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Happy Father's Day! What's Your Favorite Dad Movie?

My dad died two years ago so Father's Day is a melancholy abstraction now. I don't have my own kids but I love being a godfather, an uncle, and an honorary uncle. If you're father is still with you, take him to a movie or out somewhere for culture!

My point is this: Our parents aren't with us forever. Cherish them while they are.

What's your favorite dad movie? Mine just might be Beginners (2011) though my own dad certainly would not have liked it - we were very different people. I just find it so moving in its depiction of forging new more loving relationships adult to adult with your aging parent (and others). Christopher Plummer amply earned that Oscar.

There are so many memorable dads in movies, though. Two other semi-recent paterfamilias that really affected me were Donald Sutherland in Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life (2011).

How about you?

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Reader Comments (32)

My dad died almost 10 years ago and I always just want to get through the hype surrounding this day.

I like Beginners a lot, but my favorite is probably Clueless. Mel is a great father and his relationship with Cher is a gem. The Royal Tenenbaums is another great dad movie (my dad and I both loved it) but of course Royal, like most of Wes Anderson's dads, was a bad dad. And it's not a movie, but I find the relationship between Don and Sally on Mad Men very affecting.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Our plans for today are to get together with my dad and my sister at home (our mom passed away) and watch the World Cup game because Argentina is playing. As a gift I got him a box of liquor filled chocolates which are his favorite.

As far as movies go, my favorites usually feature father-son relationships between characters that aren't really father and son. The Truman Show for example, or Edward Scissorhands or Children of Men. I don't know which one is my father's favorite but I know he really loves Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World where Costner, from what I can remember, does develop a special bond with the little kid.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Oh wait, I just remembered. I love The Bicycle Thief. Both my dad and I always cry with the ending. And that's a movie I got for him as a birthday gift a few years ago.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Mine is Ed Bloom in Big Fish (who coincidentaly was also portrayed by Ewan McGregor). I love tall tales based in reality.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

My dad died almost two years ago now, so I know what you mean about this holiday being melancholy. Your choice of Beginners is a great one. I was very happy that Christopher Plummer won the Oscar that year but I really think the movie was underrated. It could have also been up for Screenplay at least.

@Suzanne, one of my brothers and I watched The Royal Tenenbaums together around the time my dad was sick and dying. We'd seen it back when it came out and thought it was great, so it seemed like the perfect movie to watch about a patriarch who was also dying. Gene Hackman is one of the best actors of his generation, and that's saying a lot.

My own favorite dad movie also involves Ewan McGregor and that's Big Fish. This film, too, was criminally underappreciated at the Oscars, especially Albert Finney's performance. I don't know how he didn't at least get a nomination, but I could write a whole book about why 2003 at the Oscars was a sham. Anyway, I love the father character in Big Fish. His tall tales and outrageous adventures make the film so unique and irresistible. I love the father's optimistic attitude toward life. Finney plays the elderly father as larger than life and the character certainly was that. I like to think my father was larger than life too and now I cry every time I see Big Fish. It's beautiful and I think it's Tim Burton's best film ever.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Finding Nemo all the way.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I'm sorry about the loss of your dad, Nat.
Didn't know he died two years ago.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

My favorite Dad movies are Meet Me in St. Louis, The Godfather: Part II, The Sum of Us, The Lion in Winter, Frankenstein (1931) and It's a Wonderful Life.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Stanley tucci in Easy A :)

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Charles Durning in Tootsie he's my fave onscreen dad.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Field of Dreams.

"Wanna have a catch, Dad?"

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBob Tyra

I like Dennis Quaid's steadfast dad in Frequency. Although time may unravel, his love never wavers and he's always there when you really need him.

Father/son stories, yes there's some good ones. Father/daughter, not so much. So I'm glad to see Cher's dad and Donald Sutherland in P&P mentioned.

The last father/daughter movie I watched a watched a few months ago with my dad was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He loved it, I loathed it (although I didn't say so, of course). I wanted to wring Elia Kazan's neck (again).

Colin Firth in What A Girl Wants is pretty sweet.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

this might be cheesy, but I like benigni in "life is beautiful".

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Clark Griswold. Everything he does is for his family :)

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Not necessarily movies primarily about father/son or father/daughter relationships but these are the cinematic fathers I remember the most:

Christopher Plummer, "Beginners" My favorite movie, too, about the subject matter
Brian Cox, "25th Hour"
Brad Pitt, "The Tree of Life"
Christopher Waken, "Catch Me If You Can"
Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights" (TV)
Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale" certainly not the best father, but his shortcomings ring so true
Daniel Day-Lews, "There Will Be Blood"
Greg Kinnear, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I've actually never met my dad, so the father/son relationship is just something I don't understand... obviously I get it, duh, father and son love each other, etc etc, but I just don't relate at all. It's like a foreign language to me because I never had it.

