Father’s Day Special: 10 Movie Dads/Father Figures I LOVE

Confession: I don’t usually celebrate Father’s Day. Y’see, I’ve actually never lived with my dad or any kind of father figure my entire life. My parents split up when I was only three and so I grew up with my mom and my grandma. So I guess my granny is sort of my father figure as she was a successful businesswoman, ahah.

Watching movies with great dads in it is no doubt a bit bittersweet for me, but of course it’s delightful to see great examples of the kind of dad I wish I had. And so this year, I thought why not celebrate them? Now, just like real life, some of us perhaps have adopted dads that we cherish, be that a step dad or someone who ends up being a father figure to you.

So here are ten favorite movie dads/father figures I love:

10. Sam – Sleepless in Seattle

One of my all time favorite Tom Hanks roles, I adore this film largely for the sweet but realistic relationship between widower Sam and his young son Jonah. Y’all surely know the story by now, but the moment the kid phoned a radio station saying that his dad needs a new wife, Sam’s life was never the same again. That scene of them being reunited at the top of the Empire State before Meg Ryan’s Annie shows up is as touching as ever.

9. The Stranger – Dear Frankie

Ok, so Gerry Butler’s character doesn’t even have a name. He’s only known as The Stranger, as he’s just a dad-for-a-day that Frankie’s mom hired in a moment of desperation. But he’s done more in the two days he spent with Frankie than his real dad had done in his entire life. That experience changed Frankie and by the time The Stranger leaves, it has a profound effect on him, too. Beautifully filmed, this is a small Scottish film with a huge heart.

8. Matt – The Descendants

For someone who isn’t a dad himself, Clooney certainly knows how to play one convincingly. Matt King got a wake up call of his life when his wife suddenly falls into a coma, and the revelation his daughter shares with him is like being punched when you’re down. Yet he somehow manage to bring his family back together, even patching his rocky relationship with his teenage daughter that he thought was beyond repair. There’s something so earthy and realistic about his relationship with his daughter that don’t seem put on at all, thanks to a great script and great acting.

7. Joe – The Boys Are Back

When I saw this film, I had only seen Clive Owen in tough-guy roles, those Bondian BMW commercials, Sin City, the awful Shoot ‘Em Up, etc., but I wish he’d do more roles like this one. He shines as a sports reporter who suddenly finds himself having to care for his two young sons following his wife’s death. Like Matt in The Descendants, he also had a rocky relationship with his older son, so the film followed the journey of the three as a family. It’s a touching film based on a true story, definitely recommended for any fan of this fine British actor.

6. Marlin – Finding Nemo

Who doesn’t adore Marlin… voiced by Albert Brooks, he may be so overprotective that he drives Nemo crazy, but he sure loves his son. When Nemo goes missing, the faint-hearted clown fish does whatever it takes to bring him back. He meets a ton of interesting characters in his journey, but never loses his focus, even when dealing with Dory, the blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss. Such a sweet movie, easily my top five Pixar flicks that’s as touching as any movie about human relationship.

5. Odin – Thor

Mr. Odin is the picture of a wise father who understand the wisdom of tough love. When his son Thor disobeys him, with a heavy heart he banishes him to earth to learn his lessons. It may seem drastic but considering the great responsibility that lies before Thor, he knows Asgaard can’t have a ruler who’s a spoiled brat and war-hungry. He also raises his adopted son Loki as his own and loves him with all his heart, which makes the scene of Odin being confronted by him so heartbreaking.

4. Daniel – Mrs. Doubtfire

Ok now I’m not saying I want a dad who’s a cross-dresser or anything like that, ahah. What I adore about Daniel, aka Mrs. Doubtfire, is how much he loves his kids, so much so that he’s willing to go THIS far just to spend time with them. It makes for a bunch of hilarious scenarios of course, but at the core of this film is the love of a father and the importance of family. It’s easily one of my favorite Robin Williams’ roles, crazy for sure but with a huge heart.

