Special Feature: Top 10 Worst Movie Fathers

It's Father's Day, a day that allows me to sit and ponder what a terrible father I am and how I should have never been allowed to have four children. As a fan of movies, a cinephile like me is left with one option to make me feel better about my dad game--think about how there are a lot of movie fathers who are even worse at it than I am. This was a hard list to put together because there are a lot of terrible fathers to choose from. I'm not even sure these are in an order that makes sense.

If you're in the same situation, check out my list of Top 10 Worst Movie Fathers below. You'll start feeling a little more like Atticus Finch or that bald guy in Annie in no time!

Michael Waits, from Troll 2

You shouldn't be surprised. I'm obviously going to find every opportunity to mention this movie. But when you're the patriarch of a family who not only takes your family to what is apparently the worst vacation spot in America and then repeatedly ignore the warnings of your more-intelligent son, a son who has gotten the lowdown from Grandpa Seth, you deserve a spot. Not only does Mr. Waits not listen to his son. He yells at him for pissing on hospitality. That's just not the encouragement a kid needs.

Note: You could argue that another Michael--the father from Manos: The Hands of Fate--could have been here for similar bad vacation decision making. However, his daughter got to meet Torgo, and that makes up for it.

Royal, from The Royal Tenenbaums

There are probably a few guys (and one fox) from Wes Anderson films who could have made the list. You only have to look at how Chas, Margot, and Richie turned out to figure out what a bad father Royal is. Sure, he's trying to redeem himself toward the end of his life and arguably rescued his family from a sinking battleship, but a little white lie about having cancer probably isn't the best way to go about that. As a guy who explains his asshole tendencies by saying it's always been his style, his response to his daughter's play or his habit of shooting his kids with BB's shouldn't shock anybody.

Note: Bernard Berkman from The Squid and the Whale could make the list for similar reasons. He's also a total asshole.

Frank, from Klown

This guy basically kidnaps his girlfriend's son in an effort to convince her that he is father material, and on the ensuing canoeing trip, he proves that he is in no way father material. Actually, just bringing a kid anywhere around his buddy Casper should probably be enough to scare most mothers off, but the canoe trip shenanigans prove again and again that Frank himself shouldn't be anywhere near children.

Dr. Frankenstein, from Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein

Lots of movie fathers could make the list because they want their children to be dead, but Dr. Frankenstein here gets a boost for a few reasons. First, he apparently couldn't make children the natural way--with birds and bees--and had to assemble children from dead people's body parts, glue, thread, some duct tape, and some electricity. And then, he decides it was a terrible idea and doesn't want his children anymore. Doesn't sound very nurturing to me.

Henry Spencer, from Eraserhead

Another Henry, and he's here for the same reason--he doesn't want his kid anymore. Apparently, the monstrosity that Henry Spencer helps conceive is getting in the way of his lifestyle. It's also kind of ugly. I suppose you could read this story a little differently and see Henry's decision late in this movie as an act of mercy, but to me, he represents every father who is ill-equipped to be a father in the first place and then doesn't do a very good job of it once it happens.

Darth Vader, from A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi

But wait! His name means "father," doesn't it? Yeah, but when you cut off your kid's hand, don't even seem to know how many children you even have, blow up the adoptive home planet of one of your children, send a dude who apparently disintegrates people to chase you around, and kill your son's mentor in front of him, you're not winning many father-of-the-year awards. I blame any lack of father figure in young Anakin Skywalker's life. That's probably where Jar Jar should have stepped up his game. Of course, at least Darth Vader had some aspirations for his kid. He did, after all, want to rule the galaxy with him. But it's a bad start to your fatherhood when you start force-choking your wife during her pregnancy.

Harry Powell, from The Night of the Hunter

In case you missed most of this movie, Harry isn't just a religious guy who married a poor widow because he wanted to help her take care of her children. He's kind of a jerk.

"Father," from Dogtooth

Sometimes, the damage done by fathers is more intellectual or psychological, and the father from Dogtooth is maybe the best movie example of that. Some dads won't let their children read Harry Potter books. The way this guy, admittedly with help from his wife, shelters his kids makes those hyper-religious zealots seem downright progressive. As one of my favorite songwriters wrote, "There's so many ways you can screw up a child." This guy's really really good at it.

Note: Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer could also be considered here.

Mr. Darling, Peter Pan

Mr. Darling is a not a great father, the kind of guy who I doubt even knows the names of all his children. He's also a terrible pet owner, but that's a different list. This patriarch is so beloved by his children that his voice is used for a manifestation of fear and evil when they fly off to Never Never Land and meet Captain Hook. Disney has a lot of animated fathers who could maybe make this list--Ariel's helicopter dad in The Little Mermaid, for example. And. Well, I guess most Disney animated features have fathers who are just completely missing. So forget that I wrote that Disney has "a lot of" them.

