In celebration of Father’s Day today, I’ve rounded up whom I believe to the best movie dads. You may find this list doesn’t include the dads you may have thought it would—the most memorable dads, like Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy) in American Pie, Mr. Byrnes (Robert de Niro) in Meet the Parents or even Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) in Mrs. Doubtfire. But I decided to go with the movie dads who stuck with me instead, those dads who were realistic, supportive and good-humoured.
5. Dill Penderghast, Easy A
Dill Penderghast (Stanley Tucci) doesn’t appear a whole lot in this movie, but as part of a parent duo (alongside Patricia Clarkson), Olive (Emma Stone) has it pretty great. We all know from the get-go that Olive and her little brother are good kids, so when she seems to have a bit of a wild streak, wearing her “A”-marked corsets to high school, it’s a little out of the ordinary. Most dads, I would think, would ask a lot of questions, but Dill just goes along with it, trusting that his daughter knows what she’s doing and giving her the freedom to make her own choices, offering his support—and a good quip here and there—whenever she needs it. Dill is a great example of a less-traditional modern-day dad.
4. Mac MacGuff, Juno
Mac MacGuff (J.K. Simmons) takes the news of his teen daughter’s pregnancy in stride, standing behind her every decision. He offers her his love and support—plus a good joke now and then—when her world seems to be crumbling apart. There’s no question Mac is a good dad with such a close relationship with his daughter (she clearly gets her quick wit from him), especially with such a topic as teenage pregnancy, which can be so difficult for many parents to understand.
3. Chis Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
This rags-to-riches story is not only inspirational for us young people trying to get somewhere in the employment world, but Chris Gardner (Will Smith) also serves as a perfect example of how much a father is willing to go through, what it feels for him to hit rock-bottom, pick himself up and vow to make a better life for his son. As a father, Chris leads by example, showing his son that he can do anything he puts his mind to; if he’s determined to become a different person, no matter the barriers, he can do it.
2. Coach Harold Jones, Radio
The sports dad, Coach Harold Jones’ (Ed Harris) relationship with his daughter is strained at the beginning of the film, and he spends the majority of his time coaching the high-school football team. But when Radio catches his attention, Coach Jones takes on the role as a father figure to him, knowing that it’s something he needs to do to right a wrong from his childhood. He sticks by Radio, supporting him when everyone else sees him as a burden, a danger to those around him or worse. Radio soon becomes a part of the family, and Coach Jones treats him as his own. He also repairs his relationship with his daughter, explaining to her why he feels he needs to be a father to Radio. And in the end, he gives up coaching—which has always been part of his dream job—to devote his time to his family.
1. Cecil Gaines, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
This is one of those movies that really stuck with me, and Cecil Gaines’ (Forest Whitaker) role as a father figure in this film is truly unique. Born into slavery, gaining his freedom and working his way to serve several presidents of the United States, the story of Cecil Gaines is similar to Chris Gardner’s—a man who started with nothing and worked hard to become something. However, while Chris bent the “rules” to get to the top, Cecil worked within the system, so that his children would have opportunities outside these borders. He played his role as a servant, spoke only when he was asked to give an opinion and chose his words wisely, all the while gaining more power and prominence along the way. He made a good life for his children, and while he butts heads with his eldest son throughout the movie, he eventually forms an understanding and appreciation for what he has done for the civil rights movement—he’s a proud father, and he makes sure that his son knows this, even though he’s a man who doesn’t really talk about his feelings. His son also comes to an understanding that what he thought to be passiveness in his father, was actually a subversive contribution to the civil rights movement and he comes to have a quiet respect for his father. While the perfect father may be perceived as one who says all the right things at the right time, Cecil’s relationship with his eldest son is realistic—they have their dark moments, but there’s always love there and he’d never stop trying to make the world a better place for his children.