10 Great Movie Dads We Wish Raised Us
Photo: Universal Pictures
There’s no such thing as a perfect father. (And if you had one that was close to perfection, we don’t want to hear about it.) Many of us had complicated relationships with our dads. They were physically absent, emotionally out-to-lunch, or downright mean and abusive. As children, we longed for different lives, one with fathers who actually cared for — and gave a crap about — us. Some of us found substitute father figures in film, and gleaned the insights and wisdom necessary for adulthood from these fictional characters.
As Father’s Day approaches, we honor the movie dads we wish we had. (Thanks for nothing, biological fathers.)
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Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s ‘Christmas Vacation’
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) can’t seem to do anything right, but it’s the thought that counts. From decking the house with enough Christmas lights to be seen from outer space to lubing up the sleds for an afternoon on the slopes to planning to install a backyard pool, he always has his family’s best interests at heart. With Clark Griswold as your dad, there would be a lot of mistakes, but never be a dull moment.
Grandpa Gustafson in ‘Grumpy Old Men’
Even grandpas are somebody’s dad and Grandpa Gustafson (Burgess Meredith) is the kind of dad every dude wants: he drinks, smokes cigars, and eats bacon on the daily. The foul-mouthed old man would be totally down with picking up women together at the local dive bar or going ice fishing together – your pick. If only dads like him could live forever.
Daniel Hillard in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’
This soon-to-be-divorced dad disguised himself as an elderly woman (mask, bodysuit, and all) to land the job of nanny-ing his own kids. Now that’s what we call sacrifice, a badass work ethic, and some balls.
Gil Buckman in ‘Parenthood’
Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) has his hands full with three kids, a chaotic extended family, a suburban home, and a stressful job. But that doesn’t stop him from trying to make his children happy at every opportunity, whether it’s playing cowboy at a birthday party when the professional doesn’t show up, coaching a constantly losing little league team, or digging through trash at Chuck E. Cheese’s to find a retainer. Gil gives every parenting task his all without losing his cool in front of the kids. We salute you, dad we never had.
Jason 'Furious' Styles in ‘Boyz n the Hood’
Laurence Fishburne’s character in this cult classic coming-of-age drama is more than a dad; he’s a wise shepherd, guiding his son through the tough streets of South Central L.A. Nothing is off-limits between Furious Styles and his son, Tre. Racism, murder, sex – it’s all up for discussion. If only all our fathers could’ve been this frank when we were making our dumbest mistakes.
David Kim in ‘Searching’
When a 16-year-old girl goes missing, her dad, David Kim (John Cho), hacks into her computer and starts piecing together the mystery of her whereabouts through social media. Even when he realizes he’s in over his head (“What is a tumbler?”) and the police declare the case closed, David refuses to give up and eventually solves this modern whodunit.
Pete Wagner in 'Instant Family'
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) are a couple of house flippers turned foster parents. The three kids placed with them are cute but quite a handful. Even though this was all Ellie’s idea, Pete is a totally cool, hands-on dad; to help their teen vent her anger, he hands her a sledgehammer and tells her to take it out on an old kitchen. We’re totally jealous; our dads never even let us touch their tools.
Jack Byrnes in ‘Meet the Parents’
Former CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) is the kind of dad you want on your side: he’s fiercely loyal, protective, and will spoil you rotten if you ask nicely. Unfortunately for Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) in this film, Jack is his girlfriend’s father, and Greg can’t seem to catch a break as the couple navigates her sister’s wedding festivities. If only every dad loved cats and made potential mates take lie detector tests like Jack does, it would save us all a lot of heartache.
Christopher Gardner in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’
Will Smith and his son Jaden portray a real-life father-son duo who hustled their way out of homelessness. Would your dad work as an unpaid stockbroker intern for six months to pull your family out of poverty? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
Sam Baldwin in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’
Widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) lives on a houseboat in Seattle with his 8-year-old son Jonah. Sam can’t sleep, and his son is wise enough to know it’s because he needs a woman. So Jonah calls a radio show to talk through his troubles. Soon enough, Sam’s overwhelmed with letters from single women all over the country. Annie (Meg Ryan) stands out from the pack and Jonah arranges a meeting. Sam loves his son so much, though, that he’s wary to let a new woman into their lives. It’s only at Jonah’s insistence that he does. Imagine a dad who puts his parental responsibilities over his personal pleasure, then lets you pick the step-mom of your dreams. That’d be a rare dad indeed.
Peter, Michael, and Jack in ‘Three Men and a Baby’
You get three for one in the dad department with this film. Bachelor roommates Peter (Tom Selleck), Michael (Steve Guttenberg), and Jack (Ted Danson), and are in for the surprise of their life when Jack’s girlfriend leaves a baby girl on their doorstep. The trio hilariously struggle to take care of her, but the point is that they try, going so far as to rap her to sleep. We wish our dads had made us laugh this much in childhood.