It's Father's Day this Sunday and what a great time to take a few moments to reflect on what it means to be and/or have a father. Film has the great ability to capture some of the best and most profound relationships in our lives, and the relationship between a father and his child is no exception. There are many different types of fathers depicted in cinema…some amazing, some awful and some just downright crazy. In honor of the holiday, I am taking a look at some of my favorite depictions of the best and worst fathers we have seen on film. I'm sure there are many more, and many that I have missed, so feel free to add more and discuss in the comments. And for all you fathers out there, thank you for everything you do.
|1. Father of the Bride|
I know the original might be a better film, but the Steve Martin edition is one of my favorite films ever. I don't think any piece of entertainment has better been able to capture the relationship between a father and a daughter and the experience of being "Daddy's Little Girl". Throughout the movie Steven Martin's character begins to increasingly lose his mind during the planning and prospect of his daughter getting married. But, in the end, he is just afraid that he won't be the number one man in her life anymore. It's so fitting and so true, and breaks my heart every time.
|2. Life Is Beautiful|
This is one of the sweetest, most comical and truly heart-wrenching films I have seen. Set during World War II, a father does everything he can to help his son get through life in a concentration camp. In order to distract his son, Giosue from the horrors of their situation, Guido convinces his son that they are playing a big game and the first person to 1,000 points wins a tank. Giosue listens and never mis-behaves and is able to in some ways amazingly ignore the sickness and death that surrounds him. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (many will remember Roberto Benigni's unbelievable excitement when he jumped on the seat in front of him) and is one of the best examples of how great a sacrifice a father will make in order to make the life of his child even just a little better.
|3. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back|
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) finding out that Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) is his father is one of the most famous moments in cinema. The quote "Luke, I am your father" is so well known it has become part of the cultural lexicon... but ironically these words are never actually uttered in "The Empire Strikes Back". Darth Vader's actual quote is "No, I am your father". We always knew Darth Vader was evil, but it was at this moment that one of the worst fathers in cinematic history was unmasked. Old mangled robo-Annakin not only cut off his own son's hand, but he killed his beloved mentor and never told his two children (who were in love with each other) that they were actually related. The list goes on, but Darth Vader is the kind of father that makes us thankful we will never be related to a guy like him.
|4. My Life|
I know it has been controversial and not as many people probably liked this movie as much as I did, but to this day, I don't believe a movie has made me weep so hard. When Michael Keaton's character finds out he has terminal cancer and will not be alive long after his baby's birth he begins making a film to immortalize his life. He films moments in which he shows him how to cook, and how to drive and teaches him things that he wants his son to know, but will not be able to teach him himself. The movie makes you realize how profound an influence parents have on their children as Bob grapples with the fact that he will not be there for many of these important moments.
|5. Mr. Mom|
Another Michael Keaton movie, but this one is much less depressing. As gender roles have evolved, this movie feels a bit dated now, but at the time, the concept of a man being a stay-at-home-dad was pretty novel. After Jack (Keaton) loses his job and decids to stay home and take care of the kids, he is forced to confront how truly hard it is to run a household and how unprepared he is. I think anyone who has seen it will remember the moment he sticks his babies butt up to a hand dryer. It is comedic and light-hearted, but more than anything, really serves to show how difficult a job it is to stay home and be a full-time parent.
|6. The Bicycle Thief|
More than 60 years later, this Italian film is oftentimes still considered one of the best films of all time. It is the depressing story of a man who needs a job and just wants to provide for his family. The main character is a man named Ricci who desperately is looking for a job. He pawns his sheets and in order to get his bicycle back, which is needed so he can get a job as a poster-hanger. After a very short time his bicycle is stolen and that is when everything goes from bad to worse. This film is a realistic look into the lives of those who who are unable to find work and would do anything to help their family survive. It does not sugar-coat the situation or the relationship between the father and his son, but rather really shows how they both react when going through a difficult time in a startling and realistic fashion.
|7. The Royal Tenenbaums|
There is nothing like a father's desire to be loved by his children, but Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) takes this ambition a bit too far. After being kicked out of the hotel he has been living in Royal fakes cancer in order to gain sympathy from his children and their mother. Through this period of time, we get to see how truly awful Royal has been as a father, and why his children have every right to be frustrated with him. He constantly points out that Margot is adopted, making her feel as if she does not belong in the family and actually intentionally shot his son with a BB gun. By the end of the film, Royal starts to a little bit realize how he has been wrong, and makes some tiny effort to actually be a good father. Baby steps count, right?
A film that depicts many different off-shoots of a family, but more than anything shows the struggles of being a parent. The film focuses on Steve Martin as a father who is trying to be the best dad he can be after he had a pretty terrible father and childhood. Instead, he turns in to a bit of a neurotic mess getting himself in to some pretty crazy situations. The great thing about this show is that it actually potrays the family dynamic in a realistic but hystserical way, and has moments we all can laugh at because in some form or another, we have all been there before with our parents, or with our children.
|9. The Lion King|
I know that it is an animated film, but I had to include it because the relationship between Simba and his father Mufasa creates one of the more devastating situations between a father and son. When the film begins we see Simba playing with his father and the truly affectionate and loving relationship they have. Mufasa couldn't be more proud to be Simba's father and the sentiment is returned by his son. And then, there is the wildebeest stampede. After rescuing Simba, Mufasa attempts to flee from the gorge, but his evil asshole brother throws him off the ledge. Left alone, lost and scared, Simba falls in to a deep depression as he feels responsible for his father's demise. And then, he eventually meets the wise Rafiki who takes Simba to a pond and asks him to look at his reflection in the water. It is this moment that teaches us the important lesson, that no matter where they are or what happens to us, our parents and their influence will always live with us inside. Awww.
|10. Big Fish|
I think we have established my love for Tim Burton, and how high this film ranks in my favorites of his, but looking at it from the perspective of reflection on father's, only makes me love it more. The film is the story of Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) and the strained relationship that has formed with his son, who believes that he cannot trust his father because he is always lying and making up stories. Throughout the film, we get to experience the stories as Edward tells them, which takes us on a wonderful and fantastical journey. It is a wonderful ride the whole time, but it isn't until the end that we get the true theme, and point of the film. Will (Billy Crudup)has always been upset at his father for lying to him, but Edward finally convinces him that being a storyteller is who he truly is and he can't help it. He isn't trying to hurt his son or lie to him, but it's a part of him and will never change. A father-son relationship can be a strange thing, but once they both accept each other for who they are, they will be much happier. And, in the most heart-warming moment of the film, Will realizes just how wrong he was for judging his father for all those years.