being evicted from his apartment. Attempting to build a better life and future, Gardner is determined to face the obstacles that life throws at him in his pursuit of true happiness.
Starring real life father and son duo Will and Jaden Smith, the pair excels with great chemistry, delivering unforgettable performances that’s destined to be remembered. In one heart stirring scene, Chris makes a game out of having to sleep in a train station bathroom because they’re homeless. The Pursuit of Happyness is a film that makes you appreciate the hardships of fatherhood.
There are many films that explore father and son relationships, but father and daughter connections that are well portrayed on the silver screen are a little less easy to come by. In Nolan’s mind-bending epic, Interstellar, is an ambitious intergalactic drama focuses on a father’s promise to his daughter.
While Interstellar touches on topics both particular and enormous through the lens of scientific exploration, the film is Nolan at his most humane. The love between Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter (Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy), crosses the boundaries of time and space, through black holes and interdimensional portals and through the manipulation of time. Interstellar represents more of the enthralling, thought-provoking, and visually breath-taking filmmaking moviegoers have come to associate with writer-director Christopher Nolan.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Culturally significant for reflecting society during a time when perceptions of fatherhood and motherhood are shifting. Directed by Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer paints the story of father Ted (Dustin Hoffman), who is shocked when he learns that his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) is leaving him in order to “find herself.” She is also leaving their young son Billy (Justin Henry) to his care.
Masterfully crafted with Hoffman and Streep’s incredible take on the characters, as well as a timeless premise, the Academy Award winning film went to great lengths to give equal weight to Joanna and Ted’s points of view. The film urges its audience to ask questions like “Can men be as good parents as women, and should women gain child’s custody by default?” Kramer vs. Kramer makes sure that the audience sees that whatever the answer is, it is always the child who loses.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Based on Harper Lee’s renowned novel, Robert Mulligan’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird is widely recognized as one of the greatest films ever made. Despite being released more than five decades ago, the film’s approach and view towards real world issues such as racial equality and rape are still relevant to this day. To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a widowed lawyer and father of two named Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) who’s assigned to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.
The film’s enormous critical and financial success can in a large part attribute to Peck’s impeccable performance as Atticus Finch. He’s authoritative, yet full of warmth. To Kill a Mockingbird also opts to tell the story through the eyes of Finch’s daughter, Scout (Mary Badham), allowing the audience to view Atticus Finch as, first and foremost, a father.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
After the initial mixed reaction to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg decided to tone down the darker tone and graphic violence in the next instalment. Returning to the brisk serial adventure of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the third instalment in the Indiana Jones series is an exciting sequel that is jam packed with enthralling sequences and endearing character moments.
Indy’s parentage remained something of a mystery until the third instalment of the series. In Last Crusade, Indy’s character is further developed by exploring his origins through his relationship with his father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery). The dynamite double act between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery became the driving force behind the action-adventure epic. Pure fun from start to finish, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of greatest father-and-son adventures of all time.
Read more: The 6 Greatest Movie Dads of All Time