For some, Father’s Day is that time when you celebrate the man who was always there for you. For others, Father’s Day is a day to be reminded about how much of a douchebag the man who reared you is. (Sorry, not sorry, Dad!) The Dames set out to list their favorite dads in both TV and film, honoring the men who gave them feelings….however you want to interpret that.
Father’s Day is really just a Sunday in my house. However, I do find my best fathers represented in cinema, and there are a lot of them. The men on my list are flawed – some more so – and some are a taste more biased in my reason for including them then others, but they give me hope that not all fathers are dicks.
Jake Houseman (Jerry Orbach) in Dirty Dancing (1987)
Jerry Orbach’s Jake Houseman was the first man I thought of when writing this list. For Baby (Jennifer Grey) she never thought there was anyone better in the world; you know, until she met all-time greatest dancer ever, Johnny (Patrick Swayze). Jake Houseman is willing to do whatever he needs to for his daughter, including helping fix a botched abortion because she asked him to. I don’t know many people that would do that, let alone dads. He has a moment where he shuts his daughter out, but only because he’s confused about how to respond to his child’s transition to adulthood. When he finally lets Johnny and Baby dance, I actually tear up a bit. Unlike other fathers who only seem to learn by interfering, Jake learns from being contemplative and is man enough to admit he’s wrong.
Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) in Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Travers Goff, the father of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), is simultaneously swoon-worthy and darling. (I’m a sucker for Farrell as father, also see Ondine, now!) Much of Saving Mr. Banks is about the creation of Mary Poppins, the film, but for me it’s about the relationship between Travers and a young P.L. He wants to infuse fun and imagination into his children’s lives to prevent the world from beating it down like it does him. He drinks to cope with being, in his eyes, a failure, forced to conform. His daughter’s childhood sense of fearlessness and fun is admirable, but he knows that it will eventually be tempered by responsibility. A father who reveres letting kids be kids? That’s a rare breed, indeed. It also helps that Colin Farrell is the sexiest consumptive known to man.
Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) in The Leftovers (2014)
So, we need to talk about Kevin. He’s not the best dad, per se, but he’s by no means the worst. (I feel like Karen’s opening paragraph is a personal poke at me, by the way.) He’s the most human, failing to find a way to bridge the gap between dad and individual. At times he can be the cool dad, others the inattentive and downright spiteful. But when it comes to laying down his life to save his daughter in the first season, he does it and looks fine doing it. Really, what I’m saying is he’s the hottest dad in my list.
Hank McGuff (J.K. Simmons) in Juno (2007)
Personal opinion, I want Hank McGuff to be my dad. I don’t know ANY other father who would go to the lengths this guy does for his daughter. He’s upset when Juno (Ellen Page) admits she’s pregnant, but he doesn’t freak out. He expects his daughter to make mistakes, he just didn’t anticipate that one. When she decides to give the baby up for adoption he’s just as supportive, even driving her to visit the adoptive parents for her safety. And when Juno has to make the hardest decision in her life, giving the child up once it’s born, he’s sensitive and tender with her. He tells her one day she’ll be back “on her own terms,” and that is what she needs to hear. He’s a dad who never judges, is 100% supportive of everything, and can still keep it light.
Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) in Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Speaking of supportive dads, I gotta be the one to shill for MIchael Stuhlbarg in a role that deserved an Oscar nomination. His Mr. Perlman is another fantasy dad everyone wishes they had. His monologue at the end of Call Me By Your Name is relatable to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. He wants his son to feel things, even if they’re painful. His constant reiteration to Elio (Timothee Chalamet) that he’s there and Elio can talk to him is reassuring without being abrasive. He’s just perfection, seriously.
I know some people might choose to focus on Hot Dads or something like that, but not me. Nope, I’m focusing on dads that are so great I would totally be willing to have children with them. The fact that they’re all hot is totally coincidental.
Jack Pearson and Randall Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown), This Is Us
Do I feel bad for sort of a little bit cheating on this? Nope. I sure don’t. Because these two are so inextricably linked that putting them together only makes sense. Randall learned how to be the best dad ever because he had the best dad ever in Jack. I only wish Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia got to share some scenes together because that would be magic.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), The Walking Dead
Sure, there might have been dark times under the Ricktatorship, but everything Rick did was always in the best interest of his boy, Coral. I mean Carl. Everything. From the minute he awoke from a coma in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, his only thought was of finding his family. And he did. And he kept Carl safe and taught him. I know people say Carl turned out to be a good kid in spite of his dad, but that’s not really it. He learned from the good things about his father. He wanted to bring about peace because that was who his father had been too, before the world turned him cynical. And even in his cynicism, Rick isn’t evil. He still wants the right things. He just has a few totally justifiable trust issues now. If the zombie apocalypse ever started, you bet I’d be looking for Rick Grimes.
Dill Pendergast (Stanley Tucci), Easy A
There is literally nothing to not love about Dill Pendergast. He’s charming and funny in a very witty and smart way. He is super supportive of his family. I love that Olive knows her dad is there to listen when she needs him, but he knows when to back off and let her handle things her own way. Together with his wife Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson), they are seriously one of the very best sets of movie parents the world has ever known. Plus it’s kind of hilarious in a somehow not obnoxious way that Dill and Rosemary have kids named Olive and Chip.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), To Kill a Mockingbird
It certainly couldn’t have been easy to be a single father to two kids, especially back in the tumultuous south of the 1930s. Atticus has the respect of many in the community. He could take the easy road when political issues are at hand, but he doesn’t do what’s easy. He does what’s right. And in doing so, he teaches his children valuable lessons about acceptance, integrity, and love for others.
Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman), Hearts Beat Loud
If this is playing anywhere near you right now, go see it. Hearts Beat Loud has a little bit of a Lady Bird-esque quality to it, but of course it’s different because it’s about a daughter and her single dad. and they have a really great relationship that just will bring warmth and joy to your soul. I love how they find little ways to show that these two are close, without having to be super sappy and melodramatic about it. Frank is an involved dad, but much in the way Dill Pendergast is. His girl knows she can turn to him, but he (mostly) knows when to back off.
(Also, this movie made me finally come to terms with the fact that I kind of…like beards.)
Gomez Addams (John Astin/Raul Julia) in The Addams Family
Listen to me and write this down: all husbands/fathers/men should aspire to be Gomez Addams. Choose one of the incarnations – the slightly goofy, passionate John Astin of the 1960s Addams Family TV show, or the mind-bogglingly sexy, passionate Raul Julia of the 1990s Addams Family films. Gomez is a family man who loves and takes care of his kids, supports their interests (like electrocuting each other, and stealing street signs), and is equally accepting when they go outside the parameters that he considers normal and want to have a puppy or go to summer camp. He’s also a wonderful husband who adores his wife and will do, literally, anything for her. There is no one better than Gomez Addams.
Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke)
The Dick Van Dyke Show might have represented fairly traditional nuclear family roles, but it also quietly went outside the bounds in some ways—like in letting Rob Petrie be a good, loving, and demonstrative father. Rob’s involved in his son’s life, regularly telling (and showing) both his son and wife that he loves them. One gets the sense that if Ritchie grew up and wanted to go to Woodstock or chill in the West Village coffee shops, Rob would probably be a bit confused but totally supportive. He was just that kind of dad.
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)
Yes, I do have a certain weakness for large, badass men who are totally big teddy bears, and Hobbs, of the Fast and Furious franchise, is one such man. While The Fate of the Furious had some downsides, there was absolutely nothing cuter than Hobbs refusing to even speak to his FBI bosses until he had led his little girl’s soccer team in the Haka dance. He’s a good dad, you guys.
Nick Charles (William Powell)
The Thin Man films fell off in quality after the first few, but one of my favorite things about the sequels is Nick, Jr., Nick and Nora’s little boy. Yes, the family roles are pretty traditional, but Nick has the sweetest attachment to his son, whom he defends intensely and throws elaborate birthday parties for, introducing Nicky to all of his good-hearted underworld pals. That kid is gonna learn all kinds of criminal shit.
Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani)
Bicycle Thieves might not immediately spring to mind when thinking of great film fathers, but Antonio tries so hard to be a good dad. He looks after his son Bruno and attempts to instill within him honesty and kindness, despite living in the direst of circumstances. And when push comes to shove, everything that Antonio does and is tempted to do is in service of taking care of his family.
Nick Charles (William Powell), The Thin Man series (1934-1947)
Okay, the Thin Man movies after Nicky Jr. came into the picture aren’t the best. However, as characters, Nick and Nora Charles are delightful in any setting. Powell and Loy are clearly comfortable in their roles the later the series gets; they are two of my favourite characters of all-time. As a father, Nick is entertaining, relatable and would clearly give his life for not only Nora, but his son. Plus, what better father to share a drink with when you’re a teenager?
Ken Jorgensen (Richard Egan), A Summer Place (1959)
A Summer Place is a candy-coloured, soapy piece of melodramatic delightfulness to come out of the late 1950s. We watch the parallel stories of Johnny and Molly (Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee) as they struggle with their budding teenage hormones while their parents struggle with their own adult hormones (all in the midst of the sexually repressed ’50s).
I first saw Richard Egan in Pollyanna. The actor tackles the role of Molly’s unhappily married, but incredibly supportive father. He’s the main guiding force for the teenagers in the narrative, not afraid to let them express themselves while still treating them like adults. To make matters even better… Richard Egan has that hot 1950s Dad thing going on.
Martin Lane (William Schallert), The Patty Duke Show (1963-1966)
Okay, I may or may not have a nerdy little crush on William Schallert. This is the part of the personality which I deeply repress. Can’t you imagine him in a bow-tie? Anywho, aside from being absolutely adorable, he’s much more likable than a good deal of the TV dads during this era (aside from Gomez and Rob Petrie). Plus, Martin manages to keep his head with the mind-blowing awkwardness of dealing with identical cousins (Patty Duke in dual roles)… how does that happen, guys?
The Doctor (David Tennant), Doctor Who (2005-Present)
I know what you’re thinking. Hear me out! The Doctor is a father. I state as evidence series four episode 6, “The Doctor’s Daughter”. The timelines are all fuzzy and timey-wimey, but it is in this episode where we learn about the Doctor’s daughter Jenny (Georgia Moffett). We have no idea where or when she came from, but she’s the Doctor’s Daughter! So, the Doctor is a Father who looks like David Tennant, has two hearts, and travels around the universe. Yes please.
Now for the mind-blowing part: David Tennant married Georgia Moffett (The Doctor’s Daughter) in real-life. Moffett is also the daughter of Fifth Doctor actor Peter Davison. (I know, right?!).
John Robinson (Guy Williams/Toby Stephens), Lost in Space (1965-1968) and (2018-Present)
Here’s one more where I’m doing one thing: objectifying. In both shows, John is not exactly father of the year. I mean, the Robinson family ends up crash landing on a strange alien world with no recourse. However, I have a long standing history with both actors. My introduction to the delightful Toby Stephens comes in the not quite so delightful James Bond film Die Another Day (2002) and Guy Williams is best known to audiences as television’s Zorro (1957-1961). They are both incredibly pretty specimens of delightfulness from their respective eras.