Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers out there. In honor of Today, I wanted to take a look at the most influential paternal characters in film. But first, what makes a great father? There is no cookie-cutter template for raising a child well. Some fathers are incredible because of their willingness to do whatever it takes and ability to provide. Some fathers are incredible at building character and teaching their children to respect others and have a positive impact on their community. And some fathers will put themselves in harms way-sometimes even giving their life- to protect their children. The best thing you can do for a while is be present especially when they need you most. While there are many male characters in the industry, I want to specifically talk about those who, being a father is an important detail to the film in which he is featured, and each of them has a defining fatherly quality that we will briefly highlight.
These entries are in no particular order. Also there will be SPOILERS for some of the films listed below.
Mufasa – The Lion King (1994/2019)
Some fathers instill integrity and honor upon their children while others pay the ultimate cost to protect them. Mufasa does both. While he is only a cartoon lion and only in 1/3 of the film, Mufasa’s impact on Simba cannot be understated. He gives his life while protecting his son from a stampede of wildebeests, and while Simba initially runs from his calling after his father’s death, it is his Mufasa’s words that lead him back home. Simba became the king he was meant to be because of the character lessons and discipline of Mufasa.
Remember who you are.”James Earl Jones as Mufasa in The Lion King
Guido Orefice- Life is Beautiful (1997)
What would you do if you were raising a child during what is viewed as one of the worst events in modern history- the Holocaust? Instead of focusing on the horror’s surrounding them, Guido-played by Roberto Benigni, who also directed the film- chose to shield his son from the horror of their reality by convincing his son that the concentration camp in which they were living was an elaborate game. While he was eventually executed for being a Jewish Italian, Guido truly made the sweetest lemonade out of the lemons they had been given while helping his son to see the beauty in life is not dictated by your immediate circumstances.
Harry Stamper – Armageddon (1998)
Too often in today’s society, we see broken homes and unhealthy or nonexistent relationships with fathers. Harry Stamper, played by Brice Willis, and his daughter Grace have had a rough time leading up to the film. However we play witness to the rekindling and rebirthing of a father/daughter relationship in the midst of potential global disaster. Towards the end of the film, Harry and Grace have a tear jerking conversation proving their relationship has been restored just before Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the world and provide a hopeful future for his daughter and her fiancé AJ, played by Ben Affleck.
Cameron Poe – Con Air (1997)
Cameron Poe, played gloriously by Nicolas Cage, is a paroled murderer, which on the surface may not seem like the best role model for a child, but his crime is forgiven as he killed a man while protecting his pregnant wife. Poe has never met his daughter, though they have shared several letters throughout his years in prison. The events of the film are nothing more than Poe’s journey to get home to his wife and to meet his daughter while greeting her with the infamous bunny stuffed animal. Cameron goes through hell in back and he does it all for his little girl.
Put the bunny back in the box.”Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe
Side note: this one holds a sweet spot in my heart as it was the first R-rated film I ever saw.
Chris Gardner – The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Played brilliantly by Will Smith, Chris Gardner is a down-on-your-luck black single father struggling to find work and therefore provide food to eat and a roof to sleep under for him and his son. In this tear-jerking inspiring tale, Chris will stop at nothing to provide for his son, and while his hard work eventually pays off, he also sets an incredible example of how a father should act in the face of adversity.
Bryan Mills – Taken (2008)
Who wouldn’t want a father with a very specific set of skills capable of protecting you from human trafficking? Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is just that father. When his daughter is abducted and sold into a sex trafficking ring, Bryan stops at nothing to rescue and protect her.
If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken
John Quincy Archibald- John Q (2002)
While neither I nor Kernel condone violence of any type regardless of circumstances, it’s hard to argue that any father in film history is willing to do more for their son than Denzel Washington’s titular John Q. When he discovers his son needs a heart transplant that he can not afford, John Q holds a hospital and 11 doctors and patients hostage. Willing to risk years of prison to save your child is one thing, but John plans on making the ultimate sacrifice for his son, as he plans on being the transplant donor as well. His dedication and willingness to sacrifice all are more than enough to warrant inclusion on this list.
Obviously there are many many more fantastic film fathers, but I couldn’t fit all of them on this list. Who is your favorite film father? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram. And be sure to download our app to keep up with release dates for your most anticipated films and our film blog for more news and articles just like this.