3. Paul – Hotel Rwanda

In the midst of a brutal civil war between the the Hutu and Tutsi people of Rwanda, one man ends up saving the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by offering them shelter in the hotel he manages. But before he becomes an unlikely hero, Paul Rusesabagina initially only cares about saving his own family. But it’s that love that inspires him to offer his help to those around him.  This movie is ultimately a love story between a father, a husband and also his love for humanity. A triumph anchored by Don Cheadle’s powerful performance portraying a real-life character.

2. Alfred – Batman Begins/The Dark Knight

I tell you, there probably wouldn’t be Batman without Alfred. Following his parents death, nobody cares more for Bruce Wayne than his elderly butler. Michael Caine plays the role of the wise, witty and kindhearted Alfred flawlessly, plus he’s got such a wonderful chemistry with Christian Bale. The elder Mr. Wayne was a picture of a wise father as well, so it’s the combination of his legacy and Alfred’s support that I think largely contributes to Bruce’s success in his mission as the dark knight. Him saying ‘Why do we fall… so we can learn to pick ourselves up.’ is words of wisdom we all can live by.

1. Atticus – To Kill A Mockingbird

One can’t possibly have a ‘best movie dad’ list without this man. You don’t even have to be a Gregory Peck fan to realize what a phenomenal father Atticus Finch is. He’s first and foremost a hero to his two kids, Jem and Scout, before he takes on a heroic stance against racial prejudice. His relationship between him and Scout are so indelible, and it’s wonderful to hear Mary Badham reveal in many interviews that Peck was also a real-life father-figure to her as she too lost her own father early in life. Atticus is a picture of the best of fatherhood, whose strong conviction, patience, gentleness and especially humility is what all fathers should strive for. The best part is, he shows those virtues by example, something we can always learn from, no matter what era we live in.


  • Guido – Life is Beautiful
  • Mr. Bennett – Pride & Prejudice
  • Big Daddy – Kick-Ass
  • Professor X – X-Men
  • Henry Jones – Indiana Jones

This post is also dedicated to my fellow bloggers who are dads, so Happy Father’s Day to you all!

So that’s my list. Who’s YOUR favorite movie dad(s)?

61 thoughts on “Father’s Day Special: 10 Movie Dads/Father Figures I LOVE

    1. He..he.. I knew someone would mention him 😀 Oh I think I remember Neeson’s character, yes I think single dads are somehow more memorable in movies.

    1. Ah well that explains it 🙂 Just kidding Julian, that’s cool that you’re close w/ your dad, so this list is dedicated to awesome real-life dads like yours!

  1. My parents passed away when I was in my teens so I have no real reason to celebrate with but for others. But if you ask me who I would have wanted it would be Mr & Mrs Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps not perfect parents but well meaning as I never had that kind of connection with my own. But the above are great role models though I think.

    1. Hi Stella, so we have something in common then. Yes I celebrate for others who are lucky enough to have great dads in their lives. Oh yes Mr. Bennett is on my Honorable Mentions, I love Donald Sutherland’s performance in the 2005 version, too.

  2. Great choices here and Atticus really deserves a high spot.

    Some other dads I can think of: Dads who rescue their family like Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles) and Bryan Mills (Taken), also Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit Of Happiness, and oh, another Liam Neeson character, the one he played in Love Actually

    1. Ah yes, Bryan Mills is one loving AND badass dad indeed 😀 Seems like Neeson is great at playing dads as he’s sort of a great father figure as Aslan as well.

  3. I like your selections of Paul and Odin. Both fathers showcase great leadership, which is something valuable that any parent can offer his child.

