Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Top 15 Movie Dads

In celebration of Father's Day here's a countdown of my favorite movie dads.
Mind you, this is not a list of the BEST dads (Jimmy Markum and Darth Vader could use some parenting classes). It's just a list of my favorite father figures from film. <<Bonus points for alliteration

#15 Mr. Fox
Voiced by George Clooney

If you haven't see Fantastic Mr. Fox (which a lot of people haven't because it tanked at the box office) I would definitely recommend it. It's based on a Roald Dahl book and it's a beautiful little stop-motion movie made by Wes Anderson about a community of animals (foxes, badgers, weasels and the like) who decide to take on the three terrible farmers who are constantly trying to kill them. Yes, it sounds generic and fluffy, but it's not. It's really funny and witty. Mr. Fox is a master at breaking into the various farms and stealing chickens and apples and cookies, but when he and Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) decide to start a family, he has a hard time settling down. The best relationship in the movie is between Mr. Fox and his son Ash. Ash is shy and self-conscious and Mr. Fox is sometimes disappointed that his son isn't bold and daring like he is. Go rent it. I know you'll like it.

#14 Lord Elrond
Played by Hugo Weaving

Lord Elrond is in all three Rings movies, but his fatherly role is best in the third film. He loves his daughter, Arwen, very much and it breaks his heart to see her fall in love with Aragorn, a human. If she chooses to stay with him, she will forfeit her elven immortality. He tries to make her leave Middle Earth with the other elves to save her, but she ultimately chooses to stay with Aragorn. My favorite Elrond moment in all three films is a scene where he doesn't even say a word. It's at the end when Aragorn is crowned king and he sees Arwen for the first time since leaving Rivendell back in Fellowship of the Ring. There is a two-shot of Arwen with Elrond in the background. As she goes to Aragorn, Hugo Weaving has the most incredible look on his face. It's a combination of happiness for his daughter and sadness for her mortality. It's a beautiful acting moment.

#13 Daniel
Played by Liam Neeson

Daniel is a widower and when his wife died, he was left to take care of her son, his stepson. Love Actually is all about love in its many forms. My favorite relationship in the film is between the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and his assistant, but a close second is the relationship between Daniel and Sam (Thomas Sangster). (As a side note I would just like to say that I'm not sure I've ever seen a kid with bigger eyes than Thomas Sangster's.) The relationship spins out basically just how you would expect: They start out distant and slowly but surely events in their lives bring them closer together (in this case it's that Sam needs advice about how to get a girl in his class to notice him) and by the end they're as close as if they were biological father and son. Though the plot line is fairly generic, the acting is great and there are some fantastic scenes between the two of them. My favorite is the scene where they watch Titanic together. The scene ends with the greatest line: "Come on, Dad. Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love."

#12 Chris Gardner
Played by Will Smith

In The Pursuit of Happyness you watch Chris Gardner's situation go from bad to worse to almost unwatchable destitution and all the while he has his son with him. After they get evicted, they go from one homeless shelter to another, just barely getting by. I have a hard time watching the scene where they are forced to spend a night in the bathroom of the subway station. But Chris is incredibly devoted to his son and almost everything he does is meant to ensure a better future for Christopher, Jr. A cool fact about the film is that Christopher, Jr. is played by Will Smith's actual son, Jaden Smith.

#11 Mac MacGuff
JUNO (2007)
Played by J.K. Simmons

So often in movies geared toward teenagers the parents are made to be one-dimensional ding-bats, but in Juno both of Juno's parents are so wonderfully three-dimensional. Mac MacGuff is a hard-working blue-collar dad who loves his kids very much. My favorite scene with him is the scene where Juno tells her parents that she is pregnant. Instead of blowing up and being incredibly angry, he's disappointed. He's also sad for his daughter because he knows it means she's going to have to grow up a lot sooner than planned. It's that sort of unconditional love for his kids that makes me love Mac MacGuff. He also has some of the best one-liners in the movie. His response to learning that Bleeker is the father makes me laugh so hard. "I didn't know he had it in him."

