These Are the 10 Best Dads in Movies and TV
It’s Father’s Day, meaning it’s time to celebrate all of the great and influential fathers out there. Dad representation in film and TV, sadly, hasn’t always been accurate or inspiring. Numerous dad stereotypes exist, such as the most common one of fathers being painted as clueless, bumbling buffoons who are hopeless when it comes to responsible child rearing. Also common is the uninvolved, distant, or wholly absent father. Regardless of the stereotype, most project a dangerous notion that fathers aren’t supposed to play a big role in parenthood.
That’s why for this Father’s Day, we’ll be focusing on the TV and film dads who reflect what fatherhood should really look like. These fathers aren’t clueless or absent, but are front and center for their children. They are supportive, loving, nurturing, and selfless. Meanwhile, these characters aren’t strictly just biological fathers. Instead, they embody the idea that any man can step into the role of fatherhood whether it be an adoptive father, stepfather, or surrogate father.
These films and shows not only demonstrate what fatherhood should be, but also celebrate what fatherhood is for numerous fathers out there. While fictional, many of these dads are modeled after real-life fathers who go above and beyond their role as parents. Here are the best dads in TV and film.
Din Djarin in The Mandalorian
Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) is the model surrogate father to Grogu in The Mandalorian. The fact is, he had no duty to Grogu – Grogu was initially just another bounty job for him. However, he had compassion for Grogu and refused to turn him over to the Empire. Not only that, but he took Grogu under his wing, crossed the galaxy to reunite him with the Jedi, and even broke Mandalorian creed by taking off his helmet for the sake of Grogu’s safety.
There’s really nothing that Djarin wouldn’t do for Grogu, even if it means letting him go to train with the Jedi. Djarin saw a child who was in need and gladly accepted the role of fatherhood. He then set out to give Grogu the best life that he possibly could. Djarin’s sacrifices for Grogu are numerous, but we never hear him complain. He has pure contentment being with Grogu and indulges him with toys and rides in his ship when he can. Djarin also gives much needed representation to single, adoptive, surrogate, or foster dads who make a conscious choice to be exemplary fathers to those that need them most.
Matthew Logelin in Fatherhood
Matthew Logelin (Kevin Hart) is faced with single parenthood in the Netflix film, Fatherhood. Logelin loses his wife, whom was his high school sweetheart, the same day she gives birth to his daughter, Maddy (Melody Hurd). Despite receiving criticism and negativity from family and friends, he insists on raising Maddy himself. Just the two of them face the world together, with Logelin even breaking off a relationship when he fears it takes away from his focus on Maddy. Of course, he makes some mistakes along the way, but learns from them and always does his best to give Maddy everything she needs.
Fatherhood is a beautiful film, inspired by the real-life Logelin and his daughter, Maddy. Being a father in itself is tough, but being a new father and newly widowed seems almost insurmountable. However, Logelin takes on the challenge. He never lets Maddy forget about her mother, he suffers through sexism and insensitivity, and even holds off on relationships until he knows they won’t negatively effect Maddy. In the end, he only has to learn to surround Maddy with love and family, rather than isolate the two of them together. Even as a newly widowed, grieving father, Logelin manages to raise Maddy in a stable, loving, and happy home.
Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), might have the saddest path to becoming a father, but that didn’t stop him from being a good one. In Forrest Gump, Forrest is a slow-witted, but kind-hearted man. Through a series of unexpected events, he unwittingly influences several major events in history and his life takes him all over the world. Through it all, he maintains a love for Jenny (Robin Wright), his childhood friend who suffered from abuse. Jenny goes on a different path from Forrest, leading a mostly self-destructive lifestyle. She frequently comes back to Forrest though, and the two eventually have a child and marry. However, she dies soon after their marriage.
For several years, Forrest was unaware he had a son – Forrest Gump, Jr. (Haley Joel Osment). When he does meet him he is in awe of Forrest Jr., calling him the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. After Jenny dies, Forrest continues raising Forrest Jr. to the best of his ability. He teaches him how to play ping pong, fishes with him, reads him a book every night, raves about how smart he is, and gives updates about him at Jenny’s grave. Forrest isn’t the smartest man out there, but even he knows how to love his son and find happiness in fatherhood, despite the sad and unexpected turns of his life.
Nate Pullman in Wonder
Nate Pullman (Owen Wilson) is the father of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) in Wonder. The challenges that Pullman faces as a parent are unique, as Auggie suffers from an extremely rare medical facial deformity – mandibulofacial dysostosis. Pullman not only deals with the usual challenges of fatherhood, but faces having a son who is ostracized and bullied for something he can’t help. While he tries to protect Auggie, he also encourages Auggie to push back against bullies and to not be afraid of anyone. He also constantly lightens the mood with jokes to make both his children feel better.
Pullman is behind one of the most touching scenes in Wonder, when he reveals that he hid Auggie’s favorite astronaut helmet. He explains he hid it because he couldn’t stand seeing Auggie constantly hide his face with it. He knows Auggie doesn’t always love it, but as his father, he passionately and wholly loves his son’s face. His love of Auggie is sincere, unconditional, and extends to every single aspect of Auggie. Pullman always does his best to make Auggie laugh, pushes for him to be fearless, never stops rooting for him, and reiterates his love and acceptance to Auggie as many times as Auggie needs to hear it.
Jim Hopper in Stranger Things
Jim Hopper (David Harbour) in Stranger Things suffered an unimaginable loss when his young daughter died of cancer. However, that didn’t stop him from stepping back into the role of fatherhood once more when Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a girl with telekinetic powers escapes from Hawkins Lab. Knowing that her powers put her in extreme danger, he secretly keeps her hidden at his house. While Eleven rebels against him, he does everything in his power to keep her safe and to navigate being a single father to a superpowered girl pursued by the government. Hopper never stops advocating for Eleven, protecting her, and ensuring she gets to live as close to a normal life as possible.
