If you think you had a
bad dad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Fathers in film are often far worse than the ones we’ve had to deal with in reality. Whether that manifests as a mob boss responsible for his daughter’s death, a dude mooching off his kid’s successful acting career, or a father who quits his job to stay home, lift weights, and smoke weed, onscreen dads can be truly deplorable. That doesn’t mean they don’t make for great entertainment, however; some of the best movies ever made feature fathers who don’t give AF. We’ve gathered them all together so you can have a bad dad-themed film fest and feel so much better about the man who raised you.
Cover Photo: Automatik
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Bad Dad Movies
Based on Shia LaBeouf’s childhood, this drama portrays father James Lort (LaBeouf), who’s riding the coattails of his actor son, Otis. Represented at two different points in his life, 11-year-old Otis (Noah Jupe) is subject to his father’s cruelty and resentment while adult Otis (Lucas Hedges) struggles with the repercussions of his upbringing, facing DUI charges, rehab, and PTSD.
You get two bad dads in this 1999 dramedy. First, there’s Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a man in the midst of a midlife crisis who quits his job, starts working out, smokes weed with the neighborhood drug dealer Ricky (Wes Bentley), and hits on his teen daughter’s best friend Angela (Mena Suvari). Then there’s Ricky’s father, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper), a retired military man who hates gays and beats his son. This film is a must-see packed with cutting jokes, surprising transformations, and an ending in which both dads converge that’ll blow you away.
'There Will Be Blood'
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) has a one-track mind, and that track is fixed on oil. When one of his drilling missions kills the father of an infant boy, Plainview adopts him and names him H.W. It is perhaps the only kind deed he does in this dark and violent film. Unfortunately, the goodwill doesn’t last long; H.W. becomes deaf after an explosion at a drilling site and Plainview sends him away to boarding school. When H.W. reunites with Plainview and announces his intention to start his own oil business, his father callously tells him he’s not his biological child and disowns him. Plainview just might be the least sympathetic father figure ever.
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is the youngest son of The Godfather. After serving as a Marine in WWII, he returns home and soon becomes consumed with the family business. Bodies start dropping, including his daughter’s. Pro tip: you know you’re a bad dad when your wife aborts your unborn baby.
'Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back'
You may have a beef with your dad, but it probably isn’t as intense as that between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his estranged (and deranged) father Darth Vader (David Prowse). After all, your dad never cut off your hand, right?
After a heart attack that forces him out of wrestling, Randy ("The Ram") Robinson re-examines his life with the help of a stripper (Marisa Tomei). She encourages him to reconnect with Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter he abandoned in childhood, and even helps him shop for special gifts for her. Stephanie reluctantly meets with her dad, accepts the gifts, and agrees to have dinner with him that weekend…which he forgets because he’s too busy getting drunk, doing blow, and having sex. Unsurprisingly, Stephanie isn’t interested in being his daughter any longer.
'The Royal Tenenbaums'
Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) returns to the family he abandoned 20 years prior, claiming he has stomach cancer and wants to make amends with his three children and get to know his two grandsons. His wife allows him to move back into the family home (fake medical equipment and all) and he embarks on teaching his grandsons how to steal, make bets, and do other nefarious things.
'Tree of Life'
Brad Pitt plays Mr. O’Brien, a father of three boys growing up in rural America circa 1950. Mr. O’Brien is strict, tough, and has high expectations for his boys. He wants them to learn how to stick up for themselves and be successful in life, but his parenting style is perhaps too heavy on fear and intimidation and too light on the love and affection. A few of his truisms: “It takes fierce and will to get ahead in this world,” “You make yourself what you are. You gotta control your own destiny,” and “Don't let anyone tell you there's anything you can't do.”
'Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery'
Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) is the kind of dad who only wants to be a dad when it suits him. His son Scott (Seth Green) was told he was artificially conceived and grew up fatherless while Dr. Evil was frozen. Nothing Scott does is evil enough for Dr. Evil and the absentee dad even plots to kill own son. In the sequel,
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil basically replaces Scott with Mini-Me, the substitute son he always wanted.
Not only was Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) dad David (Nick Nolte) an abuser, he also killed Bruce’s mom and plans to obliterate Bruce’s girlfriend, too. No wonder The Hulk is so angry.