#10 Arthur Weasley
Played by Mark Williams

There are a lot of father-figures in the Harry Potter books and films and, though he isn't my favorite father-figure, I adore Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley is very much a substitute mother to Harry, but Mr. Weasley isn't so much a substitute father. He's more of a loveable, absent-minded uncle. Arthur is the father of seven and he works so hard at a thankless job. The thing I love most about the Weasley family is that no matter how poor they are, they are always so happy and loving. My favorite quality in Mr. Weasley is his love of Muggles. The best scenes with him are when he mispronounces things or asks Harry endless questions about batteries or rubber ducks. Mark Williams is perfectly cast. When he is introduced in Chamber of Secrets you like him right off the bat. His first scene is the morning after the twins and Ron rescue Harry in the flying car. Though Mr. Weasley scolds his children, he is secretly impressed by the brilliance of their plan. 

#9 Jimmy Markum
Played by Sean Penn

When his teenage daughter is murdered, Jimmy Markum sets out on a violent crusade to avenge her death. Instead of letting the cops do their job, he decides to take things into his own hands. Sean Penn, in his first Oscar-winning role, plays him with such ferocity and intensity. Though he is angry and violent, Jimmy also has two other daughters, which softens him up a bit. This is my favorite Sean Penn performance because of the incredible range he displays. There's the scene at the beginning of the movie where he makes funny faces at his daughter as she walks down the aisle at her First Communion that's so heart-warming and fun. Then there's the scene at the very end in the bar where he and two of his friends corner the man he suspects of murdering his daughter. It's an intensely disturbing scene. My favorite acting moment is the scene where he learns his daughter has been murdered. As he screams and yells and cries, he has to be restrained by seven policemen. I found it hard to watch the first time I saw it. Clint Eastwood shot it in a cool way, with the camera slowly pulling away overhead.

#8 Robert Parr/ Mr. Incredible
Voiced by Craig T. Nelson

In the beginning scenes of The Incredibles Robert Parr is bored with his job and annoyed with having to keep his superpowers a secret. He loves his wife and kids, but he's stuck in a rut. He jumps at the opportunity to reclaim his super-identity and in the process of becoming a superhero again, he becomes a super dad. My favorite scene is when he thinks his family has been killed by Syndrome. The preceding scene of Helen Parr and the kids dodging the missiles is intensely exciting and so the next scene is intensely sad. Those geniuses at Pixar....

 #7 Ben Parker
Played by Cliff Robertson

I know Ben Parker is Peter's uncle, but for all intents and purposes, he's Peter's father. Uncle Ben is so loving and joyful and I just adore him. Uncle Ben's death is what ultimately makes Peter decide to become Spiderman and he influences a lot of Peter's actions even after he's dead. Cliff Robertson plays Uncle Ben with such warmth and understanding. He also has the greatest line ever in a superhero movie: "Remember, with great power comes great responsiblity." The Spiderman franchise is being rebooted and the first film, The Amazing Spiderman, has just wrapped filming. I am SO jazzed about the new cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field and guess who's playing Uncle Ben. MARTIN SHEEN! I love everything Martin Sheen does: The West Wing, The Departed, Wall Street, so I can't wait to see him as Ben Parker.

#6 Mufasa
Voiced by James Earl Jones

I would have to say that Mufasa is the most powerful dad on this list. Not only does he have an incredibly powerful voice, he has an incredibly powerful onscreen presence, which is very rare for an animated movie, especially one about animals. I'm not sure if there's another animated character that even comes close. It's also rare for a movie geared toward children to have such a prominent death theme. Almost every scene Mufasa is in, he talks about death. In the scene where he shows Simba the pridelands, he talks about how death is just part of the circle of life. In the next scene, he saves Simba from being killed by the hyenas. Then in the next scene, he talks about how the stars are the kings of old and how he will one day join them. And then finally, he has a death scene. I love how honest Mufasa is with Simba. I always believe the truth is best and I hate it when adults lie to kids because they don't think the kids can handle the truth. Sure, a lie protects them for the moment, but the truth is always better in the long run.