I like all the choices everyone has given though. Beginners, Frequency, those are great.

I'd also add Pariah.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

To Kill A Mockingbird, naturally.
And The Family Stone. Craig T. Nelson was so beautiful in that film.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

@adri As for father/daughter movies, I think Beasts of the Southern Wild is pretty great!

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmory

To Kill a Mockingbird, because Atticus is not only the greatest father of American movies, but maybe the greatest male character.

Westerns, of course, are a great source of dad movies. My favorite ones are the sentimental and beautiful Rio Grande, by John Ford, and the bombastic The Furies, by Anthony Mann, in which the thorny relationship between daughter Barbara Stanwyck and father Walter Huston is just arresting and breathtaking.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

My choice would be To Kill a Mockingbird.

A good friend, who lost her Dad was she was quite young, always talked about Field of Dreams.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

@ Philip H. "...father and son love each other..."

Definitely not a given, making Father's Day thorny in my dad's lifetime and since his death.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

My favorite Father's Day film is always Field of Dreams.

It's one of my father's favorite films and never doesn't make him tear up a little bit. I get overly emotional just thinking about those moments.

Thinking about the potential "what could have beens" in your life and realizing you can change them at any point.

Romantic and magical maybe, but true to me.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew C

Paul Outlaw - Well yes, that too... I just meant I can't really understand either way. For instance, my mother loves me unconditionally but I know others where that isn't the case with theirs. And I can understand how that would feel because I've experienced a mother's love so I can't imagine not having it. I don't know what even having a father present is like. Didn't mean to be insensitive though, just didn't want to be too depressing I guess... sorry to hear though. <3

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Sonja, as soon as I read Finding Nemo I thought Oh of course! Beginners and Life is Beautiful are great picks too. Also, while I know it's not a popular pick to defend anymore, I randomly watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding the other day and while there are a lot of archetypes built on over-the-top stereotypical behavior, I still have a soft spot for the big hearted parents. The dad's acceptance at the end still makes me tear up.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

@Paul Outlaw--My experience as well.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Glenn Ford in The Courtship of Eddie's Father?

(side note: Apparently Ford was a terrible father in real life and his son always longed for him to be more like the character he played in that movie.)

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentero.s.

wow. Nathaniel, my dad died two years ago on may 31st, so like 3 days after yours. wtf. i know people die all the time, but this is a bizarre coincidence to me. i thought: "wow, i don't remember reading this post back in 2012" followed by "right, because i was with my sick father". wow.
I'm really sorry about your dad. Father's day gets bitter, right.

Christopher Plummer's character in Beginners is a great choice. It hits right were it hurts for me. I actually saw that movie for the first time in 2012, like in August or September, and i cried like a baby, not only because of the parallels between the death of the character and my father's death, but because Christopher Plummer manages to create the most endearing old queer grandpa ever.
Besides that, only animated fathers come to mind. Mufasa from The Lion King - cannot watch that movie without bawling my eyes out, every damn time. And also Ariel's dad, the king-mermaid what's-his-name. He starts off being a huge ass, but later he's kinda cool.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClara

i've just remember one: the father-son relationship in Denys Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions". Complicated, bittersweet and very moving - much like real father-son/daughter are.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClara


I think everything bad and more has been said about Benigni's performance and win for "Life is beautiful", but his character was a great dad. He did everything to protect his son in such a devistating place...

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Wow. Not one mention of either version of Father of the Bride? Maybe I'm just in the mood because my sister got engaged recently so we're in the midst of a lot of wedding talk right now. Both Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin are wonderful.

The other scene I think of when I think of movie dads is the carnival scene in In America. He's not a great dad for most of the movie, and arguably not even in that scene, but for that one moment it's impossible not to completely fall in love with him.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I always loved the father/daughters scenes in My Neighbor Totoro. The dad isn't really that big of a character but the small scenes they have show a really nice relationship and his best efforts to make the situation the best for his daughters with their mom in the hospital.

And I second Beginners and Brad Pitt in the Tree of Life on recent portrayals of dads. And I would add Ewan McGregor in The Impossible. I know people around here aren't the biggest fans of the movie but I think he was so good in it.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpaco.

Also, Selena's dad was awesome. Edward James Olmos is great.

June 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

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