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Culture

The 12 Best Film And TV Dads Of All Time

By Keelia Clarkson·· 9 min read
best dads

Father’s Day is fast approaching, so what better way to honor dads around the country than to celebrate the film and TV dads who’ve given us a wonderful image of fatherhood?

Ah, fatherhood. Some of us had great dads who are now a close friend to us, and others, not so much. In the end, fatherhood, just like motherhood, is an extraordinarily difficult task — one that’s never exactly marked complete. And for that reason, fatherhood done right is something to celebrate.  

We’re deeply affected, influenced, and inspired by the media we consume. So I find it essential that we call attention to and applaud the best representations of fatherhood in film and television — after all, I’m confident that some viewers were practically raised by them.

Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights

In the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) acts as a high school football coach — and rather than the tough love he often gives his football team being all he has to offer, Coach Taylor is also an incredibly loving and faithful husband, an emotionally present and protective father to his children, and a devoted coach to his football team. Loyal, passionate, and strong, his steadfast commitment to those who need him never wavers. Coach Taylor is the picture of a father who’s chosen to be a constant in the lives of those he loves most.

Philip Banks from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

In west Philadelphia born and raised, a young Will Smith is sent off to live with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air and lands at the doorstep of Philip Banks (James Avery), known throughout the series as Uncle Phil. Though relatively strict, with a bit of a tough demeanor, Uncle Phil undeniably possesses a heart of gold, tender on the inside. While Will has a tumultuous relationship with his father, Uncle Phil offers Will stability and security, being there to lend a listening ear and give him a hug when Will’s father lets him down (once again). Uncle Phil is a man of good character that we all wish we could have in our corner. 

Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles

Pixar’s cult favorite, The Incredibles, showcases a family of five who just so happen to have superpowers. Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig Nelson), the patriarch of the family, is the very definition of a family man — giving viewers an image of a man who not only isn’t threatened by his wife’s influence and strength, but works with her in order to encourage their children to do what’s right, fight evil, and love their unique superpowers — helping to create a wonderfully tight-knit family who always looks out for one another. Mr. Incredible’s devotion to his wife, family, and legacy is something to look up to.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck in the film rendition) is not an affectionate father in the stereotypical ways, but his love for his children shines through his parenting style — wise, fair, and inclusive. Atticus and Scout read the newspaper together every night, allowing Scout to learn to read before even starting school. He answers his kids’ questions honestly. He always listens to both sides of the story before passing judgment. Additionally, his children are formed by his strong moral character. Atticus acts the same way at home in private as he does in public. He sets a good example for his children by standing up for the truth — the innocence of Tom Robinson — even though it goes against the accepted cultural norms of his community. He also helps guide his children through this time where his community disagrees with his actions, reminding them they are their neighbors —  not their enemies. Atticus teaches his children how to be good adults in a complicated world — the job of every father — and I would say he does it excellently.

George Lopez from George Lopez

In a sitcom roughly based on his life, George Lopez is a committed, protective father of two children, raising them in Los Angeles with his wife. After suffering a rough childhood with a neglectful, alcoholic mother, George is determined to give his children everything he didn’t have growing up. So he works incredibly hard as an assembly-line worker to provide for his family, remains extremely invested in his marriage no matter what’s going on, and teaches his kids to love their Mexican ancestry, all while keeping a good sense of humor. George Lopez is the perfect representation of a father who learned on the job and ended up doing an amazing job.

Mufasa from The Lion King

Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) is a prime example of the good king, and he tries to pass on those qualities to his son Simba. Mufasa tries to equip Simba for life by teaching him his place in the world, what it means to be king, and how to care for their land and subjects. He has wisdom and a sense of humor (plus an awesome voice!). Mufasa protects his son, no matter the level of danger, even sacrificing himself to save Simba from the stampede. His love and legacy guide Simba to his true identity and help Simba to accept his role and responsibility in the world. 