#5 Marlin
Voiced by Albert Brooks

Marlin is another perfect example of unconditional love overcoming all odds. After his wife is eaten by a barracuda, Marlin is terrified of the ocean. He sees danger everywhere, so he shelters Nemo from everything. When Nemo is taken by scuba-divers, Marlin's only mission is to find his son. His fears go out the window because Nemo is all that matters to him. He escapes sharks, jellyfish, and whales and rides the EAC with totally mellow sea turtles, all in pursuit of Nemo. As the pelicans say, "That's one dedicated father."

#4 Jimmy Braddock
Played by Russell Crowe

Cinderella Man is based on the true story of Jimmy Braddock. During the Great Depression James Braddock was a down-and-out boxer who made a huge comeback. He was seen as a sign of hope by many destitute Americans. I love the tagline of the movie: "When the country was on its knees, he brought us to our feet." In the movie, Jimmy and his wife Mae (Renee Zelleweger) have three children to care of during a time when it is extremely difficult to find work. Many families around them have sent their children away to live with relatives who can take care of them, but Jimmy refuses to let his children go. I have two favorite fathering moments in this movie. The first is a scene at the beginning of the movie where one of the young sons steals a salami from the deli. Jimmy scolds him and takes him to the deli to return it and they have a wonderful scene outside the deli. Jimmy tells Jay to never steal again and Jay admits he stole it because he knows how poor they are and he wanted to help. My other favorite scene is when Mae decides to send the children away without telling Jimmy. Jimmy has been shut out of the boxing world for some time and he comes home to find the children gone. He immediately goes to Madison Square Garden where he begs for money from the boxing big-wigs who are all still prosperous. He is literally hat-in-hand. Certain movies make me cry, but I also have certain actors who, when they cry, make me cry. Russell Crowe is one of those actors and that is one of those scenes.

#3 Darth Vader
Played by David Prowse, Voiced by James Earl Jones

Darth Vader is one of the most well-known movie fathers of all time. Even people who haven't seen Star Wars know "I am your father." (He never says "Luke, I am your father." Get your facts straight people.) Given that he repeatedly tries to kill his children and then slices off his son's arm, I would say that Vader lands on the lower end of the 'good parenting skills' scale. However, he eventually sees the error of his ways and has a very sad final scene with Luke as he dies.

#2 Dr. Wilbur Larch
Played by Michael Caine

Dr. Larch is the doctor at the Saint Cloud Orphanage. Though he isn't anyone's biological father, he is the only male on the staff, so he becomes the father-figure for all the children at the orphanage. Homer Welles (Tobey Maguire) grows particularly close to Dr. Larch and Dr. Larch trains him to be a doctor. One of my favorite lines of Larch's is during a voice-over at the beginning where he talks about Homer: "I named him Homer, after the Greek poet, and Welles because he seemed...deep." Michael Caine won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role, and rightly so. Dr. Larch is loving and caring, but also very lonely. He has many demons, including an addiction to ether. The writing (which also won an Oscar) is beautiful and Dr. Larch is an incredibly realistic character. Every night when he puts the boys to bed, he reads to them and there are a number of fantastic scenes where he reads from David Copperfield. And each night as he turns out the light he says, "Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England." One of the reasons I love The Cider House Rules so much is because it is a beautiful movie about New England. 

#1 Captain Von Trapp
Played by Christopher Plummer

The Sound of Music is my absolute favorite musical and I love Capt. Von Trapp because of his character arc. He is a widower and a retired naval officer and, though he appears to be more of a drill sergeant than a father at first, he loves his children very deeply. At first he finds Maria's presence in his home irritating and her love of music unacceptable, but he soon falls in love with her. The Nazis want Capt. Von Trapp to serve in the German navy and he is vehemently opposed to the idea, so he devises an escape plan. Capt. Von Trapp will literally climb mountains for his children. Christopher Plummer is a master actor. In the beginning scenes when he is ordering his children around with a whistle, he can come off as a one-note character, but Plummer's acting makes the character seem real. And of course by the end of the movie he is expressing his love towards his children and Maria in a much more overt way. My favorite scene is when he sings "Edelweiss." There's some serious acting going on as he sings. (I know he's dubbed, but this is one of those cases where I just don't care.) It's a beautiful scene.

And there you have it. My Top 15 Movie Dads. Let me know who some of your favorites are in the comments!


1 comment:

  1. I never would have thought of Capt. Von Trapp! I have to agree though.