Happy Father’s Day – Top 10 favorite cinematic father figures

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Now, I’ve done a couple of father’s day list before (here and here), but this year I thought I’d pay homage to non-biological fathers who have made a big impact in the lives of their *adopted* kids. Since I grew up without a father myself, I often wish I had a father figure whom I could look up to as a kid. With that in mind, I’m going to leave out these three wonderful characters I’ve mentioned before, but they remain my all time favorites:


Whether it takes place over the course of a lifetime or just a short period of time, these father figures certainly left a big mark in the kids’ lives… and some change their lives forever. Here they are, in random order because you can’t really rank these things:

Alan Grant – Jurassic Park

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What makes the first (and still the best) Jurassic Park so great isn’t just the special effects. It’s the wonderful characters, such as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (the always wonderful Sam Neill) who just isn’t a kids person. I can totally relate as I’m not huge with kids either. Heck, Dr. Grant would rather spend time with a Triceratops’ manure all day than even 10 minutes with these kids. Yet the kids just flock to him and he ended up bonding with them through the scary ordeal being chased all over the park by angry dinos. I LOVE the scene at the end when the kids fall asleep on his shoulder. His expression, and that of his wife Ellie, is priceless!

Alfredo – Cinema Paradiso

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Alfredo and Toto… one of my all time favorite cinematic duo from Giuseppe Tornatore’s Italian drama. From the time he was six years old, projectionist Alfredo’s taken Toto under his wings and became the father he never had. All the way through Toto’s teenage years, Alfredo’s always been his wise confidant. In fact, if it weren’t for Alfredo, Toto might not have been the successful filmmaker he later became. This movie boasts one of the most moving finale ever, it’ll make you cry as well as puts a smile on your face as you recall the significance of that scene. Alec Guinness obviously made the character iconic.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Star Wars

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Well this one is a no brainer. Clearly we know Luke’s real dad has um, issues. Obi-Wan has always looked after the ‘chosen one’ since even before he was born. On top of introducing the ways of the Jedi, Obi-Wan is much more than a wise mentor. Heck, even when he can’t be physically present, Obi-Wan still nurtures and encourages Luke throughout his life. Just like a real dad would do out of love for his child, Obi-Wan shelters Luke from certain truth which in turn proves to be hurtful to him. But you can’t doubt how much Obi-Wan does love Luke as if he were his own.

Joe – Great Expectations (1998)

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This one isn’t the most obvious pick and this Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic is problematic. But Joe the fisherman is one that leaves a big impression on me. He’s Finn’s sister’s boyfriend who ends up taking care of the young boy when she runs off. I love Chris Cooper and he’s got such effortless warmth and kindness in this role. The scene when he’s reunited with Finn (Ethan Hawke) at an art gallery is quite heartbreaking.

Will Freeman – About A Boy (2002)

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Having just seen it recently, in fact the same weekend as Great Expectations, it’s still fresh in my mind. The ultimate coming-of-age story as it’s the adult who needs to grow up and 12-year-old Marcus is the one who helped 38-year-old Will do just that. I guess Will is more of a friend than a dad to Marcus, but still I think over time he’s become a positive father figure that’s been absent from the boy’s life.

Stacker Pentecost – Pacific Rim (2013)

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From the first time I saw this, I’ve always loved the Stacker Pentecost-Mako story. When the little Mako looked up at Stacker as he arises from the Jaeger, she was in awe of her savior. It’s an unconventional father/daughter relationship, and Stacker becomes a strict and protective father. As most real fathers with their daughters, they’re afraid she’d get hurt, and that’s why he forbids her from piloting a Jaeger. But that moment when he gave her the red shoe, I always get emotional. Yes it’s a movie about big robots, but one can’t overlook the small touches of humanity in this big-hearted action flick.

Sirius Black – Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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There are plenty of father figures in the Harry Potter films. I was debating whether I should include Dumbledore on here, but the more I think about it, I think I love Sirius Black (played by the venerable Gary Oldman) more despite not being in as many scenes as Dumbledore. This site lists all five father figures in HP movies, and makes an excellent argument as to why Sirius comes at #1. I agree that Sirius loved Harry so much he’s risked his life many times before he finally sacrificed himself for his godson, and he’s certainly instilled words of wisdom that we all take learn from, “…the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Walt Kowalski – Gran Torino (2008)

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I saw this film quite a while ago and one of the main draw for me besides Clint Eastwood is that it had some Hmong actors from St. Paul Minnesota! This is a father/son pairing that’s as unlikely as they get, given that Clint’s Walt Kowalski is a bitter Korean War veteran and the two met when the Hmong teen Thao tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino. But Walt ends up becoming Thao’s friend and mentor, and Thao in turn helps Walt overcome his own anger and prejudices. The interactions between the two are quite amusing given their background, cultural and age differences. Some critics have issues w/ the ‘white savior’ theme of the film, but I’d say Thao (and his family) have *saved* Walt and help him find redemption.

Uncle Ben – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002)

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The man whose iconic words of wisdom “Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility.” is a father we all wish we had. I especially love Cliff Robertson’s Uncle Ben in the Raimi’s versions and his demise is surely one of the most emotional moments of all Marvel movies. The character of Peter Parker is pretty much shaped by the upbringing of his uncle and aunt May. It ranks up there with DC’s ultimate father figures Jonathan Kent and Alfred Pennyworth, even if that’s not reflected in the character’s screen time.

Athos – The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

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Ok, this movie is one of my guilty pleasures and it’s immensely watchable thanks to three of supporting actors: Gabriel Byrne‘s D’Artagnan, Jeremy Irons‘ Aramis, and John Malkovich‘s Athos. I especially love the relationship between Athos and Philippe (the oddly-cast Leo DiCaprio). The scene when Athos is teaching Philippe the way of the king is quite moving, as Athos is still haunted by the memory of his lost son. It’s perhaps one of the most gentle role I’ve seen Malkovich does and it makes it all the more memorable.


What do you think of this list? Who’s YOUR favorite cinematic father figures?

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