A man’s relationship with his father is one of the most important relationships in his life. Dad is supposed to teach us the manly arts, to always be there as lifelong mentors who lovingly guide us into manhood. At least that’s what every boy hopes for. Of course in real life the relationship between father and son is rarely so simple. A son yearns for the love and respect of his dad and doesn’t always get it. Or he worships his father, only to find out later he wasn’t such a good guy. Or his dad is indeed the real deal, but he exits his son’s life too soon.
It’s no wonder that a relationship so fraught with hope and yearning, drama and resentment, joy and regret has often translated into cinematic gold. Men don’t typically cry at movies, but when we do, nine times out of ten the scene involves a father and his kids. Father-themed flicks are guaranteed to make us laugh, get misty-eyed, and feel a little introspective about our own dads, and if we have kids ourselves, how we measure up as fathers.
Father’s Day is this Sunday, so we thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the very best movies about fatherhood that the world of cinema has to offer.
Atticus Finch is the man. Pillar of integrity, fighter of racial injustice, humble sharpshooter, and, of course, world’s greatest dad. As a widower he could have shipped his kids off to a relative, but he was absolutely devoted to them. He was kind, protective, and incredibly patient with his two kids, Jem and Scout. And most importantly, he taught his children by example. I find the relationship between Atticus and his daughter to be particularly endearing. If I ever have a daughter, I hope my relationship with her can be like the one Atticus had with his little girl. No wonder the American Film Institute called Atticus the “greatest movie hero of the 20th century.”
Of course you can’t top the book itself, but the film version measures up pretty well. Gregory Peck was given some very large shoes to fill, and he did so admirably.
Big Fish is a weird movie. Weird in a good way, though. It was directed by Tim Burton, hence the weirdness. Big Fish focuses on the strained relationship between a father and son – Ed and Will Bloom. Ed is a man who loves to tell (possibly fictitious) stories about his past. Ed’s son, Will, thinks his dad is full of it and can’t stand his tall tales. Will feels he cannot trust his father and eventually stops talking to him for several years. But when Will finds out his dad is dying, he returns home to begin a journey that will lead him to learn who is father really is, a process that allows him to come to peace with his dad.
The end of Big Fish is awesome. I won’t spoil it for you. Watch it.
At its core, The Godfather is about one man’s struggle to accept and eventually live up to the legacy his father has left him (even if that legacy isn’t the most noble and honorable one). You can gleam a lot of great insights about fatherhood from watching the entire trilogy. My favorite comes from Don Corleone: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Be a man. Spend some time with those kiddos. And don’t forget the cannoli.
To what lengths would a man go for a chance at reconciliation? If it’s for your (dead) father, most of us would do anything. As a young man, Ray Kinsella had a strained relationship with his dad and had once refused to play catch with him, a decision he has regretted ever since. Now grown up, with his father passed away, Ray has become an Iowa farmer. A voice tells him, “If you build it, he will come,” and Ray obeys by building a baseball diamond in his cornfield. The voice continues to guide Ray, and after a series of mysterious and supernatural events, he is able to make amends by playing a simple game of catch with his dead father. Man. That catch scene gets me every time.
It’s the moment any man with a daughter looks forward to with both happiness and sadness: his little girl’s wedding. You’ve probably seen the 1991 re-make of Father of the Bride with Steve Martin. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s nowhere near as good as the 1950 original starring Spencer Tracy and a young and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor. At least, I don’t think so. There’s nothing profound or deep about this film. It’s just a fun, family comedy about the relationship between a man and his daughter. Spencer Tracy rocks it in this movie. One of his best performances.
As we mentioned in the introduction, sometimes the relationship between father and son can be pretty complicated. That complexity is at the root of the dark, Depression-era gangster film, Road to Perdition. Every boy wants to grow up to be like his dad, but what if your dad isn’t such a good guy? Tom Hanks plays mob bodyguard and hitman, Michael Sullivan, who must protect his son from his former boss (with whom he had his own almost father/son relationship) and his boss’ son, who has killed the rest of Sullivan’s family. On a mission of revenge, Sullivan draws his son into a life of crime, but hopes he will take a different path in life. It’s a bloody, complicated, and father/son relationship-packed movie; as Hanks puts it, “If you’re a man, and you’ve got offspring…emotionally, it’s devastating.”