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


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


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


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


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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?


51 thoughts on “Happy Father’s Day – Top 10 favorite cinematic father figures

  1. This is a really good question! I know it’s no classic and it’s a very silly film but I really liked the relationship between Jason Statham and the little girl in Safe. I also really like Sam Elliot in Mask as Cher’s boyfriend.

        1. Ok then, I just might rent it one day. Btw, if you’re into the Stath, have you seen 13? That’s the single movie of Sam Riley I still haven’t seen yet but hopefully I’ll get to it soon! The cast is amazing, but I think it ended up being a massive flop.

  2. I love Cuaron’s Great Expectations – it’s such a vibrant movie with gorgeous soundtrack and Cooper is indeed lovely there. Stacker Pentecost is straight up beloved on tumblr – I once saw this post detailing how he raised Mako in agreement with her background and her culture. It’s amazing a mediocre robots movie had such detailed relationship in it

    1. I’ve been so obsessed w/ Great Expectations soundtrack! It’s by Patrick Doyle who’s one of my all time fave composers.

      I have an unusual love for Pac Rim largely because of Stacker and Mako! Yes, very true about the way he brought her up the way she would’ve been by her Japanese dad. I love that line ‘it’s not obedience, it’s respect’ which certainly sums up their relationship.

  3. Sirius Black is definitely my favorite father figure character. Not sure if you seen it but I thought Sean Connery was excellent in a father figure type in Finding Forrester.

    Boy I hated Gran Torino so much so I can’t agree with you on that one. The poor performances by the co-lead actor is one of the reasons why I hated that film, I understand Eastwood wanted authentic and hired actual Hmong actors but he should’ve searched harder for the right actor or just hired an experienced Asian actor for that role. But that’s some of the small issues I have with that film and I don’t want to rant about it here, lol.

    1. Aahhhh!!! I totally forgot about Finding Forrester!! I would’ve put that instead of Gran Torino which was the last one I thought of. I LOVE Sean Connery’s role in that one.

      As for Gran Torino, well this isn’t a list about ‘best supporting cast actin’ ahah. Yes the non-professional actors didn’t give a convincing performance, but this is more about Clint’s character as a father figure and it worked for me.

      1. What’s funny is that I thought Gran Torino reminded me of The Karate Kid, just reverse in the role’s race. In that film an Asian old man teaches a caucasian kid how to be tough and stands up for himself, in Eastwood’s film an old white dude teaches an Asian kid how to be a man. With exception of the white dude being a complete racist and asshole to everyone.

        So I think I would include Mr. Miyagi as a father figure on my list too! Speaking of The Karate Kid, I might have to give it a watch since I haven’t seen it in years!

        1. I considered putting Mr Miyagi on here but it’s been ages since I saw Karate Kid movies and I remember those being super cheesy.

          Well that’s the point about Walt. He was an angry, racist guy who has a lot of issues, but his friendship w/ the Hmong boy (and also his sister) *softens* him and makes him care for the Hmong family to the point of giving up his own life.

  4. These are all great, of course. I liked the Slacker/Mako dynamic a lot…as you say PACIFIC RIM had all those emotional touches that made it better. I wish Stanley Tucci’s character in EASY A was my dad…IIRC correctly Emma Stone’s character’s brother was adopted 🙂

    1. Hey Paula! Glad you love Pac Rim too. I haven’t seen Easy A believe it or not, but I might rent it now for Stanley Tucci! I know he’s our fave movie husband in Julie & Julia 😉

        1. He is awesome! I just rewatched the first Captain America movie and absolutely LOVE Stanley Tucci’s brief performance there as the German doctor.

        1. All great choices! I completely forgot about Gustav H, but was considering Mr Miyagi and Prof. X, should’ve put them on Honorable Mentions.

          1. I totally forgot about John Candy cameo in Home Alone. There might be as many memorable father figures as there are real dad characters in movies.