Jerry Blake, from The Stepfather

All that creepy bald guy from Lost wants is that ideal American family. See? Look at how he's snuggling with that doggy up there. Like Harry Powell, Jerry's into marrying widows, but when cracks start developing in his perfect picture of patriarchy, he loses his mind and starts getting stabby. I may have forced my son to play baseball at a young age and engage in relentless practice until he decided he hated the sport, but I've never stabbed anybody. 

Note: Pan's Labyrinth has another dad who would fit in with Blake and Powell in a bad step-dad category. 

Tony's Dad, Saturday Night Fever

"You know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it! He hits my hair!" No father should hit a son's hair. That's crossing a line! 

Colonel Fitts and Lester Burnham, from American Beauty

I guess it's possible that lots of dads lust after their daughters' friends and have midlife crises or collect Nazi plates and would likely vote for Donald Trump. All I know is that if I don't start moving faster with this blog entry, Father's Day will be over.

Jack Torrance, from The Shining

It's another vacation-gone-wrong. And it's really gone wrong when you end up chasing your son through a labyrinth with an ax. I may not know two of my children's exact birthdays, but I've never done anything similar to that. Of course, you could argue that the whole thing isn't Jack's fault and that being married to Shelly Duvall would drive anybody to this sort of behavior. And you have to admit that Jack does work really hard, so maybe he's a better role model than most people give him credit for. But no, that whole ax thing just doesn't seem very affectionate.

Bill Maplewood, from Happiness

I'm not sure there's a father on this list I'd least like to be in the same room with. It sure is surprising that Todd Solondz could write a character who is this deplorable, isn't it? I think the worst thing about Bill Maplewood is that while you doubt the existence of a lot of Jack Torrances and some of these other guys, you know there are Bill Maplewoods in almost every suburb. And that's terrifying.

Ed Wilson, from Natural Born Killers

Another father of the silver screen capable of giving a person nightmares. I'm just giving this Rodney Dangerfield character respect by putting him in this list. I think this character's made worse both by how Oliver Stone creates him and how he looks exactly like Rodney Dangerfield. "Who am I now? The bad guy?" Well, that line about how your daughter won't see your face for an hour doesn't exactly make you a good guy, does it?

Noah Cross, from Chinatown

My son Dylan has never seen this movie, and I would be a terrible father if he read about why Noah Cross is an utterly despicable dad and had the entire movie spoiled for him. No, it wouldn't make me as bad a father as Noah Cross, but it still wouldn't be good. So I'm not going to include any details here.

Daniel Plainview, from There Will Be Blood

Hey, at least he takes his son bowling!

God, The Brand New Testament

No, I'm not just poking fun at Christianity here. I'd never do that. If I were, I'd just throw The Last Temptation of Christ here. This sacrilegious version of the big guy is a true jerk though. As a heavenly father, he spends all of his time drunkenly figuring out how to make the lives of his earthly children especially difficult, and he (surprise!) has a pair of offspring in this one, both who hate him so much that they want to escape and mess up his life's work. I'm pretty sure three of my children have wanted to get as far away from me as possible, and the fourth one just isn't old enough to figure it all out yet.

Dishonorable Mention:

The dad in Force Majeure deserves a mention for sure! He might be a worse husband than a father though.

Wayne Szalinski from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, probably because his stupidity endangered the lives of his children.

Pa Cox from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I'm not a great father, but I know "the wrong child died" is just not something you should ever say to your kid. Favoritism isn't good.

Both Gremlins and Anomalisa for giving us dads with terrible gift ideas.

Robin Williams in the ironically-titled World's Greatest Dad or Mrs. Doubtfire, the latter in which he transforms from apathetic dad to creepy stalker and likely gave his kids psychological issues. And in another Robin Williams' movie, that dad in Dead Poet's Society could also qualify for a list like this.

Nicolas Cage is in a pair of movies with bad fathers. He plays one having a mid-life crisis in The Weather Man, and his character has an overbearing father in Birdy. (And now we can add Mom and Dad although there are forces beyond his control in this one. And he still seems like he might be a lot of fun!)

The guy in Delicatessen. I mean, I may have accidentally kicked my daughter in the face while playing disc golf and then blamed her for it, but I've never tried to eat any of my daughters' boyfriends. Yet.

I'm not a fan of the dad in Searching for Bobby Fischer.

Sylvester Stallone could almost make a list like this, both for some of the Rocky sequels and Over the Top. But he's Sylvester Stallone, America's funnyman, and I just can't put him in there.


Men and Chicken, for reasons that I don't want to spoil here. It's a little like one of the movies mentioned above though.

I was going to mention the Lone Wolf and Cub series, but I stopped myself because I remembered that he's actually the greatest father of all time.

Who did I miss, boys and girls? Leave comments below if I'm forgetting anybody.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i'll have to give this some thought. when i saw your list i instantly thought "dogtooth" so i am soooo glad that is on the list.