Mark Day from Eighth Grade

Bo Burnham’s masterpiece centers on Kayla Day, a shy, socially awkward, sensitive teen navigating her way through eighth grade. Her single father, Mark Day (Josh Hamilton), attempts to connect with his daughter through awkward humor and soft, kind words, but to no avail — until he enters Kayla’s world, inviting her to share her deepest insecurities with him one night around a firepit. In a scene that had me sobbing in the theater (okay, maybe it’s because Kayla reminded me so much of myself), Mark tells Kayla how happy and proud he is to have her as a daughter, how easy she is to love — a salve to Kayla’s wounds. Mark offers Kayla a sweet, unassuming friendship that I’ve rarely seen between a father and daughter. He’s the kind of dad every 13-year-old would be lucky to have around.

Peter Banning from Hook 

In an imaginative continuation of the classic Peter Pan story, the now grown-up — in every sense of the word — Peter Banning (Robin Williams) has forgotten his past. He has become a workaholic who doesn’t have the time or the patience for his children. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter must return to Neverland and confront his true identity as Pan. Through his attempt to save his children, Peter learns to accept who he is, which in turn inspires his children. He learns to prioritize people above work, allowing him to truly love his children and be a present father to them.

Lee Abbott from A Quiet Place

In a world where aliens hunt you by sound, Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) has managed to keep his family alive, safe, and thriving. He does what he can to help his children feel competent in their dangerous environment. He gives his son Marcus a way out of his fear by taking him to a waterfall, where he can let go and be noisy with impunity. He helps his daughter Reagan overcome her bitterness with his persistent, tender love. Lee beautifully demonstrates the father’s call to protect when he dies to save his children’s lives from the aliens.  

Guido Orefice from Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful is an Italian film that is infamous for being one of the sweetest and saddest films ever made. Guido (Roberto Benigni) is a goofy, comical Jewish man who works at his uncle’s furniture shop. He meets a nice Gentile girl, wins her over, and marries her. They have a son, Giosuè. When World War II breaks out, Guido, his uncle, and his son are captured and sent to an internment camp. Guido doesn’t want to be separated from his young son in the camp, so he sneaks him into the men’s section and hides him in the men’s building. He devises a magnificent series of games to keep his son occupied and unaware of the horrors going on outside in the camp. Tragically, Guido is executed by a German soldier just hours before the Allied forces come to liberate the camp. Giosuè survives and is reunited with his mother. If you want a good cry over something profoundly loving and beautiful, watch this movie!

Marlin from Finding Nemo

True, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) isn’t a human dad, but his quest to rescue his son has become one of the most beloved animated movies of the 2000s. Marlin starts off as a loving but massively overprotective dad, which is understandable given what happened to Nemo’s mom and siblings. But his protectiveness backfires because Nemo, feeling strangled by his dad, gets captured while trying to prove that he’s big enough to be out on his own. Marlin’s journey from trepidatious worrywart to daring adventurer is not only charming but inspiring. 

Cooper from Interstellar

After the death of his wife, it’s clear that Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has struggled to be a good enough parent for his high-spirited daughter and conflicted son. All of this is compounded by the fact that the end of the world is rapidly approaching. But when Cooper is offered the chance to travel through space to find a new home for the human race, he can’t say n, though he knows there’s a very good chance he’ll never return. On his journey, he has to fight natural disasters, deceit, and murderers. One mistake costs them 30 years of life, and he returns to his ship only to see that his children have grown up and forsaken him for lost. Nevertheless, he throws himself into a black hole in a last-ditch effort to find what they’ve been searching for. It’s his connection with his daughter — teaching her Morse code and how to talk to the “ghost” in her room, that finally allows him to breach time and space to speak to his daughter again. He, young as the day he left, is finally reunited with her as a dying woman. But he has saved his family — and all of the human race. The price was his own life and family experience.

Closing Thoughts

Fathers can be strong. They can be sensitive. They can be funny, protective, loyal, strict, loving, and they can even be a best friend. Many didn’t luck out in getting a father who possessed all (or any) of these qualities. But I guess that’s what TV is for!

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