Hopper isn’t a perfect father and is prone to losing his temper. However, his heart is always in the right place. When he takes Eleven in, she is a traumatized young girl who was raised in a lab. Hopper painstakingly teaches her how to communicate and socialize. He stops at absolutely nothing to protect her, even if it makes her hate him for isolating her. When he does make mistakes, he apologizes and can’t bear the thought of Eleven thinking he’s mad at her. Hopper is another dad who willingly took on an extremely difficult fatherhood role and embraced it wholly to give a child in need the life they deserved.
Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame
In Avengers: Endgame, we get our very first glimpse of Stark as a father to his young daughter, Morgan (Lexi Rabe). During the five years in which half of the population disappeared in the Blip, Stark retreated to live a quiet life with Pepper (Gwyneth Platrow) and welcomed Morgan. Stark does away with the superhero life and enjoys spending every minute of his retirement with Morgan. She parades around in Iron Man masks, bribes him for juice pops, repeats his swear words, and the two love each other 3000. Stark almost turns down a plot to save the world, if it risked Morgan being erased from the timeline.
In the end, Stark sacrifices himself for the world, though he refused to sacrifice Morgan for the world. He not only put Morgan above himself, but above the world as a whole. He embodied what it truly means to be a selfless father who will stop at nothing to protect his child. Stark also demonstrates that you don’t have to a perfect person to be a dad. He made mistakes in his life, to the point that even Pepper wondered if he really had a heart. However, when it came to being a father, he stepped up, pushed past his flaws, and ensured he was the best father ever for her.
Jean Valjean in Les Misérables
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is another man who became a father through unconventional means in Les Misérables. Valjean is a former prisoner who broke his parole to assume a new identity. As a factory owner, he recognizes and tries to rescue a former worker of his, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who was thrown out by Valjean’s foreman. He cannot save her, but promises to provide and care for her daughter, Cosette. Valjean rescues Cosette from the abusive Thénardiers and spends the rest of his life raising her as his own daughter. When war breaks out, he even risks his life to save Cosette’s love – Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne).
Not only did Valjean raise Cosette as his own daughter, but he risked his life for the man she loved. There are far too many films that glorify fathers who hate, threaten, and intimidate the men their daughters love. However, Valjean does away with that stereotype by joining a revolt simply to protect Marius. He even drags a badly wounded Marius through the sewers to ensure he lives. Valjean loves Cosette deeply, which is why he’s willing to let her go and be with the man she loves. His child’s happiness is of the utmost importance to him.
Joe West in The Flash
Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) is a police detective who takes in Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) after his mother dies and his father is sent to prison on false charges of killing her. Not only that, but he’s also a single father to Iris (Candice Patton). While he is dealing with the guilt of failed marriage and two kids with childhood trauma, West strives to be the best dad he can be. Yes, he can be overprotective, secretive, and controlling, especially when it comes to Iris. However, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his kids. That’s why he instantly becomes a member of Barry’s support team when Barry becomes The Flash.
Barry, for a long time, was resentful towards Joe. He even tried to run away and visit his father in prison. However, Barry eventually comes to realize that Joe was a father to him all along. Joe finds great joy in his children and his heart is never too full to welcome in more. Not only does he raise Iris and take in Barry, but also later takes in his long-lost son, Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale). Joe isn’t perfect, but he learns from his mistakes, has an open heart, and does his best to do what’s right by all his children.
Frank Rossi in CODA
Frank Rossi (Troy Kotsur) in CODA is the deaf father of Leo (Daniel Durant) and Ruby (Emilia Jones), with Ruby being the only hearing member of the family. Initially, Frank struggles with being too reliant on Ruby to translate for them and help run their fishing business. However, it is obvious he feels guilt and acknowledges that Ruby never even got to be a baby due to their situation. When Ruby reveals her desire to go to college and her love for singing, Frank tries to understand it. Though he can’t hear, he tries to understand in his own way, watching Ruby sign as she sings or feeling the vibration of her vocal cords.
While all of Ruby’s family eventually rallies around her, it is Frank who puts forth the most effort to understand her. He takes the time to ask her what her songs are about and asks her to sing them to him, even though he can’t hear. After growing emotional feeling her vocal cords, Frank and the rest of the family insists on Ruby going to her Berkley College of Music audition. Frank doesn’t let the fact that he is deaf stop him from understanding and supporting his daughter, as well as her love of music.
Lee Abbott in A Quiet Place
Lee Abbott (John Kransinski) struggles to be the best father possible in a nightmare world in A Quiet Place. Sightless aliens with keen hearing have taken over earth and killed much of the population. The Abbott family does their best to protect their two children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), after their youngest child was killed by the aliens. Despite the terrible situation, Lee does his best to protect his children and give them a semi-normal life. They go fishing together, have family dinner, and play board games, while Lee also does extensive preparation for their next child.
Lee’s number one priority is always to protect his children, even above himself. He works tirelessly every minute to get his family through just one day. Despite the stress and grief, he still also proves to be a very good father, as seen by his study of the aliens and his obsession with making his deaf daughter a cochlear implant. At times, he struggles to reach Regan, who is badly effected by grief and trauma. However, in the end Lee sacrifices himself to save his children and signs to Regan that he has always loved her. Even in death, his thoughts were on his children because he couldn’t die letting Regan think for a second that he didn’t love her.
(featured image: Marvel)
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