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Favorite Film Fathers: A Father's Day Special

Today, we celebrate Father's Day. It's a day when all the dads out there should be allowed to sit back and relax. While we should always honor and respect and love our fathers, I suppose it's only fair that they receive a day all for themselves. That seems to be the American thing to do, I suppose. While you're all off celebrating your own fathers, I've crafted a list of my favorite cinematic dads. So, give it a view if you've got some time to kill, but just don't forget to call and tell your own dad that you love him.

To all the dads out there: Have a happy and safe Father's Day. You're all fantastic.

25. Clark Griswold

Vacation (1983)
Portrayed by: Chevy Chase
As a man doing his best to keep his family's sanity together, Clark Griswold kicks off this list as one of my favorite movie dads of all time. When his family decides to take a cross-country road trip to visit Walley World, just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And although he might lose his cool time and again, Clark Griswold still manages to keep bringing the funny as well as a true sense of family bonding. Chevy Chase is pitch-perfect in the role, and he went on to portray the character on three other occasions over the years. But it all started with that little trip down to Walley World, and for that, we can all love him.

24. Hal Fields

Beginners (2011)
Portrayed by: Christopher Plummer
A recent addition to the cinematic universe, Hal Fields might be one of the most complex fathers on the list. The on-screen father of Ewan McGregor, Hal Fields is a recent widower who comes out as a late-in-life homosexual before learning that he has a terminal illness. The film is told in flashbacks from McGregor's character, and we see Hal from his announcement as a gay man to the moment where his life expires. In the time between, we meet a fun-loving man who was always a little too hard on his son, and he's only now starting to realize it. It's a beautiful portrayal that ultimately earned Plummer an Academy Award, in case you were waiting for some extra merit.

23. Jack Torrance

The Shining (1980)
Portrayed by: Jack Nicholson
Not all of the dad's on this list are going to be of the exemplary sort, and the first such addition is Jack Nicholson's maniacal father from The Shining. After taking a job watching a massive resort over the winter, Jack Torrance slowly tries to author a book he's been wanting to write for ages. However, the confines of the resort, where only he and his wife and son are staying, slowly starts to eat away at Jack's sanity, driving him into an eventual madness. It's a fantastic portrayal of crazy from the actor who may know it best, and although it might even prove a tad bit disturbing, Jack Torrance still proves to be one of the most memorable movie dads I've ever seen.

22. Richard Hoover

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Portrayed by: Greg Kinnear
In this family-oriented dramatic comedy, parents Sheryl and Richard Hoover take a road trip to give their daughter Olive the chance to compete in a beauty pageant, despite the incredible amount of upheaval between them and their children in the first place. Greg Kinnear plays Richard, a man striving to be a motivational speaker and life coach, and for the majority of the film, he spends most of his time trying to work out a deal with his agent. At the end of the day, however, Richard finally comes over the the side of being a family man and is the first to stand behind Olive and cheer her during her pageant performance.

21. Captain Teague

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
Portrayed by: Keith Richards
After Johnny Depp scored an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal as Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, we all began to hear that he based the character's personality around legendary Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards. And so, when the third installment in the franchise finally rolled around, they managed to secure Richards to portray Cap'n Jack's father, and although it's only a small cameo appearance, it still adds quite a bit of sizzle to the Sparrow story. And seeing the two on-screen at the same time made for quite the atmosphere. Richards would go on to reprise the role in the following film, On Stranger Tides.

20. Royal Tenenbaum

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Portrayed by: Gene Hackman
In a bit of wordplay, this character actually manages to steal the film's title as well. Gene Hackman plays a man who's slowly trying to pull his dysfunctional family together before he allegedly kicks the bucket. While it proves to be quite an endeavor, we learn to know and love the man who helped create such a chaotic atmosphere, even if his methods are a little bit shady. Although I can't quite say that he's the man who stands out in The Royal Tenenbaums, it'd be difficult not to argue that it is Hackman's character that provides the glue for all the insanity.

19. Mr. O'Brien

The Tree of Life (2011)
Portrayed by: Brad Pitt
Another recent addition to the movie universe, Brad Pitt's portrayal of this intense father in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life managed to blow me away. O'Brien is an incredibly complex character, but he's one with which many can probably relate. Although we know that he loves his wife and his children, he also demands the utmost respect from all of them. If they do not manage to maintain that level of respect of authority, O'Brien is prone to lose his temper and take out his rage on his children. I said that not every father on this list would be the opportune dad, but there's something so beautifully courageous about Pitt's portrayal that I had to give it mention here.

18. Bill Maplewood

Happiness (1998)
Portrayed by: Dylan Baker
Speaking of not-so-great fathers, I'd have to say that the Bill Maplewood character from Todd Solondz's Happiness will probably take the cake. I won't get into specifics, but he just might be the most vile cinematic father I've ever seen, and that's part of what makes him appealing. So is the context in which he's presented to the audience. Happiness is a black comedy that delves into some very taboo subjects, so be forewarned if you're going to give it a view. Maplewood proves to be a disgusting but likable man, but his merits as a father are somewhat lacking. Still, despite all his apparent flaws, he's still likable.