    I especially think that Paul is a fitting father because he taught his children about courage, unity and overcoming adversity and he did this not by preaching to them but by leading by example…the best illustration of any lesson that a child can receive, by witnessing firsthand the tools and the characteristics necessary for any human being to make a positive difference in the community that he or she lives in, by being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

    A friend of mine recommended that I watch “Sometimes in April” and I’m glad that I did because it’s just as good…if not better than “Hotel Rwanda.” Both movies are about what happened but I think “Sometimes in April” tells a more tragic and sad account of the events than “Hotel Rwanda” did. Still, Don Cheadle gave a wonderful performance in that movie. I’m not familiar with “Dear Frankie” but I do like Gerard Butler and your description of the movie makes it sound like a feel-good story worth watching…I look forward to adding it to my Netflix queue if they have it available.

    1. Hey thanks for your lovely comment. I LOVE what you wrote about Paul, makes me feel even better about adding him here. I have never heard of “Sometimes in April” but that sounds great if it’s similar to Hotel Rwanda.

      Dear Frankie is available on Netflix. If you’re a fan of Butler, it’s a MUST SEE. It’s such an understated performance and though he isn’t in the movie for a long time, it’s really worth a watch for his performance and the touching story.

  4. Ted S.

    I can’t say I celebrate these sort of days myself, I’m not that close with my parents, so I don’t celebrate mother’s day either. But those are films do have your typical good father character.

  5. A wonderful list here, Ruth. Some I still haven’t had the pleasure of watching.

    Applause for your #1. 😀 Knew it would be him, somehow. But I will say…a very clever choice in using Alfred. No one really considers him. Bravo.

    I trust you had a great weekend.

    1. He..he.. the #1 choice really is easy, but yeah, Alfred is my second favorite character in Nolan’s Batman films, I just love Caine’s heartfelt but witty performance.

  6. I’ve only seen numbers 2-6 but they are all solid choices. Still waiting for Lovefilm to send me a copy of number one. This is a terribly cheesy one but Dennis Quaid stands out to me in The Day After Tomorrow shouting down the phone at Jake Gyllenhaal ‘I will come for you!’ And Schwarzenegger and Liam Neeson going to rescue their daughters in Commando and Taken would be very handy if you were the kind of person who got kidnapped a lot!

    1. Hope you’ll enjoy ‘Mockingbird’ Pete, then you’ll know why he deserves to be #1 here 😀 Ahah, those disaster movies certainly have compelling father figures, good choice! Bryan Mills certainly gets a lot of mentions, makes me feel guilty for not including him in Honorable Mentions, ahah.

  7. I’m not a celebrator of father’s day either Ruth…my situation mimicking yours precisely – mom and dad split up when I was three, raised by my mom and grandma. So I was actually thinking of doing a worst dads list! 🙂

    This is a great selection of the good kind though…should have guessed no. 1!

    1. Oooh, so we’re both raised by mom & grandma, how cool is that!! I’ve actually only met my dad twice after the divorce. He..he.. well if we do a Worst Dad List it’ll be hard to contain to just 10, ahah.

  8. What a nice tribute Ruth 🙂
    Happy Father’s day to all the fathers. Indonesia doesn’t have father’s day….I wonder why.

    I agree to all your choices except the ones I haven’t seen, Dear Frankie, Descendants, Hotel and the boys. I really like Sam in sleepless in Seattle, he is such a gentle father. Based on the book, Atticus is a really patience father…the kind of father you expect from older father.

    By the way…after seeing both GB and GP, I was hoping you can share your list on http://bokunosekai.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/5-men-to-drool-on-part-2/ … just wondering which one is your number 1 😉

    1. Ahah yeah, we only have Mother’s Day for some odd reason. Well in my case I’m fine w/ that as I never knew my real dad.

      Those you haven’t seen are definitely worth a look, Nov, I love it when gorgeous men like Butler & Owen play loving dads, there’s something sooo sexy about that 😀

      Ok, will check out your post shortly!

      1. Sorry to hear about your dad Ruth…Fortunately you still had wonderful Grandma and Mother 🙂

        Will do one day 🙂 Same as you, gorgeous men as father is indeed sexy…ah I want to see Cillian as a father too.

        1. Oh yeah Nov, I am very blessed to have lived with my wonderful mother and grandma. I do have a wonderful loving Father, that is Jesus Christ, my Abba Father in Heaven who will never abandon me.

