In honor of father’s day, here’s my list of the top ten dads. To keep this list under control, I limited it to a few criteria:
- The father had to be in a movie or television show.
- The father had to be fairly respected and not just the constant butt of jokes. (mostly done to rule out a great many sitcoms and – yes – the Simpsons)
Honorable mention: Best Bad Dad
John Winchester (Supernatural) – The debate rages on over just what kind of father John was. With almost six years of show, the most we can conclude is that he didn’t have any good options available to him. Can any of us say that we could have raised those boys in the same situation any better? Watching the scene where the brothers go back in time and Sam talks with a young John Winchester about… John Winchester, we see that nobody hated John or was harder on him than he was. Yet at the end of the day, not even death or Hell itself can hold him back from saving his boys.
Honorable mention: Best Not-Dad
Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity) – They weren’t a literal family, but in Joss Whedon’s best series, Mal and Inara were the surrogate parents of the dysfunctional, ragtag crew. Just like the best fathers, Mal always did his best to save a member of his crew – even if he didn’t like them or was terribly happy with them at the moment. And nothing angered him more than betraying and/or harming his crew. Plus he had kick-ass suspenders.
10) Cleo McDowell (Coming to America) – Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy was notable for having two great fathers in it (including James Earl Jones). Still, I’m giving this one to John Amos’ portrayal of the hard-working middle class dad and one scene in particular. Throughout the movie he’s been a bit more on the practical side of love than romance. He obviously wants his daughter to be happy, but also wants her to be comfortable – to be taken care of (a normal, healthy desire for a dad). At first he was disappointed that she was giving up the rich, hair product mogul for his (apparently) penniless employee, but then he finds out that Eddie Murphy is actually a prince (and even richer). Enter the king played by James Earl Jones who… well crosses a line and lets McDowell prove just how much he really cares.
King Jaffe Joffer: Our son cannot consort with such a girl.
Cleo McDowell: Now wait a minute!
King Jaffe Joffer: I know you have been inconvenienced. I am prepared to compensate you. Shall we say one million American dollars?
Cleo McDowell: No way.
King Jaffe Joffer: Very well then. Two million.
Cleo McDowell: You don’t have enough money to buy my daughter off.
King Jaffe Joffer: [laughing] Nonsense.
Queen Aoleon: Jaffe, apologize to Mr. McDowell.
King Jaffe Joffer: I will do no such thing. The man is beneath me and so is his daughter.
Cleo McDowell: I don’t care who you are. This is America, Jack. Say another word about Lisa, and I’ll break my foot off in your royal ass.
9) Red Foreman (that ’70s Show) – Raising kids is definitely a team effort. To paraphrase Chris Rock, it can be done solo but that doesn’t make it a good idea. And in a family, fathers often have to play the bad cop; after all, you don’t want your kid to become a dumbass. Still, no matter how hard he was on Eric, Red loved him (see the episode where they go deer hunting for a good example) and even other kids like Hyde. He may not have been the father they deserved, but he was the one they needed.
8) Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space Nine) -The relationship between Jake Sisko and his father was often forgotten in the grand scheme of war, religion and baseball, but it was a powerful factor of one of the best Star Trek series ever. Nowhere was this better seen than the episode “the Visitor“.
7) Jonathan Kent (Smallville) – It may have taken a few years but it looks like at least one of the duke boys finally grew up. Then he raised one of the greatest heroes of all time. Smallville answered the question: how do you raise a near physical god? (One that can’t really be punished.) By being a man so awesome, the sheer force of your will teaches your son how to be a good man. Whatever flaws the show may have had, it wasn’t hard to see how Clark Kent became the hero he was.
6) Clark W Griswold Jr. (Christmas Vacation) – “Wait!” Some of you are saying. “Doesn’t this violate your second rule?” Maybe, but I’m letting it slide because everyone is the butt of a joke in National Lampoon’s universe, and under its low standard, there’s a lot of good fathers in the movie (even the lovable Eddie). Clark proves that you don’t have to be a perfect man to be a perfect father and flawlessly captures that frustration I think a lot of father’s feel. The desire to make everything as perfect for their family as possible – while the universe constantly frustrates them. It’s probably one of the toughest lessons a father has to learn: that everything’s ok in the end.
5) Darkwing Duck (same) – DW has the distinction of being the only father on this list who volunteered for the job. He had no plans, we don’t even see a hint of a desire to become a father. Yet by the end of the first episode, we see him love and adopt the hyperactive orphan Gosalyn; who nobody else wanted. Throughout the series, we often see the two of them “fight” as all families do, but there is never any doubt of their love for each other. Even counting all the times he’s saved St Canard, Darkwing Duck has never done any act of good greater than becoming a father.
4) Hank Hill (King of the Hill) – For only children, parents frequently play two different roles in preparing them for life. It seems most common for mothers to represent Idealism (“you’re awesome and can do anything”) while fathers represent Cynicism (“life isn’t fair”). Of course real life is more complicated than that (my parents often switched roles depending on the topic), but in King of the Hill we saw the principle simplified and played out with the Hill family. Peggy had nothing but hope and encouragement for Bobby while Hank tries to prepare him for just how harsh life can be. Sometimes, no matter how much you want something, it will end up sucking. Yet through it all, we saw that there was nothing more important to Hank than Bobby and he was willing to use a golf club to prove this to any doubters.
3) Julius Rock (Everybody Hates Chris) – I admit to having a strong affection for this series, and the father that works two jobs to give his family everything that he can. Plus, Terry Crews is an awesome actor and doesn’t get near the work his talent deserves.
2) [tie] Marlin (Finding Nemo)/Bob Parr (the Incredibles) – Of course Pixar is here, and gave us two dads that are so awesome, I had to give them both 2nd place. Finding Nemo is pretty much the 2nd best father’s day movie while Bob’s character arc of learning just how much he cares for his family is one of the most touching. How much more can I say that hasn’t already been said? Just about every Pixar film can go on here, which is why I limited my list to literal fathers.
1) Bryan Mills (Taken)
Need I say more?
The best part about all these dads? They remind me of my own father, who’s even more awesome for being real. Thanks Dad, for everything.
And maybe I am sorry for everything I put you through.