17. Dill

Easy A (2010)
Portrayed by: Stanley Tucci
Let's switch gears and offer up one of the fantastically comedic fathers I've ever met on-screen. Stanley Tucci brings to life a character so agreeably lovable that you'll wish he was your own dad (or you'll at least wish your dad was more like him). Teamed with an equally-brilliant Patricia Clarkson, Tucci's Dill manages to make you laugh and feel completely secure all at the same time. Add a little bit of attempted modern-day hipness, and you've got the makings of a dad with whom most people will probably relate. Emma Stone only wishes she really had it so lucky.

16. Michael Sullivan

Road to Perdition (2002)
Portrayed by: Tom Hanks
After getting in a bit of trouble with his gang and his boss, bad guy Michael Sullivan grabs his son, and the two make their way to find safe haven from the men who are trying to kill them. It's an interesting portrayal by Tom Hanks, and it just might be the best of his career (which is saying quite a bit considering the career he's had). It's a subdued performance that oozes emotion, and although he's not necessarily the best guy or the best father, his undying love for his son is going to win you over and keep you invested in his and his son's personal safety. Truly a beautiful character crafted by Hanks.

15. Ernie

Bart Got a Room (2009)
Portrayed by: William H. Macy
This is probably a film most people won't know, but if there's any reason to watch it, it's for William H. Macy's performance as the titular character's father. The film follows the story of Bart, a high school senior attempting to book a room for post-prom entertainment, but he's having a little trouble in terms of actually getting a date. And so, he goes to his recently-separated parents for advice, but his father is already out on the dating scene, so their conversations happen to drift towards his issues as well. It's a hilarious portrayal by Macy, and you'll definitely remember him once the film is over.

14. Mufasa

The Lion King (1994)
Voiced by: James Earl Jones
No list of the best film fathers would be complete without mentioning the king of Pride Rock. Although we can see that Mufasa is a hard-nosed leader and a stickler for staying in line, his relationship with his son Simba proves to be too endearing to pass. In his short amount of screen-time, we see him pass on vast amounts of knowledge to his son, all of which will be crucial in his upbringing and learning about the world. His love for his son goes so far that Mufasa ultimately pays the greatest sacrifice in order to keep him safe. I'd say that's one pretty awesome dad right there.

13. Vito Corleone

The Godfather (1972)
Portrayed by: Marlon Brando
Although most people will remember his as the "godfather," Vito Corleone was also a father, and a pretty decent one, in fact. He managed to bring his sons up in a dangerous world, and although he may have been the centerpiece around which danger revolved, Vito still does a decent job making sure his children are raised properly and are ready to take over the family business whenever his time may come. A brilliant performance by Marlon Brando, it just might seem a tad bit out of place here considering no one thinks of Vito as a father first and then the Godfather. Still, he is both, so his name warrants mention on this list.

12. Giuseppe Conlon

In the Name of the Father (1993)
Portrayed by: Pete Postlethwaite
In the Name of the Father offers the real-life tale of Gerry Conlon, an Irish man who was wrongfully incarcerated for the a terrorist bombing. He and his father Giuseppe, as well as a two others, are known as the Guildford Four, and they each receive long-term imprisonment. Although this story focuses on Gerry (played very well by Daniel Day-Lewis), we get a very interesting - and important - character from the likes of Pete Postlethwaite. It's his character's ups and downs that give drive to Gerry, and that makes for an interesting dynamic between father and son. They're not always on the same page, and their love for one another is strained, but when it comes down to it, they still have an immense loyalty toward one another.

11. Calvin Jarrett

Ordinary People (1980)
Portrayed by: Donald Sutherland
Ordinary People is an Academy Award-winning film based off the Judith Guest novel of the same name, and it's a story that I hold very dearly toward my heart. The relationships in the story between the son and his parents are very similar to mine, so I often have a difficult time watching the film. Now I'm not saying that Calvin Jarrett and my father are the same man, but there are definitely more similarities between him and my dad than other big-screen fathers. That's part of what makes him endearing to me. Others may not have the same reaction, but the Jarrett family will always be a very important family to me.

10. George Bailey

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Portrayed by: James Stewart
Arguably one of the most iconic on-screen dads, George Bailey has raced into the hearts of millions over the years. We're always able to see his escapades come Christmastime, as It's a Wonderful Life is played on a near-constant loop. Still, there's quite a bit to like about a guy who continually puts everyone before himself. Sure, it gets him into a bit of trouble towards the end of the film, but his generous nature makes him not only a great father but also a fantastic human being. That's what makes George Bailey so likable.

9. Mac MacGuff

Juno (2007)
Portrayed by: J.K. Simmons
One of the funniest dads I've ever seen grace the silver screen, Mac MacGuff sure has a handful with his daughter Juno. He's typically an easy-going guy, but he's a bit blind-sided by his daughter's announcement that she's pregnant. Despite his shock, however, he stands behind her and makes sure everything goes exactly to plan. At the same time, he manages to take some loving shots at his ever-expanding daughter, but we know that when it comes right down to it, Mac will always do whatever is best for Juno. That's the definition of love, in my opinion.

