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Happy Father’s Day: Here’s a List of the Worst Dads in Sci-fi and Fantasy

Dad jokes are welcome.

darth vader

Pop culture is filled with terrible fathers. From the merely negligent to the downright evil, these dads will do whatever it takes to rule the universe, no matter who is standing in their way…even if it’s their own children. From would-be rulers of the universe to passive aggressive farmers, here’s our top (or bottom) worst dads in sci-fi and fantasy. If you’re celebrating today with a dad you love, thank him for not being on this list.

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Darth Vader, Star Wars Universe

darth vader

No bad dads list would be complete without the grand daddy of bad parents, Darth Vader. The world is filled with cruel dads, but how many would destroy their daughter’s home planet in front of her just to prove a point? Maybe your son, Luke Skywalker, would be more open to joining you in ruling the galaxy if you didn’t CHOP OFF HIS HAND before asking him. Also, that helmet is super embarrassing dad, ugh please drop me off two blocks from school so my friends don’t make fun of me.

Big Daddy, Kick-Ass

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Big Daddy, aka Damon Macready, is a vigilante single father who trains his daughter Mindy, aka Hit-Girl, to be lethal killing machine. His most upsetting training moment is shooting his daughter point-blank in the chest so she can experience the feeling of wearing a bullet-proof vest. There’s not enough money in the world for all the therapy this kid is gonna need. Matthew Vaughn made a smart choice in adapting the character for the big screen by making Big Daddy’s tragic backstory real. In the comics, Big Daddy’s origin is merely a delusion inspired from his love of comic books, and he in fact kidnapped his daughter from his wife. Vaughn’s take on the character gives us motivation, if not sympathy for Big Daddy’s unconventional parenting methods.

Randyll Tarly, Game of Thrones

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The Game of Thrones universe has no shortage of terrible fathers (Craster *shudder*) but the head of House Tarly is textbook toxic masculinity. Tarly humiliates and fat-shames his eldest son Samwell for not fitting into his idea of a platonic Westeros man. He even goes so far as to threaten his life unless he renounces his birthright and joins the Night’s Watch. Also, he named his other son Dickon, which is just mean. While Sam was able to reject his father, poor Dickon was so desperate for his daddy’s approval that he ended up joining him in a fiery death.

Jonathan Kent, Man of Steel

So, you’ve adopted a super powerful alien as your son. There’s no parenting books available for that situation. Pa Kent may think he’s doing the right thing to keep his son’s identity a secret, but his stifling of Clark’s powers is super unhealthy and just plain dumb. When he stops Clark from rescuing him from the tornado, he unwittingly saddles him with daddy issues and guilt that will haunt his son for the rest of his life. Oh, and who is gonna take care of Martha and the family farm? Way to think it through, Costner. Your actions just turned Superman into a moody hobo lumberjack for the first hour of the damn film.

Lucius Malfoy, the Harry Potter Universe

Lucius Malfoy is a Death Eater and one of Voldemort’s most trusted allies. He is also a straight up shade queen. Malfoy never misses an opportunity to make fun of the Weasley family for being working class, or to insult and threaten Harry Potter. He is also a racist pure-blood fanatic and abusive slave owner of poor house elf Dobby. He even goes after Ginny Weasley by planting Tom Riddle’s diary in her cauldron, thus setting off the chain of events that opens the Chamber of Secrets. His dye job is on point though.

The Mayor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Mayor Richard Wilkins III is one of the most beloved Big Bads of the Slayerverse, and with good reason. Harry Groener’s portrayal of Sunnydale’s mayor is brilliantly nuanced: part dorky dad, part immortal evil. What makes the mayor so resonant is that he mirrors real-life politicians in his hypocritical focus on family values at the expense of actual families (sound familiar?). The Mayor hates swearing, germs, and rudeness, but has no problem with murder or whole scale destruction. His recruitment and relationship with troubled slayer Faith is the most disturbing aspect of all, in that he doesn’t use spells or tricks to win her over. He simply gives her what she’s never had: love, acceptance, and a father figure.

Ego the Living Planet, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

kurt russell

Peter Quill’s absentee father would make the list simply for ditching his son for 30-something years, but the Celestial is far more sinister. After traveling the world and impregnating every life force he came across, Ego hoped to use his children to terraform the universe to his liking, murdering them when they couldn’t or wouldn’t comply with his vision. In a shockingly cruel twist, Ego gave Peter’s mom brain cancer because she was a “distraction” from his plan. Luckily, Peter is able to destroy is maniacal father and reconcile with his true father figure, Yondu.

Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War


The most formidable villain in the MCU is also a tragic, conflicted father. Thanos’s relationship with his adopted daughter Gamora gives the CGI baddie some much needed nuance in what could have been a one note character. Thanos loves Gamora (in as much as he can love anyone) and relentlessly trains her to be a ruthless warrior at the expense of his other daughter Nebula. Each time Nebula loses a fight, Thanos replaced parts of her with machinery until her humanity is all but gone. We’ll have to wait until next year to see how Thanos’s story ends, but until then he remains the cruelest of all the MCU dads.

Did you favorite bad dad make the list? Let us know in the comments.

(image: Lucasfilm)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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