Cahill’s Choice: Top 10 Great Film and Television Fathers

by |August 26, 2013

This year Booktopia’s Christopher Cahill celebrates Father’s Day with a look back at some of film and television’s greatest (and most notorious) father figures, leaving aside some obvious ones (Atticus Finch etc). Screen dads have a habit of setting the bar incredibly high when it comes to being a father but they’re a wonderful guide of what to do, and what not to do, in a variety of parenting situations.

Mike Brady

The Brady Bunch

Mike Brady is nothing short of a benchmark for fathers everywhere. He’s loving and supportive of his six children but can also deliver tough love all without the use of his belt. Not only does he have an endless supply of wisdom and patience he also manages to keep his children and adopted children from forming relationships that can only be described as unnatural.
While Robert Reed is the original Mike Brady we all know and love, it is Garry Cole’s take (read as impression) on the legendary father figure that should not be overlooked. An honourable mention must also go to Garry Cole for his delightful (read as psychotic) father figure Sheriff Buck in American Gothic.

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Bryan Mills


Bryan Mills has a very particular set of skills and I’m not talking about buying lame gifts for his estranged daughter. If you ever had the extreme misfortune of being kidnapped then Bryan Mills is your father of choice. He may be the world’s most overprotective dad but his ability to deliver an ass-whooping on your behalf is second to none. Ironically, Bryan takes away many fathers and sons in the process of saving his kidnapped daughter. But that’s okay, they were bad people anyway and it’s not like it was ever going to come back and bite him in the ass in Taken 2. Or would it?

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Tywin Lannister

Game of Thrones

It takes a great father to start a war that will engulf a whole realm. Tywin (father to Tyrion, Jamie and Cersi Lannister) may be more concerned with House Lannister’s legacy than his actual children but he sure does step up when both his sons are captured by the Starks. What really makes Tywin Lannister stand out from the list is his ability to start and (almost) end a war by post. This is a man who is not afraid to send an angry letter. Please be warned that this great father and son moment is rather spoiler heavy and not appropriate for children.

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Darth Vader

Star Wars

Perhaps great is not a word that should be used to describe Darth Vader. Not only does he Force choke his pregnant wife, torture his daughter ‘Princess’ Leia, he also cuts off his son Luke’s hand. Apparently the Dark Side of the Force and being a good dad don’t go hand in hand. But Daddy Darth makes up for it when he finally gets tired of watching his adopted father Emperor Palpatine electrocute his son, turns his back on the Dark Side of the Force, screams ‘Nooooooooo!’ and throws his boss down a big hole. Sadly Palpatine was more than likely Darth Vader’s father (read the original draft for Revenge of the Sith) so not only is Darth a poor father figure he’s also a pretty lousy son.

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Nigel Powers

Austin Powers: Goldmember

He may have given his son Austin daddy issues (being an absent father does that) but the ultra hip and charming Nigel Powers clearly didn’t fall short when it came to sex ed. Michael Caine’s performance as Nigel Powers puts James Bond to shame and makes his son Austin Powers look like a needy dork. The fact that he stops Doctor Evil’s insidious plans for world domination just by telling him he loves him is nothing short of inspiring.

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the-focker-family-collection-meet-the-parents-meet-the-fockers-little-fockers-Jack Byrnes

Meet the Parents

The posterboy (man) for suspicious father-in-laws everywhere. Having Robert De Niro for a father, or father-in-law, would be truly terrifying but once you’re in the “circle of trust” it’s all pretty sweet. The ex CIA Operative is highly protective of his family so when all round clown Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) decides he want to marry his daughter Pam, he busts out the lie detector and puts him through his paces. Jack even sees through Gaylord’s clever story about milking a cat. What a guy. Jack’s undying love for his cat Jinxy only adds to his creditability as a father figure to both humans and felines alike.

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Don Vito Corleone

The Godfather

Many come for his garbled words of wisdom, all come to pay their respects. Not only is the Don a father to his children and adopted son Tom Hagen, he’s the father figure to a whole community. Marlon Brando’s fine performance as the aging mob boss has become one of popular culture’s biggest influences and a how-to guide for dad’s everywhere. What dad wouldn’t like to make someone ‘an offer they can’t refuse’? Don Corleone’s stand out dad moment is really when he gives his godson Johnny Fontane some fatherly advice and a little bit of tough love.

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Professor Henry Jones

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones has only two weaknesses, a fear of snakes and his lingering daddy issues. There was really only one man who could have played the father of the world’s toughest archeologist and that’s James Bond himself.

Professor Henry Jones Senior might lack his son’s fists of fury but can more than hold his own while charming the ladies and fighting off Nazis with an umbrella, a flock of seagulls and a pen. While his son may view him as an absent father, Jones Senior was really just trying to give Indiana his independence and teach him a bit of self-reliance. More dads should follow his fine example by just taking a step back and allowing their sons to become famous archeologists who fight evil in their spare time.

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Walter White

Breaking Bad

Fathers who are willing to make and sell crystal meth for the sake of their families are few and far between. When all round great Dad Walter White is diagnosed with terminal cancer that’s exactly what he does to make sure his family is provided for after his passing.

The man who knocks has many great father moments, not only with his own son Walt Junior, but also with his sort-of-adopted son Jesse Pinkman to whom he offers no end of fatherly advice. It’s the pseudo (no pun intended) father and son relationship that makes this show a masterpiece of modern television. While Walter White has many great moments the stand out would have to be the knock-knock joke he tells his wife Skyler.

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It may seem an odd pick but Odin displays some excellent parenting skills when he banishes his arrogant, long-haired lout of a son Thor. It’s this valuable time away from home that helps Thor grow up and shed his angry young man syndrome. While Odin does spend most of the movie having a nap (Odin sleep, not to be confused with regular sleep apparently) he does come to his son’s rescue when Thor goes and picks a fight with the neighbours. And really isn’t that what fathers are for? Oh, he’s also Loki’s adopted father but that’s another story…

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Honourable mentions
Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable (The Cosby show)
Al Bundy (Married….with Children)
Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)
William ‘Bill’ Adama (Battlestar Galactica)

Animated Dads…
Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
Fred Flinstone (The Flinstones)
Peter Griffin (Family Guy)
Sparkplug Witwicky (The Transformers)
George J. Jetson (The Jetsons)
Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)

Can you think of any memorable Film and TV Father’s that didn’t make the list. Let us know by leaving your comments below.

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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