8. Marlin

Finding Nemo (2003)
Voiced by: Albert Brooks
The second and final animated character to nab a spot on this list, you'd have a tough time making an argument against Marlin's inclusion. From the very outset of the film, he spends his every waking moment trying to make the ocean a safer place for his son Nemo. But when Nemo goes missing, Marlin throws out all his inhibitions and takes a cross-ocean journey to save his son. There's a level of dedication in this character that's unmatched, and he manages to be entertaining all the way throughout. Great job, Pixar, and great job Albert Brooks for giving Marlin life.

7. Daniel

Crash (2005)
Portrayed by: Michael Peña
In a film that's full of a number of big-time actors, it might be difficult to remember a small player like Michael Peña. In the end, each character offers some small tidbit of the final product, but for me, none is as memorable as locksmith Daniel. He portrays a character who's the most straight-forward and law-abiding in a entire film where everybody is a little bit crooked. But it's his relationship with his daughter that makes Daniel so memorable. He only has two scenes with her, but those prove to be the most powerful and heart-wrenching in the film. He's a great father, and that alone makes him a good man.

6. Jack Byrnes

Meet the Parents (2000)
Portrayed by: Robert De Niro
Everyone knows how terrifying it can be to meet your significant other's parents, but Jack Byrnes takes that terror to a whole new level. As an ex-CIA counterintelligence officer, he's incredibly suspicious of his daughter's new beau (portrayed by Ben Stiller) and he puts him through the ringer in terms of trying to understand his plans. De Niro is pitch-perfect in the role, and he's the most memorable part of the Meet the Parents franchise which has now spanned three films. And through it all, De Niro has managed to be the most consistent character, offering a nice bit of comedy each and every time.

5. Chris Gardner

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Portrayed by: Will Smith
If you're looking for an emotional performance, you need not look past Will Smith's in The Pursuit of Happyness. He plays a down-on-his-luck salesman Chris Gardner who is just barely scraping by to keep he and his son (played by real-life son Jaden) from starving. Still, the two have to live on the streets until Chris can find a way to make enough money for the two to have a home. There are a few moments in the film where I'm sure most people will be choking back tears. It's an incredibly emotional tale of a man just trying to do everything he can to make sure his son is happy, but it's not an easy road to take.

4. Guido Orefice

Life Is Beautiful (1998)
Portrayed by: Roberto Benigni
When you think about a movie about the Holocaust, you're probably thinking you'll be in for a deafeningly depressing film that's sure to draw a few tears. In the case of the Italian film La vita è bella, you'd only be half right. The finale is sure to leave you wanting to release all your emotions, but the film itself is more of a comedic drama. Roberto Benigni plays a Jewish man who's been taking to a concentration camp with his wife and young son. To avoid scaring his son, however, he tells him that the camp is a type of game that he must try to win. This plays for a number of comedic results, but at the end of the day, the audience and the characters cannot put aside the reality of where they are. It makes for a heart-wrenching finale, but the journey to that point crafts a beautiful father who only wants to keep his son safe from the injustices of the world.

3. Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Portrayed by: David Prowse; Voiced by: James Earl Jones
It would be impossible to leave Darth Vader off this particular list. The only real issue with adding him was choosing which film from which I should cite him. I ultimately chose The Empire Strikes Back, reasoning that that was the film that dropped the "I am your father" bombshell. One of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history, it completely changed the entire dynamic of the Star Wars franchise, adding an almost Shakespearean element. The prequels have gone on to explain some of Darth Vader's backstory as Anakin Skywalker, but that moment when Luke learns of his patriarchal lineage is still one of the most shocking and most profound moments in film history. 

2. Henry Jones, Sr.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Portrayed by: Sean Connery
When I think about movie dads, Sean Connery's portrayal of Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. is always one of the first to come to mind. It took three films, but Steven Spielberg and George Lucas finally gave Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones a father, and what a sight it is to behold. The interplay between the two men on-screen is so authentic that they may a well be real-life father and son. They seem to be cut from the same cloth, and it only makes for a more entertaining journey through their European escapades. Ford would go on to pull a similar performance in the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but the chemistry between he and Shia LaBeouf just wasn't the same as the Ford/Connery chemistry.

1. Atticus Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Portrayed by: Gregory Peck
It would take a lot to top Sean Connery's Henry Jones, Sr., but if anybody could do it, it would be Atticus Finch. In a film adapted from one of the greatest American novels ever written, Gregory Peck manages to do everything just right. He's a father first, but he also has a very distinct set of morals and a knowing sense of right and wrong. He spends the entire film upholding justice, all the while trying instill his sense of morality into his children. He has his moments where he demands respect, but it's ultimately love that comes through it all, and that what makes him so great. It's not much of a stretch to say that Atticus is the perfect cinematic father, and I'll gladly take that stance any day.

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