In Honor of Father’s Day, Here’s Our List of The Best and Worst Movie Dads

By June 15, 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there! If you’ve spent time looking at other movie blogs over the past few days, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a list or two of the best action movie dads floating around. We actually covered that territory two years ago, so this year, I figured we’d expand the parameters a little bit and list some of the best and worst cinematic fathers out there. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

The Best

Robin Williams Hook

5. Peter Banning, Hook

Banning starts out as a spineless yuppie lawyer, but he unquestionably loves his kids and tries his best to save them from the clutches of Captain Hook. He just needed a little reminder from Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys about who he used to be, and then it was smooth sailing from there. How cool would it be if your dad was Peter Pan?


4. Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

On the surface, Kevin Costner’s Ray might not be the best father – the whole “building a baseball diamond in the middle of nowhere” thing nearly gets the bank to foreclose on his house – but he teaches his daughter a good lesson about finishing what you start and following through on your beliefs. Plus, he gets one of the best father/son moments in film history when the ghost of his dad wanders out onto that field and they play the game of catch Ray wanted to play with him ever since he died. Waterworks, every time.


3. Mufasa, The Lion King

Speaking of crying…Mufasa’s death hit me hard as a young lad. The booming, fatherly voice of James Earl Jones and the way the character tried to impart wisdom to his son is done so well that when Simba no longer has that character to fall back on, it’s a total gut punch. Thankfully, the specter of Mufasa hangs around long enough for Simba to come into his own and eventually reclaim the throne.


2. Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness

Gardner makes the list not only because of Will Smith’s strong performance in the 2006 film, but because it’s based on a true story of a man who embodied the ideal of never giving up, scoring a coveted internship and taking care of his young son after being evicted from their home. Through incredible hardships, Gardner kept his head down and his spirits high and ultimately went on to form his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm.

Atticus Finch

1. Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

There’s a reason Atticus Finch was voted the greatest hero in American film by the American Film Institute. Jem and Scout’s father couldn’t shield his children from the horrors of racism in 1930s Alabama, but he taught them honor, decency, and the important lesson of considering what other people’s lives may be like before judging them on your own terms. He’s one of the most inspirational characters ever put to film, and countless real lawyers chose their profession because of Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning performance.

The Worst

Tywin Lannister

5. Tywin Lannister, “Game of Thrones”

OK, so this one is a bit of a cheat since “Game of Thrones” isn’t a movie. But as this Father’s Day greeting video indicates, how terrible a dad is Tywin Lannister? He’s treated Tyrion like garbage for his entire life, holding a grudge against his own son because his wife died giving birth to him. Plus he trash-talks his golden boy son after his hand gets chopped off, tries to marry his daughter off for steely political purposes, and basically has no sense of compassion whatsoever. We’re guessing he never tossed around the old pigskin in the backyard of Casterly Rock.

Mr. Wormwood

4. Mr. Wormwood, Matilda

Danny DeVito has such an elegant way of bringing slimy dirtbags to life. His Frank Reynolds from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” could also have a place on this list, but his work as the TV-addicted crooked used car salesman set a new benchmark for negligent parent. He’s wonderfully weaselly, and is definitely one of those characters you love to hate.

Darth Vader 2

3. Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back

Vader’s legendary reveal in The Empire Strikes Back has become one of the most iconic moments in all of pop culture. Sure, he eventually overcomes the Dark Side and kills the Emperor to protect his son, but in Empire, he’s stone cold, cutting his own son’s hand off and freezing his friend in carbonite. Not exactly the kind of guy you’d like hanging around with at a party.

Jack Torrance

2. Jack Torrance, The Shining

Jack Nicholson’s mesmerizing performance as Jack Torrance is another one for the history books, and it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that things aren’t quite right for The Overlook Hotel’s new caretaker. Threatening his wife and child and coming after them with an axe isn’t going to win him the Father of the Year award.

Noah Cross

1. Noah Cross, Chinatown

It doesn’t get much worse than this guy. Metaphorically raping the citizens of Los Angeles with his nefarious scheme to control the water in the district, and then physically raping his own daughter before taking his granddaughter off as his own, Noah Cross is one of the skeeviest villains of all time. Just thinking about this movie gets me riled up all over again. I don’t think Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) will ever “forget it,” even if it is Chinatown.


Big Fish

5. Edward Bloom, Big Fish

Big Fish is one of my favorite films, but it’s tough to call Edward Bloom a traditionally good father because his estranged son Will (Billy Crudup) spends so much of his life troubled by Bloom’s stories and his father’s perceived inability to tell the truth. As the movie ends, they finally manage to repair their broken relationship and Will comes around to see the value in Edward’s storytelling.

Clark Griswold

4. Clark Griswold, Vacation

Chevy Chase’s Clark W. Griswold is one of those guys who means well, but disaster seems to follow him wherever he goes. Most of his decisions are made for the good of his family and he clearly has a good heart, but seriously – everything seems to go wrong when Clark puts a plan in motion.


3. Henry Jones, Sr., Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

Sean Connery’s excellent work as Henry Jones, Sr. is one of the high points of the Indiana Jones franchise, but again, it’s tough to proclaim him a great father because he was so consumed with his research on the Holy Grail that he didn’t spend any time with his son when he was young. The whole movie is about trying to reclaim that relationship and make up for lost time, and say what you will about Henry’s parenting, at least he was there for Indy when it really mattered (saving him from falling into a pit seems like a pretty cool dad move).

George McFly

2. George McFly, Back to the Future

George McFly is just sort of a lovable loser in Back to the Future, from the 1985 version still being pushed around by Biff Tannen, to the younger McFly who can’t face the thought of writing a novel because of the rejection that might follow. (Plus, he’s a peeping Tom!) But Marty sets him on the path to stand up for himself, and he’s ultimately changed into a confident, successful guy who seems like he has it all together. But honestly: when Marty came of age, don’t you think he and Lorraine would have realized that he looks EXACTLY like the kid that got them together back in high school?

Mrs. Doubtfire

1. Daniel Hillard, Mrs. Doubtfire

Again, here’s a guy who unquestionably loves his kids and goes to insane lengths to get to hang out with them. But he was a terrible disciplinarian, and he did reward his kid’s bad report card with an awesome party for some reason. It’s great that Daniel loves having fun, but I imagine being a dad is a lot more about making the hard decisions than just the easy ones. Things seem to turn out well in the end, and maybe that planned sequel will shine further light on this situation.

That’s it for our list. Did we leave anyone off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at,,,, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.