Growing up without a dad, I got a lot of my fatherly advice from the prototypes I saw on the silver screen. It’s these characters and films that, not only gave me a glimpse into a dynamic I had never known or understood, but also made me realize that I was in fact missing out. So for those who feel the same or just want to watch a movie with their dad, here are my top 10 paternal films.
Juan and Chiron’s relationship in the first chapter we see of his life is absolutely beautiful. A big-time drug dealer, as muscular and powerful as he is, Juan helps this little boy who is being picked on for being gay and is neglected by his mother. He feeds him, talks to him, and teaches him how to swim in one of the most beautifully composed cinematic scenes I have ever watched. Juan rejects many of the assumptions people would make about a drug dealer. He has so much love and care for this child. I would put him higher on the list if he didn’t do that thing he did (watch the movie to find out 🙂
- A Goofy Movie
I watched this movie as a kid and then again a few months ago. Both times I felt for Goofy as a father. All he wants to do is connect with his son as his teenage years are creating a distance between them. He tries everything in his power to be there for him and support him, even if he looks Goofy in the process.
- Annie (1999)
As a kid, I was absolutely jealous of Annie. She got what I wanted: a father to sweep her off her feet and live in a big house with a dog and everything she could ever want. As an adult today, the main reason why I love Mr. Warbucks is that even though Annie was his own child and he didn’t want to have much to do with her in the beginning, he grew to love her and eventually adopt her. This movie subconsciously showed me that fatherly love and care do not have to come from blood.
An immigrant father coming to America to live the American dream and provide for his family while the odds are against him? Enough said. This movie is absolutely heartbreaking but shows the power and strength of family.
- Finding Nemo
Marlin does everything he can to find his son. He is very overcautious and overprotective yet faces his fears in order to find his son. He encounters sharks, traverses the Great Barrier Reef, and seeks the help of a fish with a questionable mental state to find Nemo. He lost his children once and is determined to never let it happen again.
- Eighth Grade
This is a dad who loves his daughter unconditionally and wants the best for her. He knows she is struggling without her mom around and since she’s not making many friends at school. He keeps a loving distance and tries to connect to her as best he can. His monologue when he tells his daughter how much he loves her and is proud of her despite her insecurities is one of the most touching things I have heard in a film.
In this Jon Favreau classic, Chef Carl Jasper goes through an artistic crisis that costs him his job. Realizing the silver lining in this situation, he is able to reconnect with his son by opening a food truck alongside his sous chef. Seeing how the relationship between him and his son strengthened over the course of the film is so heartwarming. It shows that no matter how estranged you may feel from a loved one, reconnection is possible if you put in the work.
- Beautiful Boy
David loves his son in times where many wouldn’t. He wants the best for him and does what he can to help him as his son is a drug addict. He even goes so far as to try crystal meth to understand his son better. All he wants is to be close to him and understand what he is going through so he can help him.
- The Pursuit of Happyness
Will and Jaden Smith absolutely crush their respective roles in this heart-wrenching film. The story of a father doing everything in his power to give his kid a good life and be the supportive father he wants to be makes him a role model for fathers everywhere. Through extremely tough times—times when many would give up—Chris Gardner did not. His relentless need to better his son’s life pushed him through.
- Life is Beautiful
Guido is hands down the best father in cinema. As an Italian Jew experiencing life-altering changes in Nazi Europe, he uses humor and fun to shield his son from the harsh reality. He makes surviving concentration camps into a game for the two to win in order to save his son both physically but also from the mental weight and toll that living in the camp and being Jewish during this time could do to a child. Guido made keeping his son’s childhood innocence and spirit such a high priority in one of the worst states of being that a person could endure. His harrowing sacrifice for his child was one of selflessness and love, traits that live in the hearts of great fathers.