    1. Hi Mark, welcome to FC! Glad to hear you LOVE Dear Frankie. Yes, it’s a wonderful little film indeed, I have such fondness for that one.

  9. Brilliant choices there. Out of all of those you listed my favourite has to be Alfred. He’s that supportive, caring, and all round fantastic father figure who’s never not there for Bruce Wayne. You’re spot on – without him, there definitely wouldn’t have been a Batman. Heck, what kind of life would young Bruce have ended up with without Alfred!

    1. I absolutely adore Alfred! I mean Michael Caine is a British Knight, yet he can convey such humility to portray a butler of a dark knight, ehm. Yeah, Bruce will probably turn out to be a drug addict or drunken spoiled rich kid without Alfred, he’s better than most real dads out there.

  10. Awesome list! I’d add two of Liam Neeson’s characters in Love Actually and Taken, he is really wonderful playing protective fathers.

      1. I think it’s because he is so insanely memorable in Taken, the movie itself it so so but he alone is the reason for its ridiculously high rating on imdb.

  11. Love this list, Ruth! Great idea with Father’s Day and all. Man, I never even would have thought of Alfred in the Batman series – great choice! Also, Sam in Sleepless in Seattle.

    I think I would have a similar list to yours, with the addition of Steve Martin as George Banks in Father of the Bride. He’s so silly in the movie, and it gets me all sentimental, and here I’m note even married! Lol!

    1. Thanks Kris! I feel bad now that I didn’t do a Mother’s Day list, I shall do that next year. Oh I’ve seen Father of the Bride on so many Father’s Day list so I try to keep my list somewhat original 🙂 He’s great though, good call!

  12. Wonderful post. Movie dads can be awesome. Hard to think of my favourite. Off the top of my head I’ll be different and say Marlon Brando in The Godfather. He had four kids and still managed to run a business trying his best not to get them in trouble. The scene where he stands by Sonny’s dead body and weeps is astounding.

    1. Thanks Tyler. Oh I’d agree The Godfather is a memorable movie dad. I don’t want to have a dad who’s a mob boss though, ahah.

  13. GB… Check
    GP… Check

    Nice post Ruth. Sorry to hear you never really had a fatherly figure in your life. There are so many movie dads that it’s hard to to bring it down to a manageable list. What about Laurence Fishburne in Boyz ‘N The Hood

    1. Ah you must love Brad Pitt 🙂 The only dad role I can think of from Pitt is in Tree of Life, but not exactly one I’d put on this list.

  14. I should have known Atticus would be #1 before I even clicked this link. 😀 Nice list, Ruth! Especially glad to see Paul Rusesabagina included.

    1. He..he.. aren’t I predictable 😀 I did try to have a few surprises on there though. I love Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda, seeing the trailer this wknd made me want to rewatch it!

  15. I was just about to say you didn’t include Guido when I saw him as part of the honorable mentions. Life is Beautiful is probably among my top 10 favorite films and without Guido’s love for his son it just wouldn’t be the same film. This would certainly be my favorite dad/son relationship of all.
    On my top 10 list I’d also include Marlin from Finding Nemo, Matt from The Descendants and Sam from Sleepless in Seattle. As for the rest, I think I’ll think about it a bit to include on a future post. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    1. Oh yeah, I think Guido was a fantastic movie dad, though I wasn’t too keen on Roberto Benigni’s performance.

      Oooh, I’m curious what you’ll do Niels, looking forward to it!

  16. what a list, you’ve made such a unique post ruth, you are. I Like it he he he
    what about Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) in Kramer vs Kramer ? Atticus Finch is on everybody’s list for sure.

    1. Thank you! Oh Ted Kramer is a good one, I saw that when I was young and his reaction when his son fell on the playground was heartbreaking!

  17. Pingback: Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Movies featuring Father & Son Relationship |

  18. Pingback: Happy Father’s Day – Top 10 favorite cinematic father figures

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