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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day.

Awful movie, but it's what the "father's day movie" Google search gave me. 

In celebration of this honored day, and as an excuse to be too busy to go shopping for ties and golf balls, I've compiled a list of the five best, and five worst, movie fathers of all time.

From Atticus Finch to Anakin Skywalker, here we go.

More after the cut --

The Best Movie Dads of All-Time - 

5. Chris Gardner - The Pursuit of Happiness

We can all make fun of Will Smith for being that rapper who never talks about anything MC Hammer wouldn't, but we can't make fun of him for being an incredible actor. In this clip, he displays two soft extremes of fatherhood - making sure your kid is realistic about what they want to do, and making sure you kid never lets anyone tell them they can't do something. Chris and his little boy struggle through poverty and homelessness, but as long as his kid is happy and taken care of, he's being the best father he can.

4. Byran Mills - Taken

I'm having a hard time not injecting this list full of fathers who kick butt for their kids. But, of course, if I did that, I'd run out of bandwidth. It's one of my favorite subgenres of film - the dad who does anything to protect. So, rather than listing them all, I'm going with the king of the crop - Liam Neeson in Taken. His daughter is kidnapped while she's on the phone with him, while she's overseas, and he seemingly can't do anything but let his daughter be sold into sex slavery. With a "f*** you and have a nice day", Liam Neeson takes no prisoners when he hunts down his daughter. And God forbid you get in his way.

3. Guido Orefice - La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful)

It might be easy to dismiss this film as offensive, or insincere, or ridiculous, or whatever. But, it's a fairy tale. So, it's immune to a bit of criticism. And, if we look at it, it's all about the lengths that this father goes to to protect his little boy from the harsh realities of their situation. They're in a concentration camp in the middle of World War II. Honestly, how does a small child come to terms with the fact that he's about to be randomly selected for either work and extermination or... just plain extermination? Rather than expose his child to that and break his spirits, Guido explains it as a game. And does his best to keep the kid laughing and happy all the way through out, regardless of his own consequences.

2. Jack Butler - Mr. Mom

He's doing it wrong. But, well, that might be the point. In one of the best displays of fatherhood, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) takes over for his wife when she's out of the house, raising the kids as best he can. Whether it's looking for extra diapers, dropping the kids off on the wrong side of school, making sure they don't paint each other, weaning his little boy off of his "woobie"... it's all about learning to love and doing the best you can while you learn. It was a staple film in my house growing up, and I'll make damn sure it's one for my kids whenever I have them.

1. Atticus Finch - To Kill a Mockingbird

Not just the best father in film history, but possibly the best man in film history. This scene is a prime example of the pure love he has not just for his children, but for mankind. The whole film exists within the shadow of Atticus, it seems - he's everywhere. Not necessarily larger than life, but big enough to loom and be protective of those he cares for. Which is everyone. Blindly. He'll protect, show his children right from wrong, and be there for them when they fall (and break their arm). And when he walks past, you'd better stand up.

The Worst Movie Dads of All-Time - 

5. Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader - Star Wars I-VI

The ultimate dead beat dad. But, in the end, we all know that he turns out to just be a misunderstood guy. So misunderstood in fact, that we have to sit through three extra movies just to have it explained to us. He had a messed up childhood, a confused adolescence, and he practically died at the hands of his mentor. All while his secret wife was giving birth to two children who never had the chance to wish him a happy Father's Day. That's gotta sting. Almost as much as a light saber to the neck.

4. Jerry Blake (if that is his real name) - The Stepfather

Stepfathers need a little love, too, ya know. They get a bum rep. Not nearly as bad as stepmothers get, but still - just a little too much hate. Of course, not enough hate is possible for Jerry Blake. He marries single mothers, and has an uncontrollable urge for killing. But, deep down, he really just wants to be the perfect father. And, yeah, this is a pretty bad movie. But, Terry O'Quinn's performance is the stuff horror legend is made of. He's brilliant, and saves the film from being a dreary piece of dreck. Naturally, people overlook his performance because of the quality of the film around it (and because Dylan Walsh almost ruined acting as a whole when he did the remake), but still. I'm getting beside myself. If you have a stepfather, hug him. Or else.

3. Dwight Hansen - This Boy's Life

Again with the stepfathers. Jeez. But, still - this guy had it comin'. If it weren't for number 2 on the list, he'd be inching toward the top spot faster than you can say "I know a thing or two about a thing or two". Consider him a template for all the bad fathers you've ever met. So much so that every time he plays a dad in a film, I get goose bumps thinking he's about to beat his children with a shovel and call his wife everything but a "child of God". If there were one father that might sum up what it means to not be a father, it might be him. The good thing about him - he's not related to the people he tortures. So, at least they don't have to carry him in their DNA. Just their scarred memories and complexes. Thanks, pop.

2. Bill Maplewood - Happiness

You might ask yourself... what could be worse than this? Well, I'll tell you a couple of things you need to know before you ask that. One, this is a fantasy scene - a therapist has a therapist and his therapist asks him to imagine an ideal day at the park. So, at least he's not actually running around with an assault rifle killing people. No. In his spare time, he actually runs around molesting and raping children. Not his own, of course - that'd be just wrong. "He'd jack off instead."

So who is the worst movie father of all time? Who could possibly top a half man half robot force hell bent on making his children evil? Who could out-awful a man who marries single women and then murders their families? A man who spends all your money and beats your kids within an inch of their life, simply because he wants to feel something? A man who rapes his little kids' friends? Well... the answer at this point might not be obvious on your end, but it's obvious on mine. The all time worst father in the history of cinema; the douche de jour; the absolute be-all/end-all jackass to ever give birth to anyone...

1. Ed Wilson - Natural Born Killers

All I can say is... "no respect. No respect at all."

Sound off, filmgoers. Is there anyone that I missed? Let me know! 

Happy Father's Day.