  5. I can’t bear to see Gran Torino on any list, unless it’s a list of just utter crap I hope to avoid until I die.
    I think for this weekend we should put Nemo’s dad Marlin on the list!

    1. Jay, we’re in total agreement about Gran Torino, I love most of Eastwood’s films but I really hated this one. As I mentioned above, I won’t want to rant about it here because it would be way too long. Ha ha!

  6. I liked Donald Sutherland in Pride and Prejudice. I am surprised you didn’t include Gregory Peck as Atticus, but maybe you were focusing on a contemporary list. I will add Jean Reno as Leon from The Professional. And J.K. Simmons in Juno.

    1. Ahah, it proves my theory that on a list post people don’t read the intro 😉 This is a list about father figures, as in non-biological fathers, so that’s why Mr Bennet and Atticus aren’t on this list. I’ve included them in previous list about favorite real movie fathers that I linked in this post. Jean Reno’s Leon however is a great pick and I wish I had him on this list!

      1. You caught me! And I know what a pet peeve it is of yours, too. I should have gone slower and checked, for I know how much you like Gregory Peck. 😉 I’m glad I scored with Leon.

        1. He..he.. that’s ok, I do that too sometimes. But I thought placing Idris & Rinko on my banner might give people more clue without reading it, as they’re not of the same race. Oh yeah, Atticus is one of my all time fave movie dads, that’s for sure. Leon is a great pick Cindy!

  7. Fantastic post. When I first read the title only a couple came to mind but as I read the post I kept saying to myself “OH YES!!!”

      1. Alfred in an instant. As someone who has read hundreds of Batman books over the years it is hard to see past him and the crucial relationship.

        1. Yes Alfred is one of my all time fave father figures. That’s why I mentioned him in the intro, he’s a staple in any fatherhood list as he’s just so phenomenal!

  8. I have no problems with that list at all. I like these choices. I too like Man in the Iron Mask as I loved the scenes with Malkovich and diCaprio. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park is a great choice as one of my favorite moments in the film is where he and the kids are about to climb the electric fence and he pretends to get electrocuted as a way to make them laugh. I hope he and one of the kids come back for Jurassic World 2.

    1. Glad to hear Steven! I LOVE that scene you mentioned in Jurassic Park. Oh it’d be great if they’re back for JW2 as JW1 is devoid of intriguing characters!

  9. Stephanie Marshall Ward

    Great list! I love the fact that you changed things up by going with father figures rather than actual fathers.

    1. Thanks Steph! Glad to see you actually read the entire post too, so you know it’s focused father figures and not actual fathers 🙂

  10. Fantastic list. I wasn’t a big fan of Pac Rim. It was okay, but the SP/Mako relationship was clearly the best part of the film. That should have been the main focus instead of the dude that lost his brother.

    The one character I was looking for that I would absolutely include is Alfred Pennyworth from The Dark Knight trilogy. Michael Caine was brilliant in the role and the character clearly thought of himself as a surrogate father.

    1. Hi Dell! Yeah I think the SP/Mako relationship should’ve gotten more screen time, I agree. Well more Idris is always a good thing in my book 😉

      Alfred is mentioned on the top of the list. I’ve mentioned him (and the other 2) several times before in my previous father’s day’s lists. I LOVE Michael Caine’s portrayal, he’s more fatherly than Irons was in the recent Batman V Superman.

  11. I thought you are going to write about real father….but I like this version better.

    I completely agree on Grant and Athos…I love the way they took care of the youngsters

    1. Hi Novia, long time no see! How’s married life? 😉

      Yeah well I grew up without a dad so it’s a post that’s personal to me. Btw, are you excited for Anthropoid? Cillian is the lead in that one, trailer looks good! 🙂

      1. Yes I am 🙂
        But I don’t whether it will be played here or not … and when they will play it. I can’t go to any cinema starting October because of the newborn. I know I will miss Dr Strange because of it

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